The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 241 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
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Describing anything as patient is usually a backhanded compliment. Patience is a good thing, of course, but it’s also a common euphemism for boring. If a date describes you to their friends as “patient,” it probably doesn’t bode well for your romantic future. Nobody wants to watch a football team that plays a “patient” brand of offense, let alone a “patient” fight. Patience is fundamentally unsexy, as virtues tend to be. This is a cage fight; shoot all the just-bleed vices directly into my veins.
Yet UFC 241 on Saturday in Anaheim, California, gave us plenty of reason to appreciate the different ways in which patience can present itself in the fight business.
Let’s start with the Marvel-esque “Fight of the Night” between Yoel Romero and Paulo Henrique Costa. There was an immediate necessity for patience on the viewer’s end, as the bout was halted mid-fight twice: once for a low blow in the first round and again for an eye poke in the third. Though the action stalled in both instances, it ended up contributing to the greater good. It was such a tumultuous and exhausting donnybrook that a few mid-round breaks weren’t just welcome reprieves for the fighters but were almost certainly necessary for both men to continue their ridiculous power-punching pace. As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait for fighters to recover from illegal shots.
The most exaggerated example of patience, however, belonged to none other than the Sativaweight champion himself, Nate Diaz. It had been almost exactly three years since his last Octagon appearance, and he made it perfectly clear why that was the case: “The reason I was off was because everybody sucked.” It was a classic line, but as is usually the case with Diaz sound bites, there’s more to unpack from it than just its humor.
When Diaz said he took three years off because everybody sucked, that wasn’t purely a comment on the level of talent of the other welterweights on the roster. There are always fighters who don’t suck; that’s part of what makes the Ultimate Fighting Championship what it is. While Diaz was clear that he preferred to fight Octagon OGs, he has also been vocal about the fact that he cares more about big fights than joining the rat race of title contenders. Anthony Pettis may not seem like a “big fight” in the way we intuitively think, but he checks off all the Diaz boxes. “Showtime” made his World Extreme Cagefighting debut in 2009 -- just two years after Diaz fought in the UFC for the first time -- and he’s a former champion who graced the cover of a Wheaties box. That still means something, especially since Pettis was coming off a spectacular win against Stephen Thompson.
That Diaz is angling for a fight against Jorge Masvidal, whose MMA tenure is closing in on decade number two and is as popular as he has ever been, validates the patient wisdom in his approach. Diaz was the only fighter from the card who was profiled in the New York Times, and he was the most-talked-about fighter in the aftermath of UFC 241. A potential Diaz-Masvidal fight is far more enticing than any matchup involving the other main card winners. His patience paid off. As for the rubber match with Conor McGregor, the Irishman needs to bring some buzz of his own to the table if he wants a shot at the people’s champ. As an aside, remember when UFC President Dana White said Diaz didn’t move the needle?
If Diaz had to be patient because everybody sucked, the once and current heavyweight king Stipe Miocic had to be patient because his opponent didn’t suck enough. Miocic set the all-time record for UFC heavyweight title defenses in January 2018 when he defended his belt for the third time against Francis Ngannou. Given the vicissitudes of heavyweight MMA, this is no small achievement. Often, when champions break a record like that, they have some security for an immediate rematch when they eventually lose. Not for Miocic. After losing to Daniel Cormier a little more than a year ago, he had to wait while “DC” defended his title against Derrick Lewis before suffering through the seemingly inevitable shadow of a potential Brock Lesnar superfight. Instead of taking a rebound fight, however, Miocic waited a year to get his shot at revenge. Clearly, it turned out pretty good for him.
Yet how his patience paid off was also a result of, you guessed it, patience. Miocic weathered a chubby yet deceptively powerful storm. He ate big shots and found himself on the wrong side of a patented “DC” slam, but he continued to stick to his game plan, avoiding the clinch as much as possible by pumping his jab. Though he was down on each of the judges’ scorecards entering the fourth round, he had gained confidence and built momentum. He waited for Cormier to fade, and when he did, Miocic capitalized with a devastating combination that left the former champ in a crumpled heap against the cage.
Indeed, patience was an ever-present if not low-key theme of the night. It seems fitting because it was an awesome card, and now we will have to patiently bide our time for another two weeks until the next one comes around. Though, there’s always Bellator 225 on Saturday …
Eric is a writer from Kailua, Hawaii. His fiction, nonfiction and journalism have appeared in Bamboo Ridge, The Classical, Harvard Review Online, Honolulu Civil Beat, Medium and Vice Sports, among others. He has been writing for Sherdog since 2014. You can reach him on Twitter at @TombstoneStint, or find his work at ericstinton.com.