Beat The Champion

Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson.

We’re a few days away from the grand showdown between lightweight titlist Benson Henderson and Nathan Diaz. Henderson, a consistent provider of high pace action and drama, is known for having some close fights these past few years. The decisions with Cerrone and Edgar have all been disputed. Nathan Diaz is no stranger to close fights either, his fights with Maynard, Guida, and Kim have all been highly debated as well. We’re bound to see a great, awesome, close fight on December 8th. Whether Diaz or Henderson walks out as champion, the one thing I would like to see is people online not use this infamous argument or philosophy: “a close fight goes to the champion”. Here are three takes on why this is a silly argument:

TJ De Santis, radio host: Can you please tell me where this “beat the defending champion decisively” rule is located within the unified rules? Let me save you some time: it doesn’t.

One point or five. A victory is a victory. If you beat the champion by one point on two of three scorecards, you have beaten the champion.

Luke Thomas, former BloodyElbow editor, now writer for MMAFighting: The singular nature of championships (either you are or you aren’t the champ) as well as their gravity naturally make us lean in the direction of cleanliness. If a challenger wins, they should win decisively; should being the operative word. The reality, though, is that we live in a world of imprecision. And more to the point: once the cage door shuts and both competitors are fighting, there no longer is a champion. In a very real sense, the title is up for grabs and will go to fighter who performs better even if that performance is only marginally superior. The notion that some drubbing is owed to the champion should the challenger wish to take the title is nothing more than the desperation of loyalists hunting for excuses to protect their preferred fighter.

Brent Brookhouse, BloodyElbow and BadLeftHook writer: Across the Internet I’m seeing a lot of people throw out the idea that you need to “truly beat the champ” to take away the belt.  This is honestly one of the dumbest ideas in combat sports. It has a long history of usage in boxing as well as MMA and it is absolutely moronic.

Sports are set up with defined rules that need to be applied across all contests exactly the same. The idea that a champion should be given the benefit of the doubt in a title defense is the exact opposite of the true spirit of what a sport is. If the rules are set up so that the winner of a round is awarded 10 points and the loser 9 or less no matter how narrow the margin, then that rule should apply the same to the evening’s curtain jerker as it does to a main event title fight. As a matter of fact, one would assume the rules would be applied with even greater weight in a title fight for the very fact of not cheapening a title. If the challenger wins a round by the narrowest of margins…he still won the round. After all, shouldn’t the very fact that a man has won a championship mean that he does not need to be afforded a head start?

So if you’re defending a champion retaining the strap using this adage (like I heard some do after Henderson-Edgar II), please don’t use this as part of your argument. It’s not a part of the criteria, the round should be scored towards the fighter that accomplished more. If Nathan Diaz just barely beats Benson Henderson, he deserves to walk out with that much desired piece of leather and gold.

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