Opinion: The Last Gasp Of MMA Legends
By Jesse Heitz
A recurrent theme that I write about is the future and legacy of the legends in our sport. It should be no surprise to any regular readers of my pieces that I routinely throw all of my vehement support behind legends. Even if their in-cage pursuits give a less than optimistic chance for the attainment of success, I cling on to the hope that someway somehow the heart and experience of legends can provide them with an unexpected path to victory. As many MMA fans know all too well, this outcome is rather rare. One wonders if their troubles, at least in part, can be attributed to fighting in untenable weight classes.
The events of this past week have given us much cause to reflect upon the status of a few of the legends still active in the sport. The UFC on FOX 5 has left us with serious questions and concerns regarding the futures of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and B. J “The Prodigy” Penn. Also this week we learned that Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva intends to abandon the Middleweight Division with the intent of fighting at the more comfortable weight of 205 pounds.
In the case of B. J. Penn, his fight with Rory MacDonald, as was the case with his prior fights against GSP and Nick Diaz, he’s simply too small to continue fighting against the top talent in the Welterweight Division. Penn, standing at 5-feet 9-inches, and walking around at 168 pounds simply can’t keep up in reach and strength with 6-footers weighing nearly 200 pounds prior to cutting. Penn still has the skill set to be a force within the sport, but it is absolutely imperative that he drop down to his native Lightweight Division.
For “Shogun”, the reality is a little more puzzling. He’s only 31 years old, and while the prime of one’s career in MMA is difficult to quantify or link directly to age, it appears that he might be at the end of the line in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Division. Six or seven years ago, “Shogun” was unquestionably the greatest talent at 205 pounds. Yet, in his last five fights he’s gone 2-3. I for one refuse to believe that Rua is done, it’s my contention that a drop to Middleweight might provide the second wind his career desperately needs.
For Wanderlei Silva, he has stated that he’s tired of cutting weight, that he wants to return to his old stomping grounds, the Light Heavyweight Division. In all honesty, I don’t find this move to be so troubling. Wanderlei found some success at Middleweight, but never got close to challenging for the championship. At age 36, having been a professional fighter for the better part of two decades, realistically Wand has one last run left in him. So why not finish a legendary career where it all began?
How will the futures of these legends shake out? I cannot answer with any certainty. All I can offer is my sincerest hope that each of these men can enjoy a competitive resurgence.