In this era of talking heads on sports television and social media existing as a perpetual room for debates, conversations surrounding elite level athletes these days often trend towards talk of legacies – where specific champions fall in the pantheon of all-time greats and how recent or future results will continue to shape and shift those assessments.
The same holds true when those conversations shift from stick-and-ball sports and are applied to mixed martial arts. At the top level, fans and media are always infatuated with determining how the outcome of an impending clash will edit the narrative arc of an individual fighter’s career.
Will a championship victory elevate the perennial contender to a new place in the historical hierarchy? Does a loss diminish the standing of a fighter previously considered an all-time great?
Perhaps more than anything, the public at large wants to know what the athletes themselves think about the potential historical impact of each pivotal championship clash and where they see themselves landing in the pecking order should the results on fight night land in their favor?
During Tuesday’s first of three UFC International Fight Week media conference calls, Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez, Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo were all given an opportunity to weigh in on the subject in advance of their championship pairings next week in Las Vegas and all four offered pretty similar opinions.
“Legacy is something you worry about when you’re down the road when your career is over,” Edgar, who faces Aldo for a second time to determine the interim featherweight champion on Saturday, July 9 at UFC 200, said. “I’m just worrying about making things happen and getting what I want.”
“I don’t even like to say the word ‘legacy,’” Alvarez, who trains alongside Edgar under head coach Mark Henry and challenges dos Anjos for the lightweight title in the main event of International Fight Week’s kickoff event Thursday, July 7 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, added. “The goal for me is the same as it was Day One when I started this: to beat the guy in front of me.
“Legacy and all this other stuff is nonsense. I always want to beat the guy in front of me; that’s always the goal. Everything else comes as a byproduct of doing that.”
Just as there is a tendency to want to discuss a fighter’s legacy in advance of every major encounter, there is also a fascination with trying to discern what might come next. Regardless of the fact that the matter at hand still needs to be resolved, everyone wants to make like Jay-Z over rhyming on a slick track from major UFC fan Swizz Beatz and move on to the next one before the fight on deck has been dealt with.
While it’s understandable from a conversational standpoint in that it establishes a starting point for the discussions that will follow the impending battles, every fighter on Tuesday’s call made it clear that even though they have some ideas about where things may go in the second half of the year and who they could face next, the only thing that matters is the sizable task their each facing next week in Las Vegas.
“That is a goal of mine and fighting in New York would be amazing – I’ve been trying to fight there and have been lobbying with the UFC in getting it sanctioned in New York and now that it is, that would be a dream come true,” Edgar answered when asked about the prospects of a showdown with the reigning featherweight champion in New York City at UFC 205 in November. “(But) July 9th is first and foremost and my hands are full with Jose.”
“It doesn’t matter – I need to do my job,” dos Anjos said when asked about the lack of trash talk in the build-up to his bout with Alvarez next Thursday. “My job is to go there and defend my belt whether (it is) against Eddie Alvarez or Conor. Against who doesn’t matter for me – I will go there and do my job, defend my belt.”
The same goes for dissecting matters that are in the rear view mirror as well.
“Right now, my focus is all on Frankie Edgar,” Aldo said when asked for his reflections on his UFC 194 loss to Conor McGregor. “That’s really in the past for me. I’ve buried that and that stays in the past. Right now, I’m focused on Frankie – on studying him and looking at him; looking forward and not looking in the past.”
Rafael dos Anjos defends the UFC lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez on Thursday, July 7 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and live, exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS.
Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar battle for the interim UFC featherweight title as part of the stacked Pay-Per-View main card at UFC 200 on Saturday, July 9 from the brand new T-Mobile Arena.
E. Spencer Kyte writes the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura for The Province newspaper in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @spencerkyte