Why I Hate Tournaments

6 Jan

      Watching the Glory kickboxing tournament from Japan on New Year’s eve, I was once more reminded of why I hate tournaments in professional combat sports. Forget the ridiculous rules, including two minute rounds that made the event seem more like amateur fights than pro, the whole concept of a tournament, particularly a same day tournament, in combat sports seems geared toward making less interesting match-ups rather than the best possible fights.
      I know a lot of old school fans of the original UFC tournaments still like the idea of the tournament format but I have never seen the appeal in them. First of all, if you have two great fighters, what is the purpose of making them jump through hoops fighting other people before they have to fight each other? Too many unforseen problems, including injuries and upsets, can occur along the way in a tournament format which end up ruining the match up everyone really wants to see. No better example of this can be found than the ill-fated Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament which seemed to run endlessly through 2011 and 2012.
      The Strikeforce tournament consisted of what was still, arguably, the biggest name in heavyweight mixed martial arts at that time, Fedor Emelianenko, the man who had just beaten Emelianenko in Fabricio Werdum, the reigning Strikeforce heavyweight champion in Alistair Overeem, and the well respected Josh Barnett. Witnessing Emelianenko fight any one of these others is something that most MMA fans were interested in seeing. But instead, he fought Antonio Silva and was upset, forever ruining the chance to see one of these other matches. While Emelianenko was obviously faded, so having him fight one of these other men might not have been as exciting as anticipated, still, seeing a finals match between striking expert Overeem and grappling master Barnett would have been an interesting contest. But instead, after winning a boring fight against Werdum, Overeem fled Strikeforce for the UFC abandoning his spot in the tournament. Eventually, substitute fighter Daniel Cormier beat Barnett in a highly unanticipated – and relatively dull – match up. Bottom line is, a lot of fights that fans were interested in seeing were never made because of the tournament format forcing uninteresting first round match ups on us.
      Even worse, to me, is the single day tournament format. While some people argue it’s a true test of a fighter’s endurance and determination to fight three or even four fights in a single day, it’s also an inherently unfair test. Invariably, the two fighters who make it to the finals of a single day MMA or kickboxing tournament have taken different paths that leave one man fresher than the other. Fighter A might be the best fighter in the tournament and deserving of winning it. But if he has to fight the second and third best fighters along the way, and both match ups go the distance, while his opponent in the final, fighter B, is given a couple of easy match ups that allow him to win quickly and conserve energy, fighter B will have a hugely unfair advantage over fighter A when they meet in the finals. And even in the rare circumstances where both men have an equally difficult path to the championship, in all likelihood both fighters are going to be a little tired and banged up by the time they meet in that final match. Now would you rather see two great fighters who are in nowhere near their best fighting condition stumble through a match against each other or see two great fighters who are fresh go against each other and dazzle the crowd with their absolute best? I know which I prefer to see. And it’s not found in a tournament.

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3 Responses to “Why I Hate Tournaments”

  1. Roger January 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I used to fight in Kung fu / Karate tournaments in the early eighties. We weren’t required to wear padding and the only part of the anatomy we were not allowed to attack was the throat. The winner was usually the person still conscious at the end. One day, sitting on the bench waiting for my turn to pummel or be pummelled, I turned to my friends, very few of whom retained any teeth. That was when I decided that I wanted to keep what few brain cells I possessed, and subsequently went home. I hope it’s a little more regulated now.

    • Mark Jacobs January 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      Major events are run professionally, though with smaller events, it depends on the jurisdiction the event is held in. In many places, almost anyone can still hold a fight show and run it pretty poorly without any repercussions.

      • Roger January 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

        Just as I feared. It gives good practise, mainly in the ways to handle pain. Other than that I can’t really see the point.

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