For over a year, I had the undeserved opportunity to work with two of GSP’s coaches – Phil Nurse and John Danaher. During that time, I enviously endured story after story about what a brilliant student Rush is. (“He’s a sponge.” “Teach him something one day, he’s using it the next.”) At one point I had become so sick of it, I snapped at Phil, “You and John talk about him like he’s the Second Coming of Jesus Fucking Christ.” Channeling God’s wrath for my blasphemy, Nurse smote me down.
And now look at the GSP legend. He had Freddie Roach as a coach for (maybe) four weeks, and he lands so many jabs it should be MMA’s new drinking game. After years of wrestlers loading up the Hendo right, GSP picks Kos’s eye socket apart with jabs and crosses, not to mention ducking or slipping nearly every counter.
GSP is such a divine student that when he retires all his coaches should commit ritual suicide. They are never going to see another one like him in their lifetimes. The match was, from a coach’s perspective, tactical perfection. GSP established the jab, peppered it with crosses, won the first three rounds, added some hooks, turned up the heat, saw that finishing someone as tough as Kos would be immensely risky, and so returned to what had worked all night. He dominated; he hit and wasn’t hit—a coach’s dream fighter.
But a coach’s self-interests do not always line up with a fighter’s. Coaches want fighters to stay healthy and keep winning, because unhealthy fighters who lose, especially after being advised to take big risks, fire their coaches. On the other hand, fighters, while wanting to stay healthy and keep winning, also need to please the promoter, who cares about fans buying tickets and PpVs, not the win-loss record or health of a particular fighter. (There are always more where they came from.) So a Forrest Griffin or an Arturo Gatti can fail miserably and still get work, whereas technical, cautious fighters are bad for sales. Dave Meltzer even hinted that it’d be better for the UFC if GSP lost one.
When Dana White says that fans will accuse GSP of “not having a killer instinct,” and Dana’s mouthpiece Kevin Iole repeats the same talking points (“think of Silva and think of the killer instinct he shows”), it is management’s shot over the bow. At some point GSP will have to decide who he wants to please (apparently, not Ryan) and what kind of fighter he wants to be: perfect or good.
(Matthew Polly regularly appears on Slate.com and a bunch of other super serial websites, so it’s always surprising even to us when he shows up on a site like this. His last book was about how he infiltrated a Chinese terrorist group known as ‘The Shaolin.’ His next deals with the Satanic sex cult that many top MMA brass and fighters belong to. Or something like that.)