Opinion: Alistair Overeem as an All-Time Great?
By Jesse Heitz
In a recent interview with MTV, Alistair Overeem commented on his status as among the all-time greats in MMA history by saying,
“I don’t know, we’ve had some great names in the past. I mean Fedor Emelianenko passed the thing, we have Anderson Silva, he’s there now doing a great job. He’s a middleweight where Fedor was a heavyweight. I mean, I’m somewhere around the ranks. I’m on my way, five-years undefeated but of course you can’t talk that much about yourself and I don’t want to, I think that’s something for the people to decide by themselves, you know? I’m just here to build my legacy, I still have a lot of years left in me, I’m healthy, I have no injuries, I’m very motivated, I’m very happy now to be fighting for the UFC and working hard to create my legacy. For me, I’m just doing the thing I love every day. I go to the gym, I love the type of life. I love the dedication that comes to it, the development that comes to it. I’m going to have other people decide what legacy I have when I have the belt.”
To an extent, Overeem handled such an ego-inflating question with considerable restraint, at least being able to publicly deny that he does in fact believe himself to be currently among the greats. Yet, he didn’t exactly throw cold water on the notion that he’s in the company of Fedor, Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, etc.
Many fighters have erroneously believed themselves to be among the greatest talents that have ever competed. All but a select few have been dead wrong in harboring such a flattering opinion. Yet, one cannot begrudge a fighter for believing himself to be the best. While I have never been a fan of fighters who carry themselves in a less than humble manner, I do not automatically dislike those who don’t, although I do take a modicum of pleasure in witnessing their humbling.
Now, for those who denigrate the integrity of the sport by using performance enhancing drugs, I have considerable problems with such fighters thinking themselves to be amongst the all-time greats. The list of fighters who have cheated is ever increasing, and one can understand the motivation for using PEDs. Yet, it is clear that if you needed drugs to bring out your fighting best, that you certainly aren’t of the caliber of an all-time great.
Overeem has placed himself firmly on that list after his failed post-UFC 141 drug test, in which his testosterone levels were fourteen times greater than that of the average man. He can ramble on and on about how a special diet, workout routine, and sleep patterns, all helped him to put on 20 pounds of muscle in a mere 18 months (his claim), where it had previously taken him 3 years to put on the same amount of weight. He can chatter about how the test somehow failed, and his rapid 50 pound muscle growth explosion was all-natural, but everyone knows the truth. Only pharmaceuticals can provide such gains. Therefore, is it any coincidence that his vaunted 5-year unbeaten streak began when he “arguably” started juicing?
While Overeem was most likely never destined to be an all-time great, but he did have the natural talent to be one of the top fighters of his generation. What’s perhaps most troubling about this story is that MMA history would have remembered him as a man who frequently went toe-to-toe with the all-time greats, a true warrior. Now his legacy is undeniably relegated to the reality that even with the aid of banned substances, he’ll still never be among the all-time greats. Now he’s like Barry Bonds, threw away his legacy and clouded his natural talent in the hopes of gaining glory and recognition as one of the greats. For both, the only symbol of recognition the sports world is willing to give them is an asterisk.