McGregor vs. Pacquiao is a terrible idea. Wouldn't it be nice if that alone were enough to stop it?

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Let’s start with something we all (hopefully) agree on: A boxing match between Conor McGregor and Manny Pacquiao is a terrible idea.

It’s a bad idea not just because it’s bad, but also because it’s dumb and hackneyed, stripped of all novelty, like a ripoff of a parody.

Remember earlier this year when Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps “raced” a computer-generated shark on the Discovery channel? Booking McGregor vs. Pacquiao now would be like trying to run that one back, except this time with a CGI dolphin.

But here’s the problem with the current age of combat sports: As dumb and awful as a fight like that would be right now, how certain can you be that it won’t actually happen?

Personally, I’m hovering at right around 80 percent sure. I’m encouraged by recent developments, such as UFC President Dana White threatening a lawsuit over the reported negotiations between Team McGregor and Team Pacquiao, but I still can’t get all the way to 100 percent positive, or even comfortably into the 90s.

A lot of that is due to what you might call plausibility creep. The last several years have seen a shift in our perception of what’s possible in combat sports. McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather? That didn’t seem realistic until suddenly there it was. A pro wrestler jumping straight into the UFC with zero relevant experience to recommend him for the job? It was laughable until it was real.

It’s not just the UFC, either. Everything about Bellator’s stubbornly popular seniors tour feels like a bad joke that was repeated once too often, until it was finally conjured into being by the dulling force of repetition.

All this has consequences. Professional fighting is an imitative business. The best indicator of what will work is what already has worked in the recent past. This is true for both promoters and fighters.

Witness the shift in UFC fighter attitudes caused by the success of McGregor. Before he came along, the typical goal was to become a champion, then defend the belt again and again. Now it’s to win the belt and immediately go hunting for a huge payday in another division.

For promoters, it’s a constant battle for our attention. If it’s only the outlandish possibilities that get us talking, then those must be the ones worth considering.

And since we accept and even expect that promoters will have no guiding principles that extend beyond the race for the next one-off cash grab, they’re free to live down to our standards. The only excuse they need in order to sell us a certain fight is the possibility that we’ll buy it.

Which brings us back to McGregor-Pacquiao, the combat sports version of the lazy action-movie sequel.

There’s nothing to recommend this fight. We’ve already seen McGregor as a boxer, so that curiosity is satisfied. The longer he stays away from the UFC, the more it seems like he’s holding the lightweight title hostage, and at a time when the division itself is as interesting as ever.

Even the bulb of Pacquiao’s celebrity doesn’t shine as brightly as it used to, making him seem like the copycat kid who shows up at school in whatever he saw the cool kids wearing yesterday.

Still, you can’t say that nobody would watch this fight, which means you can’t say that the powers that be wouldn’t consider making it. Even with all the obstacles, ranging from personal to professional, we’ve reached a point where you can’t just write it off as impossible.

In a bizarre way, the fact that it seems so farfetched now actually makes it slightly more likely, since at least it would qualify as a surprise.

That’s a strange place for the sport to be, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve seen the end of it yet. It seems more like we’re still searching out the new boundaries, waiting to see how far those borders can be pushed until something – whether it’s anger, revulsion, or just indifference – finally pushes back.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Dana White denies Conor McGregor vs. Manny Pacquiao in works, fires back at Bob Arum

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FRESNO, Calif. – UFC President Dana White adamantly denies any accuracy to reports of a Conor McGregor vs. Manny Pacquiao boxing match being discussed.

Earlier this week, boxing legend Pacquiao (59-7-2 boxing) said he’d begun talks for an April boxing showdown with the UFC lightweight champion McGregor (21-3 MMA, 0-1 boxing). White shut that down, though, following tonight’s UFC Fight Night 123 event and even offered a legal threat.

“That would be weird, because (McGregor’s) under contract with us,” White told MMAjunkie. “If that’s true, I will be suing Manny Pacquiao and whoever is representing him.”

The UFC boss was adamant McGregor’s next fight will be in the UFC, but White’s future does, in fact, involve boxing. He’s confirmed that the wheels are in motion for a boxing organization promoted under the same ownership umbrella as UFC, and that news apparently has ruffled some feathers in the boxing community.

White has a longstanding feud with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who took a shot at White at tonight’s Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux boxing match in New York.

“Who gives a s— with White, he’s a piece of s—. He’s got a UFC that’s cratering and he needs boxing to save himself.”

White was informed of Arum’s comments and fired back with a stern warning.

“You’ll see, Bob,” White said. “We’ll see at the end. Bob’s the same guy who said the UFC would never work, and the UFC was loosing ‘oodles’ of money, whatever the (expletive) ‘oodles of money’ means. Look at what we’ve done and look at where we are. I mean, come on. At the end of the day, we’ll see who stands where when the smoke clears and the dust settles.

“I’ll give it to him, though. For a (expletive) 95-year-old dude, this guy’s pretty feisty, man. I’ll give it to him. I’ll give him that.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Conor McGregor vs. Manny Pacquiao opening odds: 'Notorious' (no surprise) is underdog

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While the UFC lightweight division remains in limbo, champion Conor McGregor has been fielding multiple challenges from the boxing world.

The latest? Manny Pacquiao, who on Friday said he’s begun talks with McGregor for a 2018 boxing out.

While the fight may currently be a long shot, we have opening odds for the potential fight.

Pacquiao (59-7-2), the only boxer to win titles in eight different divisions, is expectedly the favorite over McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC, 0-1 boxing), who’s coming off his boxing pro debut in August, when he suffered a 10th-round TKO defeat to Floyd Mayweather. However, McGregor, who still hasn’t been booked for an MMA return, likely made a nine-figure payday for the pay-per-view blockbuster.

It’s probably a reason Pacquiao (and Oscar De La Hoya) have recently stumped for a fight with MMA’s biggest star.

So, if the fight does happen, what can bettors expect? We checked in with veteran MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa, one of the world’s most respected combat-sports oddsmakers for “The Oddessa Line”:

Manny Pacquiao vs. Conor McGregor
Manny Pacquiao -380 (5/19)
Conor McGregor +300 (3/1)

Manny Pacquiao vs. Conor McGregor
Over 9.5 rounds +120 (6/5)
Under 9.5 rounds -155 (20/31)

At those odds, a winning $100 bet on Pacquiao would result in a net profit of $26.32 (implied win probability of 79.2 percent). A winning $100 bet on McGregor, meanwhile, would net a profit of $300 (implied win probability of 25 percent).

What could the sports books expect if the fight does happen?

“A potential super fight between these two would rival Conor’s fight with Floyd as far as wagering handle for the sports books,” Oddessa, who lauded both fighters’ international appeal, told MMAjunkie. “Manny looked like he was aging in his recent controversial loss in Australia to Jeff Horn, and that will only help increase the handle on this fight.

“Manny looks like he’s headed to the bench for retirement in what would otherwise look like another boxing mismatch a few years ago into an appealing fight, on paper anyway.”

While boxers can’t seem to ignore him, McGregor seemingly has a natural next MMA opponent with interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson. However, a title-unification bout faces a potential delay following Ferguson’s announcement Thursday that he’s undergone elbow surgery.

McGregor remains under contract exclusively to the UFC, though Dana White has said the two sides are working on a new deal. However, last month the UFC president said McGregor “might never fight again.”

As for Pacquiao, is it a fight you want to see? Cast your vote below.

And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Take Our Poll
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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Manny Pacquiao says talks with Conor McGregor have begun for boxing match

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Do you want to see Conor McGregor take on boxing legend Manny Pacquiao for his next fight? Because it sounds like the wheels could be in motion.

Pacquiao, the only boxer to win championships in eight different divisions, on Friday said he has begun talks to fight McGregor in a boxing match in April when he breaks away from his duties as a senator in the Phillippines.

“If we can negotiate it, I have no problem. It is OK with both of us,” Pacquiao told news wire service AFP, via Yahoo.com, when asked if he was seeking a fight with McGregor.

When asked by AFP if there’d been communication with McGregor’s representatives, Pacquiao confirmed that to be true.

“Initially, but we have not yet had any follow-up conversations,” Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao, 39, last fought in July, dropping a controversial unanimous decision to Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia. Pacquiao (59-7-2 boxing) would like to fight again, but he stressed that it had to take place during the Phillippines’ lengthy Senate recess.

Pacquiao also made it clear that McGregor is just one of several opponents being considered.

“It depends who they can finalize as my opponent by April,” Pacquiao said.

Still, this takes things a step further than Pacquiao’s Instagram post last month, when he seemingly called out the UFC lightweight champion by wishing McGregor a Happy Thanksgiving and encouraging him to “stay fit, my friend.” Pacquiao also included the hashtags “#realboxingmatch #2018.”

McGregor is coming off an unsuccessful boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather – at least from a competitive standpoint. In August, Mayweather picked apart McGregor before winning by TKO in the 10th round.

While it wasn’t the result McGregor hoped for in the ring, he certainly was happy with business outcome. The boxing spectacle between McGregor and Mayweather drew 6.7 million pay-per-view buys around the world, smashing the record set by Mayweather’s 2015 fight vs. Pacquiao, according to UFC President Dana White. McGregor is believed to have eclipsed a $100 million payday.

If McGregor opts for another boxing match over MMA, his decision is sure to be met with criticism from the MMA community. He has yet to defend the UFC lightweight title he won from Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.

McGregor seemingly has a natural next MMA opponent in interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson, who claimed the title in October at UFC 216. However, a title-unification bout faces a potential delay following Ferguson’s announcement Thursday that he’d undergone elbow surgery. That could give McGregor more incentive to pursue Pacquiao instead.

White said last month that McGregor “might never fight again.” Perhaps that only pertains to MMA?

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Be 'super pissed' all you want, but Georges St-Pierre doesn't owe us anything

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The Falklands War. Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries. The lifespan of a carton of eggs when properly stored in your refrigerator.

All these things have got Georges St-Pierre’s tenure as UFC middleweight champion beat, at least in terms of longevity.

Just a shade over a month after choking out Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) at UFC 217 to claim the belt, St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) has vacated the 185-pound title that he never seemed too enthusiastic about defending.

The official culprit may be ulcerative colitis, which St-Pierre said he was diagnosed with upon returning from his post-fight vacation, but come on. You didn’t need a crystal ball to know that there was a very good chance GSP might never defend this belt, even if he was healthy enough to do so.

To be fair, he never made us too many promises. Standing in the cage with the blood still damp on his skin, he stressed that he took the fight with Bisping to “challenge” himself. What he didn’t say, right then or in the immediate aftermath, was that he couldn’t wait to get back in there and unify the title with a fight against interim champ Robert Whittaker.

Instead he talked all around it. He told us he didn’t know what he’d do next. He promised not to “freeze” the division with inactivity. Even as UFC President Dana White warned that he’d be “super pissed” if St-Pierre didn’t defend the title, GSP himself remained committed to being noncommittal.

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That is, until this week. Shortly after St-Pierre himself admitted that he probably wouldn’t fight again at 185 pounds, the UFC announced that he had vacated the title, leaving Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and former champ Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) to battle for the division’s sole championship at UFC 221 in February.

On one hand, good for St-Pierre. Suffering from an illness that might sideline him for months, he went ahead and relinquished the belt so the division could move on without him. When viewed from the right angle, it’s a selfless, classy move by a legendary fighters who’s often proven himself more dignified and reasonable than the company he represented during his years-long reign as UFC welterweight champ.

On the other hand, if ever a case of colitis could be considered convenient, this is it. St-Pierre may have wanted to win the middleweight title, but he never seemed too enthusiastic about being the middleweight champion and shouldering all the burdens and responsibilities that come with it. He may be legitimately very sick, but it also seems to have hit him at a time when he didn’t really want to go to work anyway.

That’s kind of perfect, at least for St-Pierre. How can White be “super pissed” at him now? The man is sick. His health has to come first, does it not?

And if he were to get his colon sorted out just in time to come back for a non-title, mega-money bout against someone like Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) some months down the line, hey, that’s not a master plan in action or anything. It’s just a man being tossed about by the tides of fortune – and ending up looking very, very fortunate.

But what about the middleweights who’ve been left behind? Whittaker’s interim title already seemed pretty legit, based on who he had to beat to get to that point, but now he’ll never even get the chance to dethrone an actual champion.

The entire lineage of the title – the way Anderson Silva begat Chris Weidman, who begat Rockhold, who begat Bisping, who begat St-Pierre – has now been broken. And you can write it off as bad luck, what with the champion getting sick and all, but that excuse doesn’t stand up to closer examination.

If St-Pierre really wanted to wait, get healthy, then defend his title, you know the UFC brass would let him. Seriously, with all the pay-per-views he sells? Of course they would. Just as the heavyweight division waited through Brock Lesnar’s diverticulitis, and just as the lightweight division is still waiting out McGregor’s fame spiral walkabout, so too would middleweight wait for GSP.

But he doesn’t want that. He never really did. Like he told us, he just wanted to challenge himself against Bisping. He also wanted to make a bunch of money and lay his hands on another UFC title just long enough to call himself a two-division champ, and he was smart enough to realize that he’d never get a better chance than this.

So he offered his services and his resiliently bankable name, and the UFC did the math and then took the ride. Everybody got paid and so nobody can get too mad.

Still, it is something of a letdown, in part because of how obvious it was. Weeks before the UFC 217 bout, Rockhold shook his head with disdain and told us, come on, we didn’t really believe that GSP would defend the belt if he won it, did we?

Plenty of us didn’t. It’s at least debatable whether or not the UFC did, or if it even cared to look any further than the next payday.

As for GSP, you’ve got to give him credit. He saw the situation for what it was, and he made it work for him. What’s he supposed to do now, be heartbroken because the same boss who trampled on him four years ago is “super pissed” at him now? Woe be unto the fighter who is not at least as selfish as the people signing his checks. Woe, also, to the fighter who lets his ego talk him into unnecessary risks.

GSP’s always been smarter than that, even when it got him criticized. With this historically short title reign, he reminded us that he’s pretty savvy still.

For more on UFC 221, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: On GSP's potential middleweight exit, Ngannou's terrifying possibilities

What would “”GSP”’s” immediate exit from middleweight tell us about Michael Bisping’s title reign? Is Francis Ngannou going to scare off all the would-be heavyweights? And what is the UFC going to do about its Conor McGregor problem?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

Why, because it would prove that Michael Bisping lost the UFC middleweight title to a welterweight? Seems to me we already knew that. From the very beginning, this was a savvy calculation by Georges St-Pierre. He went years without even seriously discussing a comeback, then changed his tune the instant Bisping became middleweight champ.

It was smart. Whatever else you think of it, you have to give him that. “GSP” wanted to come back for a big money fight, but he also wanted an opponent who wouldn’t take his head off. Bisping allowed him to etch his name into MMA history as a two-division champ while also padding his bank account.

Why stick around at middleweight now? Because UFC President Dana White will be “pissed” if he doesn’t? I’m not sure a friendship with the same man who threw him under the bus upon his departure from the UFC is reason enough to risk a fight you don’t really want to take, especially if you’ve already got “GSP” money.

As for Bisping, it’s true that his title reign wasn’t exactly the picture of dominance. He had one successful defense against an aging non-contender, and even then he narrowly clung to consciousness long enough to win.

But the fact that Bisping won a UFC title at all, and so late in his career, is impressive all on its own. So many people (myself included) wrote that possibility off as an impossible dream that only he still believed in. Then he made that dream come true, and leveraged it for a huge payday. Knowing how the fight game is played, you have to respect that – even if you don’t like it.

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Easy there. You might be doing the thing where you remember best the thing that happened last. Personally, I think you only have to go back to UFC 217 to find a bigger, better event, especially when you start comparing prelims.

What UFC 218 reminded us is that when you book exciting fights, you get exciting outcomes. Look at all the best fights from that card. They were exactly the ones you would have predicted to deliver exactly the type of action that they did. No real surprises there, which is unlike all the title turnover that made UFC 217 so memorable.

The UFC is in a sticky situation with Conor McGregor. He can’t be controlled, can’t be manipulated. At this point he has so much money that he can’t even be enticed or motivated. That leaves the UFC sitting around waiting for him to decide what, if anything, he wants to do next.

But how long do you wait, especially as he seems to be creating more obstacles to a return with his choices outside the cage? According to Dana White, McGregor may never fight again (of course, White also wants us to believe that he was booked to fight on Dec. 30, before all the Bellator madness). So how do you let him keep walking around with a title he hasn’t defended in more than a year if you think he might be done?

Still, the guy’s a walking payday for the UFC. Taking away his title would only alienate him, and anyway it’s not like it would makeTony Ferguson’s title seem that much more “real” just because you removed the interim tag. (The same Tony Ferguson just had elbow surgery, to boot.)

It’s a tough situation, and right now it seems like the UFC doesn’t know what to do. That might explain why, at least so far, what it’s doing about it is nothing at all.

Jon Jones has other stuff to worry about at the moment, but I would definitely rethink my options if I wereAnthony Johnson.

But just generally, can we resist the urge to get too far ahead of ourselves withFrancis Ngannou? He has yet to fight for, much less win the UFC heavyweight title, and already he seems to be getting the Ronda Rousey-esque “once in forever” type of treatment.

I get it. We’re hyped about the guy, and with good reason. But let’s not forget how hard it’s been to keep star heavyweights healthy and consistent in the UFC. There’s a reason that title has never been defended more than twice in a row.

What a terrifyingly plausible look into the future. Watching McGregor live out the most cliched possible version of the Sudden Fame Lifecycle, I can’t help but wonder how it is that so few people in that situation seem capable of learning from the mistakes of others.

Is that indicative of the kind of person who achieves that type of fame in the first place? Is it created by the environment that comes with all that? Is it one of those things where, it’s easy to see it happening from the outside, but when you’re stuck in the whirlpool you can’t quite appreciate it?

I don’t know. But if McGregor ends up as an MMA Mike Tyson, blowing through all of his money as he self-destructs in full public view, it’s going to be seriously depressing. Though I admit I am curious as to what his eventual face tattoo will look like.

I remember being at a post-fight press conference a few years ago when Dana White, only half-jokingly, mentioned the possibility of Frankie Edgar some day ending up as a bantamweight. The look on Edgar’s face right then could best be described as nervous dread.

Back then, Edgar was a small lightweight (and former champ in the division). Now he’s a small featherweight who lost his most recent crack at the title due to a training injury, and so here we are talking about him shedding 10 more pounds at age 36 like it’s as simple as switching parking spots.

Could he drop to bantamweight? Maybe. Is that really something anyone should pressure him to do when he’s 7-2 as a featherweight, with his only losses coming against one of the best in the history of the division? Nope.

Plus, at featherweight Edgar represents something thatMax Holloway needs right about now – a fresh challenge. The UFC featherweight champ beat so many different people on his way to the belt that title defenses could easily turn into reruns. If the division loses Edgar, that only becomes more likely.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather land in top-10 'Most Retweeted' in sports for 2017

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UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor had only one fight this year, and although it took place in a boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather, “The Money Fight” was all McGregor needed to stay in the spotlight.

The hype around the Mayweather (50-0 boxing) vs. McGregor (21-3 MMA, 0-1 boxing) bout, which took place in August and saw “The Notorious” lose by TKO in Round 10, was a once-in-a-lifetime circus. The build was fueled with social media antics, and according to Twitter, those antics were among the most shared sports tweets of the year.

Twitter today released its sports awards, and in the “Most Retweeted Athlete Tweets” column, both McGregor and Mayweather landed in the middle portion of the top 10.

At No. 7, with a hair under 250,000 retweets, was McGregor’s fight announcement post from June 14. Obviously instead of Mayweather, he posted a picture of his father, Floyd Sr. (via Twitter):

Mayweather came in at No. 6 on the list with his post-fight victory tweet, which was shared more than 270,000 times. The undefeated boxing legend added another win to his legendary resume, and from his Las Vegas Strip Club “Girl Collection,” he sent a reminder of that at 3 a.m. (via Twitter):

The remainder of the entries on the list were not combat sports related. The No. 1 post went to NBA superstar LeBron James, who called President Donald Trump a “bum” for uninviting NBA champion Stephen Curry to a White House visit after Curry had already stated he had no intention of going (via Twitter):

McGregor’s name also appeared in the “Top Tweeted athlete handles” category. He came in No. 5 behind No. 1 Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer), No. 2 James (basketball), No. 4 Neymar (soccer) and Colin Kaepernick (football).

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Artem Lobov throws shade at Rita Ora for 'date night' tweet about Conor McGregor

British pop singer Rita Ora caused quite the fuss on social media Tuesday when she posted photos of herself with Conor McGregor at the British Fashion Awards in London.

Now, they’re just innocent photos of two people enjoying each other’s company at a fancy gathering. They shouldn’t mean anything, except for the fact that Ora’s accompanying caption was a curious choice of words (via Twitter):

Date night @TheNotoriousMMA

Whoa, hey now. “Date night” might not be the proper caption for a photo with McGregor when the UFC lightweight champion has his wife, Dee Devlin, and 7-month-old son at home. Ora took some heat for her word choice for that reason, and that included – from out of nowhere! – McGregor’s teammate, Artem Lobov, putting her on blast (via @TheMMABible on Twitter):

Sick burn!

via GIPHY

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Kevin Lee on UFC champ Conor McGregor's antics: 'He's (expletive) up'

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DETROIT – Kevin Lee watched his fellow Michigan native Floyd Mayweather blow through $100 million, so he doesn’t think Conor McGregor will have much trouble doing the same.

“You can blow through that quick,” Detroit native Lee (16-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) told reporters backstage at UFC 218, where he served as a guest fighter and received a hero’s welcome from the crowd. “Ask Floyd Mayweather –Floyd did that about six, seven times.”

Lee has kept tabs on all the McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) headlines as of late. He thinks the UFC lightweight champ is “(expletive) up” by blowing through cash and allegedly getting into bar fights with mobbed-up characters.

“If the rumors are true, he better get his (expletive) together,” he said. “Because he’s got a long mountain to climb.”

But all the better for Lee. If McGregor tanks, he’ll be waiting to pick up the pieces.

“He’s got Tony (Ferguson) as soon as he comes back,” said Lee, whose title dreams were dashed by Ferguson (24-3 MMA, 14-1 UFC) less than two months ago at UFC 216. “Tony’s going to beat the hell out of him. As soon as he loses that one, I’m going to beat the hell out of him. And then he’s going to be down in the dirt.”

Some think Lee might never get the chance to get over on the Irish champ. This past week, UFC President Dana White reiterated the possibility that McGregor might never fight again after banking $100 million to fight Mayweather in “The Money Fight.”

But Lee said that will only last so long. And the trouble McGregor has created for himself outside of the cage may cause him to seek shelter within it.

“I don’t think he really understands what he’s getting himself, if he’s really messing around with the Irish mob,” Lee said. “I don’t think he’s really from the streets like that. I don’t think he wants none of that smoke.

“But that’s on him. I’m just looking forward to his comeback, and looking forward to taking him out after he gets his ass beat.”

For more from Lee, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

What we talk about when we talk about building 'stars' in the MMA business

Francis Ngannou showed up to the UFC 218 post-fight press conference looking resplendent in a black-and-gold dashiki, flashing a thousand-watt smile as he nonchalantly discussed that time he nearly knocked Alistair Overeem’s head clean off his massive shoulders.

It was one of the most brutal knockouts this side of Sean Salmon, and it came against a perennial heavyweight contender who’s been in the UFC for longer than Ngannou has even known what MMA is. Was he impressed with himself for this act of sudden devastation against such a prominent opponent? Not particularly.

“That is the past we are talking about,” Ngannou said. “Now I am the present.”

If you were writing a superhero movie and wanted to shoehorn in an MMA fighter character, you couldn’t do much better than this. The boy from the sand mines of Cameroon who became the fearsome fighting prospect while homeless on the streets of Paris. A martial arts savant equipped with an almost supernatural punching power, tossing off quiet one-liners with an oddly terrifying tranquility.

If he wasn’t already a real person, “The Predator” would have a Netflix series or a role in an Avengers movie by Summer 2018.

Instead, you can find him most days just walking around the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, where he must seem to company executives like a walking answer to their prayers.

That question UFC President Dana White always says he’s so sick of hearing, the one about how the UFC will replace the aging or departing superstars who drive pay-per-view buys? Now he can just point to Ngannou, a 31-year-old heavyweight whom the UFC signed two years ago on a contract that paid him just $12,000 to show for his first fight with the promotion. Talk about your “penny stock” fighters who pay off big.

But is Ngannou a “star,” in the MMA sense of the word? How about Max Holloway, who swaggered in with another sci-fi necktie to beat up Jose Aldo for a second time in the main event of UFC 218? How about UFC women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg, who, along with Holly Holm, will headline the UFC’s year-end pay-per-view event on Dec. 30?

Are any of them stars? What does the word even mean to us?

Historically, the UFC’s own internal flowchart on the question “Is this fighter a star?” typically points straight to the follow-up: “Depends – are they asking for more money?”

See, when the UFC is making the case for our money, usually in the form of pay-per-view buys, star fighters are everywhere, lighting up the night sky with their cosmic brilliance. It’s when those same fighters make a case for more of the UFC’s money that the galaxy suddenly grows dark.

All you need to do is look at the one remaining consensus superstar – Conor McGregor – to know that money is inextricably tied up with the question of what it means to be an MMA star.

McGregor’s fame isn’t just built on winning fights. Lots of people win fights. There are UFC fighters who have won more and lost less than he has, but you don’t see them making international headlines when they speed off from a court date in a six-figure sports car.

McGregor is a star in large part because he lives like one. He’s larger than life, and he never misses a chance to prove it with his bank account. No matter how much natural charisma the man may have (and he has a ton), he’d never be such an enduring public fascination if he were making $80,000 a fight.

I was talking to Charles McCarthy recently, a former UFC middleweight turned MMA manager (now retired from both businesses), who made a similar point about the UFC’s struggle to generate new stars on a budget.

“How are you going to get us to believe these guys are stars if they still have to work a day job?” he said.

It’s a solid point, and something to think about when you hear a broadcast full of fighters begging for a little bit of bonus money.

And yet, that money has the desired effect, does it not? It convinces hungry young athletes to disregard imminent health risks for the sake of our entertainment. It also brings with it some instant attention. After every UFC event, bonus payouts are a guaranteed story. The less star-studded the fight card, the more importance the bonuses seem to take on.

For instance, look at new UFC women’s strawweight champion Nicco Montano’s win at the TUF 26 Finale on Friday. Her story coming into the bout was her spartan existence in a crappy little basement apartment as she struggled to make it as an MMA fighter. Then she banked $100,000 for the title fight, plus a $50,000 performance bonus and another $30,000 in “outfitting” pay.

“We were dirt poor just before tonight in all reality,” Montano said after the bout. And now? “I’m going to go move to an apartment with some water pressure, and buy some good food and treats for my cats,” she said.

We love these stories in MMA. We revel in them, whether it’s Junior Albini, the heavyweight who could only afford empty shampoo bottles for his daughter’s toys before his first UFC payday and bonus, or Pat Barry living on rice and ketchup and then suddenly trying to convince the bank that he really did have tens of thousands of dollars to deposit out of nowhere.

It’s prizefighting, after all. It’s fitting that the “prize” comes first there.

Which brings us back to Ngannou. His knockout of Overeem was so memorable that White promised him a bonus (of an undisclosed sum), which was welcome news to the new top heavyweight contender.

“I do need that money,” Ngannou said.

And sure, of course he does. He’s in the middle of doing the rags-to-riches story. Started from the bottom and now he’s here. But where is here, exactly, especially when the man he’s tentatively slated to fight next – UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic – has been sitting out while griping about pay?

It’s hard to convince us that we’re looking at superstars if they’re mostly paid like middle management. It’s not much easier even if you are paying them well but then keeping it a secret.

The way you know the stars in this business? They’re outwardly, visibly rich. They have power. They can call some of their own shots and stand their ground. They are people whose wealth has become inseparable from their public persona.

They are also, perhaps not coincidentally, exceedingly rare in the brutal business of MMA.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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