Category Archives: Frankie Edgar

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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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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