WHY DID WE STOP LISTENING TO EXPERTS?

By E. Spencer Kyte | Posted 1 month ago

Last weekend, after former WEC and UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo returned to the Octagon nearly 21 months after his previous fight and having announced his retirement to dominate a fight with surging hopeful Jonathan Martinez at UFC 301 in his adopted hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, longtime MMA reporter Marc Raimondi tweeted the following:

In the moment, I quoted the tweet and offered up the following questions and comment:

Raimondi and I traded responses, with him pointing out a definite line of demarcation where some fans’ opinion of Aldo may have turned, and me responding as I quite often do in these situations:

Raimondi, who is now covering the Atlanta Falcons for ESPN, responded by sending me an “I Can’t Quit You” gif from the film Brokeback Mountain, which made me smile, because most of us that have covered MMA as long as we have are never going to be able to leave this sill sport behind, even if we probably should at some point.

While the quick conversation between Marc and I about how Aldo is remembered or recognized came and went without any further discussion, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since then, largely because comments like his original remark that kicked things off come up with alarming frequency in the MMA space, and feel to me like something that needs to be address in greater detail.

NOT ALL OPINIONS ARE EQUAL

Raimondi is absolutely right there that are fans whose introduction to Aldo came at UFC 194, where he was knocked out in 13 seconds by Conor McGregor.

Since that contest, the now 37-year-old Brazilian has logged seven wins and six defeats, and prior to last weekend, the final image people had of him competing inside the Octagon was of him getting neutralized by bantamweight contender and human weighted blanket Merab Dvalishvili.

He lost to the best fighters he faced during that stretch — Max Holloway twice, Alexander Volkanovski, Marlon Moraes, Petr Yan, and then Dvalishvili — and the opponents he beat were either guys he’d beaten before (Frankie Edgar) or quality Top 10 talents that never quite pushed through to be legitimate title contenders, all of which combines to work against him in today’s “Count the Rings” culture of fandom.

They see a guy that was hyped up as a juggernaut that got slept in a flash, and then put together basically a .500 record the rest of the way, beating guys they likely feel “never did anything” because they have little appreciation for how talented the vast majority of the individuals competing at the UFC level are and how difficult it is to carve out the kind of careers that Jeremy Stephens, Renato Moicano, Pedro Munhoz, and Rob Font have built for themselves.

But those of us that covered the sport before Aldo lost to McGregor and understand the significance of all those wins and losses that followed know that Aldo is without question one of the best of his generation and part of the short list of athletes that should be considered as part of the elite class of all-time greats in the history of this sport.

And it’s the opinions of the experts that we should be communicating, listening to, addressing, not those of folks that dropped in at the very end of Aldo’s 10-year run of dominance and undervalue all but a handful of competitors.

To be clear: everyone is entitled to have whatever opinion they want about Aldo, any other fighter, or any other subject that want to formulate opinions about; I’m not here to stand in the way of that or suggest otherwise.

What I am here to do, however, is implore the MMA community to stop putting so much stock in the opinions of folks with limited experience and expertise, that are often just looking to build an audience or garner engagement, and get back to listening to tenured individuals that can be trusted to have opinions rooted in a greater understanding and appreciation of the subject matter.

That’s not to say some new voices don’t make credible points and have done their homework in order to present things in an intelligent manner, because there are those folks out there, but we really need to stop treating the views of fans as the basis for how we discuss and frame some of these athletes and talk about their legacies.

SHARE KNOWLEDGE, NOT BAD TAKES

These crowd-sourced discussions about athletes come up all the time in the MMA space, frequently from the position that someone is under-appreciated or not given the respect they deserve, and the cited sources are always the fans.

It makes sense, but as I said to Raimondi in the Aldo thread, “Why does anyone act like their opinions and views matter?” and perhaps more succinctly, “Who cares what they think?”

I want to hear from experts, and the dude that said, “Aldo sucks” on his YouTube channel or that posted a TikTok about asked “Who did he really beat?” can kick rocks.

Somehow, it seems like I’m in the minority when it comes to this though, and I find that difficult to understand.

From my perspective, it seems like the MMA space has shifted away from experts leading the conversations and presenting the their opinions on things to a place where generalities rooted in

the opinions and views of fans have become the basis for a lot of commentary, and that feels completely backwards to me.

I want to hear from folks that have covered the sport for a number of years or at least have some skin in the game when it comes to breaking down fights and fighters, or offering thoughts and opinions on various subjects in and around the sport.

I have no interest in hearing from non-experts, not because I’m an elitist jerk — okay, maybe I’m a bit of an elitist jerk — but because I don’t know these people, what their history is with the sport, and whether or not their credible.

Maybe some of them are, and if that is the case, time will bear that out and they may become someone whose insights I seek out, but for the most part, it’s random folks with something they want to say, and I have no idea why any of us would want to construct our positions about an athlete, a card, or an individual around the thoughts of even a hundred random folks when we have experts are our disposal.

It’s almost as if some people in the space don’t want to offend the masses by pushing back on their bad opinions and terrible takes, but that’s exactly what we should be doing, as often as we can, so that the masses actually have an opportunity to know the history of this sport, its athletes, and get accurate information about both from reliable sources.

There is no question that it’s time consuming to redirect every person you encounter that has the wrong impression about Jose Aldo, and plenty are never going to change their stance, but when we don’t counter them, this is where we end up: in a position where a great number of fans don’t appreciate the greatness of “The King of Rio” and we’re stuck debating his legacy as a result.

People that know the sport know his legacy, and it’s not up for debate.

You are certainly welcomed to think otherwise, but to me, that’s just you telling on yourself and making it clear that I don’t need to come to you for MMA thoughts and opinions because this one is pretty straightforward and you’re on the wrong side of it.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Neal Brennan does a great bit in his tremendous special 3 Mics (and various other shows) where he talks about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and how it has 10,000 dislikes on YouTube.

Now, folks are certainly allowed to not like Beethoven’s Fifth, but they probably shouldn’t become the arbiters for what constitutes good music either, and it feels to me like that is where we’re headed in the MMA space.

We’re reaching a point where “having a following” carries more weight than having actual credibility and experience, and where how many views your latest post gets means more than the things you’re actually saying in said post.

Inflammatory content, gossip, and generally negative things are always going to do better than genuine reporting and actually telling the stories about the men and women that step into the Octagon, but for me, that doesn’t mean it’s where I should be getting my information or committing any of my time.

Personally, I’m more interested in the thoughts and opinions of the people that liked Beethoven’s Fifth, not, as Brennan puts it, people that think “your music stinks, bro, and I know music; I’m from Tampa!

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