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#UFC Fight Night 55 #Fabricio Werdum #UFC 217 #Marcin Tybura #GSP #Michael Bisping


In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, is the UFC middleweight champ really considering retiring, or just playing us for a few extra pay-per-view buys? Plus, is the UFC Fight Night 117 headliner the weakest in recent memory? And should we care why someone failed a drug test, or is it the fighter’s responsibility to test clean no matter what?

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

I believe that multiple people in Michael Bisping’s life are telling him to retire after the Georges St-Pierre fight, and why wouldn’t they?

He’ll be 39 in a few months. He’s taken a lot of damage over the course of his very memorable career. And the other top 185-pounders who are gunning for his spot? They are a group of terrifying individuals. If Bisping wins this fight and has to defend his UFC middleweight belt against actual UFC middleweight contenders, there’s no way he doesn’t end up in tougher fights for less money than he’ll make at UFC 217.

If there was a time to take the money and run, brother, it’s now.

But Bisping’s savvy enough to know a good sales angle when he sees one. He knows that a large number of MMA fans always want to see him get beat up, which is why he’s teasing retirement now. He wants those people to think that soon they won’t have Michael Bisping to kick around anymore, so they better pay their money and enjoy this last ride.

Will he really do it? I have my doubts. Bisping is a stubborn and fiercely competitive person, which is a big part of how he’s made it this far in his career. If he beats GSP, could he admit to himself that he’s better off not testing himself against the likes of Bobby Knuckles? Could he turn down that one extra payday? Could he walk away as the middleweight champ who never defended his title against a single middleweight contender?

Seems like he’s spent his whole career trying to get to this very spot. I have a hard time believing he’ll give it up without being forcibly ejected.

That’s easy: Elias Theodorou, who also happens to be one of my favorite fighters on social media. You’re telling me you don’t want to see a polite Canadian roll in there with his wavy locks and put the hurt on some Twitter troll who way overreacted to his reasonable opinions? Of course you do. Watching him kick the Mtn Dew out of an online hater would be pay-per-view material.

That is one thing that might hurt interest in the Bisping-GSP fight. When Luke Rockhold said that St-Pierre wouldn’t fight any top middleweights even if he does win, it had the ring of truth. And Bisping is already talking about getting out, win or lose, after UFC 217.

So how excited are we supposed to get for a middleweight title fight that might end up meaning nothing at all for the middleweight division?

If you ask me who you’d have to beat to become the top middleweight in the world right now, without question I say it’s Robert Whittaker. But if his interim title morphs into the real thing just because no actual champ will fight him, that’s bound to feel a little anti-climactic.

If it’s not, it’ll do until the weakest gets here. But let’s be honest, it’s not like any of us were that heartbroken to hear that Ovince Saint Preux vs. Mauricio Rua II was off. That rematch made no sense and mattered not at all to the light heavyweight division. It was an attempt to throw the Japanese fans a bone.

Hey, you guys used to like “Shogun,” right? Well here he is again, held together by duct tape and chewing gum, back to fight for your nostalgic pleasure.

Is it really so much different to go from Rua to a hometown figure like Yushin Okami? Yes, the fight itself is silly and doesn’t mean much. (The UFC decided Okami wasn’t worth keeping as a middleweight, and now he’s back as a light heavyweight?) Then again, the fight it’s replacing was silly and didn’t mean much, albeit for different reasons. It might be weak, but at least it’s not here in place of something strong.

The changes to the USADA rules announced earlier this year make it easier for replacement fighters to slide in without a long testing period, which seems both practical and about as fair as it can realistically be. If you need a replacement on six days’ notice, you’re probably going to have to go outside the UFC to find one. If the USADA policy didn’t allow for that possibility at all, we’d seen even more canceled fights.

Does it open the door to potential dopers sliding into a fight without having faced the same vetting their opponents did? Sure. But if you know you’ve been doping and getting away with it thanks to minimal or even non-existent testing in another organization, and you also know that USADA will be waiting for you in the UFC, wouldn’t that make you less likely to accept a short-notice fight? You won’t have time to clean out your system, and even if you get through the fight before getting popped, then you’re faced with a long suspension.

It’s not a perfect system, but when you take into account the practical realities at work, it seems like a reasonable compromise.

Sure, no problem. When I’m done with it, should I go ahead and solve crime next? How about unhappiness?

Look, we can’t set the bar for anti-doping success at complete eradication. We will never get there. As long as steroids work and winning fighters earn more money than losing ones (whether in the short or the long term), someone will be willing to take the risk.

The best we can hope for is that the testing is good enough and the punishments strong enough to act as a deterrent. I suspect that’s already happened to some extent. I’m sure somewhere out there is a UFC fighter who would have doped, who seriously considered it, but decided that the chances of being caught were too great, and the consequences too severe to make it worth it.

If we get to a point where no one is getting caught, we shouldn’t take that as a sign that the battle has been won. We should take it as a sign that the testing probably isn’t working.

First of all, GSP’s been out of the sport for that long, but not out of the public eye. In a way, it feels like he’s been back in our lives for at least a year now, because he wouldn’t stop talking about this fight while he was on the very slow train to Comebacktown. If you gave Conor McGregor a year to talk before fighting, I feel like he’d do just fine. So would Ronda Rousey, I expect.

But it is worth wondering how the former “king of pay-per-view” will draw in his return. This feels like a different era for the UFC. It’s the era where “money fight” came into our lexicon. It’s when we learned that shirts are actually optional at press conferences, and energy drink cans are pretty aerodynamic.

Can you still be the star of the show as the clean-cut French-Canadian who’s super polite to the point of being kind of boring? And what if St-Pierre loses, which is a real possibility going up a weight class after such an extended layoff? Will a lot of newer fans just write him off as someone who used to be good according to a bunch of old fogies?

The good news is, right now the UFC doesn’t have a whole lot else planned for the coming months. If you want in on a big fight, you’ve pretty much got to show up for this one. So at least the payday should be worth it.

Is it too late to get Brian Stann back? Could we sprint to the train station just in time and run along the platform, shouting at him that we can change before we run face first into a pole?

Then again, I guess it depends what we want out of a president. Dana White has his flaws, but for many years he also had the virtues of his faults. Those media scrums he used to do after press conferences? Those were so popular precisely because he was so unguarded, so free with the news nuggets, so likely to say something worth reporting. That’s the upside of the same personality defect that leads to him getting on Twitter and telling his customers that they’re fat, ugly idiots.

But White was definitely what the UFC needed for a long time. He was a loud, bombastic carnival barker who could shepherd people into the tent when the show was about to start. And maybe the UFC still needs that more than it needs a buttoned-up professional-type like Stann, but you don’t see White doing nearly as much of it. These days it’s not even a given that he’ll show up to his own events.

I pick Demian Maia, for sure. Because if I get choked out by Maia, at least I can go tell the story to all my jiu-jitsu buddies and maybe even trick them into buying me lunch in the process. If I get flattened out by Rockhold, I might end up drinking that lunch through a straw.

Definitely the best boxing movie, one of the best sports movies, even one of the best biopics. How could it not be? It’s a Martin Scorsese film about a tragic figure, and it’s got Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in it. The death of Jake LaMotta is as good an excuse as any to go back and watch it. If you’d prefer to do some reading, I’d also recommend this story on LaMotta.

I’m old enough to remember when Carlos Condit said he was unsure of his future due to concerns about head trauma, so it’s tough to be totally enthusiastic about seeing him come back for more. Still, Condit’s so much fun to watch. If he feels up to it, how can I not get hyped to see him jump back into the fire?

Who he should fight is a tough question, though. You look around the welterweight class and you see a lot of young hitters who’d love a chance to make their name off a potentially rusty Condit. That’d be a little depressing, even if the cannibalization of yesterday’s heroes is something of a sad tradition in combat sports. Plus, Condit has fought most of the guys at or near the top, so what else can you do with him if he really wants to fight within a few months?

Just saying, if the MMA gods won’t give us Mike Perry vs. Robbie Lawler, then “Platinum Mike” vs. The NBK would be a very acceptable substitute.

For the most part, yes, I agree. But if we can do so with a reasonable degree of certainty, it is worth the effort to distinguish the intentional dopers from the careless pill and supplement-takers. That’s especially true when the supplement industry is so unregulated that you could conceivably buy a new batch of the same product you took without incident six months ago and still end up with banned substances in your system. It doesn’t make you blameless, but it also doesn’t quite make you a cheat.

For more on MMA’s upcoming schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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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