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