Do you know what today is? Well, yes, it is the Fourth of July, which is kind of a big deal here in the USofA. But it’s also your two-day warning for UFC 162, so this week’s Twitter Mailbag is bursting with questions about Saturday night’s showdown between UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva and challenger Chris Weidman.
You expected that, if you have any sense at all, but did you also expect discussions on the real economic impact of removing UFC bonuses, or on whether Eddie Alvarez would be better off dropping his lawsuit and going back to work for Bellator?
Maybe you did. Probably. Either way, this week’s TMB features all that and much more, so get in here and face the pain. Of course, you can always ask your own question on Twitter @BenFowlkesMMA, as well.
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Judging by how many people are acting like Weidman is already the champ, yeah, I’d say the UFC has done a great job promoting this fight. In one corner we have the most dominant champion in UFC history, and probably the greatest MMA fighter of all time – definitely the best middleweight of all time. In the other we have a guy with nine pro fights who’s been on the sidelines for the past year, and yet somehow the UFC has convinced us that he almost, kind of, sort of deserves to be the favorite. That’s not easy to do. The UFC has pulled it off in part by insisting that Weidman is a “nightmare” style matchup for Silva. Weidman’s like a younger, faster, more dangerous Chael Sonnen, we’re told. And just look at how well Sonnen did against Silva. You know, right up until he lost. Twice.
I guess that’s what you have to do with a champ like Silva. He’s been so dominant for so long, the only way to sell any new challenger as a serious threat is by grasping for a few straws here and there. That’s not to say Weidman’s an easy fight for Silva. I can’t think of another middleweight I’d rather see Silva defend his title against right now, and besides, the champ is 38 years old. At that age, nothing’s a given. Not even for Silva. But if he wins this fight and the next one for him isn’t Georges St-Pierre or Jon Jones, then UFC President Dana White is going to start to look like the boy who cried superfight.
That’s got to be the main concern with Weidman. That, and his general lack of experience, which in turn probably only exacerbates the problem of ring rust (or “cage corrosion,” as Mauro Ranallo would say). Some fighters can take a year off and jump right back in with no problem. Is Weidman one of those guys? We don’t know, because he’s never done it before. The longest he’s gone between fights is about six months, and even then he wasn’t fighting anyone with Silva’s speed, accuracy and impeccable timing when he made his return.
That’s the other thing that should give us a reason to pump the brakes on the Weidman hype. I hear a lot of people touting his combination of wrestling skills and finishing ability, but I don’t see them putting those finishes in the proper perspective. Up to this point, Weidman’s toughest opponent by far is Mark Munoz. He looked fantastic in that fight (though, in fairness, Munoz looked pretty un-fantastic, if that’s even a word), but it’s still just one fight. The fact that he also finished Tom Lawlor and Jesse “Water” Bongfeldt somehow doesn’t mean as much to me. Again, I still think Weidman deserves to be the top contender, but that doesn’t mean I’m drinking the Kool-Aid just because a bunch of fighters say he has a better chance than the dudes who had no chance. Could he win? Absolutely. But this is Anderson Silva we’re talking about. Unless he’s aged a decade or two since the last time we saw him, he’s going to be a tough night of work for anyone.
I wouldn’t say I’m bothered by the UFC Hall of Fame; I’d say I’m indifferent. The only thing that bothers me is when people act like it’s a real hall of fame that should be taken seriously, when it clearly isn’t. Instead it’s a glorified company appreciation wall where Dana White and the other Zuffa executives celebrate the fighters they like and ignore the ones they don’t. I totally get why White would want Stephan Bonnar in his hall of fame. His explanation this week made perfect sense, at least when you consider it from White’s perspective. But when White said, “I’m going to put him in the f—ing hall of fame with Forrest,” he essentially told us that the UFC HOF belongs to him, so screw what the rest of us think. That’s fine. That’s the UFC’s prerogative. But there’s a reason no legit hall of fame that anyone actually cares about works that way.
Even without the bonuses, there’s still an incentive (you did mean to type incentive, right?) to be exciting in the UFC. Exciting fighters have more fans, make more money in the long run, and usually enjoy greater job security. That said, if there’s no longer a chance to pocket an extra $50,000 for a great knockout, submission, or just a good all-around scrap, yeah, I could see how that might make some fighters a little more conservative. Still, while White’s talk about removing bonuses came off more as a frustrated outburst than a carefully considered business decision, I don’t think it’d necessarily be a bad thing for fighters. Not if that bonus money would really end up being rerouted to the fighters lower down on the payscale, as White suggested.
Think about it: How often do the bonuses go to prelim fighters in the first place? It happens, sure, but usually only when they put on uncommonly spectacular performances (or when the main-card fighters put on decidedly unspectacular ones). Generally, it seems like the bonus money is more likely to end up in the hands of the fighters who need it the least, so redistributing that cash around at the bottom would actually be a pretty great thing for the up-and-comers still trying to make ends meet. Right now the UFC gives out $200,000 per event in bonus money. If instead it added $20,000 to the show money of the bottom 10 fighters on each card, imagine the difference that would make in their lives. Of course, higher starting salaries would lead to higher salaries for established fighters and contenders, which is one reason why I think this is more threat than promise from White, though I don’t see any reason for fighters to feel like it would be such a bad deal. Personally, I’d rather know what I stand to make before I start work – not what I could possibly make if the wind blows the right way.
It’s got to be the women’s 135-pound division. Like flyweight, there are still too few fighters there for any build-up to a title shot to take too long. All you have to do is a win a couple fights (or rounds, if you’re Miesha Tate), spout off at the mouth about how you’re the one to stop Ronda Rousey, and you’re in. Whether you’ll still think it was a good idea once you’re finally in the cage with Rousey, that’s a different question.
Now that we have a sense of how long Eddie Alvarez might have to wait for some resolution to his legal battle with Bellator and Viacom, I wouldn’t blame him if he gave in and took the Bellator deal just so he could get back to work. I would be a tiny bit disappointed, though, because this seems like an important stand to make, not just for Alvarez but for MMA fighters in general, who are too often scared away by the mere threat of legal action from a promoter.
I’d like to see this case resolved, if only to see what a court of law thinks about these wacky MMA contracts that decide men’s futures. Is Bellator’s promise of a pay-per-view cut equal to the UFC’s? Is exposure on Spike TV equal to exposure on FOX and its associated cable TV channels? Are all these promises similarly worthless if they aren’t guaranteed? I’d love to know, though I wouldn’t blame Alvarez if he decided that his family’s future was more important than satisfying our curiosity and/or leading a charge for fighters’ rights that costs him the best years of his career.
As for whether this whole thing is worth the hit Bellator has taken in the eyes of fans and fighters for keeping one its own out of action with a protracted legal battle, absolutely not. It never has been, and that will be true no matter how it ends.
Are you talking about when he said that to reporters on Monday, or when he completely reversed himself on Tuesday? At this point, I think we all know that we can’t expect straight answers out of Silva. Whether it’s because he loves to “f— with the media,” as White says, or because he’s playing his cards close to the vest on the issue of superfights in general, you can come to your own conclusion. My guess is that you don’t get to be Anderson Silva in the first place if you’re worried about getting beaten up in a fight.
I think Silva would prefer GSP. According to Dana White, that might be because he’d prefer to face the smaller man first rather than going up in weight and then way back down. That makes sense. If I could only choose one, I’d rather see Silva vs. Jones. At this point, though, I’d settle for either just so we can quit talking about it.
First of all, the fight is at featherweight, so that’s Sean Shelby’s territory – not Joe Silva’s. The UFC’s matchmakers split the roster in half, with Silva taking 155 pounds and up and Shelby taking 145 pounds and down, including the women’s 135-pound division.
Second, I see what you’re saying, but Frankie Edgar is riding a three-fight losing streak. Historically, the more fights you lose, the lower down the rung of potential opponents you move. I agree that he should beat Charles Oliveira (Edgar’s currently about a 5-1 favorite, so oddsmakers agree as well), but it’s hard for me to get outraged at the pairing. This is the one Edgar has to win to prove there’s still some good fighting left in him. If he can’t come out on top here, we’ll know he’s in trouble.
If I can send absolutely anybody, I send Jon Jones (or Iron Man, if I can send fictional characters). If I have to send a middleweight, hell, I guess I send Chris Weidman and then ready the tanks at the border, just in case.
But as much as I respect King Silva and his willingness to settle international disputes via single combat, it’s possible that he hasn’t thought through this proposed invasion of the country that spends about 200 times more on its military than Brazil does. Just saying, the U.S. might not stand a chance in a soccer match or even a nation-vs.-nation jiu-jitsu tournament, but we’re actually really, seriously, almost cripplingly into guns and bombs and stuff. It’s kind of our thing, for better or worse.
And on that note, happy Fourth of July, everybody. Stay safe out there.
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.