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#UFC 218 #Conor McGregor #Francis Ngannou #Alistair Overeem #UFC 217 #Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux #Stipe Miocic #Max Holloway #GSP


Is UFC 217 getting the promotional push the card deserves? Say we end up with a new UFC middleweight champ, then what? And just how far-fetched is it to think that Bellator could one day become the second Scott Coker-led venture to be acquired by the UFC?

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

Outside of the Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre Public Shoving Tour 2017, I haven’t seen a ton of promotion for the event in general, which surprises me.

This ought to be a big event for the UFC. The return of GSP at Madison Square Garden? Fighting to become a two-division champ? And on the same card as two other title fights, one of which in (Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw) may be the best pure talent matchup that we’ll see all year? That should feel like a huge deal. A little over a week out, the hype should be inescapable.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I feel that. If you’re in the MMA bubble and reading all the usual websites, sure, you see stories and videos about the two headliners. You even see some about the other two title fights if you’re really paying attention.

As for a hard push outside the bubble, I don’t see it. You could hardly draw breath on this planet without knowing about Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor weeks before it happened. But the former “king of pay-per-view” returns to the sport he dominated after four years away, and it almost feels like the UFC can’t be bothered to get out there and make a case for our money.

Is it complacency? Entitlement? Have the powers that be concluded that all the people who care to know about this event already do? Are they waiting for fight week to power up the big spotlight? I don’t know. But if I were counting on pocketing a piece of that pay-per-view, it might concern me just a little bit. If I were one of the champions getting almost ignored outside the main event, it might even piss me off.

Hahahahahahaha, no. Have you seen how much trouble the UFC has keeping regular old fight cards together? Injuries and illnesses and weigh-in disasters and day-of withdrawals. A one-night tournament is like packing all those usual troubles into a phone booth and then also adding a hive of angry bees. Nobody down at UFC headquarters wants that stress.

Whoa there. Let’s take this one step at a time. If St-Pierre beats Bisping, then he’s the UFC middleweight champ, and with a pack of hungry contenders waiting in line to get at him. How deeply unsatisfying would it be for him to decide, you know what, he’s actually all done being middleweight champ now?

I know it’s what some people (including Luke Rockhold) expect, but it would also make this whole thing feel like a pointless waste of time. So, what, we’re supposed to then turn around and get excited about seeing him face Tyron Woodley? Not bloody likely.

But then there’s the Irish elephant in the room. You can’t pay any sort of attention to how the UFC does business in 2017 and not at least consider the possibility of a GSP vs. Conor McGregor fight at some point down the road. It’s silly and sort of illogical, but when you have two pay-per-view stars within 30 pounds of each other, you don’t have to be a UFC accountant to see the potential value in throwing them in a cage together.

But what would they fight over, exactly? Bragging rights? The UFC equivalent of “The Money Belt”? At what point would fans rebel against this just-to-get-into-your-wallet matchmaking? And even if that point never comes, fights like that don’t lead anywhere. It’s just a one-off cash grab that leaves you lost and searching for the next payday.

For St-Pierre, the problem for the moment is Bisping. In a lot of ways, his future options open up more with a loss. Because if he wins and doesn’t defend the belt next, it’s going to get harder to convince us that he came back to do anything that matters.

Must I restrict myself to UFC history? Because I’m enough of a mark for the late-2000s era of MMA to still feel like Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko is the one that got away. Then again, I also still remember the year of the superfight that never was, so GSP vs. Anderson Silva feels like a lingering promise unfulfilled.

But if I can really do anything, and just treat the entire history of the UFC roster like my personal video game? Give me Jon Jones vs. (sea-level) Cain Velasquez. And when Velasquez pulls out of the fight injured, go ahead and sub in pre-diverticulitis Brock Lesnar.

For me, almost as important as who the documentary is on is who makes it and why. Is it a vanity project to cater to some fighter’s ego? Is it a glorified commercial produced by his management? Or is it a truly honest and independent effort made by a real filmmaker?

If someone with that kind of focus and access and determination were to follow Jon Jones around during these tumultuous years, I’d be the first in line when the movie came out.

Michael Page is a whole lot of fun to watch, but his focus in MMA and now boxing seems to be finding opponents against whom he can be at his most fun. That makes for great highlights, and I’ll watch the GIFs of the finishes along with everyone else, but don’t expect me to act like it means anything.

As long as the UFC is in court on antitrust claims, purchasing its most significant competitor would probably be a bad idea. Which is not to say that it could never, ever happen. The NFL got around antitrust laws by working with a players association, and the current lawsuit against the UFC has very similar goals. You could even argue that a fighters association becomes more workable with one major organization than with two.

Would that result in a better product for fans and/or better working conditions for fighters? Maybe. But if you’re the UFC right now, you might feel like you can sit back and wait Bellator out and see how long its parent company Viacom wants to keep plugging away at the maddening business of MMA.

A new spine. Can I borrow yours?

Him and plenty of others, but how are you going to stop him if he wants to keep at it? Fortunately, Artem Lobov seems to be at least considering the possibility of retirement, or so he says when he’s not considering a boxing match with He Who Shall Not Be Named.

A lot of times, these retirements are like break-ups. Mentioning the possibility out loud is the first step, but it usually doesn’t mean you’re there yet. Also like break-ups, sometimes it takes a few tries to really make it stick.

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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