Just when you thought this week couldn't get any stranger …
By Friday afternoon, it seemed like things had settled down. Over the course of the past five days, we had the UFC implement a new bonus structure; the Jessica Eye saga played out; Ronda Rousey told Jon Jones she's "owed" help; someone named Patrick Cummins went from barista to PPV co-main evener; Dana White went on television to say one of his fighters is hiding from a fellow heavyweight; there was a raucous Las Vegas media lunch with White and local reporters; and on and on and on.
Fightweets was finished and ready to go in our content entry system. Given that it's 80 degrees and sunny here in Los Angeles (sorry/not sorry to my friends back East), I snuck out for a quick hike at Griffith Park.
Maybe the fact I spotted Manny Gamburyan doing hill work while I went out to clear my head should have been an omen. But by the time I was done, word broke that former Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez has come to a deal with Bellator, and that the UFC retains matching rights.
And with that, on to a whole new version of Fightweets …
@TheRealBrandonA: The fact remains that the best lightweights in the world are in the UFC. Beyond the top two, Bellator is second rate.
No doubt UFC can shake off the loss of Melendez fairly easy, given the lightweight division's depth. But Melendez is a different case from others who have been in similar positions. He came into the UFC as the reigning Strikeforce champion, on a seven-fight win streak which included two victories over Josh Thomson, as well as Shinya Aoki. Melendez was jobbed in a title fight against Ben Henderson, then went out and put on a Fight of the Year contender performance against Diego Sanchez. Unlike Quinton Jackson jumping to Bellator, or for that matter, even back when Dan Henderson jumped over to Strikeforce, Melendez is at worst the No. 2 fighter in his division. If Melendez jumps, there's no trying to float the notion he can't hang with the big guys this time.
And if he does jump, guess what? Bellator will have three of the world's Top 10 lightweights in Melendez, Eddie Alvarez, and Michael Chandler. This means Bellator would have the strongest division in a non-UFC company since the pre-Zuffa Strikeforce heavyweight division, which had the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Bigfoot Silva, and so on.
If you remember the WEC (as most of us so fondly do), it really only takes three to tango in a division. Henderson, Jamie Varner, and Donald Cerrone tangled with one another in an exciting series of matches in which they all elevated one another's games and took each other to the next level. Melendez, Alvarez, and Chandler can do the same.
@christoper_kit As a fan, want to see the best fighters in the same place, he waited so long to get into the UFC as well.
I get what you're saying. But as a father, Melendez is raising a daughter and has to think about what's in his family's best interests. He knows he can't fight forever.
And this is, after all, a business (As an aside, can we never again hear the words "UFC" and "monopoly" without "is not a" in between? A $40 billion conglomerate is poised to take one of the world's two best lightweights away from the "monopoly"). All the UFC has to do in order to retain Melendez's services is pay him what the open market has dictated he's worth. There's no "right" or "wrong" here, just the free market in action.
@RuckerYeah: Are we actually supposed to believe Overeem is afraid of JDS? Get real, Dana.
For those who missed it, White went onto UFC Tonight on Wednesday, floated the idea that Alistair Overeem wanted no part of Junior dos Santos, and said that Melendez should "start looking elsewhere," a quote which looks a lot more interesting now with hindsight. Then on Thursday, White had an interesting couple hours with reporters in his office, which Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports did a fine job summarizing.
Given the UFC prez's sudden habit of badmouthing the guys who need to be turned into headliners if the company is going to page in this maybe-post-Georges St-Pierre-and-Anderson Silva era, maybe the best bet in the short run would be for Lorenzo Fertitta to hand White a plane ticket to a tropical island for a week or two's worth of vacation and confiscate his flip phone and laptop until he gets back.
Anyway, Overeem has 65 professional fights under his belt, including 14 kickboxing matches. He's been in there with everyone from Peter Aerts to Bada Hari to Tyron Spong to Chuck Liddell to Big Nog to Little Nog to "Shogun" Rua to Vitor Belfort to Mark Hunt to Fabricio Werdum to Bigfoot Silva. I think it's pretty safe to say Overeem isn't running from anyone. He's fought four times in the UFC, twice against former champions, once against a guy who had a title shot and the other against a fighter who is one win away from a title shot. Three of those fights were finishes. Sorry, Dana, but we're not buying that Alistair Overeem is afraid of a fight.
Patrick Cummins to the rescue
@ReeseLeonard: Is there really more upside to DC vs Cummins than DC vs Chael? A dangerous unknown, who also won't sell PPV's.
Actually, Daniel Cormier vs. Chael Sonnen would have been mostly downside. Props to The Bad Guy as always for being willing to step up after injury forced Rashad Evans out of his UFC 170 fight with Cormier, but there's too much riding on TUF: Brazil and a big-money fight with Wanderlei Silva to pull Sonnen away in the middle of the tapings and get squashed yet again.
As for Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins, I'm somewhat intrigued. On paper, this sort of comes off like Gegard Mousasi vs. Ilir Latifi 2. And the fact that Cummins' four opponents have a combined record of somewhere between 9-19 and 9-21 (depending on whose fight tracker you are using) doesn't exactly bolster his cause. But, you know what? At one point in his career, Cormier himself was also a prospect with impressive wrestling credentials and 4-0 record. And DC knocked out Antonio Silva just two years after his pro debut.
Cormier wanted to fight on this card and didn't want his first cut down to light heavyweight to go to waste. Cummins comes from a solid wrestling background, might be legit, has a history with Cormier, and has the chance to make himself a star in one night. The chance this fight turns into something awful is real, but still, there's enough going on here to interest me in seeing what happens.
@OliverAshe: What was Jessica Eye's strategy? Did she not think people would find out eventually!
Your guess is as good as mine. If anything, we in the MMA world have tended to make sympathetic figures out of those ensnared by marijuana-related commission issues. It was ridiculous that we lost Nick Diaz in his prime for nearly a year due to weed, and just as ridiculous that Pat Healy lost out on what looked to be his biggest career payday simply because he smoked a joint at a party a month before his fight. Based on the reactions to both Diaz and Healy, if Eye had been honest, chances are near 100 percent the community would have rallied around her.
But no. The Texas commission -- the one that had the first death under unified rules occur on its watch, the one that licensed boxer Antonio Margarito when he was still under California suspension for illegal hand wraps, the one whose doctor looked at dos Santos and proclaimed him fit to resume taking a brutal beating from Cain Velasquez -- deserves some of the blame. Texas shrouds its test results in mystery, thus making this a bigger deal than it ever would have been. It's also worth noting that a state which does so much posturing about lack of government interference in people's lives catches athletes for 15 ng/ML of cannabis, far lower than the general standard of 60 or Nevada's permissive 150. Eye tested at 16, enough for the government to get on her case in the "freedom" state when she wouldn't have in most other places.
But I digress. This is ultimately on Eye. I don't know what she was thinking. Maybe it's a simple as thinking she'd get away with it. We in the MMA media might not exactly be a Mensa convention, but if you're going to be this flagrant about insulting our intelligence, well, I mean, when was the last time you heard anything from Juanito Ibarro?
@Elcujorino: I think MMA writers need to address the common practice of leaving females off the P4P list. Rousey is clearly a top 5 fighter
Well, here's the thing with that. Most places which do pound-for-pound rankings -- including here at SB Nation -- have two lists: A P4P list, and a women's P4P list. Nearly all of them make the pound-for-pound list eligible to men or women, while keeping the women's list exclusively for women.
I think this is a little weird. Either have one list for both men and women or separate lists by gender. If I can't put Renan Barao, or Velasquez, or whomever, on the women's list, why should I put Ronda on a list that was previously for men? If we eliminate gender distinctions and have one list, then I'll absolutely consider Ronda, or Cyborg, or whomever. Until then, as long as we have two lists in which both genders are eligible for one, but only one is eligible for the other, I'm not ranking one gender on another's list. Let's have a little consistency here.
@christopher_kit: Seems new bonus awards makes sense. I can't think of any flaws - can you?
I can see the plusses and minuses of it. The main thing in the old system's favor is that KO of the Night and Submission of the Night are quantifiable. The categories are transparent. (Sure, if there were two subs on one card, like say, Ronda Rousey and Jim Miller at UFC 168, then a subjective decision had to be made, but still).
Under the new system? Who knows? Sara McMann had it right in one sense on Wednesday's UFC 170 press call, when she says this could potentially open up the doors for a fighter who might have been shut out under the old system. On the other hand, what if we find that performance bonuses aren't given out as much to guys with slick submissions, and instead the Leonard Garcias of the world are rewarded for exciting-but-sloppy brawling? And how does one differentiate between a Fight of the Night performance, and a Performance of the Night? The devil's going to be in the details in this one.
Ronda and Bones
@torontoufcfan: Do you agree with Jones when he said the UFC pushes Rousey P.R wise more than others?
Jon Jones doesn't exactly put himself front and center in the media the way Rousey does. He does his media obligations when he's called upon for his fights, and he so capably and in good faith. Despite his reputation in some circles, in my personal dealings with Jones, I've found him to be thoughtful, honest, and true to himself and the people around him. But between fights, Jones vanishes to Albuquerque, or upstate New York, or wherever, and we rarely hear from him in the interim.
Ronda happens to be located in the entertainment capital of the world and has an agent who understands how to maximize her Hollywood opportunities. You're going to be in the news more if you can, say, make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live on short notice than if you're somewhere in Rochester or Ithaca.
Ultimately, it's not as simple as the UFC pushing one over the other. It's timing, it's location, it's the right opponent, it's being on the right fight card, and it's what you do with the opportunities when you're presented with them. Rousey's no doubt gotten more opportunities than most, but when she's been handed the ball, she's run it straight to the end zone pretty much every time.
Got a question for a future Fightweets? Leave me a tweet.