It's been love and hate with the UFC for a while now, mostly since Dana White uttered the idiotic statement "He owes us" about GSP after a decade of being an exemplary employee and champion. That's another story, though.
This story is about watching Conor win a second belt in a second weight class. I saw Randy Couture's debut. Somehow missed BJ Penn's and Conor's. But I did see BJ tear through lightweight to get the belt, then move up and destroy Matt Hughes to secure the welterweight strap (and kiss him right after choking him out, too, in a weirdly endearing way that few could pull off). It was amazing. He was only the second fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes.
It was also amazing to watch Randy fight for the title as a heavyweight, lose it, come back as a light heavyweight and do the same, then come back again as a heavyweight and, incredibly, win the championship again. During his time in the UFC, he was a three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, an interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and the UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament Winner. It was unreal to watch that happen in real time and Randy did it all with a unique kind of athletic dignity. It never looked easy, but it demonstrated that hard work paid off.
I remember where I was for all of those. They were influential in my decision to fight professionally, to be honest. And I got to watch Conor make history in the same way Randy and BJ did...and it makes me want to fight again in the same way those other fights did.
But those days are past. Maybe for the best. Maybe. Still, watching Conor win the lightweight belt and carry both in the cage post-fight was something that made me thankful for MMA in a way I had never felt before.
See, boxing gave me entry into careers with the lessons it taught me and I am forever grateful for that; but MMA gave me something to aspire to, which not many sports have done over my lifetime. So this morning's post is about gratitude to MMA and the stories it tells when we are paying attention. Try not to take it or them for granted because it all goes by so fast.