Wins and losses mean something different to every fighter based on where they are in a career, recent outcomes, opponent, contract terms etc. The one universal impact of a loss for any MMA athlete is that being on the defeated end of an outcome does not bear nearly as much fruit as the opposite.
As former and current Japanese MMA fans (think: PRIDE, DREAM) will tell you, a loss on a fighter’s record is much less detrimental in Asia than in the States. A competitor’s reputation and stock rises from pure effort and gameness. Many Japanese combat legends (ie: Sakuraba) held in high regard by the public do not have a Machida-like record but are still regarded as demigod-like fighters due to the thrilling matches they have been a part of, in addition to well-known signature moves and crowd-pleasing performances on the mic.
We have seen great guys with tons of heart get the axe from the UFC roster (ie: Tamdan McCrory) and for the past couple years it seems the efforts by UFC brass to up the level of competition to super-elite was making one or two “L’s” a sure-fire ticket back to toiling on the local circuits. It seem though, that this is changing. With the dropping out of Mark Coleman from his UFC 106 bout with Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin stepped in to avenge his razor-thin decision loss to Ortiz.
What makes this match-up so eye-opening and indicative of a change in UFC culture is that Griffin is coming off of two hard-hitting losses at the top level to Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva. The former light heavyweight champ could have been handed a mid-tier opponent for his next bout and hardly anyone would have thought it to be an odd match-making move. The reality is now that a fan-favorite fighter who has been definitively TKO’d in his last two outings is going to be participating in a huge fight with one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in MMA (Ortiz). Griffin has been rewarded for taking on his last two opponents, regardless of the losing aspect.
Continuing to recognize the heart, fearlessness and love of the sport that Griffin and others on the UFC roster possess is not only the right mindset moving forward with the company but it shows signs of the world’s biggest MMA organization looking to the Land of the Rising Sun. It is no secret that Ultimate Fighting Championship wishes to continue going global in the coming years, as evidenced by recent overseas events held in Germany, United Kingdom and Ireland. Japan remains semi-uncharted territory for the UFC but it seems and changes in the match-making/ladder mindset (coupled with launching Japanese web presences) is a sign that preparations for heading east are certainly in place.