Recently one Mr Conor McGregor took to Twitter with his opinions on who is the greatest MMA fighter of all time (GOAT), no surprise in his humble opinion it is himself (at least by his career’s end).
Now with this I do not agree, not because I don’t think he deserves to be in the conversation, but because I do not think the conversation should exist in the first place. The main problem with this argument is that there is no real way to quantify what makes you the GOAT.
What makes a GOAT?
Does winning the most fights make you the greatest of all time, if so then Jeremy Horne is surely in the conversation (91 wins and counting). Winning the most titles? What you weighed in active competition? The whole pound for pound argument is something that still rages on, another conversation that is equally ridiculous.
Pound for Pound?
The fact of the matter is the pound for pound argument to me is a joke, and why the UFC has an official pound for pound ranking is beyond me. Trying to say that if all fighters were by some magic exactly the same size one may hypothetically beat another is silly. Why stop with size, what if Demetrious Johnson could fly and Stipe Miocic had laser vision who would win then?
UFC? Strikeforce? Pride?
Does it matter which organisation that you fought in? Fedor Emilianenko never made it to the UFC, many still consider him to be the GOAT. Why is that I always ask, he put up an impressive winning streak and was one of the best heavyweights of his era, why can’t that be enough?
I think that is a little bit sad that these great fighters’ accomplishments are diminished by people arguing over whether they might be the best ever or not. If you are saying that Jon Jones is the greatest of all time for instance, you are saying all time, that there will be nobody better? So why continue to watch the sport if you have already decided that you have already seen the best.
The best currently
Jon Jones in my mind is the best around currently, I am not sure that I see anyone right now beating him. I use Jones as an example because I don’t just think he is currently the best in his division, I do not see anyone from any division currently beating him.
But that will change, someone will come along either at heavyweight or light heavyweight and they will have an answer for Jones because that is the beauty of this and all sports really.
Evolution of the sport
Sports evolve, the training gets better, the athletes become more skilled, faster, stronger, new training methods come in. The fighters who were around even as little as 15 years ago would not be able to match the skill and athleticism of the top ten in their respective divisions today.
The same can be said of all sports, people evolve along with the sports but the sports move on it is just the way it is. Honestly as great at football as he was, what team would Maridonna get into today? Every sport all the greats of every era get surpassed, father time is undefeated.
My point is that the best at a time were the best at that time, Andre Arlovski was once the heavyweight champion of the World, at that time there was nobody better that is what the belt signifies. But nobody can be the best forever so why do we pretend that one former champion is better than another?
Obviously I am not blind to the fact that some champions have longer reigns, fight better or worse competition. However there are just too many variables to say for sure who’s title reign is better than anyone else’s.
You can make the argument that a certain fighter was the greatest of that generation, because that is a fair measuring stick. You can analyze their body of work and compare that with others who were around then and make some sort of comparison within weight classes. However even those lists will be subjective at best.
Champ s*** only
For me if you managed to win a belt, you have reached the top and if you defended you cemented that for the time you were the champion you were the best in that division, it is that simple.
I think that we should spend less time worrying about whether someone is the greatest of all time and just spend more time celebrating these great athletes and their accomplishments.
Not every great fighter wins a title, those are hard to come by, so a great fighter isn’t necessarily even defined by the accolades. You have to just look at the body of work, look at and enjoy some of their fights. If Donald Cerrone for example never wins a title he to me will still go down as a great fighter, just look at his body of work.
Sure he has his share of losses but when you move away from the statistics and look at the character he has. There has been nobody quite like him and likely never will again, he has taken on all comers and has been one of the most active and exciting fighters of his era. That makes a great fighter, someone you can root for, someone who can drive a narrative.
I picked Cerrone as an example for no particular reason, you can say the same things about a lot of other fighters. Nate Diaz, Diego Sanchez, Matt Brown, Chael Sonnen, Tony Ferguson, there are really too many to list but they add to the sport with their character as well as their body of work.
That is what sport fans buy into after all, the narrative. It is why friendly games are not as fun to watch because it doesn’t affect the narrative of the season. Fighters build narratives with other fighters having rivalries, those are the fights that sell, because there is a story to follow. Should that be another factor for the mythical GOAT?
The GOAT is a myth
To summarise there is no GOAT, there can’t be because there are just too many variables, there are great fighters and great champions in different eras of the sport. But the GOAT is a myth, until time stops we cannot make an honest fair assessment, and when that happens who will be around to write about it anyway?