By Mike Coughlin, WrestlingObserver.com
There has to be a reason a man fights.
Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas face one another in the main-event of Saturday’s UFC on FOX Sports One show. Both potentially forever discarded to the history books as “failed challengers to the title” a man who trains with the skyline of Chicago in his eyes is going to go toe-to-toe with a man who trains with the salt of the Pacific in his lungs. For what?
With Connor McGregor and Jose Aldo (rightfully) grabbing any and all headlines for their July showdown, and Frankie Edgar the de facto #1 contender lying in wait, Saturday’s fight will end up a footnote to 2015 in all likelihood. The winner gets to fight again. That’s all. No title shot is at stake. No promise of even a chance at future glory. Just the promise he’ll get to do it all over again. The loser? Just as likely to get another fight. Another chance to do it all over again.
The cliché goes that it’s tougher to be champion than to become champion. There is no pithy saying for failing and still moving forward with life; still continuing on as a fighter. Still opening your eyes each morning and knowing that every single action you take that day is for one reason: to beat up another human being.
A lot of fight fans – and who can blame them? – dream of fighting. Standing there, feeling the adrenaline, exchanging blows, the thrill of victory. Fairy tales. Mendes and Lamas have had their fairy tale. They’ve headlined PPV events. They’ve won big fights in their hometowns. They’ve made money. They’ve had fame. They’ve had a combined three chances at the world title. Yet: they’re still fighting – still training.
Very few men dream of training. People don’t think of waking up at dawn to run three miles. They don’t imagine counting every single portion of food down to the ounce for every single meal for every single day for every single week for every single month of a training camp.
Even the act of wrapping one’s hands – protecting your fist from damage so you can learn to better hit someone with it – becomes an every day routine as common as tying one’s shoes. They unknowingly transform into a person capable of being numb to existing as nothing more than a hurting machine.
Two men becoming violence personified, clashing in the shadow of Fairfax, Virginia. Fairfax: where America fought the British for Her Freedom; the sight of the first land battle of the Civil War, where America fought for Her Soul. But on Saturday it will host two men going through Hell just for the reward of more Hell.
And make no mistake, these men walk through hell with the best of them – to the point where they’re mirrors of one another. Mendes, a former Division One All-American Wrestler, part Puerto Rican, who fell in love with his ability to strike. Lamas, a former Division Three All-American Wrestler, Mexican and Cuban, who fell in love with his ability to strike. Both are the last two men to have faced current UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Both lost by unanimous decision. Both keep fighting.
And if they don’t fight, then what? A photographer without a camera is just someone looking at things; a doctor without a patient is just someone holding her stethoscope; a teacher without students is just someone talking to himself. A fighter who doesn’t fight? He’s … just a man.
And none of us care about a man. After all, when did you last think about Chuck Liddell or Matt Hughes? Even Georges St. Pierre is quickly becoming just a moment in a highlight package. Sports are about the now not the then. Stop fighting and you stop mattering.
The numbing drills, early runs, bland diets, terrible weight-cuts, bruises, humiliations – everything – all so that for 25 minutes Mendes and Lamas can matter. Fight: not because they are fighters – but to be fighters.