The UFC hype machine is kicking into high gear to sell a UFC 217 main event that was booked amid a wave of apparent fan apathy, but can the case for “The Count” vs. GSP convince fans to put aside their concerns and get out their credit cards? Retired WEC and UFC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss.
Downes: No UFC event this weekend Ben, but that gives us time to get excited about the next big fight. And that is (*checks schedule*) Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping?
The promotion for their UFC 217 match is in full force as the two participated in the ceremonial puck drop for this weekend’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve also been speaking to the media with the expected results: St-Pierre is “super focused,” while Bisping works his shtick as the unlikable Englishman.
Seeing that this is the middleweight title fight that nobody (save for GSP or Bisping) actually wanted, can any promotion get you excited for it? I know the fever pitch surrounding a fight doesn’t usually kick in until fight week itself, but do you think that will happen this time around?
Fowlkes: You don’t think people are starting to get excited about this fight? I mean, OK, they don’t want to admit it. It’s not cool to say that you’re hyped about Bisping vs. GSP. It feels like admitting that you’re looking forward to a big, dumb action movie. The fight feels like a sinister plan to get in our wallets, which it is.
But what are you going to do? Are you seriously going to not watch this event, which comes with two additional title fights, both of which are solidly #wouldwatch affairs, just because you’re resentful of a nonsense headliner that seems like something a piece of marketing software came up with?
Plus, have you actually watched these two together? GSP doesn’t even have to do anything. He just smiles and plays the nice guy and lets Bisping carry the promotional load, which he does with a perfect, sneering efficiency.
Seriously, watch him here. You’re telling me you don’t want to see that guy get punched in the face? And if you don’t, it can only be because you actually want to see him do what he claims he’ll do. Point is, there’s no way to be indifferent about a person like that, and that’s promotional gold.
Are you really not into this fight, despite or possibly even for all its stupidity? Or would you just feel like too easy mark for admitting it?
Downes: What happened to you, Ben? Have the years been so unkind that now your standards are degrading faster than the cartilage in your joints?
First off, your #wouldwatch standard doesn’t mean anything. You’ve admitted that you’d watch any number of freak show fights. Just because you say you’ll watch something, that does not mean it’s quality.
I’ve watched more episodes of “House Hunters” than I’d care to admit. That doesn’t mean the show isn’t formulaic, scripted and predictable. I’ve seen the movie “Gymkata” multiple times. Maybe that means it should win an Academy Award?
Secondly, disliking Bisping and wanting to see him get punched in the face does not mean you should like every one of his fights. There are plenty of unlikable fighters in MMA. If we use Ben Fowlkes logic, that means every one of them is a must-see fight! What if there’s a fighter that we really like and don’t want to see get punched in the face? I guess that means he or she is always in a bad fight?
Does Bisping know how to push people’s buttons? Absolutely. Throughout his career he’s been able to create a buzz and make himself relevant even when many were willing to write him off. That being said, the act has worn thin on me.
Bisping is slightly more sincere than Chael Sonnen when it comes to the gimmick, but that’s not saying much. He’s already walked back his “GSP is on steroids” talk when he was on Conan O’Brien. How do you take him seriously now?
I’m all for “fun” fights in general, but nothing exists inside a vacuum. By GSP vs. Bisping going down, the middleweight division is put on hold. MMA may be more carnival than actual sport, but we have to recognize when the pendulum swings too far to the other side.
Do you not see how this title fight represents that? Or did the UFC already send you some talking points you’d like to regurgitate?
Fowlkes: Watch out, everybody. Looks like Danny’s off his meds again. And by meds I mean grapefruit IPAs.
Look, I’m not disagreeing that this is a straight-up cash grab with little to no relevance to the middleweight division. To the contrary, I’m the first one to point out that, the way it stands now, Bisping looks like he’s trying to be the first UFC middleweight champ to avoid defending his belt against any top contenders.
All I’m saying is, this is the fight we have. It’s Bisping vs. St-Pierre, an all-time great MMA heel against an all-time great MMA fighter. And what makes this bout even more weirdly compelling in a way I hate to admit that I like? It’s that the welterweight GOAT is probably going to lose. Bisping probably is going to beat him up, just like he says, at which point he’ll be able to walk around calling everybody “buddeh” as he points out that he beat both Anderson Silva and GSP, the two greats of his era.
Or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe St-Pierre comes charging back after all this time and takes the title that most of us thought Bisping would never win in the first place, and which he’s only managed to defend once, just barely, against a senior citizen who nearly knocked him stiff.
Those stakes are good enough for me, I’m sorry to say. Would I rather see a middleweight champ against a middleweight contender? Sure. Will I still regard Robert Whittaker as the top 185-pounder after this, regardless of the outcome? Probably.
But am I going to boycott a bizarrely interesting fight and miss Cody Garbrandt-T.J. Dillashaw and Joanna “Champion” vs. “Thug Rose” just for spite? No way. And, once you get enough craft beers in you to be honest with yourself, I think you’ll be able to admit that you’re not about to miss it either.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.
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Source: MMA Junkie