Hector Lombard, Jake Shields and the pressure to be exciting in MMA
DALLAS — Hector Lombard gets it. Or does he?
If nothing else, Lombard made some interesting points Wednesday about MMA and the UFC, in general — points that many would agree with.
Talking to reporters at the UFC 171 open workouts, Lombard compared the UFC to WWE and called it "the entertainment business." He said no one knows who the last Olympic gold medalist in judo was, but they know about Ronda Rousey, who won the bronze medal in 2008. On the latter part, he’s inarguably correct.
"Why?" Lombard said. "Because she had to come here. She has to come to the entertainment business."
The conversation turned in this direction because of Jake Shields, Lombard’s opponent Saturday at UFC 171, and what Lombard thinks of him, which isn’t very much. Lombard acknowledges Shields is a great fighter and he is. In fact, Shields has wins over three of the four guys co-headlining the event at American Airlines Center.
He hurts the sport.
-Hector Lombard on Jake Shields
Yet he’s not on anyone’s list to challenge next for the title for the very reasons Lombard brought up. Shields, as the Cuban former Olympic judoka so eloquently put, is "boring." How boring, you ask?
"He hurts the sport," Lombard said.
That’s pretty boring. And that’s probably where Lombard loses his argument. Shields isn’t the most exciting fighter in the UFC. His strategy is basically to get guys down and keep them there if he can’t submit them. But the only person Shields is hurting by doing that is Shields.
There is something to be said for guys like Shields and Jon Fitch and Ben Askren, whose name Lombard also brought up. They win fights. A lot of them. It isn’t always attractive to watch — OK, it rarely is. But they win. This is a sport. That’s supposed to be the point, right?
Not according to Lombard and some others certainly share his view.
"This is a sport where you have to entertain fans," he said. "They want to go over there and want to see you fight. At the end of the day, it’s a business."
Shields has defended himself ad nauseum and decided against it Wednesday. He just said he always thought Lombard "was a prick." Shields also said Lombard is probably trying to bait him into standing and striking with him, which is a definite possibility.
"Hector is a huge power striker, so he probably wants me to come in and start trading shots with him," Shields said. "He’s trying to pull me into that game, but I know he’s got power, so I’m gonna put him on his back and submit him."
Nowhere in there did Shields say he was going to wow the fans with his submission technique. Lombard has never been finished in his entire career and Shields probably realizes he’s most likely to earn a grind-it-out victory if he wins. That’s textbook Jake Shields anyway — it’s what he did to beat Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley, all guys fighting Saturday who are regarded to be higher on the food chain in the 170-pound division. And Shields just beat Woodley less than a year ago.
Shields said if he beats Lombard he’s going to ask for a title shot. He’s already gotten one in the UFC, losing to Georges St-Pierre in 2011. Fitch never got a second one after losing to St-Pierre. Shields might have to do something drastic to get another — like perhaps finishing an opponent.
He’s trying to pull me into that game, but I know he’s got power, so I’m gonna put him on his back and submit him.
-Jake Shields on Hector Lombard
Ironically, St-Pierre wasn’t known for exciting fights either late in his career and he was still arguably the most popular fighter in the UFC. GSP certainly wasn’t bad for the sport. Just the opposite.
So who’s right in this argument? Both and neither. MMA is a sport and it’s entertainment, which is why you might see Ronda Rousey fight Gina Carano this year. But it isn’t sports entertainment. Winning still does matter, even if it isnât as important as it is in other athletic endeavors.
"It’s the entertainment business here," Lombard said. "It’s a professional business. It’s not like the Olympics where you gotta go and get the medal."
No, but having that gold title belt is nice. And you can’t do that without getting your hand raised a few times.