Is there fighter loyalty in MMA?
I often wonder why I don’t feel the pull towards a particular fighter the same as I would towards a local sports team in the MLB, NFL, or NBA. The answer could be as simple as events are held all over the world with little or no connection to the fighters on the card. But it could be much more complicated. If you are truly devoted to a fighter you would follow exactly where he is from and where he trains. Is location really the only thing that makes people devoted to their team? It seems a matter of convenience that you favorite team plays down the road.
I use the example of Roger Huerta, a Mexican-American fighter who had his run in the UFC back in 2007 where he defeated top names like Leonard Garcia and Clay Guida in some of the most furious matches you will ever see. I started becoming very interested in Huerta, even to the extent to say he was my favorite fighter. But it had nothing to do with his hometown.
His childhood is something that is featured at many of his fights. He slept on rooftops while still attending school without a stable family at home. In high school he gained an interest in wrestling which started the career he is currently in. All of this led to a great story and I really supported him. In 2008 his success ran out when he met Kenny Florian in the ring. Two straight losses would lead to his dismissal from the UFC.
Now what? My favorite fighter is out of the UFC. Am I to stay loyal to the UFC or to Huerta? Once again, there is no loyalty to anyone. If you are an exciting fighter, I pay attention to you. If you destroy my top pick, you absorb his power and my interest. All of a sudden I’m a Florian fan. Who’s he going to fight next? What do his workouts look like? But wait, what happened to Huerta? I can’t abandon him all together - can I? In any other organization I would be considered a front runner. Nobody likes that tagline.
Present-day Huerta hasn’t had a professional fight in almost 6 months. I anxiously await his return to the ring, but if being loyal means not cheering for anyone that has ever defeated him, that would means ignoring the handiwork of Eddie Alvarez and Gray Maynard. It’s just not that easy.
The career span of a fighter is just not even comparable to the length of time an organization from other sports has been around. The Phillies have been in existence since 1969. It’s difficult to pass down to your children a love of one particular fighter if they aren’t even fighting anymore. The only exception is of course, if they are one of the all-time legends. Fighter loyalty comes and goes. It’s just a different sport with a different fan base. However, if Huerta were to step back into the ring, I would cheer for him no matter what.