For a week with no UFC event, this was a busy one in the MMA universe.
This week, the TMB looks at the bizarrely fascinating relationship between “pampered” Georges St-Pierre and “uneducated fool” Nick Diaz, as well the questions surrounding MMA’s first transgender fighter, Brian Stann’s career prospects, Mark Hunt’s level of relative down-ness, and so much more.
Got a question of your own? Cool, I’m on Twitter. Hit me up: @BenFowlkesMMA.
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In fairness to Matt, he asked this question before Thursday’s UFC 158 media call. I also wrote out an answer before that call, which featured Nick Diaz throwing around MF-bombs like he was auditioning for the next “Kings of Comedy” tour, and Georges St-Pierre waffling between confused and upset at his opponent’s bizarre, yet somehow not unexpected behavior. In light of those recent events, I would like to revise my answer now. My new answer is no, the bad blood has not expired, and yes, this really is a grudge match. And it’s not the usual kind of grudge match either, where two people simply don’t get along. It’s a grudge match of completely different philosophies, different ways of life, different everything. It’s not even two people who hate each other so much as two people who can’t possibly understand each other. Is the MMA world interested in seeing a fight like that? To quote Diaz, “I hope so, motherf—er!”
I’ll admit there was a moment there on the UFC 158 media call — probably right around the time GSP started a sentence with “Let me tell you something, uneducated fool…” — where it seemed like the champ was finally going to lose his cool. It didn’t quite happen, but it did give us a glimpse of what Diaz might be capable of bringing out in GSP. Like you pointed out, St-Pierre isn’t one to let his emotions take over. But maybe that’s why Diaz is the perfect rival for him. He’s so coldly analytical, almost robotic, that Diaz’s baffling and internally inconsistent world view might just cause a short circuit. When a person praises you one minute, criticizes you for the very same things the next, then curses you before sounding genuinely wounded that you might want to hurt him, what are you supposed to do with that? My guess is the answer is still: take him down and elbow him in the face for five rounds. But at least now we’re all paying attention.
First of all, let’s not put her in quotes when we refer to a transgender woman. You go through years of hormone treatments, get gender reassignment surgery, deal with what can’t be an easy situation with your friends and family, and you have undoubtedly earned the right to sincere pronoun use. Nobody goes through all that on a whim, just because they woke up one morning and felt like a change, or because they want to totally rule at women’s sports. It’s a process that would be intolerable to most of us, and you’d only do it if not doing it seems even more intolerable to you.
Fallon Fox is a woman. No quotes.
As for the question of whether she retains any physiological advantages of having been born a male, I’ll point you to an article by Steph Daniels at Bloody Elbow, who talked to a couple experts in the field about exactly what happens to a person’s body as a result of this transition. The “tl;dr” version: muscle mass and bone density both decrease after years of hormone treatments, and as a result “she probably does not have a significant advantage, if any at all.”
That “probably” matters. It’s the kind of thing that we’d want the state athletic commissions to be keeping an eye on, making sure that trans fighters are maintaining the proper hormone levels and not gaining an unfair advantage, either deliberately or accidentally. In order to do that, state athletic commissions need to know when they’re dealing with a trans fighter, and Fox admits that she did not inform the Florida commission because, according to Loretta Hunt’s SI.com story: “If she’d revealed her status, there was a chance she could have been asked to sit out the March 2 fight to give the commission more time to review her application. After months of grueling training and sacrifice, Fallon simply wanted to fight. She wanted to seize the opportunity she felt she’d earned.”
If you can fault Fox and her team for anything, it’s this. You shouldn’t get to withhold important medical information from the commission just because you’re worried about the potential consequences of disclosing it, or because you feel you’ve earned the right to fight. That’s one of the reasons why we have commissions, because we don’t want to take the fighter’s word for it that they deserve to fight. Fox can argue that the Florida commission didn’t specifically ask for that information, or provide her with an easy way to disclose it on the forms, but that minimizes her own responsibility. We’re told that she meets the requirements to compete as a woman in the Olympics or in the LPGA. But in order to verify that, most regulatory bodies require a lot more medical documentation from trans athletes. After all, how do you know the person has wiped out any potential hormonal advantage if they don’t show you the paperwork from the endocrinologist that proves it?
It seems like Fox didn’t want to go through all that here. She wanted to fight, to be treated like any other woman, and that’s understandable to some extent. She has the same right to medical privacy that any other fighter does, but that privacy shields her from us. It doesn’t entitle her to withhold relevant medical information from the commission. I don’t necessarily think Fox is benefitting from an unfair advantage, but I also think we have to give the commission the ability to make that determination, even if it’s temporarily inconvenient for Fox. Whether she should have told her opponents, if only as a matter of professional courtesy, is debatable. She was under no legal obligation to, but I can understand how other female fighters might feel like, as a matter of etiquette and ethics, it was the right thing to do. At least in Fox’s case, it’s a moot point now. Everyone in women’s MMA knows her story. It’s just a question of how they’ll react to it.
I’m not sure how long Stefan Struve gets to hold onto the moniker of prospect, especially when he keeps showing the same defects over and over again. He’s 25 years old and has been fighting in the UFC for four years now. I get that he started young and a lot of people are still waiting for him to grow into his frame, but at this point we’ve seen enough to draw some conclusions about him. For instance, we know that while he can pull off a submission from his back and he doesn’t mind getting bloody on the feet, he has a suspect chin. All four of his UFC losses have come via knockout. Granted, they were all against heavy-hitters, but what do you expect at heavyweight? A seven-footer who can’t keep shorter opponents at a distance is going to end up eating some punches. Struve either has to get better at taking shots or avoiding them, and preferably sooner rather than later. I know he’s still young and feels like he has time to develop, but this sport is a lot like the used car business: it’s not just the years that matter, it’s the miles.
By today, I assume you mean Monday, when Riddle went on the deceptively named “MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani and went all Lyndon Johnson, claiming that he would not seek, nor would he accept another contract with the UFC. As if worried that the UFC might try and tempt him back anyway, he also threw in some comments about the UFC’s “hypocritical” punishments for drug offenses, voiced suspicion of his own “fishy” marijuana test in England, and criticized the UFC for “firing high-level talent so they can have lower level talent just scrap.” If that bridge isn’t all the way burned yet, it is at least severely scorched.
Look, I don’t think Riddle should have been fired for coming up positive for a harmless drug he has permission to use in his home state of Nevada. I don’t think we should even bother testing pro athletes for marijuana, since it’s not a performance-enhancer and it remains detectable in urine tests long after it’s active. It seems outrageous that known steroid users can get permission to inject testosterone, but a dude with an anxiety disorder (or whatever) can’t light up a joint three weeks before his fight. At the same time, Riddle is not doing himself any favors right now. I respect him for standing up for what he believes in (even if what he believes in is smoking weed several times a day), but it wouldn’t hurt his long-term career prospects to be a little more diplomatic about it. It might also make him a better spokesman for the cause of weed in MMA, which is a battle worth fighting.
The complaint I hear from British fight fans is not just about the quality of the UFC fight cards they see, but also about the number. Last year Brazil hosted three UFC events. England got one. Also, Brazil’s 2012 events included fighters like Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, and Wanderlei Silva. England got Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic. My point is, it could be worse. Think of your poor, unfortunate mates in the U.K. before you go crying in your acai smoothie, my friend.
According to my math, Stann is actually 6-5 in the UFC after the loss to Silva, but I see your point. Stann has said several times that he doesn’t want to become one of those fighters who hangs around just to slug it out for a paycheck in one meaningless brawl after another. On one hand, that kind of seems like a shame, especially considering how well suited he is to putting on exactly those types of fights. On the other hand, I listen to Stann talk for five minutes and I feel like making a contribution to the Senate campaign he has yet to launch, so clearly this is a man who could do plenty of other things.
Do I see Stann becoming UFC middleweight champion? I do not. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to see him keep fighting, but I would totally understand if he decided to walk away with his brain intact and his career options wide open. In fact, I might prefer it that way, but that might just be because I’m still holding out hope that he’ll hire me as his speechwriter a few years from now.
That’s a tough one. Anthony Pettis’ kick was more creative, but Edson Barboza’s was a brutal fight-ender. Pettis’ kick also came in the fifth round of a very close title fight, and that shows panache. Much like John Malkovich’s character in “In The Line of Fire,” I’m a man who respects a little panache. Give me the Showtime Kick any day.
Mainly I’m concerned with what UFC events on FOX Sports 1 will do to the UFC’s already complex naming conventions. Are we going to end up trying to talk to each other about an event called UFC on FOX Sports 1 6 at some point in the near future? Because to a non-fan eavesdropping on our conversations in a bar, we already sound like big enough weirdos as it is, sitting around and arguing about whether “Rampage” had a better prime than “Cro Cop.”
As far as the actual content of the shows, I’m actually glad to see occasional mid-week UFC events come back. One of the things that has hurt the UFC is not just the sheer number of events, but also the number of Saturday nights it asks fans to give up just to follow the sport. When you’re dealing with a primarily young, primarily male audience, you can’t expect them to devote every single weekend night to sitting on the couch. If you want to find space in the calendar to cram in more MMA — and, in the process, give your fighters more opportunities to fight and get paid — Wednesday seems a good fit. Not to mention, anything that keeps fight fans on Twitter from constantly complaining about how they don’t get FUEL TV is a win in my book.
Let’s just say that if you announced a surprise test for coffee metabolites (or, in John Morgan’s case, 5-Hour Energy), you’d see a lot of nervous faces on press row.
OK, let’s talk rankings. As most of you already know, we here at MMAjunkie.com and USA Today released our own rankings recently, which immediately prompted the usual poopstorm of complaints and tortured math debates that we’ve come to expect whenever we start trying to put numbers next to fighters’ names. I know some people love having rankings arguments. I’m not one of them. The difficulties posed by Chael Sonnen’s situation highlight one of many reasons why.
Sonnen is a light heavyweight now. We know because he says so, and also because he is slated to fight for the UFC light heavyweight title next month, even though he has never won a UFC fight at light heavyweight. So what are you supposed to do with the guy? The “official” UFC rankings have him as the number nine middleweight, which makes no sense when you consider that he has wins over the third and fourth-ranked middleweights. We have him as the number three middleweight, which is better but still feels like we’re telling him that we don’t believe he really is a light heavyweight, title shot or no.
That’s what gets to me about rankings. It always ends up being so speculative. For instance, Frankie Edgar would definitely still beat a lot of guys in the lightweight top ten, even if his last fight was at featherweight. Should we save him a spot at 155 pounds, just like we’re saving Sonnen’s at 185? And if we do, should his wins and losses at featherweight affect his standing at lightweight? And do we really have to rank Antonio Silva ahead of Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne, both of whom seemed like they beat themselves in very different ways? And what about Vitor Belfort, who got an assist from synthetic testosterone in his last victory? How do we weigh all these different concerns and still remain fair to everyone?
At a certain point, we inevitably end up speculating on what a fighter has done or can do or will do or won’t do. We’re guessing, in other words, and that’s when it starts to feel like we’re having polar bear vs. mountain lion arguments. But hey, you guys seem to enjoy them (or enjoy hating them), so maybe it’s just harmless fun.
Tell me about it. Maybe the UFC title shot pendulum is beginning to swing away from barely defensible money-makers and back toward rational contenders. Maybe. Hopefully.
To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Unless Dominick Cruz dies or retires, he’s the UFC bantamweight champ in my eyes. Renan Barao can defend his interim title all he likes, but until he fights Cruz he’ll still just be the number one contender with a shiny gold trinket to prove it.
Actually, that’s not a terrible idea. I can absolutely see why Cruz wouldn’t be into it, but I agree that the biggest concern for him when (if?) he returns is ring rust. He’s been out a long time, with prolonged periods of inactivity. Going from zero to Barao is a lot to ask of anybody.
Simple answer: Michael Chandler.
I would have thought he’d have a great case to replace an injured Alistair Overeem in a bout with Junior dos Santos, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, for reasons that are, shall we say, murky. Though Hunt claims to have been “born down” when it comes to fighting (side note: don’t even try and tell me you wouldn’t buy his memoir, “Born Down: The Mark Hunt Story”), on Thursday UFC president Dana White wrote on his Twitter that Hunt had “turned down the fight with JDS as of last night.” Hunt then denied that, and White later tweeted that he’d had a “GREAT conversation” over the phone with Hunt (having spoken with Hunt on the phone before, it’s hard for me to imagine what a great conversation with him would even sound like, but fine), so now…yeah, I don’t know. White has said he’ll get a top 10 opponent next. Hunt has said he wants someone who is “top five, or whatever, man.” I guess we’ll see what kind of compromise they can reach, but I’d love to see Hunt against someone at or near the top of the division, if only to find out what this feel-good story is really made of. Or whatever, man.