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The Overeem Effect: Be Careful what you wish for.....

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We have all heard of Alistar Overeem right? How many of us waited patiently – or impatiently - for him to sign with the UFC after winning 11 fights in a row. In those eleven fights he finished five by submission, four by knockout, one by a devastating illegal knee to groin and allowed only one of his eleven victories to go the distance to a very tough Fabricio Werdum. Even more, he moonlighted in K1 at the same time amassing a beautiful record of 9-2 against some of the world’s toughest SOB’s to ever throw leather. He had it all: the K1 belt, the Strike Force belt, the movie roles, and the huge fight purses! Even more, he had attained a type of legendary status. I was tired of waiting patiently for the baddest man on the planet to prove himself in the biggest show on earth. So, next came the UFC.

What about Hector Lombard? After amassing an astounding record of 32 wins with only two decision losses, he appeared unstoppable! His fight purses weren’t as big as his hype But, I am sure the fight purses weren’t too bad either. I couldn’t wait any longer for this man to dethrone Anderson Silva or at least come closer than anyone else. So, next came the UFC.

And then there is Nick Diaz: After leaving the UFC in 2007 he rhymed off 12 wins (some may argue 11 but submitting Gomi via gogoplata with a little weed in your system is more ‘winning’ than Charlie Sheen). All of his wins except one came by way of devastating stoppage. Again, Diaz had it all: Decent fight purses, the ability to fight in multiple organizations as often as he wanted, and a fan following GSP could only dream of having. Surely, this man – this legend – would dethrone GSP. So, next came the UFC

So what is my point? My point is the UFC makes or breaks fighters. There is no middle ground in the big show. They place you on the grandest fight stage on earth against the toughest competitors on earth and if you drop more than a few fights in a row they cut you faster then fat kids cut cake. Sure, not everyone gets cut that easily. Of course, Overeem, Lombard, and Diaz are still in the game. But with one major missing component: They have all lost that legendary mystique. What is this mystique? You know the incredible hype that enveloped them when we still thought that they were the baddest, most unstoppable men on the planet.

I call this the Overeem Effect. You might call it big fish-small pond ends up being exposed as medium fish in a Big Sea. The Overeem Effect occurs when a high level competitor stays in the smaller shows for awhile. He builds a great record, wins some belts, makes great money, has some fun, and develops a cult like following as the baddest man on the planet. But then the UFC comes and with one or two losses his legend status is forever downsized to ‘mediocre’ or even worse: overrated.

Rushing to the UFC may not be the best thing for your pocket book or the longevity of your career. Look at Chris Weidman: nine fights in and he fights for the belt. What could be better than this? Well, perhaps if he stayed in the little pond for a little while longer he could rhyme off another fifteen wins in Bellator, WSOF, or another major Japanese promotion. He may not get rich in the smaller shows. But he would make a substantial income, win a few belts and better: attain legendary status. Imagine if Chris Weidman was facing Anderson Silva with a record of 25-0 I bet his fight purse would be a lot bigger than it will be on July 6, 2013.

But, Weidman has not played it safe. He has thrown caution to the win and decided to go for broke. Who can blame him? Even more, he may end up dethroning the greatest of all time. But, if he lose on July 6, 2013, not only is his legendary status permanently scarred, his rise back to the top may take years and even if he reaches the top his legend will forever remain in the shadow of Anderson Silva’s legend.

To be clear, Weidman is not an example of the Overeem Effect. He is more of the antithesis. This may cost him dearly. Yet, he may also be less than a week away from truly legendary status. Josh Barnett on the other hand may be the next fighter to succumb to the Overeem effect. In his last 10 fights he dropped only one by decision (Daniel Cormier who really may be the next BIG thing) while finishing eight out of nine of them. If he were to remain in the smaller shows he would always be a BIG fish. His legend might continue to grow and his cult followers would swear he could have been the best if given the chance. Something tells me Barnett is aware of the Overeem Effect. Yet, he is also aware that his career is coming to an end soon. So win or lose so why not go for broke and make some big money even while losing.

I do not believe Fedor is an example of the Overeem Effect. I think he is more an example of an aging fighter who truly is a legend. After years and years of super fights against heavy weights when he easily could have made light heavy weight, his body began to fail him. I think Fedor has his own effect so to speak: retiring three fights too late when three fights ago he would still have been the best of all time. Who knows? Maybe he still is the best of all time. Maybe Chuck Liddell is still one of the best ever. But, damn, I hope Chuck made a lot of money in his last few fights because those fights sure did cost his legend a lot.

For some fighters developing legendary status in the smaller shows might really be the best thing for them. Had Hector Lombard not fallen for the Overeem Effect, he may have retired with a type of legendary ‘what if’ status. But, Hector’s bubble has been burst just as Overeem’s bubble burst. They’ll never get it back. Had they have stayed where they belonged most of us would still be arguing about how they could easily destroy Cain or Anderson Silva. But, they succumbed to the Overeem Effect. Yet who could blame them? Overeem, Lombard, and Co. are real men with real egos which means they will never stay in the back row when called to the front row. I respect them for that. As a fan of super hype – super fights, I love them for stepping up. I am thankful that fighters are willing to put it all on the line for my viewing pleasure. Even if it costs their legend everything they still do what any real man would do: step up when the UFC calls!

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