The MMA soap opera of the moment seems to be whether or not Mirko Cro Cop has left the UFC to sign with DREAM. UFC President Dana White says he did; a translation of a Croatian newspaper story says he did not.
One day in the near future we'll know the truth, but lost in the shuffle of whether or not White got screwed is Todd Duffee.
"Who is Todd Duffee?" you might ask.
Duffee is the UFC heavyweight who was originally scheduled to make his octagon debut and fight Mostapha Al-Turk at UFC 99 before Cro Cop made his ill-fated comeback text to White just about a month before the event. How official was the Duffee-Al Turk fight? UFC had it listed on its website, a step the company does not usually take until fights are signed.
On short notice, White was not able to sign Cro Cop to a written contract, and they did a deal verbally -- a mistake that eventually led to the current chaos. Perhaps in the confusion and activity, less than two weeks before the scheduled fight, Duffee still hadn't been informed that he'd been replaced on the card, telling MMAForReal.com, "As far as I'm concerned I'm still scheduled to fight on the card in Germany. I'm still in preparation for this June 13th fight against Mostapha."
Just a few days later, we all found out that Cro Cop was indeed back in the UFC fold -- however temporarily -- and would be replacing Duffee in fighting Al-Turk. Keep in mind, most of the time fighters are replaced on a card, it's because they are hurt. Duffee was fine; he was just the victim of a rare circumstance. In some ways you can't blame White for wanting to spice up the heavyweight portion of the card after Heath Herring was forced to bow out due to sickness.
But even still, if anyone has a legit gripe, it is Todd Duffee.
The fight game is always succeptible to scheduling issues, but Duffee deserves a lot of credit for handling himself professionally by not voicing any anger with the last-minute switch. After going through weeks of training and preparation, he had every reason to be boiling with disappointment, but we've heard nary a peep from him, other than a few message board posts which essentially said, "Oh well, stuff happens."
Duffee likely has his eye on the bigger picture. Of course he will get another chance on MMA's grand stage, though American Top Team General Manager Richie Guerriero told FanHouse that nothing is yet scheduled.
But you can bet that as he watched the events of the last 48 hours unfold, he imagined himself in the action and how things would be different had it been him in the cage against Al-Turk.
He probably pictured himself knocking out Al-Turk in a more dominant fashion, getting his hand raised and getting a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan in which he would declare his own authentic intention to make a run at the UFC heavyweight title.
White will probably admit he made a mistake by not signing Cro Cop to an official deal. He took Cro Cop at his word, and then apparently found out that sometimes better deals come along ... which is essentially what happened to Duffee
So what we are left with is Cro Cop in a state of purgatory, Al-Turk pondering an appeal of an eye poke during the fight, White angry at the whole mess that ensued, and a legion of fans who have no idea what just happened.
Todd Duffee? He's still waiting for his chance.