InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley answers reader questions about NCAA wrestling, international wrestling, recruiting, or anything loosely related to wrestling. You have until Thursday night every week to send questions to Foley's Twitter or email account.
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Three years ago Anderson Silva stepped into the octagon to defend his UFC middleweight title against Damien Maia at UFC. Heading into the event Silva was acting a little strange in interviews and at the pre-fight standoff got kiss-him close to Maia. During the fight Silva proceeded to put on one of the oddest athletic performances in professional sports history. You can see the fight on the Internet, but I'll save you the trouble, and briefly state that he gestured wildly, and postured as though he couldn't be hit, but refused to actually fight. Confused? So were the million plus fans watching him have a mental breakdown in the middle of the octagon.
The Brazilian had reason to think his antics might work. He'd antagonized a drugged-up Forrest Griffin in the same head-bobbing way and knocked him out with a flick of the wrist. Against Maia, who had several in-cage submissions to his count and was arguably one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters in the UFC, Silva wanted to avoid all aspects of grappling and instead decided to peacock for 800k PPV buys. UFC president Dana White as so disgusted with the performance set he threatened to kick the middleweight champion out of the UFC.
At the time the majority opinion of fight fans who had just laid out a steak dinner to watch a man prancersize in the Octagon, was that "someone needed to punch this fool in the mouth." Along came Chael Sonnen, who for four and half rounds all but eliminated the myth of Silva's greatness, before handing it right back by allowing himself to be put in a blue belt level triangle midway through the final round.
A few more highlight reel knockouts, a few million dollars in UFC PR and the once technically vulnerable, mentally unhinged mediocre fighter was suddenly the "all-time GOAT," mostly by avoiding troublesome opponents. Behind the titles, ten-fight contract and Burger King endorsement, many UFC fighters were confessing in private that Silva wasn't the GOAT, but really an average fighter with a Mayweather-like ability of avoiding tough competition.
Until Chris "The All-American" Weidman.
The two-time NCAA Division I All-American from Hofstra used his hands to dispatch the myth of Anderson Silva and the GOAT garbage. Weidman is more than just a wrestler, but in a time when our sport's validity is being questioned, it was a pleasure to watch one of OUR guys step into the ring with a bag of hot air and punch it square in the mouth.
Congrats, Champ, you make being a wrestler a little more special.
Q: This past week ESPN's Behind the Lines did a continuation on the story of two Cleveland area wrestlers, Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton. Dartanyon is blind and Leroy is a double amputee. In the updated version, they talk about Dartanyon qualifying for the Paralympics in judo. Why do we not have a wrestling event in the Paralympics? I checked and there was Paralympic wrestling in 1980 and 1984. It seems like this is something that we should be pushing for. Wrestling is definitely a sport that can be accessed by Paralympic athletes and we should be pushing for all of the exposure possible.
-- Ryan R.
Foley: I don't have any answers on why Paralympics wrestling was discontinued, but I'll ask around until I find the best answer. Until then, let's keep working on creating opportunities to touch the lives of those athletes ignored by large-scale organized team sports. There are several national and international funds available for the promotion of organized activity with those who have physical impairments.
Why isn't there a Wounded Warriors wrestling league? Real Sports recently did a piece on MMA as an avenue of relief for those with PTSD. Wrestling can play the same role in the lives of serviceman returning from active duty. Finding new athletes and people who could benefit from the camaraderie of the sport we could create a way to change the perception of our sport by helping those who've served our country.
Q: Why do you think wrestlers in the heavier weights are having so much success in MMA, but in the lighter weights wrestlers aren't very noticeable? I know Benson Henderson, Michael Chandler, Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar were stud wrestlers, but the depth is just not there. Especially at 125/135, excited to see how Bubba Jenkins and Lance Palmer do when they get a shot, but still looking for some more lighter guys to get involved. Shawn Bunch will be awesome when he gets some experience. Anybody else coming up? Would make those lighter weights a lot better and more competitive with guys like Henry Cejudo, Nick Simmons, Montell Marion, and even Andrew Long fresh out of jail. One more question, do you think the Iowa style, grinding, getting the other guy tired, forward, will ever make its way into MMA? I know it would be dangerous, but just imagine 15 minutes of Andrew Howe and Brett Metcalf pulling guys' heads down that aren't used to it.
-- Rob H.
Foley: Andrew Long "fresh out of jail." Ouch, sensitive topic, brother! You deal with any of his residual fans. I'm forwarding you the emails.
I don't know if there is a weight preference for wrestlers-turned-fighters, in fact everything you wrote makes it seem pretty even throughout the UFC. The UFC champions at every weight but 145 and 170 are former collegiate wrestlers. When you factor in GSP's Russian-training in Canada every champion except Jose Aldo is a wrestler. Add to that the domination of Ben Askren and Michael Chandler and you have a lot of our mat heroes mopping up opponents.
Cejudo hasn't fought a quality opponent, and it would be disrespectful to Askren, Velasquez and any of the other big name wrestlers-turned-fighters who'd trained for years in the sport. Like I've written before, Cejudo is an incredible athlete and what he did on the mat in 2008 was inspirational for his community and the country. But he in no way is on par with Chris Weidman.
I'd love to see the lighter weight guys you mentioned make a jump, especially Nick Simmons, who is built for submission grappling.
I enjoy MMA and I love wrestling's impact on the sport, and like you I'd love to see some of our recent champions start pummeling more faux champions.
Q: I've been wrestling since the eighth grade. I ran into some hard times in high school and dropped out in the 10th grade. Can a person like me who has only four years of wrestling under his belt still get into shape and compete in the sport that he loves?
-- Tim S.
Foley: Depends on your city, but most areas have a wrestling program that can accommodate your desire to hit the mats! If you need a fix, I HIGHLY suggest jiu-jitsu as a way to meet your mat needs.
RANT OF THE WEEK!
By Jordan L.
I do not feel the system of "key" rules for passivity are necessary. Keep the pushout rule, and omit passivity all together. Again, we are trying to keep the sport interesting for casual fans. The members of college student bodies who attend a match or two a year in order to win spirit points for their respective teams, the folks who watch the NCAA finals once a year when they are on ESPN, and the like, are the ones we should be attempting to simplify our sport for. I do not think a write up of passivity rules that are relatively subjective to the official are the best way to do this. Let's keep the pushout rule, keep the 1 five-minute period match, and reward action via points!