Younger readers may not be familiar with Red Sanders, who coached the UCLA Bruins to two Rose Bowls between 1949 and 1957, but no matter your age, you've doubtlessly heard one of his pet phrases: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
This past Saturday afternoon local time (Dec. 7, 2013) both competitors faced one another in the main event of UFC Fight Night 33 "Hunt vs. Bigfoot," emanating from Brisbane, Australia. On paper, it looked to be a perfectly acceptable B-show main event, but nothing to pull your hair out over if your DVR ended up cutting out at the top of the hour.
That wasn't the only way these two defied expectations. Given both fighters' penchant for slinging more heavy leather than a receiving clerk at a Harley Davidson apparel shop, it seemed a safe bet to assume this one wouldn't go to the judges' scorecards.
Not only did Hunt and Bigfoot end up fighting for all five stipulated rounds of their main event confrontation, but spitting in the face of everything us hardcore mixed martial arts (MMA) aficionados think we know when it comes to 265-pound behemoths and their notoriously shallow gas tanks, rounds four and five were by far the most entertaining of the bout.
"Entertaining" might not be the right word here, in that it covers a wide gamut of enjoyable yet forgettable experiences, ranging from a perusal of my old blog to watching Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney's pops lose his shit on YouTube. Hunt vs. Bigfoot wasn't just an "in one eye and out the other" piece of ephemeral mind-candy. It was a thrilling, visceral, experience that made everything else in viewers' lives drop out for the final 13 minutes or so of the contest.
At least that's how it was for me. By the middle of the forth round "journalistic impartiality" was just a collection of syllables with no semantic content as far as your humble author was concerned. Goosebumps twerked up and down my arms as I watched Bigfoot and Hunt exchange thunderous punches and open one another's foreheads like two broke-ass prospectors desperately drilling for crimson-hued bubblin' crude.
This wasn't just a sporting contest at this point; it was man's eternal struggle for self-actualization acted out by two over-sized prize fighters who didn't know when to leave well enough alone and call it a night.
That single minded determination to win, call it "heart" or call it "strength of will," displayed by both men was what made this match so speical. Battered to the limits of human endurance, Hunt and Silva refused to lose. If you've ever wanted anything in life so bad you were willing to do anything to achieve it, the determination both men displayed likely resonated with you on some gut level, even if you've never taken a punch in your life.
When the time limit expired at the end of the fifth round, my instinct was "Bigfoot" had done enough to get the nod, especially considering how close he came to finishing Hunt at the end of the fourth.
However, when ring announcer Bruce Buffer announced that two of three judges saw the fight even, thus rendering the contest a majority draw, I wasn't disappointed.
Far from it.
In fact, this was the rare case where a draw actually felt like the most fitting end to the story I had just watched unfold in the Octagon.
For 25 minutes Hunt and Silva threw haymaker after haymaker in an attempt to knock one another out. Both were rocked several times, but neither man crumbled.
In the third round, Hunt mounted Bigfoot and opened a bloody canyon above his eye, only for Silva to get full mount in the fourth and come within a hairsbreadth of pounding "The Super Samoan" out for a tehnical knockout victory. Even when certain defeat seemed to be staring Hunt and Silva in the face, neither man mentally threw in the towel.
After the fight was over, UFC President Dana White was so pleased he announced both men would receive their winner's purse, before throwing in a tongue-in-cheek line about buying each fighter his own island.
It must have been music to Hunt's ears, considering he got into UFC through the back door thanks to a clause in his old PRIDE FC contract. This despite White not being too keen on him initially, due to his 5-6 record at the time.
Realistically speaking, Hunt and Bigfoot aren't top-shelf fighters in terms of talent. We've already seen Bigfoot get slaughtered twice by UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and Hunt was thoroughly outclassed by former 265-pound top dog Junior dos Santos.
But there's another kind of greatness that has nothing to do with winning a championship or even being considered an "elite" athlete. Likewise, there are intangibles in MMA that can't be measured in blue boxes on Wikipedia marked "win" or impressive Fight Metric stats.
On this one night at least, the two men slugging it out in the main event inside the Brisbane Entertainment Centre were two of the all-time greats.
After all, there's a counterpoint to Sanders' famous epigram, eloquently stated by the dean of sports writers, Grantland Rice: "It's not that you won or lost, but how you played the game."
Silva and Hunt played the fight game masterfully this past Saturday afternoon in Brisbane.
For complete UFC Fight Night 33 results and play-by-play, as well as reactions, videos, highlights and more, be sure to check out our "Hunt vs. Bigfoot" live story stream by clicking here.