Twitter Mailbag: Is Demetrious Johnson's UFC 216 title defense a tree falling in an empty forest?

The UFC flyweight champion will try once more to set that title defense record, but are fans still interested? Plus, what could the right TV deal do for the UFC? And are you a bad fan if you’re more interested in two heavyweight finishers than a historic 125-pound champ?

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

 

It’s significant, sure. Definitely worth mentioning and celebrating. When anyone wins that many fights in a row in this sport, especially while being at the top of a division and having everyone else in the weight class take their best shots for years, it’s a major accomplishment.

But I don’t expect it to feel like a huge deal, in part because it feels like he’s already done it. Ray Borg is about an 8-1 underdog against Demetrious Johnson. If Borg wins and ruins the streak, now that would be amazing. For Johnson to win again and cruise right past Anderson Silva in the record books, that would feel more like a continuation of the status quo.

Johnson been rampaging his way down the ranks, fighting people who are further and further from the top out of necessity. Beating the next guy in that sequence feels like a testament to his consistency, but that one win doesn’t seem more meaningful than any of the others.

Mostly I’m looking forward to being done with it, so we can move on and hopefully find a more interesting challenge for Johnson.

Don’t beat yourself up. What you’re feeling is perfectly reasonable. Derrick Lewis and Fabricio Werdum are two exciting heavyweights, both with the ability to win the fight at any moment with a sudden surge of violence.

Johnson-Borg, on the other hand? As flawless a fighter as Johnson is to watch, it feels like we already know what’s going to happen here. It’s like a surgical procedure compared to a building demolition. One may require a lot more skill and specialized training than the other, but that doesn’t make it as crowd-pleasing an affair as the big boom that makes big things fall down.

You don’t dress like Kevin Lee does if you’re not a very confident person. Of course, you also don’t walk around looking like a “Mad Max” backup dancer if you don’t believe in a little bit of showmanship, so maybe it’s not an either-or kind of thing.

Kevin Lee

I don’t blame him. He has to find a way to stand out as something other than the next guy Tony Ferguson is supposed to beat up. He doesn’t have anywhere near as impressive a UFC resume as Ferguson does, but he still doesn’t want to seem like some jobber in plain blue trunks there to take a butt-whooping from the superstar who wears sunglasses indoors.

So he reaches for his share of the spotlight, however he can. He talks a big game. It’s part of how he got here in the first place, since his recent wins don’t necessarily cry out for an interim title fight all on their own. Now he’s going to ride this as far as he can. He might as well.

I wouldn’t be so certain that this is Frankie Edgar’s last UFC title shot. Remember, this one was announced just a little over a year after his last UFC title shot. And that title shot came against the same man who beat him in the title shot before that, which came immediately after two consecutive losses in previous title fights.

Point is, Edgar is a popular, likable fighter with the skills to beat just about anybody not wearing a gold belt around his waist. Guys like that tend to find themselves in title fights every now and then. That’s not to say Edgar is undeserving of this shot by any means. He keeps thumping on the contenders until he’s the only logical choice left, so this makes sense.

Still, it’s tough for me to see how he’s going to beat current champ Max Holloway. You’re probably not going to do it with five rounds of takedowns and ground-and-pound. You’re going to have a hard time getting close enough to land that one big punch – and even if you do, the man has a solid chin. If you stay on the outside and let him get going, he’s a nightmare.

On the flip side, this does seem like a great way for Holloway to nail another major pelt to his wall. A win over Edgar, and he’ll be able to say he’s beaten a former or current UFC champ in each of his last three fights. And neither of the other two made it past the third round.

Not sure I’d describe that as a mauling, but sure, I see your point. If Tim Kennedy can take Michael Bisping down and keep him there for the better part of five rounds, why couldn’t Georges St-Pierre, one of the finest takedown artists this sport has ever seen, do the same?

And, I mean, he definitely could, but will he? GSP hasn’t fought in four years. He hasn’t fought at middleweight at all. Now he’s going to roll in there and blast double his way to the title against a sneakily sound defensive wrestler in his first fight back?

Again, I’m not saying it can’t happen. What I am saying is that just because a bulldog of a middleweight like Kennedy was able to do it, that’s no guarantee a rusty former champ from one division down will have quite so easy a time of it.

The one who actually fought for a living, and was good at it, even well into his forties. If you’re confused about which one that is, well, it’s not this guy.

Is it a little weird to have an interim title fight headline over a title fight featuring the most dominant champion in the organization? Sure. Do we sometimes make too much of bout order as a status symbol? Definitely.

Look, both these fights are five rounds. Both will end with the winner wearing a big hunk of leather and metal. Just because one happens last and the other one happens next to last, we shouldn’t let it ruin anybody’s evening.

Besides, if you asked fans which of these two fights they’re more excited for, I’m guessing a strong majority would pick the Ferguson-Lee over Johnson-Borg. I’d include myself among that majority. I don’t mind a bout order that reflects that general preference, especially when it doesn’t change a thing about the fights themselves.

Money’s always going to be a part of it, sure. If you’ve grown accustomed to several lump sums a few times a year, it’s hard to give that up and go work for the slow drip of a steady paycheck. It might be even harder if the paycheck is pretty small, which it might very well be when you have almost no work history aside from what took place inside the cage.

Plus, while you’re fighting that’s how people know you. You’re the fighter. Once you retire, you’re the guy who used to fight. With every passing day you get a little further from that. You also begin to realize that you’ll never again feel those feelings, that rush of walking through the curtain and into an arena of people who are all watching you. Instead you feel this drudgery of everyday life, like somebody drained the color out of everything.

And what if you felt like you could still do it? What if you felt like you’d left some things undone? You have the rest of your life to be retired. Why couldn’t you come back and take one last stab at it before time rolls over you for good?

I think all those factors can work together simultaneously, whether fighters are consciously aware of them or not. It’s not any one thing. It’s probably not any two things.

Plus, you look around and see how many others have retired and then come back. It’s not so unusual. Some people even became champions that way. If they can do it, why can’t you?

That’s a good question, especially now that we find ourselves near the end of the FOX deal, which has taught us at least a little something about what a broadcast partner can’t do for the UFC.

Remember back when this deal was first announced? It was a colossal shift, a game-changer. The UFC was going to finally break through, and the world of sports would never be the same. But despite all the talk of world domination and being bigger than soccer, MMA is still somewhat of a niche sport. All combat sports are. It’s a bloody, brutal business, and it’s never going to be everyone’s cup of Xyience.

FOX couldn’t change that, and neither would CBS or ESPN or HBO or HGTV. There are certain built-in limitations as to how popular cage fighting is going to get, and that’s fine.

But depending on how the deal is structured and how much control the new UFC is willing to give up, a TV partner could make some significant changes. It could pressure the UFC to put better fights and bigger fighters on free TV, for instance, rather than saving all the best stuff for pay-per-view. It could take over more of the production, and maybe give the look and feel of a UFC broadcast a fresh overhaul. It could give fighters more exposure outside of fight night.

Will any of that happen? It remains to be seen. Right now it seems like all the UFC cares about is the price tag, since the new owners are depending on a huge jump in the price of TV rights to help justify the huge purchase price of the promotion.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Max Holloway faces Frankie Edgar in UFC 218 headliner

Hawaii meets New Jersey in Detroit.

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will look to defend his unified title for the first time when he meets former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar at UFC 218.

ESPN.com first reported the booking. MMAjunkie subsequently confirmed the plans with UFC officials.

UFC 218 takes place Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The night’s main card airs on pay-per-view, though an official bout order has yet to be revealed.

Holloway is currently ranked No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, while Edgar sits at No. 3.

More on this in just a moment.

With the headliner in place, UFC 218 now includes:

  • Champ Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar – for featherweight title
  • Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem
  • Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
  • Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira
  • Cortney Casey vs. Felice Herrig
  • Razak Al-Hassan vs. Sabah Homasi
  • Drakkar Klose vs. David Teymur

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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How Yair Rodriguez has been dealing with first UFC loss

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Yair Rodriguez won’t go so far as to say his first UFC loss was a good thing, but he’ll tell you he’s learned a lot from it.

Rodriguez (10-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) was coming off his most high-profile win yet – a second-round TKO  victory over former two-division champ and UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn – when former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) came into the picture.

For Rodriguez, who’d been looking increasingly sharp with every octagon outing, a pay-per-view main-card spot against an ex-champ had the makings of a career-defining moment. But it was Edgar who rose above at UFC 211, dominating Rodriguez for two rounds before a badly swollen eye deemed the rising star unable to continue.

The win turned Edgar into the most likely challenger to champ Max Holloway’s recently-conquered featherweight belt. For Rodriguez, it provided another opportunity: growth.

“I learned a lot from that fight,” Rodriguez told MMAjunkie. “I actually think that it was – I’m not saying good, but I’m learning a lot from it. I feel like I used to have a lot of weight on my back. And now that I lost, that fear went away. So now, whatever happens, I don’t care. I don’t really care. I’m just only looking one way, and that’s forward.”

Rodriguez, No. 14 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, has since taken some time off to travel, visit his family and tend to some media obligations. But he’s also been working on addressing what exactly went wrong. That involved being back at the gym the Monday after the fight – with the limitations imposed by the hurt eye, of course – and exhaustively reviewing what happened during it.

“I was moving; I was doing some light sparring, some shadow-boxing,” Rodriguez said. “You’ve got to keep going – shake it off and move on. I was watching the film of the fight several times a day, for probably like two weeks just to see what I was doing wrong. And, well, I learned from it.”

Ultimately, Rodriguez doesn’t want to make excuses for the setback. Edgar, he said, did a great job. But in hindsight, Rodriguez thinks something was off about his own mindset that night.

“I think my mental side, it wasn’t there,” Rodriguez said. “I trained really hard. I always train really hard. And I think the most important thing sometimes in a fight is being healthy up here – in your thoughts, or whatever. And I wasn’t. I just wasn’t. I wasn’t there. I lost the fight, I accept the loss, and I don’t want to put any excuses.”

Was it maybe the added weight that came with not only being a young, exciting prospect – but one who became such a key piece when it came to the Latin American fanbase and market?

“Probably, a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “But I can tell you it wasn’t an excuse. Because I feel a lot of support. But I used to feel a lot of pressure, as well. Even myself – I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. Either in training or my life.”

After a busy few weeks, Rodriguez said he’s now looking to slow down on the media obligations, take one week off to rest and review things, and get back at it. He’d like to fight once more before year’s end. As for whom that return might be against, Rodriguez neither knows nor cares. He does know one thing, though.

“I don’t ask for opponents,” Rodriguez said. “But whatever comes, I’ll be ready for it. Like I’m telling you – if I used to be afraid, I’m not anymore.”

To hear more from Rodriguez, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 211, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Manager on Max Holloway's 1st UFC title defense: 'It's probably going to be' Frankie Edgar

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Max Holloway’s first title defense as the undisputed UFC featherweight champion is likely to come against ex-lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, according to his longtime manager.

“We are in negotiations right now with Max and getting a new deal in place, and once that’s in place, we’ll be ready to commit,” Brian Butler told MMAjunkie Radio of a potential fight between Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) and Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC). “It’s looking like it’s probably going to be Frankie.”

Holloway and Butler met with the UFC earlier this month in Las Vegas to discuss a new contract. Holloway talked up a new deal that would bump up his salary after an impressive stoppage of now-former champ Jose Aldo at UFC 212, a victory that unified the 145-pound title after Holloway won an interim title this past December.

Of those talks, Butler said “things seemed to be moving in the right direction” but added, “we’re going to need more time.”

Holloway has won a staggering 11 straight fights in the octagon, not falling short since a 2013 decision setback to Conor McGregor, who held the featherweight title before he was stripped of it after winning the lightweight belt. That’s left the 25-year-old Hawaiian looking for greener pastures.

Butler said UFC President Dana White promised a better deal “a few fights back” when he renegotiated Holloway’s contract. Holloway loudly reminded White of that fact after stopping Aldo this past month.

“We didn’t get quite what we wanted then, but we kind of met in the middle,” Butler said. “Dana’s like, ‘Listen, guys, if Max goes out there and does his thing and wins the belt, we’ll be sitting back here at brunch having this meeting again, and we’re not going to fight this contract.’ So Max did everything he did, and I think he did it in stellar (fashion).”

Since Holloway’s title win, featherweight contenders have jockeyed to be Holloway’s first challenge. Edgar and top contender Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) both have stated their cases for being the No. 1 contender.

Edgar fell short in an interim title bout one year ago against Aldo but has rebounded with two straight wins and owns a submission win over Swanson, who’s won his past four since a submission loss to Holloway in 2015.

Edgar is the No. 3 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, while Swanson is No. 6. Holloway is No. 1 at 145 and No 8 on the pound-for-pound list.

Holloway is pushing hard to fight on home soil. So far, he’s been unsuccessful in getting the UFC to promote a fight in Hawaii, though Butler said the industry-leader’s hesitance isn’t for a lack of a desire to pop up its tent on the islands. The margins of doing business in Hawaii might be the greatest obstacle.

“If you had the opportunity to do it in Vegas, where you know you’re going to clear several million, or do it in Hawaii, where you’re not, what are you going to do?” Butler said.

Still, Butler feels confident an event will take place next year. He said Holloway’s stardom is now on par with Hawaiian MMA pioneer and UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn; a welcome home celebration after his title win drew 1,000 fans to Honolulu airport and a parade drew a line of people 17 miles long.

Any chance for local fans to see Holloway fight will be a big deal, Butler indicated. But now his priority is getting his client paid.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC champ Max Holloway predicts Mayweather-McGregor winner and – spoiler – it's neither fighter

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LAS VEGAS – Max Holloway had barely exited the octagon after his title-unifying UFC 212 win over Jose Aldo when he was asked about who should be next for his title: Frankie Edgar or Cub Swanson.

The champ was diplomatic about it. If it came down to it, he’d be OK with giving Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) a rematch after a UFC on FOX 15 encounter that ended in a third-round submission for Holloway. But he did seem to lean toward former lightweight champ Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) – who, ultimately, would allow Holloway to add another champ to his list of victims.

Over a month later – shortly before UFC president Dana White pointed to Edgar as the likely challenger – Holloway was once again put in front of reporters to answer questions about his immediate octagon future. And he was, once again, non-committal.

But at least he had a sense of humor about it.

“I guess I’m going to say it to you guys: We’ve got a fight announcement,” Holloway opened his scrum with reporters during Saturday’s UFC 213. “It’s what you guys all thought. It’s Frankie… And Cub. Two guys, one night. UFC is going to do a special event for me. Tag team match. Come get it, guys. Come watch it; it’s going to be great.”

Considering that negotiations were still underway, it’s understandable why Holloway was careful not to express a clear preference of challenger. Instead, he went for his habitual “I want to fight everyone” reply, placing responsibility for what’s ultimately a “business decision” on the UFC brass, the fans, and even the media.

But he did admit that, when it comes to sheer fan interest, there is a frontrunner. As it turns out, it’s neither Edgar nor Swanson.

“It’s actually (UFC lightweight champion Conor) McGregor,” Holloway said. “Everybody keeps saying ‘McGregor, McGregor.’ I’m like, ‘Guys, that guy’s boxing right now. He’s got other things. Respect to that guy, he’s got other things.’”

By “other things” he means of course, the highly buzzed-about boxing match between McGregor and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. The two are set to meet on Aug. 26 at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. And after the mega-event – and the paycheck that will follow – many wonder if McGregor will ever return to the cage.

If he does, the Irishman has unfinished business – at least in the eyes of some contenders. Although McGregor won two UFC belts, in both the 145-pound division and 155-pound divisions, he’s yet to take part in a single defense. While he was stripped of the featherweight title, he’s still the UFC’s 155-pound kingpin.

Holloway, who happens to be one of McGregor’s octagon victims, seems tired of speaking about the Irishman at this point. After all, it’s now been four years, 11 UFC wins and two UFC titles since he lost to McGregor at UFC on FOX 26. Would he like to get that one back? Of course – the same way he’d like to avenge all three of his career losses.

“But, at the end of the day, we’re not here to talk about that guy,” Holloway said. “That guy’s not even in my sport right now. That guy’s over there focusing on boxing. This is called mixed martial arts. They know who to call. they’ve got Dana White’s number. They’ve got my manager’s number.

“I’m the best 145-er in the world, and if they’ve got a question of me going up to 155, I’ll do it no problem. I love eating. I’m Polynesian. You can see – my chubby cheeks is giving it away a little bit.”

OK, so Holloway is done with the McGregor talk. But, while we’re at it, who does he think will be the winner of the mega-event on Aug. 26?

“The big winner of that fight is Dana White,” Holloway said. “And the UFC, dog. They’re the big winners.”

When it comes to his octagon future, the typically active Holloway is confident that he’ll fight at least once more this year. And, though his hand has some healing up to do, he expects to be cleared by August.

If White is to be believed, that return should happen against Edgar. And while time and place have yet to be set, it’s no secret that the UFC is planning a November return to New York City’s Madison Square Garden – which just so happens to be quite close to Edgar’s New Jersey turf.

On his end, Holloway is still pushing for that UFC event in Hawaii. In fact, he thinks it might become a reality as early as next year. But, after going all the way to Brazil to dethrone Aldo in front of his kingdom, he’d be OK with entering enemy territory at MSG as well.

“What is there to say – that’s another legend,” Holloway said. “That’s another legend of our sport, of the lower weight classes, and I can’t wait. I’ve been wanting to fight that guy forever, for a long time.

“I’ve been calling him out for a while now. And now we’re here. Now we’ve got to figure out, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if we get it done. If it’s at MSG, it’s even better – that’s history.”

To hear from Holloway, check out the video above.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Dana White says Max Holloway likely gets ex-UFC champ Frankie Edgar next

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It sounds like Max Holloway’s first title defense as an undisputed champion will come against a former champ.

UFC President Dana White told KHON-2 in Holloway’s (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) home state of Hawaii that “Blessed” is likely to take on former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) sometime later this year for his first challenge as featherweight champion. But the UFC boss did not elaborate on when or where the fight might take place.

“We’re looking at Frankie Edgar, but we don’t know where,” White said. “Absolutely (before the end of the year).”

Holloway won the UFC’s interim featherweight title this past December with a dominant win over former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis at UFC 206. At UFC 212 in June, he unified the title with a third-round knockout of Jose Aldo (27-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) in Brazil.

After that, Holloway said he wanted a pay raise. With his wins over Pettis and Aldo, one certainly would be warranted if he took out another former champ in Edgar.

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Edgar lost the lightweight title to Benson Henderson five and a half years ago. He couldn’t regain it in a rematch, then dropped to featherweight and went after Aldo. He lost that title fight, as well, for a three-bout skid.

After five straight wins over Charles Oliveira, B.J. Penn, Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes, Edgar got another shot at Aldo at UFC 200 a year ago, but again lost. He has rebounded with wins over Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez, though, to put himself right back in the mix.

Although not yet announced, the UFC is planning a November return to Madison Square Garden in New York City, not far from Edgar’s New Jersey stomping grounds. And that could make an ideal setting for what would be his third shot at a 145-pound title. Over the course of a UFC career that has stretched more than 10 years, Edgar has had eight title fights and is 3-4-1 in those bouts.

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

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Twitter Mailbag: Does McGregor stand a chance? And what's the MMAJA for, anyway?

In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, let’s be serious now that the fight is set: Does Conor McGregor have any realistic chance of beating Floyd Mayweather? Even a little? Plus, what does the MMA Journalists Association hope to do, now that it’s a real thing? And is it worth waking up early on Saturday morning to see Holly Holm vs. Bethe Correia?

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

The number of times in the past 24 hours I’ve been asked some version of this question by friends who don’t follow MMA or boxing helps to explain how and why this fight got made. It’s ridiculous, when you think about it. But it’s the exact brand of ridiculous that captures our attention, and with it our money, so there’s a good argument to be made that winning or losing isn’t even the point anymore.

If you’re looking for reasons to think that Conor McGregor might actually beat Floyd Mayweather – and, just to be clear, this is if you are actively searching for reasons, scouring the earth for hope in any form – I can give you three.

1. The puncher’s chance
McGregor hits hard, right? This we know. He knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. He at least annoyed Nate Diaz. If he connects with that left hand, who knows?

The problem is that Mayweather is primarily known as a defensive genius. He doesn’t get hit much, and that’s when he’s up against the best boxers in the world. What good is all that power if you can’t lay a glove on the guy? And if the glove you’re wearing is of the boxing variety, which comes with significantly more padding, will the power still be as devastating?

2. The positive thinker’s chance
Let’s take a moment and appreciate what McGregor has done. Just a few years ago he was an Internet stream fighter from Ireland talking all kinds of outlandish mess. He was effectively a nobody who kept saying he was going to beat the greatest featherweight of all time. Many of us didn’t believe him, of course, but he turned out to be right. Then he said he was going to take the lightweight title, too, which he did. After that he set his sights on Mayweather, and here we are.

If you’re looking to sell DVDs of “The Secret” right now, McGregor is your huckleberry. This whole thing feels like a manifestation of his thoughts. Is the physical world an illusion? Are we all just characters in McGregor’s opioid dream? I mean, I don’t think so, but at this point I have to at least question it.

Then again, this whole scenario I’ve just laid out? The one in which he wins because he thinks good thoughts and the universe sees that and therefore he gets everything he wants? That’s insane. That is literally some stuff that people shout about on public transportation. So let’s just say I wouldn’t place a bet based on this alone.

3. The “Great White Hype” chance
This situation mirrors the underrated 1996 sports comedy film in a lot of ways. White guy with no professional boxing matches is somehow sanctioned (in Las Vegas) to take on a dominant black champion. This time the white guy actually is Irish, though the dominant champion is significantly less likable than Damon Wayons.

The movie’s 20 years old so I guess I’m not spoiling it by telling you that the white guy loses. Still, he kind of almost wins, mainly because the champion barely bothers to prepare for the fight.

I guess that could happen here. So sure of his victory, and comfortable in his pseudo-retirement, Mayweather might not put in the toughest training camp. Though it’s worth mentioning that in the movie all it takes is for the improbable challenger to land one good shot – his signature punch is the overhand right rather than the straight left, but still – and then the champ gets mad enough to pull it together. After that, “Danny Boy” becomes a slow, sad dirge.

I get what Joe Lauzon is saying. Sort of. The UFC made this deal with Reebok, and that deal cost many fighters many thousands of dollars. They got no say in it whatsoever, even though lots of them were in the middle of UFC contracts that they’d signed with a certain understanding about sponsor income, only to have that completely obliterated while their end of the contractual obligations remained.

Still, shouldn’t that make them mad at the UFC instead of Reebok? What good does it do to trash Reebok in public? That’s not going to put any more money in fighters’ pockets.

I definitely see the logic in that argument, but where do you go from there? Docile acceptance doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anything. Politely asking the UFC to give you more of the money that Reebok gave it also seems like a strategy with limited chances for success.

Some fighters seem to think that the only way forward is to be a good soldier and trust that the money will flow in the end. But it doesn’t. People don’t give money away unless they have to. So if you want more money, the question becomes how to make people feel like they have to. Maybe bashing Reebok on Facebook or Twitter won’t do it, but it’s fair to ask what will.

I’d be considerably more interested if Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 111 event didn’t start at 2:30 a.m. in the One True Time Zone. That’s the exact worst time! Should I stay up on Friday night and try to make it all the way to the main event at roughly 8 a.m. Saturday morning? Or do I try to go to bed early and set an alarm for bar closing time? What a conundrum.

But I admit, I am interested. Holly Holm is in such a strange place in her career right now. She dethroned Ronda Rousey and then sat on top of the world for about 15 minutes before it all came crashing down.

Now she’s somehow lost three in a row, including two title fights. How did it come to that? Holm is better than this … isn’t she? Style-wise, a fight with Bethe Correia right now seems designed to help her prove it. If she can’t pass that test, I hesitate to think of what comes next.

Simple stuff, mostly. Establishing members. Electing officers. Agreeing on a code of conduct. I think those are all attainable goals by the end of our first year.

A lot of people have asked why MMA journalists need an association in the first place. One reason is strength through unity. As we’ve seen in the past, some fight promoters like to isolate and bully journalists who do work they don’t like, even when that work is literally the journalist’s job. In instances like that, an association allows you to speak with one strong voice in response, and that would be very useful in this sport.

But just as importantly is the ability to establish standards within the industry. MMA is a young sport, which means MMA journalism is also a young occupation. Just as the sport grew up in public view, thanks to the Internet, so did the reporting on it. We’ve made mistakes. Hopefully we’ve learned from them.

I think we’ve also seen that when other MMA media members (or even just MMA media hopefuls) are trying to figure out what to do or not do, they’re looking around at each other, at their colleagues, at us. We are setting standards whether we mean to or not, so we should work to consciously set good ones. An association helps us not only set those standards, but also put something behind them. That will hopefully improve the media environment and the end product.

This effort started as a big group, in sputters and starts, and then the authority to push it forward was delegated to small group, those of us who you see as the initial interim officers on the website. But this isn’t our thing. It doesn’t belong to us. Once we have our first election, members can choose whoever they want to fill those roles, and those of us who have been involved in the long, tedious process just to get to this point might not mind a break from those positions.

The important thing is that the association lasts, and that it doesn’t lose sight of its goals. It doesn’t matter who gets to put their names on it. It matters that it works.

My experience helping to establish the MMAJA mostly taught me that this is a lot harder than it looks. It’s time-consuming. It’s boring. It’s frustrating.

On the flip side, you get to learn new stuff about your colleagues. I was surprised at some of the people who turned out to be valuable allies in making this happen. I was pleased at their ability to put aside differences and work together. It’s not always easy for competitors to become teammates on something like this, and I’d imagine that dynamic is many times tougher for pro fighters than it is for pro writers.

That said, their situation is very different from ours. We had the support of our employers and a lot of very generous legal and logistical help from the people at Vox Media, and it still wasn’t easy or quick. Fighters have more working against them, but in the end they may also have more to gain.

I like the existing Bellator commentary team, so I can’t say that that’s where I was hoping to see the company spend its money. Still, Mauro Ranallo is a good pickup for any combat sports broadcast and I look forward to seeing what he adds to Bellator.

It’s the Mike Goldberg hire that stumps me. Is Bellator hoping to trick people into thinking they’re watching the UFC? Is it part of a prolonged effort to court the viewers who liked the UFC when it was on Spike TV but not enough to follow it to another channel?

I know some people really liked Goldberg on UFC broadcasts. I didn’t. Especially later in his run, he seemed uninterested in learning anything new about the sport or the athletes in it, up to and including the proper pronunciation of their names. He was basically a human speak-and-spell, repeating the same phrases and banal observations.

But that’s just my opinion, and opinions on commentators can vary wildly. Maybe to some people the voice of Mike Goldberg is what big time MMA sounds like. Just seems to me like Bellator might be going a step too far in recycling the UFC’s castoffs.

Wait, is 10 the most crazy? Or is that the most sane? Regardless, I’ll put him right in the middle at about a five. Cub Swanson is smart enough to know that the metric you’re using – you know, wins and losses and common opponents – is the old way. The UFC doesn’t do it like that anymore. Now you just have to prove that you can sell. And a Swanson-Holloway title fight? I’d buy that.

If Frankie Edgar claims a second UFC title in a second division, he’ll have to go down as one of the best fighters and greatest overperformers in MMA history, especially when you consider that he’s probably undersized for both divisions.

Old Man Edgar is also 35, so taking the belt off a man a decade younger would be a huge feel-good story for what we are led to believe is the UFC’s aging demographic. If nothing else, maybe that would land him a Life Alert sponsorship or something.

In fairness to Jose Aldo and Andre Pederneiras, it’s not just when Aldo loses that we get to hear about his injuries. We’ve seen detailed images of the man’s ribs, heard tales of his many training woes, and that’s when he was one of the most dominant champs in the UFC.

Still, the time when people are least interested in hearing about your injuries is in the month or so following a big loss. And if you’re going to tell us how hurt you are, don’t make it some boring leg injury. Go cracked skull or go home.

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: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Mark Hunt's future, Max Holloway's first title defense, and more

Where will Mark Hunt go from here? Who should get the next UFC title shot at featherweight? Should WME-IMG be worried about whether or not Dana White is the right man to lead them into the future?

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

* * * *

Mark Hunt signed a six-fight deal just last year, so new contracts aren’t the big concern right now. For the moment, he’s got to worry about Derrick Lewis throwing those hammers at his head in New Zealand this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 110, but at least Lewis has to worry about the exact same thing in more or less equal measure.

The good news for Hunt here is that, after all his concern about being forced to fight opponents with a history of performance-enhancing drug use, here he can be mostly certain that his opponent isn’t on anything stronger than Fritos.

This is my favorite kind of heavyweight fight, honestly, pitting one fat guy bruiser against another. It feels like it could have taken place in the muck of the Deadwood thoroughfare, on the undercard of Dan Doherty vs. The Captain.

This is a big part of Hunt’s value to the UFC right now. He’s got an exciting style, fans love him, and he serves as a good, though at times limited test for up-and-comers in the heavyweight class. Plus, even in his declining years he can still headline a card in Auckland, and you better believe I’m not going to miss a chance to see it.

As for where he goes from here? Probably back into the cage again as soon as he can. He’s not getting any younger, and the new deal he signed pays pretty handsomely. There are worse fates for a UFC fighter in his 40s.

Either this is a genie with very specific and limited powers, or else I have made a really poor choice on the use of my wishes. But fine, for the sake of the hypothetical, here’s what I would ask of the great genie:

1. Anderson Silva

Because why not, right? Old vs. old. Brazilian vs. Brazilian. Run it back one last time to complete Vitor Belfort’s UFC contract. And then…

2. Chael Sonnen

Assuming the bad guy is willing to put some effort into selling the fight, this could be fun. You know, prior to the bell.

3. Fedor Emelianenko

This one might have to take place in Japan on New Year’s Eve, and I imagine by then Belfort may have found some way to return to the physique he had circa 2012.

4. Guy in a Cartoon Character Mask

Also in Japan. Because if we’re going to get stupid, let’s at least get fun-stupid.

5. Phil ‘CM Punk’ Brooks

After all that, the man deserves to go out on his own terms.

Maybe, but let’s not act like size explains everything here. Yes, Conor McGregor and Max Holloway are both relatively big for featherweight, and definitely bigger than Jose Aldo, who’s about average. But McGregor went on to claim the lightweight title and Holloway was on a 10-fight winning streak coming into his fight with Aldo, so they’re also both just really good fighters.

My money’s on Frankie Edgar. It’s either him or Cub Swanson, and Holloway’s win over Swanson is only about two years old.

Plus, at 25 you can still paint Holloway as a young gun, even with the title around his waist. He beat one grizzled veteran in Aldo, so why not see if he’s up for a legends butt-whooping tour of his own against old man Edgar next? That’ll give Swanson and the rest of the division more time to sort out a pecking order on their own.

Giving UFC President Dana White a share of the profits is a good way to ensure he puts the new company’s interests first, so that wouldn’t be my big concern. What I’d be worried about is the possibility that maybe he only knows one way to do this job, and maybe it’s not the best way to move the company forward.

Especially lately, we see a paint-by-numbers approach to dissent in the ranks. A fighter won’t do what you want? Run to a friendly media outlet (or a UFC-owned one) and blast him. Fighter complains? Make the case that said fighter isn’t really that good. Fighter wants more money? Hey, even if he is good, people don’t pay to see him (which may or may not be related to how many times you’ve told us he isn’t that good).

White’s primary value to the UFC has been his ability to be a bombastically quotable figure capable of hammering a narrative until it becomes true. It’s also his ability to be a constant. Superstar fighters come and go, but White will always be there, and TMZ will always want to hear what he has to say.

One problem is that the UFC is built on a business model that gives athletes a smaller share of the profits than virtually any other pro sport. That’s bound to breed discontent as fighter awareness increases, and in the past White has been known for heavy-handed responses to fighter complaints. But you can’t cut or bully or threaten or intimidate everyone, so as discontent becomes more common your strategy has to change.

Is White capable of that sort of change? I don’t know. If I were a WME-IMG executive, I’d sure hope so.

I like the general idea of referees having a more open dialogue with fans, since I’m sure we could all benefit from a clearer understanding of the rules and the thought processes that officials go through. My concern is that any referee who tried it would quickly become fed up with it, because who wants to spend their time arguing with people who may or may not understand how any of this is supposed to work?

It reminds me of what former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva told me when I asked why he wasn’t active on Twitter or any of the MMA forums. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to engage with fans or answer critics, he said. It was because he knew that if he let himself get started arguing with people, he’d never stop. It would consume his days. And who wants that?

Someone must care about Demetrious Johnson, judging by how much time we’ve all spent talking about him this week. But I think his lack of broader appeal is due in part to a one-size-fits-all approach to fight promotion.

It’s not just the UFC that’s guilty of it. Notice how you jumped right to a McGregor comparison? It’s like we’ve become convinced that the only way for a fighter to sell is by becoming a pro-wrestling cartoon character.

That’s the easiest way, painting in broad, familiar strokes so that even the people in the cheap seats can see, but there are other ways to do it. “Mighty Mouse” isn’t that guy, but he’s still an interesting guy, as anyone who’s interviewed him lately can tell you. It’s just a matter of figuring out what to do with that. One thing I can tell you is that it’s a poor salesman who tries the same approach every time, and then gives up and blames the product when it doesn’t work.

The UFC has toyed with something like that in various informal ways in the past. Back when those UFC Fight Night events on Spike were a relatively new thing, you’d see a clear progression as fighters graduated from cable to pay-per-view. More recently, you’ve seen it on those UFC Fight Pass-only prelims and events. Even “The Ultimate Fighter,” in addition to being an extremely long-running piece of TV content for the UFC, has provided a steady stream of new talent.

This is a more explicit version of that model, and that seems like the better way to go. We’ve seen the slow erosion of meaning in terms like “UFC-caliber” over the years. Now, instead of gobbling up more talent than it can reasonably use all under the same banner, the UFC is coming right out and admitting that what we’re about to see is a glorified tryout.

That helps gives those bouts added meaning, and lends an easy narrative to those who emerge from the process. As with “TUF,” it probably also helps the UFC lock young talent into contracts before they have too much bargaining power. So there’s that, too.

I don’t even think it’s in the top three reasons for it, and at the moment I’m not even prepared to call it an “exodus,” at least not of top fighters.

A lot of the fighters who have jumped from the UFC to Bellator are guys who felt like their options were diminishing inside the octagon, and the appreciation they felt they’d earned just wasn’t there.

Take Rory MacDonald, for instance. He broke his whole face giving us that epic title fight with Robbie Lawler, and afterward what did he have to show for it? He lost, so the UFC started looking at him like he was UFC Fight Night fodder, and no one could realistically tell him what he’d have to do to change that.

If you’re looking for recurring factors in some of these defections, start there. How do you make serious money as a UFC fighter? For a long time the answer was simple – win a title. But how do you get a title shot? And if you’ve already had one and lost, how do you get another one?

Winning the fights isn’t always enough to significantly advance your career anymore. Just ask Lorenz Larkin. If a fighter is unsatisfied with his pay, the UFC can’t sit him down and believably say, “X performance will lead to Y compensation.”

That’s why I think some fighters are rethinking their stance on Bellator. For some, it’s the MMA version of a lucrative old folks’ home. But for others, the ones closer to their prime, it’s a chance to have their past accomplishments really mean something. Because unlike the UFC, Bellator doesn’t have many of those kinds of fighters to choose from.

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: Bellator, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Cub Swanson wants title shot with Max Holloway; '100 percent' would've got it if Jose Aldo won

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Filed under: Featured, Featured Videos, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

Cub Swanson is 13 years and 32 fights into his pro career, and “I’ve never been better than I am right now,” he said.

That’s why, he told MMAjunkie Radio, “All I’m asking for is the opportunity.”

The opportunity? A title shot, which thus far has been elusive during his decade-plus in the WEC and UFC.

However, Swanson’s time could be here. Or maybe it’s here (again) for multi-time title challenger and former champion Frankie Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC). We don’t know who’s up first, but it does appear it’ll be either Swanson or Edgar who gets the first crack at new undisputed featherweight champion Max Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC), who dethroned longtime 145-pound great Jose Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) via third-round TKO this past weekend in UFC 212’s pay-per-view headliner in Rio de Janeiro.

Edgar has made his case for the fight, as has Swanson. In fact, Swanson, who’s No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, suffered back-to-back submission losses to both No. 3 Edgar and No. 1 Holloway in 2014-2015. Since then, though, the 33-year-old has posted four consecutive victories, which included a decision victory over durable Artem Lobov in UFC Fight Night 108’s recent headliner.

With the way UFC 212 played out, Swanson thinks he deserves the Holloway fight next.

“We both knew going in that if Aldo won, I 100 percent was going to get (the next title shot),” he said. “And then if Max won, it was going to be a tossup between the two of us. That’s just because Frankie never fought Holloway.

“The reason I was going to get it over him either way was just because Frankie has fought for the title a bunch of times. And when you fight for the title a bunch of times and you don’t win, it’s hard to sell that.”

Swanson just hopes his sales pitch isn’t taken as a slight at Edgar, a fan favorite who’s fought nearly every major name at 145 and 155 pounds, though he’s come up short in recent title fights to Aldo and Henderson (both twice).

“I’m not taking anything away from him,” Swanson said. “I respect the guy. I think he’s an amazing fighter. He has a win over me. But since then, I’ve been on a tear. And the fact is he’s 0-4 in his last four title fights.

“That fact you can get that many title fights is crazy. I’m just looking for one. I’ve never had the opportunity, and I’ve been promised multiple times and had it taken away. … All I’m asking for is the opportunity.”

For complete coverage of UFC 212, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Source: MMA Junkie