The Nordic countries of Northern Europe have endured some struggles in MMA — which may surprise fans abroad.
Norwegian MMA fans, for example, enjoyed the success of their own Joachim Hansen in Japan’s PRIDE and DREAM organizations, but have failed to legalize the sport at home. So too have fans of current UFC welterweight contender Gunnar Nelson of Iceland, where MMA is also banned.
So, this past weekend’s UFC: Nelson vs. Story, also known as UFC Fight Night 53, was seen by some as a coming out party for MMA in the region. It was ZUFFA’s third visit to Sweden, and their only event of 2014.
It ended up being a rough night for the locals.
Sweden’s six fighters at the event went a combined 2-4, with three first round losses on the main card. (In the main event, Iceland’s Nelson fell in a split decision.)
Some fans expressed frustration at the showing.
Alexander Gustafsson, the undefeated Swedish light heavyweight best known for his 2013 battle with Jon Jones, took to his social media account at GetMikz.com to respond:
Thank you UFC for visiting Sweden yesterday and giving us a great event.
I am reading the news and the comments from our fans with mixed feelings today. If you are a fan of this sport you should know what kind of preparations we go through in the camps. It’s nothing but hard training 2-3 time a day and a weight cut for 8-10 weeks where the fighters eat less during a whole day than a normal person do for just lunch.
It’s an enormous pressure with media and PR and then coming into a cage in front of millions of people on TV and thousands of people in the stadium and face someone that wants to knock you out.
You have to be a fighter or a top athlete to be able to understand all we go through and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but we ALWAYS do our best.
And then having your own fans criticizing you after a loss with stupid comments and saying that you suck about your performance when 99% of them have no experience of the sport in real life, that’s not the way to support your fighters.
No misunderstanding, we love the support we get from all of you, but we cannot become the worst fighters in the world after a loss when we the fight before were the best fighters in the world.
We had a bad night last evening, but my team mates are still the worlds best mma fighters. I train with Ilir Latifi, I know he is a beast, I know how hard he prepared himself for this fight, but last night was not his night and he will come out of this much stronger. Niklas Backstrom, all of you fans have said he is the next star of Swedish MMA, I agree, he is a supertalent. Now I read everywhere that he is weak, he has no jaw and other stupid things. He got hit by a overhand and got knocked out, could happen to anyone. Tor Troeng is an experienced and a smart fighter, he fought well and sometimes it is just not your night, someone just for that night is better than you. Magnus Cedenblad, what a great fight, he really showed his heart last night and came back from the 2nd round in a really impressive win. Well done my friend.
Another thing is all the talk about Allstars Training Center and our coaches and the criticism they have received. Let me tell you this, I have been around in a few gyms around the world in my career, and getting better training than we all get at Allstars is hard to find. We have the best coaches you can have and that’s one of the reasons we have fighters coming from all countries in the world to train with us and be a part of the Allstar family.
To sum up this message, you can have good nights like we have had for the past years, and then you can have a bad night like we had last night. The good nights don’t make us world champions and the bad nights don’t make us completely useless and all of us overrated. I would like you all instead, if you are a fan of the sport to support us in the good times and in the bad times and if you want to criticize us, give us constructive critics.
We will come back stronger than ever after this, that is what I can guarantee you all.
(hat tip to Dana Becker at Fightline.com for the transcription)