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Twitter Mailbag: Is Jon Jones now the biggest screw-up in MMA history?

Who’s the biggest screw-up in MMA history? Who was really being represented when an MMA fighter took on a boxer? And now that the circus is over, what actual MMA fight are we most looking forward to in the month ahead?

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

* * * *

First of all, let’s examine what we mean by “(expletive) up,” and what it would really take to claim the top spot in a sport that has produced multiple felons, some of whom will likely spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Does committing horrible crimes against others make you a (expletive) up? Because if so, War Machine is definitely a frontrunner for the all-time title. Are we looking at the sheer scale of your (expletive) up? Because if that’s the case, how about Lee Murray being the alleged mastermind behind the biggest cash heist in history? Are we going for sheer dirtbag points? Then you have to at least mention former UFC heavyweight champ and vet Ricco Rodriguez and his “Celebrity Rehab” story about dragging what he thought was his girlfriend’s dead body into the driver’s seat of a car he wrecked, all to avoid punishment.

But I suspect that what Joe Rogan was talking about was the fighter who had done the most to squander immense talent with unforced errors outside the cage. And since Jon Jones has arguably the most talent to begin with, and since he may have just ruled himself ineligible for up to four years, yeah, it’s hard to argue with Rogan’s characterization.

As far as who comes in second by that metric, I’m tempted to say it’s Drew Fickett, whose list of (expletive) ups is pretty extensive. Everyone who ever trained with or fought him talks about him like his raw talent was almost limitless, but he did his best to sabotage almost every big opportunity he ever got. He went to jail instead of going on “The Ultimate Fighter.” He showed up to fight drunk. He got himself kicked out of the UFC on a win.

Did he have as much talent to squander as Jones does? Maybe not. But the thing that gets him on this list is that we never really got a chance to find out.

A little bit of all three, but in different amounts. The main entity that Conor McGregor represented in the ring this past Saturday night was himself. It was his personal brand on the line more than any other, and he represented it surprisingly well, considering the circumstances and the expectations.

He lost, but didn’t get embarrassed. He took it well and showed off the charisma that’s helped make him a star. If you showed up to watch this without any idea who he was or why he was famous, you probably went away feeling like you understood the appeal, at least a little.

But whether or not he wanted to, he was also representing the sport and the UFC. If he’d proven to be a feeble boxer, plenty of people would have used that to disparage the striking skills of all MMA fighters. If he’d gone and got himself disqualified with too many hammerfists to the back of the head, stories the next day would have focused on what thugs these UFC fighters were.

Instead, McGregor managed to put up a decent fight in someone else’s world. And it’s not like there are too many top boxers aching to try the same thing in reverse right now.

“Intriguing” is a very nice way of putting it. One week after a boxing mega fight that may or may not have shattered pay-per-view records, the UFC returns with Stefan Struve vs. Alexander Volkov in a fight that features nearly 14 combined feet of humanity competing for unclear stakes.

Is this a contender fight? Not really. Is it the setup to a contender fight? Maybe, if some of the guys higher up the list aren’t available. Will the current champ even care enough to fire up his UFC Fight Pass and watch it? Possibly, assuming he’s not fighting fires that day.

Basically the only reason it’s a main event is because the event is in Rotterdam and Struve is a local. Beyond that, and the sheer tonnage of humanity that will occupy the same cage at the same time, I can’t say there’s anything special going on here.

You’re joking, but you’re also not wrong. Right about the time I saw a boxer make his entrance while cosplaying as Grimace, I was reminded of all the weirdness that’s possible when you’re not hemmed in by Reebok fight kits. It made me miss the old days when Akihiro Gono could dress his cornermen up in evening gowns and Rich Franklin could show up looking like a damn ice cream cone.

Plus, I think we can agree that McGregor’s decision to have his cornermen all look like old-timey barbers ready to whip out the hot towels and straight razors was undeniably awesome. How are they supposed to go back to the Reebok jumpsuits after that? How are any of us?

Honestly? You probably could have convinced me that Clay Guida and Joe Lauzon did fight each other five years ago.

For all we know, it might be Joanna Jedrzejczyk herself who moves up and takes that women’s 125-pound belt from the eventual “TUF 26” winner. The thing that makes it hard to predict the future of that division is the fact that it was created so long after the two on either side of it. You had women fighting up or down a weight class from where they might be best suited, all because it was the only way to get into the UFC. Now this door is being opened, and it’s tough to say who’ll walk through it.

If I had to pick an early favorite, however, it’d probably be Barb Honchak, who held the 125-pound title in Invicta FC until an extended absence. If she can come back as good as she left, she’ll be tough to beat.

There are definitely more meaningful fights on the schedule, but man, Mike Perry vs. Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night 116 has violence written all over it. Should be a fitting appetizer for the UFC debut of Gokhan Saki the following weekend.

It’s still too early to make too many sweeping assessments of WME-IMG’s purchase and whether it got in at the right time or price. Remember, it’s only been a little over a year since the sale. So far, we can’t say we’ve seen too many changes instituted by WME, apart from all the layoffs and the elimination of those cushy do-nothing jobs for retired star fighters.

The lack of pay-per-view draws ought to be somewhat concerning, but that well has a way of replenishing itself when given the right opportunity and environment. I’d be more worried about the potential legal and regulatory issues on the horizon. The UFC is only a few key lawsuits and/or legislative changes away from having its whole business model upended. Then there’s no telling what comes next.

I’m still unclear on what it would mean for McGregor to co-promote a UFC fight. Giving him equity in the company, sure, that’s simple enough, especially now that ownership shares are spread all over the place.

Putting his name on the canvas, as he did with the Mayweather fight? That seems like a play to his ego, especially because the company being promoted there – McGregor Sports and Entertainment – doesn’t actually appear to be doing anything else right now, at least as far as we can tell.

But playing to his ego, one way or another, is probably going to have to be part of the UFC’s attempt to lure him back. He needs to feel like he is taking a step forward rather than back, like he’s returning as a conqueror rather than just another wage-earner in the lesser-paying of the two major combat sports. And there’s only so much money the UFC can pay him and still turn a profit.

You’re preaching to the choir there, Molly. I guess it must be the same reason you can clinch and it’s an automatic sign that the ref needs to get involved. Compared to MMA, boxing is the sport that stops the fight right when it’s about to enter an interesting new phase. Let it give us an appreciation of what we have, even when it gets weird.

If I were going to pick the next MMA fighter to make a big, immediate splash in boxing, would I pick Jose Aldo – the guy known for his kicks and his somewhat flat personality? No, I can’t say that I would.

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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