As expected this week’s Twitter Mailbag saw no shortage of questions about Matt Mitrione’s ill-advised rant and the UFC’s swift response.
And sure, we’ll take some time to work through that stuff, but we’ll also weigh in on The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, some astounding assumptions about Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano, and whether this Conor McGregor dude is the real Irish deal.
All that and more awaits you in this week’s edition of the TMB. To ask a question of your own, find me on Twitter: @BenFowlkesMMA.
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By all means, let’s talk about the U.S. Constitution. More specifically, let’s talk about the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Funny, I didn’t see anything in there that guarantees your right to say whatever you want and still be immune to discipline from the private company that employs you. Maybe that’s because such a right does not exist, except in the minds of people on the Internet who think “freedom of speech” means freedom from any and all consequences of speech. That’s not the way it works. Just because the government promises not to arrest you for something, that does not mean that cause and effect ceases to exist, even in an “open forum,” which in this case is an Internet talk show. Far as I know, the U.S. government has yet to adopt a position on “The Mitrione Minute.” The UFC has, though, and that position appears to be con.
Mitrione was subject to the UFC’s code of conduct, which Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole obtained a copy of, and which pretty clearly states that “discipline may be imposed for misconduct.” It then goes on to list “insulting language” about a person’s “gender and sexual orientation” among the examples of misconduct. Calling a transgender fighter a “disgusting freak” seems to fit right in line with the stuff Mitrione had been explicitly warned not to do.
Should he have been suspended for it? Yeah, I think so. I don’t think anyone’s calling for him to be run out of the sport because of this, but a punishment of some sort was warranted. The UFC had to do something to send the message that it was not OK with that kind of vile, unprompted personal attack. And please, to the people out there who think this is somehow the result of the media baiting fighters into saying offensive things for the sake of cheap clicks, go back and watch the video. It was Mitrione’s idea to talk about Fox. Ariel Helwani even tried to rein him in by pointing out that he was getting a little carried away with the hate. Mitrione, undaunted, pressed on. If the UFC had done nothing, that’s tantamount to telling fighters and fans that it has no problem with that kind of verbal tirade. Instead Mitrione got suspended, the other fighters got a message they couldn’t ignore, and the First Amendment stayed out of the whole mess. Seems about right to me.
Wolves! After all the effort the UFC has put into making him seem like a futuristic super soldier sent back in time to stop Anderson Silva’s reign of terror, it’s going to be hard to sell me on Uriah Hall vs. Some Dude We Brought In To Get Beat Up By Uriah Hall. Give him somebody tough. Give him someone who’s been in the UFC a little while, and ideally someone coming off a win. Put him in a fight in which winning means something other than simply not losing. Then I’ll get hyped. Then, and only then, will I bear witness to the fitness of the modern warrior.
Whoa there, tiger. Before we start speculating on what will happen after Miesha Tate submits Cat Zingano, who is undefeated with several submission wins of her own, maybe we should at least consider the possibility that Zingano will win and go on to coach “The Ultimate Fighter 18? opposite Ronda Rousey. In fact, don’t look now, but Zingano is a slight betting favorite over Tate. If it’s Zingano who pulls off the submission on Saturday night, she’d get the chance to match her unblemished record against Rousey’s, and only after we’ve spent an entire reality TV season getting to know her. Who’s to say that wouldn’t be the biggest women’s fight of all time?
And that’s the thing when it comes to women in the UFC. It’s still so new. Regardless of who wins the Rousey sweepstakes this weekend, the biggest women’s fight is probably the next one. Tate vs. Rousey might have a rivalry angle plus some gruesome footage that I know we’re all looking forward to seeing on endless replay for the next six months, but Zingano is a new challenge. With the UFC finally putting some promotional muscle behind women’s MMA, either of the fighters in this weekend’s bout can draw a crowd. Now it’s up to them to determine who it’s going to be.
Fedor Emelianenko fans have taught me why the ancient Romans were so into public executions of enemies of the state. As long as the man is out there, so is the hope that one day he will return and lead a glorious uprising. It apparently doesn’t even matter if the man himself keeps telling his followers to move on with their lives and develop other interests, as Emelianenko has all but pleaded with his loyal fan base to do. Still there are people out there willing to interpret every Vadim Finkelstein sighting as a sign that Fedor’s return is super, super nigh, you guys.
Fedor says he’ll only return to MMA if God tells him to. I guess it’s possible that he might come upon a burning bush or singing cactus that instructs him to strap on the gloves and go find a fight, but even then, would the UFC really want him right now? Enough to pay him the kind of money that Finkelstein will no doubt tell him he deserves? Again, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it. In the meantime, how about we focus our energy on the fighters who are not waiting for further instruction from a supreme being?
Let’s see, the upcoming UFC light heavyweight fight is really a fight between a light heavyweight and middleweight, so that doesn’t do much for me. The next heavyweight fight is a rematch that wasn’t competitive the first time.
According to your list, that leaves us with featherweight (another cross-divisional fight, but one I’m actually pumped for), lightweight (champion vs. champion, son!), and middleweight. I’m looking forward to all three of those, but if you make me choose one, I’ve got to go with Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman. Why? Because we’re getting to the point in Silva’s career where he’s become a living, breathing legend. Now it feels like we’re waiting to see how long he can keep it up as the young bucks take aim at him. Will he show up one night and get old before our eyes? Or will he still be smashing challengers well into his 40s? That question keeps me coming back with eager anticipation. Either way it turns out, every Silva fight feels like a piece of history at this point.
I think UFC President Dana White was sincerely focused on what the real issue was – for him. For those who missed it, on a media call this week, White responded to Mitrione’s comments and ensuing suspension by saying there was “no point” in Mitrione doing an interview on the Monday after his win in Stockholm, when he no longer had a fight to promote.
“Now it’s caused him a bunch of headaches and problems and caused us a bunch of headaches and problems for no reason whatsoever,” White said.
That’s not exactly a strong condemnation of the sentiment of Mitrione’s remarks, but coming from White, it still feels weirdly more honest than a template response about diversity and tolerance. Admit it, if he’d come out and said he was horrified at “Meathead’s” lack of sensitivity toward the trans community, we wouldn’t buy it. We’d assume he was saying what someone else told him to say in order to put out the fire. That he instead chose to focus on the PR pain in the rear that it caused, and cited it as an example of why fighters should only do interviews when the UFC has something to gain from it, well, let’s just say that sounds a lot closer to what was probably going on in White’s head when he first heard about this controversy. If anything, it’s a little too honest.
OK, Irish fight fans. You were right about Conor McGregor. He looked awesome in his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage, and if that’s a sign of things to come, then you have every reason to be very, very excited about him.
But maybe you won’t have to wait until Boston. It seems that McGregor is now campaigning for a fight at lightweight against former “TUF” finalist Al Iaquinta at UFC 159. Honestly? I don’t hate that idea. And if McGregor thinks he can pull off the quick turnaround, why not? I just hope he’s offering to step in because he feels truly ready for it, and not just because he needs the money for a bunch of custom suits he already ordered.
Definitely the first one. I watched Wrestlemania this year despite not watching any pro wrestling since, well, last Wrestlemania, and it was difficult to maintain my suspension of disbelief through all the submission attempts. If one man in tights hits another man in tights with a chair, I’m good. Slam the other guy through the Spanish-language broadcast table, and I’ll buy that. But try to show me Brock Lesnar slapping a standing kimura on someone and, sorry, I quit. The spell is broken for me.
I’d much rather listen to MMA fighters try and fail to cut convincing promos because at least I know they’re really going to hit each other eventually. I also know that if the ref in an MMA match gets knocked unconscious, he won’t come to and immediately attempt to make a decision that will decide the outcome of the fight. But I guess that’s a discussion for another time.
It’s weird how we assume that other fighters got into this sport because they love martial arts and the thrill of competition, or because they needed a job and discovered that had a skill they could cash in on. But the transgender fighter? She’s only in it for the chance to commit an act of violence.
Take gender out of the equation. Imagine someone saying of Anderson Silva, “Sure, he’s made a lot of money at this, but he only got started in MMA because he was looking for a way to hurt another human being without being punished for it.” That’d be an insane assumption, and one we’d never make in most circumstances. Not unless a fighter came right out and told us that that was the main appeal of MMA for him, and even then we’d probably suspect that he was just working an angle to generate some hype.
I’m not saying that there aren’t sick men out there who dream of a situation where they can hurt women with impunity. What I am saying is I doubt very much that even those sick individuals would be willing to undergo gender reassignment surgery followed by a steady stream of estrogen injections so that, years later and after much training and sacrifice, they could finally fulfill their dream of punching a woman in the face without legal repercussions.
Seriously, try to imagine anything in this world that you want enough to go through all that. Then consider the very real possibility that, regardless of what kind of chromosomes you’re packing, there are still some women in MMA who could take your best shot and then make you wish you’d stayed home. If anything, I’m more creeped out by how many people assume that a desire to commit consequence-free violence against women is the true motivator for Fox’s gender change and fight career. If that’s the first assumption you jump to, what have you just told us about yourself?
I feel you on the Urijah Faber fatigue. As exciting and charismatic as he is – and seriously, he is – it’s starting to feel like we know where this story is headed. He beats a couple contenders, makes his case for a title shot, then loses that title shot, the same way he lost the past five title fights he’s been in.
It feels unfair to criticize him for that since he only loses to champions, but at the same time, it seems like we’re stuck in this same familiar loop. Faber vs. Scott Jorgensen is an interesting fight, but is it a main event? Only in a world where the UFC has more TV spots to fill than it has true headliners.
Should you watch? Well, yeah. It’s probably going to be a good fight, and even if it’s not, I don’t see any way that Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano won’t deliver. I’m just not sure I’d cancel any pressing engagements strictly for another Faber fight at this point.
Lombard’s proposed drop to welterweight seems like an example of the weight cut as the fighter’s false friend. Fighting guys closer to his own size (though at 5-foot-8, he’ll still be shorter than most 170-pounders) might be a solution to one of his problems, but it’s not a fix for the biggest ones. The two UFC fights that Lombard lost at middleweight both seemed like fights he could have won with the right mindset and the right approach. Weight didn’t lose those fights; Lombard did.
Will he become a UFC champ at 170 pounds? Doubtful, but at least it might give him the illusion of a fresh start. And maybe that’s what he’s really after, whether he realizes it or not.
Sure, as long as it realizes that those are the stakes, and I think it does.
One thing Shannon Knapp repeats every single time I talk to her is that she has no interest in holding onto fighters with restrictive contracts. She wants them to want to be in Invicta, and right now they do. Even if the 135-pounders want to be there because it’s a good place to audition for a roster spot with the UFC, Invicta can work with that. It can sell fans on the promise that they’re watching tomorrow’s UFC contenders today, and sell fighters on its working relationship with the UFC.
Even if that means 135-pound fights are in short supply at Invicta events, that’s fine. There are still four other divisions to book. Since the UFC is still in the process of incorporating female bantamweights into the schedule ever so slowly, I think it’s going to be a while before the atomweights get the call.
First of all, is it possible you might be a little biased, Mr. Dolce? Second, yes, Chael Sonnen acquitted himself well as a coach on this season of “TUF.” But really, should that surprise anyone? This is the guy who’s a volunteer youth wrestling coach in his spare time. I know some people see the swaggering TV persona and can’t imagine that this guy could be capable of having a rational conversation, but anybody who’s seen him when the cameras are off knows better.
Of course Sonnen is a good coach. Of course he’s an effective motivator. Of course he didn’t pull a “Rampage” Jackson and spend his entire “TUF” stint devising pranks and sleeping on the mats. He’s still got some competition in the “Coach of the Year” department (a year consists of more than a few months of reality TV, and like my man Aristotle said, one swallow doesn’t make a spring), but he did set a good example for next season’s coaches to follow.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie.com and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.com.