Can we admit we find it off-putting when someone struggles with being famous?
The mere mortals of us will probably as a rule be incredulous when we see people who get to do things people dream of and avoid real jobs. Especially when their gig gives them checks with lots of zeros on them. But some reflection might lead us to see fighting is probably not in the category of things that should illicit that kind of thinking. Does anyone in their right mind dream of stripping down to their skivvies and stepping into a cage to potentially be beat to pulp for a few thousand bucks? If you do, you may want to find an MMA gym near you.
If possible, take a minute and watch Johny Hendricks' top knockouts.
Alright, are you back? Now imagine you just watched that and have a bout agreement in front of you to fight him. Are we excited yet? Well, George St-Pierre had to do just that. Recently in an interview on the Complex Sports Podcast (promoting his acting role in the Marvel world) and then again on ESPN's Ariel Helwani Show (promoting his involvement in Karate Combat), GSP echoed his past statements that he was terrified to fight – hated it, in fact. Seemed as though to him it was tantamount to what people might think of as akin to the worst fears of all. Apparently, the top fear in that discussion is public speaking, but now we have to add to that terrifying oral book report; punches, kicks, blood, loss, shame, and so on. Now is that time where we take a breath and consider both of these things together, viz. Big Rigg demolishing people into piles of rubble and his future opponent saying he does not like fighting. Put a pin in this thought for a bit though, if you would.
In very stark contrast to what seems to be a very sensible attitude toward unarmed combat is the attitude of a man named Justin Gaethje. A man who was bothered before his fight with an equally terrifying foe as Hendricks albeit a weight class lower. Ask anyone in whatever weight class Edson Barboza might be about him and it is a guarantee there won't be a lot of hands raised eager to oppose him. Well, there is Paul Felder who wanted more rounds with the machine-like striker, but back to Gaethje. Was Justin bothered by fear like GSP? No, he was bothered he was not nervous enough and postulated in his post-fight interview as to why. This after having just knocked Edson literally stiff and of course exercising one of the most terrifying moves in MMA – the dreaded back flip off of the cage in victory. What was the issue at hand? He told us: "I just love this way too much?"
Alright, let us now put this word problem together. Two of the most successful MMA fighters of all time seem to have exact opposite sentiments for the sport they very much conquered (or nearly in Justin's case having missed the belt in a loss to undefeated GOAT candidate, Khabib Nurmagomedov). Does it bother the fan who hears GSP say he did not love fighting? Do we expect him to be like contender Gaethje and love it too much? Or is it possible we should ask, why in the world should anyone love something enough to be locked in a blender with Edson Barboza? Who in their right mind would watch Hendricks fell Martin Kampmann like a tree and say, "Count me in"?
Cilantro. That is something we civilians can relate to in life where people seem to either love or hate it. And while some may act like it is as bad as being knocked unconscious, it just isn't. There is so much at stake in an MMA fight (or career full of them). A look at those ominous words of Nick Diaz speaking to the regret of leading his younger brother Nathan into fighting will (or should) give every fan pause. The thoughtful fan knows there are fighters who love it and we can indeed appreciate that. Even marvel at it. But when someone speaks to how tough it is or even as GSP or Diaz have, they are not a pop-star who have been spoon-fed mounds of Scrooge McDuck money to do something relatively easy. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life – GSP worked hard for his money.