Opinion: Welcoming a New Year of MMA
By Jesse Heitz
The year 2012 was an interesting one for MMA to be sure. There were undoubtedly many highs and lows, peaks and valleys. We’ve seen a resurgence in steroid use this year. Retirements of longtime fan-favorite fighters. We witnessed, first hand, a year of unprecedented injuries that brought even the wealthiest of MMA organizations to their knees. Finally, we saw yet another shift in the balance, or evolution of, the balance of power for MMA promotions.
2012 saw an uptick in steroid use that saw over twice the number of fighters (belonging to premier promotions) test positive for performance enhancing drugs with the likes of: Alistair Overeem, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, “Mo” Lawal, and Stephan Bonnar, all testing positive. Both 2011 and 2010 saw only two fighters each year test positive for PEDs.
Perhaps the most frustrating trend of 2012, was the ever-present “injury bug” that plagued seemingly all promotions. The Zuffa brands of the UFC and Strikeforce were hit especially hard during the fall months. So hard was the UFC hit that it had to do something unprecedented in its near two decade history, it had to cancel an event altogether. The never-ending string of injuries also essentially sunk Strikeforce, allowing it to put on a scant half-dozen events during the entire calendar year.
During the course of 2012 we also witnessed the retirements of several familiar faces. Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko, Mark Hominick, Stephan Bonnar, and Alexander Emelianenko, and even Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (who has now hung up his kickboxing gloves as well) have all bid the sport farewell. And so the face of professional MMA continues to change.
While the aforementioned events are undoubtedly the year’s negatives, there were also many high points that thrilled fans to no end. We were able to see a veritable plethora of incredible fights, the likes of which 2013 will be hard-pressed to feature. While we’ve seen the consolidation of the Zuffa empire under the UFC umbrella, we’ve also witnessed the launch of the World Series of Fighting, and Bellator’s continual march towards being in sole possession of the number two promotional spot in the MMA world. All of which can only benefit the fighters and the sport itself.
Yet, my mind ultimately reverts back towards cynicism. It is my sincere hope that 2013 features an all-time low in PED use. I hope very much to see fighters remaining healthy so that they can put on the many fights that we as fans have been craving. It’s also certain that more legends will enter into retirement, but if I can have one hope for the coming new year of MMA, it’s that those legends end their careers on high notes, with final scraps befitting such legendary fighters.