Do Nice Guys Finish Last? (MMA Opinion)

Stephen Wonderboy Thompson

There is an old adage that if the people you are hanging around are exactly like you, someone is unnecessary. While certain unnamed promotions may want to curtail too much individualism – particular Irish fighters excepting of course – the fight game offers an array of personalities that fans can get next to. Even though this may be hard to believe, there are even times when a fighter's actual performance and not their personality at all might be what a fan invests in. A novel idea to be sure!

The strange paradox of friendly fighters has always been around in combat sports. It is always said with much incredulity, "They are actually pretty nice and down to earth" - as though it is a foregone conclusion that to physically hurt someone in sport requires genuine animosity or violence of character. How odd this is, considering almost no martial art not taught at a dojo called Cobra Kai has doing harm as its operating principle. In fact, they focus great amounts of attention on avoiding hostility and promote self-control with respect. It might be impossible to wrap the noodle around why there is such a dichotomy or it might be as simple as nice people as a rule do not kick other people in the head.

Rose Namajunas Head Kick


With this conception in our minds, we may draw the erroneous conclusion that the poor souls who happen to train in fighting and also happen to be nice must fail more than they succeed in hand to hand combat. It makes sense, right? Except no, that is not the case. Put Rose Namajunas, Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, Demian Maia, Roxanne Modafferi, both Lima Brothers (Dhiego and Douglas), and Sage Northcutt all together in one place and you may end up breaking a calculator trying to add up all of their victories in unarmed combat. A couple of those victories literally being kicks to the head that win belts! The calculator will have more trouble keeping up if you tally their records in sports that are not MMA. Oh, and in addition to having fun doing fight math, with these particular athletes, you may also accomplish world peace!

There is a real discussion to be had looking into that difficulty some people do indeed have hurting their opponents. Uriah Hall comes to mind as one who has spoken openly about this – in particular with the recent injury his leg caused to Chris Weidman's. Sometimes empathy does interfere with punches and kicks. But what of those times when it does not? How do we jibe these strange phenomena, viz. nice people hurting others and remaining nice? It is undeniable that the drama associated with animosity in sport sells. It is even further pretty easy to prove that animosity is never outsold by courtesy and respect. All said though, there has always been a place for the good guys in combat sports. And almost always there is a contingent that will root for them. And get this, they root because they are good and good at fighting.

Uriah Hall


There may not be a concrete answer as to why there are nice guys who hurt people for sport and remain nice guys (and gals), but we can certainly speculate when any inspection of the good apples in fighting is done. We will see respect, honor, kindness, helpfulness, character, etc. All things most folks still appraise as important. All the good guys of lore and legend use their powers for the betterment of others. The fight is rarely ever just about the fight. If one looks, they will find qualities in the good guys they want to emulate. Some fans want someone to cheer for and not merely someone who tantalizes. They want someone to win who deserves to win. They want to see dignity in victory – and defeat. Maybe that is why we can watch Wonderboy – his name is Wonderboy for Pete's sake! – headkick someone unconscious and then see him teaching children and find no incongruence. Those paradoxical scenes abound e.g. the story of him as a middle-schooler protecting his sister and after thumping a boy a few grades higher dusting him off and telling him he (the bully) had done a good job in the fight. It can raise eyebrows when we see Glover Teixeira apologizing to Anthony Smith for having to pummel him – during the pummeling! As odd as it may seem to be good to an opponent, it is done. Many folks at their best want to be able to fight if needed and yet serve if possible. Nice guys may not always finish first, but even in loss, they rarely finish last.

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