People who don’t understand not just MMA but sport, in general, see it as a waste of time. We’ve all heard the slurs: ‘They’re just rolling around on the floor,’ ‘There’s too many adverts – you’re being brainwashed!’ ‘Why do I care who wins? I don’t know these people!’ and all the rest…
But true sports-aficionados view the on-field or in-Octagon action in a completely different light. Even from the comfort of your own sofa, surrounded by masses of crunched beer cans, you can learn valuable life lessons watching the UFC (or so I tell Mrs. B anyway).
MMA is a great example of a sport you can passively absorb knowledge from. I, for one, have learned a lot watching the past several months of action from this current incantation of talent on the UFC roster.
Notably, when watching the likes of Rob Font and Carla Esparza last week on Fight Night, one old adage kept springing to mind – ‘hard work pays off.’ But there are plenty of others, too!
Here are three exceptional rostered talents from the UFC who are teaching us all valuable life lessons:
Charles “Do Bronx” Oliviera – Winners Never Quit, and Quitters Never Win
Considering that American fighters are often greeted with chants of ‘uh vai morrer,’ (which means you will die) en route to the Octagon in Brazil, it was interesting to see Charles Oliviera given such a great reception both before and after his title-winning KO win vs. Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in Texas. It’s certainly not like the famously partisan Texan crowd is against booing a perceived enemy, after all.
But then, if you watched Oliviera’s ascent to the summit of the lightweight division, it really was hard not to feel delighted for the jiu-jitsu specialist, so little wonder the Dallas natives took to him.
Having first entered the famed UFC Octagon as an unbeaten prospect back in 2010, Oliviera went 8-8, with one NC over the next seven years. Nobody ever questioned his heart or martial arts prowess, especially on the mat. But the Brazilian ended up losing pivotal bouts to the likes of Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, Frankie Edgar, and Max Holloway. His stock plummeted as a result. Just three years ago, it seemed Oliviera would amount to little more than an also-ran in the lightweight division.
Fast forward to 2018, though, and, fresh from a tough TKO defeat at the hands of the recently-retired Paul Felder, the always active Charles Oliviera put in a performance of the night comeback win vs. Clay Guida at UFC 225. He won that fight via a guillotine choke and hasn’t lost a bout since.
Oliviera ripped through the lightweight division. He beat the likes of Nick Lentz, Kevin Lee, and Tony Ferguson, winning performance of the night bonuses in six of nine fights on his way to championship gold.
Do Bronx is the very personification of ‘winners never quit, and quitters never win.’ His toughness, bouncebackability, and dedication to the craft were all on show against Chandler, and these types of characteristics are a testament to the sport we all love so much.
Jiri “Denisa” Prochazka – Sometimes the Road Less Travelled Is the Best One to Take
There aren’t many MMA fighters who stroll into the famed Octagon, fight twice, and then thrust themselves into championship contention in arguably the UFC’s toughest division at light heavyweight.
Then again, there aren’t very many fighters with Jiri Prochazka’s unique striking skillset either.
Those of us fortunate enough to watch Prochazka KO Dominick Reyes with that slick spinning elbow at UFC on ESPN: Reyes vs. Prochazka are eager to see the Czechoslovakian test himself against current champion Jan Blachowicz ASAP.
But let’s be honest here for just a moment – he might have dismantled the only man to have ever beaten Jon Jones (Reyes was stitched up on the cards!), but how many people had even heard of Prochazka two years ago? Not many is the answer.
So, where did this multi-lingual follower of the Bushido philosophy come from? What kind of journey did Prochazka have to go on to make it to the Octagon?
Well, like Sinatra, Prochazka did it all his own way:
The Czech Muay Thai kickboxing specialist began his martial arts career training in Muay Thai at home in the Czech Republic. At the tender age of 19, Prochazka would become the national champion (2011).
Soon after, Prochazka began fighting in the Gladiator fighting championship. He became champion in 2013 when he KO’d countryman and MMA pioneer Martin Solc with a flying knee after a bruising back-and-forth contest. Emerging victorious though he did, Prochazka still claims the Solc fight as his toughest contest to date.
After defending his title, Prochazka took his 14-2-1 record with him to Japan when he began fighting for the Rizin Fighting Federation. Prochazka was unable to add the Grand Prix title to his collection. But, after nearly five years with the organization, the Czech striker finally tasted gold. Prochazka became the inaugural light-heavyweight champion when he knocked out former UFC star Fabio Maldonado in the very first round of their October 12, 2019 clash.
Now in possession of a 28-3-1 record, the Czech striking specialist with the ancient Japanese philosophy and traditional Thai-fighter haircut is on the verge of Octagon greatness.
Whether he does or does not defeat Blachowicz, one thing is for sure – Prochazka’s unique striking skillset has proven to us all that sometimes it’s better to take the road less traveled.
Francis “The Predator” Ngannou – A Chain Is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link
If you stare up into space on a bright night, rumor has it that Alistair Overeem’s head is up there somewhere. The legend goes that the Dutchman’s skull still orbits the globe like an unpiloted satellite.
That’s because Cameroonian power-puncher and current Baddest Man Alive Francis Ngannou (practically) knocked the Reem’s head clean off with that vicious uppercut back at UFC 218.
Even before that though, Ngannou had been on an absolute tear in the UFC heavyweight division. He had won five straight fights, and decisively at that. Ngannou knocked out the likes of Andrei Arlovski and Curtis Blades before beheading Overeem en route to a title fight vs. Cleveland’s finest, Stipe Miocic at UFC 220.
Unfortunately for Ngannou, that’s where the train stopped. Miocic weathered the early storm and put the Cameroonian on his back for the large portion of the fight. Stipe ended up landing 200 of 244 attempted strikes and took a unanimous decision win courtesy of the judges. As it turned out, and much to Stipe’s relief, The Predator had an Achilles heel after all– Ngannou didn’t know how to wrestle.
After another tough loss to Derrick Lewis in a fight Joe Rogan called ‘the worst heavyweight fight of all time,’ it seemed as though Ngannou was destined for the undercard.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Ngannou’s wrestling (and gas tank, for that matter) had been found out. The Cameroonian had to take a much-needed trip back to the drawing board.
But did the Predator sit and cry about it?
Of course, not!
Five months after that tough loss to Lewis, Ngannou got back on the road to gold. He wasted little time in knocking out Curtis Blades, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and Jarzinho Rozenstruik, earning himself a second crack at Stipe Miocic at UFC 260.
In each of the fights Ngannou won on his way back to Miocic, he showcased his improved wrestling. The Cameroonian’s take-down defense and stamina had also improved. But would it be enough to capture the elusive heavyweight crown?
During the build-up to UFC 260, Ngannou’s coach Eric Nicksick said:
“We had to implement wrestling in every practice that we do. So it’s not like one practice you’re sparring or hitting pads. It’s MMA. So every practice you have to focus on defending a takedown. Furthermore, you have to focus on taking guys down yourself. You have to have offensive wrestling just as important as your defensive wrestling.
Those are some of the things, as scary as it sounds, this dude is blowing through guys on takedowns, putting guys on their backs, and beating them up from the top. This guy is now enjoying the elements of wrestling offensively and defensively. And understanding there is another path he can find a victory and not shy away from wrestling. You need to implement it one way or another.”
Nicksick was right and the rest is history. Ngannou was too much for Miocic. The American toiled to take him down but failed before falling foul to the one attribute of Ngannou’s that was never in doubt – a sublime power punch to the head!
Now that the Cameroonian has sealed the one chink in his armor, it’s hard to envision him losing another fight.
So there, you go. Next time someone decides to ridicule you for watching too much great in-Octagon action, point them towards this article. Tell them all the cool stuff you’ve been learning from the host of great talent in the UFC.