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.

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Today in MMA History: When Jon Jones lost after getting too creative with elbows

It was early December 2009, and the MMA world was feeling pretty excited about this new kid from upstate New York.

Young guy, but tall and lanky with moves unlike any we’d ever seen. Crazy spinning stuff. Elbows from strange angles. What’s more, he’d only been fighting for a little over a year, and with minimal instruction beyond his background as a high school and community college wrestler. Asked about his unorthodox, but clearly very effective striking game, he claimed he learned it from watching YouTube videos.

Can you believe it? A real piece of work, this 22-year-old kid by the name of Jon Jones.

You know how this story ends. Or, at the very least, you know where it currently stands. How he went on to become the youngest UFC champion in history. How he cemented himself as one of the greatest fighters of all time – that is, when he wasn’t running headfirst into all manner of self-inflicted personal calamity, getting his title stripped for this vehicular offense or that drug test failure. How the only person who can beat him is himself, except for that one time, and that one unfortunate turn of events.

That’s what we know about him now. Back then, all we knew was that some young kid had emerged seemingly out of nowhere, equipped with the body and the tools and a seemingly boundless physical creativity, and after three straight wins he was about to get a marquee spot on a cable TV UFC fight card where all the world could see him.

The booking made sense. Jones (22-1-1 MMA, 16-1-1 UFC) had debuted in the UFC the previous year, beating former IFL standout Andre Gusmao via unanimous decision at UFC 87. Two things about that caught the eye of hardcore fans: 1) Jones’ unorthodox use of elbow strikes wherein the blows seemed to arc up and in and over from all possible angles, and 2) He’d had his first MMA fight just four months prior.

As Jones would later tell it, what prompted the move to MMA was that his girlfriend was pregnant. Since he’d wrestled in high school and at Iowa Central Community College, he figured he could do MMA to make some extra money. Within a month of his pro debut he had four victories in as many fights, with three of them coming by way of knockout.

After beating Gusmao in his first UFC fight, Jones went on to beat Stephan Bonnar (with help from more crazy elbows) at UFC 94, then Jake O’Brien at UFC 100. At the latter event, he’d also had a chance to talk to an increasingly well known trainer by the name of Greg Jackson, who would go on to become one of his main coaches.

That string of victories apparently convinced the UFC that Jones was ready to have more of the stage to himself. So for Dec. 5, 2009, it booked him to face former “Ultimate Fighter” contestant Matt Hamill at the TUF 10 Finale in Las Vegas.

Matt Hammill and Jon Jones face off before The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale.

With the reality season of heavyweights wrapping up, and famed internet brawler Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson on the undercard, it promised to be a highly rated event. Adding the rising Jones against the popular Hamill (13-8 MMA, 10-5 UFC), who was fresh off a head-kick knockout of Mark Munoz, seemed to make it must-see TV for fight fans.

Hamill had first gained notoriety on Season 3 of ‘TUF,’ where he was the first deaf competitor and a sort of accidental foil for eventual season winner and future UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping. After three straight wins to start his UFC run, the former college wrestling champion lost a controversial split decision to Bisping, but the effort helped solidify him as a serious player in the UFC light heavyweight division, and all before Jones had even had a single MMA fight.

If Jones was worried about the experience gap, you couldn’t tell. I visited him at his home in upstate New York that fall to write a Fight Magazine cover story on him prior to the Hamill bout. While he would one day wind up as the big fish in the famed Jackson-Wink MMA gym in Albuquerque, back then he was still mostly training at the Bombsquad Gym near his rented house in Ithaca.

Actually, calling it a gym might be overly generous. Really it was more like a barn, the single room of an otherwise empty outbuilding in the backyard of someone’s house on a rural two-lane road leading out of town. When he wasn’t in New Mexico with Jackson, that’s where you could find Jones, training with a ragtag group of amateur and pro fighters who were, for the most part, nowhere near his level.

When we first started talking about Hamill, I remember Jones was nothing but complimentary, albeit in a very general way. When I joined in, remarking on Hamill’s power, that’s when I got to glimpse Jones’ true feelings.

“Yeah, he’s strong,” Jones said in a tone of voice that was suddenly noticeably different. “Slow, though.”

The message came across very clear: While he was fine with being outwardly humble (at least when a reporter was around), Jones wasn’t going to pretend like he didn’t know how good he was.

They were the co-main event that night in Vegas, going on right before Roy Nelson knocked Brendan Schaub out cold to win the TUF 10 title. As the tale of the tape flashed across the screen on Spike TV, one couldn’t help but notice Jones’ 10-inch reach advantage over Hamill – or the more than 11-year difference in their ages.

As the fight began, UFC commentator Mike Goldberg remarked to his broadcast partner Joe Rogan on the subject of Jones’ creativity as a fighter.

“He’s very creative and very athletic,” Rogan said. “But I don’t think he’s ever faced a wrestler of Matt Hamill’s caliber.”

A couple minutes later, Jones would easily thwart one of Hamill’s takedown attempts, then slam him to the mat with a trip of his own before moving from side control to full mount.

Immediately, Jones postured up and began raining blows down on Hamill. The assault came first in the form of punches, and then, as Hamill covered his face with his forearms, in the form of destructive elbows that bashed their way through Hamill’s defenses.

“He’s taking some big elbows, Mike,” Rogan said as Jones alternated from battering Hamill with his right arm to hammering him with his left.

“Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones looking to finish this fight here in Round 1,” said Goldberg.

Jon Jones at The Ultimate Figher 10 Finale. (UFC Fight Pass)

Meanwhile, a cut had opened on the bridge of Hamill’s nose, with the blood leaking down both sides and into his eyes as he struggled to escape the strikes. Jones continued punching, pausing occasionally to look up at referee Steve Mazzagatti as if to check and make sure he hadn’t gone for a smoke break.

Mazzagatti, though, seemed to have no interest in stopping the fight, despite the overwhelming offense of Jones and the complete lack of response from Hamill. So Jones, having hit his foe with punches and elbows of nearly every type, went looking for something new with which to end the fight. That’s when his right elbow arced up and then straight down to the face of Hamill – one, two, three times.

“That’s an illegal elbow, Jon!” Mazzagatti shouted as the last of Jones’ elbows came hurtling down and Mazzagatti rushed in.

Finally, it seemed, Jones had done something that would convince the referee to get involved.

“You can’t do 12-to-six,” Rogan explained on the broadcast, attempting to shed some light on one of the least understood rules in MMA. “The up-down elbow from 12 o’clock to six o’clock is illegal.”

As Mazzagatti brought Jones to the center of the cage to inform the judges that he was deducting one point for the foul, Hamill lay prone on the mat, his nose smashed and his face covered in blood.

Matt Hammill at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale. (UFC Fight Pass)

When Mazzagatti noticed this, he stood over Hamill and asked, “Matt, are you done?”

Of course, being deaf, Hamill couldn’t hear the question. And with his eyes shrouded in blood, he likely had a hard time reading Mazzagatti’s lips as he asked the question again while kneeling over Hamill, who was in obvious pain. As Hamill reached for his shoulder, Mazzagatti waved off the fight, signaling the end.

“It’s all over!” boomed Goldberg. “Matt Hamill has been defeated by Jon Jones.”

Jones celebrated with his arms in the air, spinning into a cartwheel as the small crowd cheered. On the broadcast, there was no indication that the result could possibly be anything other than a Jones victory. Not until UFC announcer Bruce Buffer got on the microphone and announced that, “due to intentional elbows,” Jones had been disqualified.

As the camera flashed to Jones’ face, the look was one of almost childlike shock. When it cut to the winner Hamill, he was busy having a giant cut on his nose attended to as he held his left arm gingerly against his body.

Jon Jones at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale. (UFC Fight Pass)

Writing on his website after the fight, Hamill explained that he’d dislocated his shoulder earlier in the fight. As for the stoppage, he wrote, “Aside from making a mistake, (Jones) did his job and he did it well. He definitely didn’t lose this fight, and I definitely didn’t win, but I guess the rules are there for a reason. It is what it is. I went into this fight feeling like my record was actually 9-1, so with this so-called win, I will now consider my record 9-2.”

By the time it was his turn to be interviewed, Jones seemed to have recovered from the initial shock, though his voice still wavered as he explained that he would come back stronger after the disqualification loss.

“God is still really good to me, and life is so great,” Jones said, before adding, “Everything happens for a reason.”

It was Mazzagatti who would take the brunt of the criticism, and not for the first or the last time in his career as a referee. The man whose name would eventually become synonymous for bad calls and questionable stoppages was already on his way to being one of UFC President Dana White’s favorite targets, and his handling of this fight didn’t help matters.

“(Jones) is a young kid and if he goes to 30 years old, he could be 35-0 and it makes me sick that he has that ‘one’ on his record,” White said in a Q&A session years later, after Jones had become UFC light heavyweight champion. “Jon Jones is undefeated. That ‘one’ that is on his record is because of a moronic referee who had no idea what he was doing.”

As of this writing, it’s still the only loss on Jones’ record. It’s also maybe not the overpowering blemish that White had imagined, if only because Jones’ life outside the cage has provided it with such stiff competition.

“Today in MMA History” is an MMAjunkie series created in association with MMA History Today, the social media outlet dedicated to reliving “a daily journey through our sport’s history.”

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Source: MMA Junkie

CSAC reschedules Jon Jones' steroids hearing for early 2018

It’ll be a while longer before the California State Athletic Commission decides Jon Jones’ fate.

Jones, whose original hearing for his doping case was set for Dec. 12 in Sacramento, has been granted a continuance, CSAC executive office Andy Foster told MMAjunkie on Tuesday. While Foster was unable to give a specific date for the rescheduled hearing, he said it would occur “early next year” at the commission’s first meeting of 2018. Foster gave late February/early March as a time frame.

Jones (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) originally was flagged for a potential doping violation Aug. 22 for an out-of-competition sample collected ahead of his UFC 214 title fight with Daniel Cormier. Jones’ B sample also tested positive.

As a result, the CSAC, which regulated the July 29 headliner at Honda Center in Anaheim, overturned Jones’ TKO win to a no-contest. The UFC, in turn, stripped Jones of the light heavyweight belt and reinstated Cormier as champion.

The failed drug test marked Jones’ second in two years. In 2016, he failed a test at UFC 200, which canceled his title-unifying main event with Cormier. Jones’ explanation was that he took a tainted sexual enhancement pill containing estrogen blockers that work in conjunction with steroids. He used that defense during arbitration with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which stopped short of declaring him a cheater, though he was still handed a one-year suspension for negligence.

Jones, who had denied knowingly cheating, is headed for arbitration again with USADA. If found guilty this time, he faces up to a four-year ban.

For complete coverage of UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Jon Jones blasts Colby Covington for racism, throws shade after Fabricio Werdum altercation

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We haven’t heard much from Jon Jones since his failed drug test was revealed in August, but the ugly incident between Fabricio Werdum and Colby Covington in Australia was enough to get the former UFC champion going on social media.

Werdum on Thursday was charged with assault for allegedly throwing a boomerang at Covington outside the Hilton Sydney, which is serving as the host hotel for UFC Fight Night 121.

Parts of the encounter were caught on camera, including Covington’s live stream. By the time Covington’s video starts, he’s already hurling expletive after expletive at Werdum, including a homophobic slur, before turning the camera on himself and uttering this message to his followers:

“F*ck Brazil. F*ck Fabricio Werdum. Little b*tch ass. “F*ck Brazil. A bunch of filthy animals. And they wonder why they get talked to like that. Because they’re a bunch of animals.”

That message essentially continued Covington’s anti-Brazil remarks in Sao Paulo following last month’s win over Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 119. And it was enough for Jones to start chiming in on Twitter.

Jones wasn’t done there. He went nearly 12 hours before starting up again on Covington, who was his former roommate in college. It’s worth noting that Covington recently went on a tirade calling Jones a “piece of sh*t dirtbag.”

And here’s what Jones had to say in response:

Well, I can safely say that …

via GIPHY

For more on UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

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UFC champ Georges St-Pierre says there's no such thing as a GOAT: 'It's an illusion'

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The MMA world can keep arguing its “greatest of all time” takes, but don’t expect Georges St-Pierre to chime in.

With his third-round finish of Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 217 pay-per-view headliner, St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) became only the fourth fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two different divisions. More impressively, he did so after returning from a four-year layoff, in a division 15 pounds heavier than the one that he’d dominated for more than six years.

St-Pierre, in fact, hasn’t lost a fight since Matt Serra pulled the upset of a lifetime at UFC 169 in 2007 – a loss he later avenged. Add that to the fact that he was only the second man to submit Bisping in the UFC, and you have a pretty solid “GOAT” case there.

Still, St-Pierre won’t wear that title himself.

Granted, the UFC’s current 185-pound champion wasn’t asked directly if he thought he should be the one to carry it. But, inquired as to whether former 205-pound kingpinJon Jones’ latest outside-the-cage shenanigans should remove him from the conversation, St-Pierre’s answer pretty much said it all.

“There’s no such thing as the greatest of all time,” St-Pierre said today during a conference call, in which he also discussed his post-UFC 217 future. “It doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion.”

To illustrate his point, St-Pierre offered an analogy: In sports like baseball or football, having the strongest team doesn’t necessarily translate to a victorious night. While many people would think that’s not the same with fighting, he argued, the principle is the same: The strongest man is not necessarily the one getting his hand raised.

“Even though you’re the best, it doesn’t mean you’re not going lose,” St-Pierre said. “And it doesn’t mean nobody’s going to beat you. For example, I fought Michael Bisping Saturday night, at Madison Square Garden. In that particular night, at that particular moment, at that particular place, I beat Michael Bisping. But that doesn’t mean if I fight him tomorrow that he’s not going to beat me.”

While it hasn’t happened in quite some time, St-Pierre has made peace with the fact that he can lose – even if it’s to someone he’d beat “nine times out of 10.” So, as much as we can use specific achievements to speculate about who’s the best fighter the sport has seen, experience has taught St-Pierre to refrain from doing the same.

“When I started in MMA, I wanted to be the strongest man in the world,” St-Pierre said. “But there’s no such thing as being the strongest man in the world. Everybody can beat everybody at any given day, or any given time. That’s what I learned. There’s no such thing as being the strongest man in the world.

“You can be the best one day, but tomorrow you’re not. That’s the truth about this sport.”

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Why it matters that Dana White is truthful about UFC having its 'biggest year ever' in 2017

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The UFC is having a good year in 2017. Better than good. It’s great – the “biggest year ever” in the history of the company. Don’t believe it? Just ask Dana White. In fact, only ask him and no one else. Because, to hear the UFC president tell it, he is the only reliable source of information about the UFC.

“It drives me crazy when I see these guys write these stories about the business,” White said in a media scrum this past week before UFC 217. “You know what you know about the business? What I tell you. That’s what you know.”

Moments later, White would take it one step further: “There’s nothing factual about anything that’s ever written about this business.”

Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Adjust for the requisite fight promoter hyperbole. Cross-reference with the claims White made all week about revenue and pay-per-view numbers. Add in his stated belief that any and all accurate information about the MMA business must come directly from Dana White. Spend the next few minutes numbly considering the nature of truth itself.

It isn’t the first time White has drifted into this territory. On several occasions he has admonished fans never to believe anything they hear about the UFC and its plans unless it comes from the UFC itself.

Nevermind the fact that the UFC has, on numerous occasions, disavowed media reports only to later admit that they were true. Forget that a vehement denial from White himself has become a kind of joking shorthand for official confirmation among many MMA fans.

Anybody who claims to have a monopoly on the facts should expect some skepticism. That goes double when your relationship with the truth has historically been, to put it mildly, strained. (Anybody else remember when the UFC definitely wasn’t for sale, and anyone who said otherwise should expect to hear from the UFC’s lawyers?)

Which brings us back to the question that started all this: What kind of year is the UFC having in 2017?

It’s a fair question. It’s been on people’s minds, especially after two monster years in 2015 and 2016, leading up to the UFC’s $4.2 billion sale. If you were paying attention lo these past 10 months, you might have noticed that business seems to have slowed from that frenzied peak.

There are reasons for it. Conor McGregor, the biggest PPV star in MMA history, hasn’t fought for the UFC at all in 2017. Neither has Ronda Rousey, the other star who helped propel the UFC to unprecedented recent PPV success. Brock Lesnar, who returned for one fight in 2016, got chased back to pro wrestling by USADA. And speaking of USADA, Jon Jones returned from suspension for one fight this year – and that was all it took to line him up for another suspension.

According to reported buyrates, the UFC had five PPVs in 2016 that sold more than 1 million buys. Coming into UFC 217 (which White claimed had eclipsed 1 million buys, with help from record-breaking sales in Canada), the company had yet that mark with a single event this year.

But there’s where White takes issue, with the whole idea that any of us could know how many PPVs the UFC sells.

“Whose indications (that PPV are down) are that?” White said following UFC 217. “People who don’t know what the (expletive) they’re talking about.”

And there we are again. The truth in these matters is known only to White, so we have to take his word for it. In that case, it’d be nice if he didn’t have such a reputation for lying straight to our faces, but what are you going to do, right?

Except that, occasionally we do get a glimpse inside the UFC’s business. We got a pretty good one thanks to that investor presentation that the new owners put together last summer.

Prior to this, most UFC PPV sales estimates came from longtime MMA and pro wrestling writer Dave Meltzer. And when we compare Meltzer’s numbers with those reported to potential UFC investors, we see an awful lot of agreement. In several cases, internal UFC documents reported the same buyrate figures that Meltzer did. For a guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, that’s a hell of a lucky guess.

But you don’t necessarily need to look at the UFC’s books in order to guess that a year without McGregor and Rousey and Lesnar – with only brief help from Jones – probably resulted in a down year on PPV. That’s just common sense. To claim that the UFC did even better on PPV without them than it did with them is to claim that these stars don’t matter, that in fact all the fighters are more less interchangeable and it’s only the UFC brand that matters.

Which is not to say that the UFC couldn’t have still done well in terms of revenue this year, even with a dip in PPV sales.

Don’t forget, the sale in 2016 came with some serious “cost savings opportunities,” including heavy staff reductions and greater “corporate discipline,” in the words of the investor pitch. Then there’s the actual biggest fight of the year, the boxing match between McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

The UFC got a cut of that money in exchange for letting McGregor participate in the fight, and it was reportedly the largest single payday for the company all year. White essentially admitted that he was including that windfall in his assessment of the UFC’s overall financial health, but all that fight told us is that McGregor and Mayweather are both bankable stars – not that the UFC is soaring higher than ever.

The only reason this conversation should even matter to fans is because it clearly matters to the UFC. The forces of revenue and PPV buys shape nearly every decision the UFC makes, and those decisions in turn shape the entire sport.

The overall strength of fight cards, the state of fighter pay, the trunks that fighters wear into the cage, the price of UFC PPVs and UFC Fight Pass subscriptions, it’s all tied up in this same math problem.

What you see when you turn on a UFC event is inextricably linked to what the owners see when they look at their sales figures. Fans are watching a sport; the UFC is running a business.

Not that anyone who isn’t named Dana White could possibly know anything about it, of course. He says it’s all going fine, just great, couldn’t be better. And what possible reason would he have to lie about something like that?

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

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With UFC 217 win, did Georges St-Pierre just settle an old argument about MMA greats?

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There used to be a popular argument back in the day, back when Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva were the two most dominant champions in the UFC and it seemed like neither would ever fall.

It was that same old argument combat sports has been having since the creation of weight classes: Pound-for-pound, for whatever that means, who’s the better fighter?

This was mostly pre-Jon Jones, and pre-Demetrious Johnson. The way it would work was, when Silva went all Jedi on someone, he’d jump to the top of the list. Then GSP would go and completely shut down his next challenger, and soon he was back at No. 1.

Occasionally we dared to hope that they might actually fight each other, but come on, one reigning champ against another? Stuff like that only happened when one guy had more ambition than sense (looking at you, B.J. Penn), so it would have to remain an impossible dream.

Now several years have passed, and oh, the things we’ve seen. We saw Silva clown his way into a knockout loss. We saw his leg snap in half like a piece of dry kindling, and then we saw him come back just in time to blame a positive drug test on Thai sex juice.

We saw GSP win a debatable decision and then make his confusing exit, never to be heard from again – or at least until Michael Bisping became UFC middleweight champion.

Then, at UFC 217 in New York City on Saturday night, we saw St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) blink away the blood before dropping Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) with a left hook and then putting him to sleep with a rear-naked choke.

Four years away. At a weight class 15 pounds heavier than the one he once dominated. And somehow he looked as good as ever – maybe even better.

So now who looks like the greatest to ever do it?

If you’re talking about accomplishments and titles, all the stuff that fills out an MMA resume, it just got a lot harder to argue against St-Pierre. He was the rare champion to “step away” on top, opting to take his 12-fight winning streak and go home rather than staying until the forces of time and natural decay dragged him out on his back.

He was so committed to this course of action that, even when the UFC president flew into a purple rage over his decision, St-Pierre was unmoved. Ever the rational actor, GSP wasn’t about to do anything that didn’t appeal to his own cold logic.

It was the same with his comeback. The way he set his sights on Bisping, you got the sense that St-Pierre had crunched the numbers and done the math and decided that this was the perfect time and opponent. Not that he was going to rush it, of course. He’d do the fight any time after October, he told us back in May.

That prospect was so disagreeable to Bisping and the UFC that they both flirted with forgetting about the whole thing. GSP was unmoved. And then, what do you know, the fight gets booked for early November, like it was St-Pierre writing the script and the rest of the world couldn’t help but follow it.

There were plenty of reasons to think that the fight itself would not be so kind to him, though. Four years is a long time to be gone, after all. And how would his style play against a bigger man who wins fights on endurance and stubborn resiliency?

You saw that threat poke through here and there. After a strong first round for St-Pierre, his pace slowed somewhat. Bisping began to find his rhythm. Even when St-Pierre took him down, it was Bisping doing the damage off his back, opening St-Pierre’s face with elbows from the bottom. By the time they got back to their feet, GSP’s face was a mask of blood, and his well-laid plans seemed to be under imminent threat.

Then came that left hook – the result of diligent film study, according to St-Pierre. After that, the rear-naked choke that you just knew Bisping wouldn’t tap to, even though he had no hope of escape.

The next thing you know, there’s St-Pierre with UFC gold around his waist once again, politely explaining his process while pausing to apologize for his language, which was nothing that most New Yorkers don’t already hear or say themselves on a Sunday morning subway ride to church.

When it was all over, the interviews completed and Madison Square Garden emptying out, St-Pierre still stood there in the cage, grinning and turning in circles as he took it all in, like he couldn’t bring himself to leave.

Or, another possible explanation, maybe that was the look of a man who already has left once, and who knows what it’s like to wonder if those moments of glory are gone for good.

This time around, he knew enough to stop and enjoy his own triumph, every last drop. Because who can say if and when the feeling will ever come again.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

So, what's Jon Jones been up to lately?

Dann StuppWe haven’t heard much lately from Jon Jones, the former UFC light-heavyweight champion who’s facing a potentially long suspension.

However, Jones (21-1 MMA, 15-1 UFC) apparently isn’t giving up on the possibility of someday returning to the cage.

He recently posted a few updates, suggesting he can get to the “top of the mountain” once more (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Jones, who remains No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA light-heavyweight rankings (and No. 2 pound-for-pound) while his latest gaffe plays out, has yet to resolve his case with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, and the California State Athletic Commission, which overturned a recent knockout win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 when a failed steroid for turabinol, an oral steroid, was confirmed.

Cormier, who eventually was reinstated as champion, has since turned his attention to Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) as his possible next opponent.

Jones, 30, also failed tests in 2016 due to clomiphene and letrozole – hormone and metabolic modulators. He’s denied knowingly take any prohibited substances.

UFC President Dana White questioned whether Jones, who posted eight title defenses from 2011-2015, will ever fight again after his latest failure and that it might be the “end of his career.”

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

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

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Twitter Mailbag: Where's the hype for UFC 217?

Is UFC 217 getting the promotional push the card deserves? Say we end up with a new UFC middleweight champ, then what? And just how far-fetched is it to think that Bellator could one day become the second Scott Coker-led venture to be acquired by the UFC?

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

* * * *

Outside of the Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre Public Shoving Tour 2017, I haven’t seen a ton of promotion for the event in general, which surprises me.

This ought to be a big event for the UFC. The return of GSP at Madison Square Garden? Fighting to become a two-division champ? And on the same card as two other title fights, one of which in (Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw) may be the best pure talent matchup that we’ll see all year? That should feel like a huge deal. A little over a week out, the hype should be inescapable.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I feel that. If you’re in the MMA bubble and reading all the usual websites, sure, you see stories and videos about the two headliners. You even see some about the other two title fights if you’re really paying attention.

As for a hard push outside the bubble, I don’t see it. You could hardly draw breath on this planet without knowing about Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor weeks before it happened. But the former “king of pay-per-view” returns to the sport he dominated after four years away, and it almost feels like the UFC can’t be bothered to get out there and make a case for our money.

Is it complacency? Entitlement? Have the powers that be concluded that all the people who care to know about this event already do? Are they waiting for fight week to power up the big spotlight? I don’t know. But if I were counting on pocketing a piece of that pay-per-view, it might concern me just a little bit. If I were one of the champions getting almost ignored outside the main event, it might even piss me off.

Hahahahahahaha, no. Have you seen how much trouble the UFC has keeping regular old fight cards together? Injuries and illnesses and weigh-in disasters and day-of withdrawals. A one-night tournament is like packing all those usual troubles into a phone booth and then also adding a hive of angry bees. Nobody down at UFC headquarters wants that stress.

Whoa there. Let’s take this one step at a time. If St-Pierre beats Bisping, then he’s the UFC middleweight champ, and with a pack of hungry contenders waiting in line to get at him. How deeply unsatisfying would it be for him to decide, you know what, he’s actually all done being middleweight champ now?

I know it’s what some people (including Luke Rockhold) expect, but it would also make this whole thing feel like a pointless waste of time. So, what, we’re supposed to then turn around and get excited about seeing him face Tyron Woodley? Not bloody likely.

But then there’s the Irish elephant in the room. You can’t pay any sort of attention to how the UFC does business in 2017 and not at least consider the possibility of a GSP vs. Conor McGregor fight at some point down the road. It’s silly and sort of illogical, but when you have two pay-per-view stars within 30 pounds of each other, you don’t have to be a UFC accountant to see the potential value in throwing them in a cage together.

But what would they fight over, exactly? Bragging rights? The UFC equivalent of “The Money Belt”? At what point would fans rebel against this just-to-get-into-your-wallet matchmaking? And even if that point never comes, fights like that don’t lead anywhere. It’s just a one-off cash grab that leaves you lost and searching for the next payday.

For St-Pierre, the problem for the moment is Bisping. In a lot of ways, his future options open up more with a loss. Because if he wins and doesn’t defend the belt next, it’s going to get harder to convince us that he came back to do anything that matters.

Must I restrict myself to UFC history? Because I’m enough of a mark for the late-2000s era of MMA to still feel like Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko is the one that got away. Then again, I also still remember the year of the superfight that never was, so GSP vs. Anderson Silva feels like a lingering promise unfulfilled.

But if I can really do anything, and just treat the entire history of the UFC roster like my personal video game? Give me Jon Jones vs. (sea-level) Cain Velasquez. And when Velasquez pulls out of the fight injured, go ahead and sub in pre-diverticulitis Brock Lesnar.

For me, almost as important as who the documentary is on is who makes it and why. Is it a vanity project to cater to some fighter’s ego? Is it a glorified commercial produced by his management? Or is it a truly honest and independent effort made by a real filmmaker?

If someone with that kind of focus and access and determination were to follow Jon Jones around during these tumultuous years, I’d be the first in line when the movie came out.

Michael Page is a whole lot of fun to watch, but his focus in MMA and now boxing seems to be finding opponents against whom he can be at his most fun. That makes for great highlights, and I’ll watch the GIFs of the finishes along with everyone else, but don’t expect me to act like it means anything.

As long as the UFC is in court on antitrust claims, purchasing its most significant competitor would probably be a bad idea. Which is not to say that it could never, ever happen. The NFL got around antitrust laws by working with a players association, and the current lawsuit against the UFC has very similar goals. You could even argue that a fighters association becomes more workable with one major organization than with two.

Would that result in a better product for fans and/or better working conditions for fighters? Maybe. But if you’re the UFC right now, you might feel like you can sit back and wait Bellator out and see how long its parent company Viacom wants to keep plugging away at the maddening business of MMA.

A new spine. Can I borrow yours?

Him and plenty of others, but how are you going to stop him if he wants to keep at it? Fortunately, Artem Lobov seems to be at least considering the possibility of retirement, or so he says when he’s not considering a boxing match with He Who Shall Not Be Named.

A lot of times, these retirements are like break-ups. Mentioning the possibility out loud is the first step, but it usually doesn’t mean you’re there yet. Also like break-ups, sometimes it takes a few tries to really make it stick.

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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What 'other' Jon Jones has learned about MMA and its fans after years of misdirected angry tweets

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Every time it happens, Jon Jones tells himself that surely – surely! – this will be the last time.

The author, game developer, and self-proclaimed “tech geek” is not, in fact, the former UFC light heavyweight champion by the same name. But he does have the Twitter handle @JonJones, which means that whenever the other Jon Jones stirs up trouble, which is often, this Jon Jones gets the misdirected hate tweets.

This has been going on for years now, with no sign of stopping any time soon. Fortunately, Jones has a sense of humor about it, which is on display in a new parody video he created (which you can watch above) in order to have a little fun with the absurdity of the mistaken identity on social media.

For some insight into how MMA, its fans and its culture look to a witty outsider who can’t help but get drawn in every so often, I spoke to Jones by phone on Tuesday. Here is that conversation, edited for length.

Fowlkes: First of all, tell me about the video. It’s funny, but also has this sort of disarmingly polite message to your accidental Twitter haters. What made you decide to do that?

I was actually approached by a guy named David Garcia from Between Pictures. He runs a video production company in New York, and he’s based in Philly. He’s an MMA fan, and he found out about me from a story online and thought it was really funny. He emailed me and said, ‘What would you think of doing a parody promo video in the same vein as those promo videos the UFC does?’ We had the whole idea of looking into the flame of the candles and running through the woods, all that melodrama, except it was me training to defend myself against people on Twitter. I thought it was funny, so why not?

I’ll admit that where you really got a laugh out of me was with the inclusion of the Yankee Candle in this shot of an otherwise serious little altar.

I deliberately turned that candle around just to amp up the cheesiness. I don’t want anyone to ever take me seriously with this. This is the height of me being a cheeky (expletive).

Do you think that’s one of the things that makes this gag work, that the other Jon Jones treats this all so seriously, people are seriously angry with him, he never even acknowledges the existence of this social media mixup that ensnares so many people, and yet you go the completely opposite direction with it?

Well, fundamentally, it’s a hobby only I can have. I know what it’s like to take your career really seriously. I have my career and my speaking and writing and blogging that I take seriously. But this is basically a wandering circus that shows up at my door by accident a couple times a year. It’s the one time I can be unreservedly silly. It’s a vehicle to play this hapless doof who’s just happy for the attention.

But in the video, there is one scene that does a good job of highlighting that sudden, relentless wave of angry incoming tweets. I could almost feel my anxiety ratcheting up a little when I watched that. Has it ever gotten to the point where, even when you know they’re not really angry at you, it seems like it might be bad for your mental health to keep exposing yourself to that kind of online vitriol?

A handful of times it’s gotten close to that, but more because of the sheer volume than the tone of the tweets. For practice, I started taking on Trump voters (on Twitter). I found them to be much, much worse than MMA fans. So by comparison, every time I feel like it gets kind of intense, I remember what it was like arguing with Trump voters, and I think, ‘Oh, this is much better.’ We’re not talking about politics or any serious issues. We’re talking about who punches gooder and who should punch better than the other guy, and we’re not even talking about the right people.

The thing that keeps it fresh for me, my core engagement with it, is the chance to take someone who’s really, really angry and get them to laugh at how silly they were being. They’re expecting this professional fighter, and they get a guy who’s confused and eating a burrito and has no idea what’s going on. If I can get them to laugh with me, that’s the ultimate goal.

Do you think it defuses them? Or do some of them just realize, ‘Oh, I was yelling at the wrong guy, so let me turn around and send that same angry tweet again, but make sure I get the right Twitter handle this time?’

Actually I think most people are defused, and they realize, ‘Oh God, what even am I doing here?’ Every once in a while I’ll get someone who continues to be angry. Or sometimes it will be some very specific fighting advice, and then I’ll redirect it, like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. The professional fighter who you’re trying to give fighting advice to is @JonnyBones. Have fun criticizing him!’

What’s interesting to me is, I’m not a sports guy, and I’ve never really gotten sports. I’m just so far into the geek end of the spectrum that I’m kind of hopeless. But it’s interesting to see how this sport has grown and changed over the years, and how the social media engagement has changed. I’ve actually had a lot of fighters follow and interact with me, and do it knowing that I am me.

That’s one of the things that’s interesting about this, is you’re not a fan of this sport, but you can’t help but be exposed to all these people who are. You’re like a visitor from Mars, observing us from the outside.

When all this started, I didn’t know what an MMA fan was. I’ve always lived in places where sports were super important, kind of to an annoying extent. I lived in Austin, and the University of Texas is huge there. One of their big rivals is Oklahoma University, the Sooners, and I had a car that was Sooner Red, and people would tell me not to park it downtown on game day because it would get set on fire.

I was also trapped in a riot in Los Angeles, because the Lakers had just won the (NBA) championship right as a major video game trade show ended across the street. I was running from riot police, seeing these burning cars everywhere, all because, basically, sports. So I’ve always had this kind of non-consensual relationship with sports.

It’s been interesting seeing how people from all different walks of life are engaged with this. I promised myself I would never learn anything about (MMA) because it would ruin my bit, but I’ve absorbed a lot just accidentally. And for the most part, I’m impressed by the people I meet through this.

I’m also surprised and impressed by how little racist stuff I see. Out of the thousands of tweets, race has only come up like two or three times, ever. The internet being the internet, and Twitter being Twitter, I expected much worse. So aside from the fact that I get torrents of hate mail intended for someone else, I’ve been pretty impressed with the MMA community.

When you see it’s happening again, like when Jon Jones is back in the news, is the feeling like, ‘Oh boy, let’s get back on this wild and crazy ride?’ Or is there some element of dread to it?

I’d say it’s 80 percent ‘oh boy’ and 20 percent dread, because I never know which thing he did. When he went on (The) Joe Rogan (Experience Podcast) and was talking about (expletive) pills, suddenly I got all these tweets saying, ‘Hey, Jon, how does your (expletive) work? What’s wrong with your (expletive)? Do you need your (expletive) pills, Jon?!’ And that was my only context. It’s like, oh no, what am I defending myself against now?

Do you think there’s a point where you’ll want to stop playing along and just ignore it, or even abandon that Twitter account entirely?

You know, I really do think that every time is going to be the last time. I’m always amazed. But if it gets to the point where it’s not funny, and it’s just sad, I’ll shut up and disappear.

Because things aren’t looking too good for ‘Bones’ right now. I really do hope the best for him, but if it gets too damn sad I’ll stop. I’ll keep the Twitter account but try to direct it to something positive, like the ASPCA or substance-abuse programs. Something topical and helpful and positive, because after every occurrence I get a couple hundred people who follow me just to see what’s happening, and if I can direct them to something positive, that’s worth it.

But I don’t want it to be something negative and exploitative. The whole point is for this to be funny and not serious. I’m the Twitter equivalent of a squirrel that can water-ski, and that’s fine. I’m happy to play a clown, but I don’t want to be some sort of misery clown, if that’s even a thing.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie