Fightweets: Looking back, looking forward

Esther Lin

Due to a family emergency back home in Boston, Fightweets took a hiatus last week, during what happened to be a very busy period for mixed martial arts news.

This week, I'm back, but MMA news-wise, it seems like everyone's basically talking about the World Cup instead.

So if you'll indulge me, I've got a few items leftover from last week that I'd like to blab about, as well as a question or two about upcoming events.

With that, then, on to your questions.

Changes in Bellator

@RuckerYeah: What is Bjorn Rebney's legacy in the sport?

As much crap as Bjorn Rebney seemed to get from all sides, in the big picture, getting Bellator as far as he was able to push it is a noteworthy accomplishment in and of itself. Remember, Bellator was birthed in 2009, just on the tail end of all the Elite XC/Affliction/IFL/WAMMA/YAMMA/BAMMA madness. No one was asking for yet another promotion to enter the fray at that point. And yet Bellator came along, took whatever outlets and time slots they could get onto, and slowly built the company from there in a disciplined manner.

Eventually, the limitations of Rebney's vision for Bellator caught up to him. The tournament format made Bellator distinct in the market and gave several fighters opportunities to make names for themselves. But a basic cable network needs ratings today, not somewhere down the road, and the tourney format was starting to butt heads with the need to make obvious fights now. Something had to give.

All in all, simply getting Bellator off the ground and getting it to where it is today is one of the more noteworthy accomplishments in the short history of modern MMA. Rebney deserves more credit than he seems to get. But it was also time to go in another direction.

@dpop2: I give Bellator 1 to 1 1/2 years before they sell to the UFC. Thoughts?

Man, let's give Scott Coker a chance, eh? Coker did an outstanding job given building Strikeforce from a little local promotion to the world's No. 2 MMA company. As long as he's learned from the mistakes he made last time once he got to the national stage - like drastically overpaying for Fedor Emelianenko, which made a short-term splash but was a long-term albatross - then there's quite a bit he can do with Bellator's roster. On the corporate end, Viacom and Spike got right back into the MMA business as soon as they were legally able, after the UFC bolted for FOX. Fighting fits their demos. Unless the company starts hemorrhaging money - and a company the size of Viacom can withstand money losses better than most - than I don't see a sale any time soon.

Swanson vs. Stephens

@DanaBecker: Do you really feel like Jeremy Stephens will gain a title shot with a win over Cub Swanson this weekend?

Actually, I don't think the idea is as far-fetched as it sounds. Let's do a little exercise here and push the featherweight division forward. Let's say Jose Aldo wins his rematch against Chad Mendes in August (not a lock, but we're playing "if," here). Now let's say Stephens scores an impressive win over Swanson on Saturday night in San Antonio (even less of a lock, but let's roll with it).

In this scenario, who else has a better case for a title shot? Aldo, like any good longtime champ, bristles against rematches. If he beats Mendes a second time, and Swanson loses, then he's already beaten Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Lamas, and Chan Sung Jung, none of whom have yet bounced back in Mendes-like fashion. A potential lightweight super fight is also off the table for now, with Anthony Pettis' title defense against Gilbert Melendez not coming down the pike until December.

In that scenario? A Jeremy Stephens who is 4-0 in the division, with a win over Cub Swanson and career full of easy to sell highlight-reel knockouts, is a lot more palatable a title challenger than he seems to be today.

Rory Mac

@NathanTrussel: Do you think Rory should jump the winner of Lawler/Brown? Cause I sure as hell do

Hmm ... you don't say why, exactly, this would be the case, but then, Twitter isn't exactly the place write a treatise.

In the most recent SB Nation welterweight rankings, we had unanimous picks for the top three, with Johny Hendricks (obviously), Robbie Lawler, and MacDonald, in that order.

That said, I still think you can make the case for either Lawler or Brown, who meet in San Jose, to get the nod against Hendricks. Lawler is a no-brainer to me. He's won four of five and in the sole loss, he came up a round short in what the Fight of the Year so far against Hendricks. Lawler came back on a quick turnaround after a five-round war and scored a finish against Jake Ellenberger. And, oh yeah, part of that 4-1 record is a win over Rory. if Lawler ends Brown's win streak, I don't see how you give the title shot to anyone else.

Now, if Brown wins? Even though Rory is ranked ahead of him now, a Brown win would be a game-changer. That would make eight straight wins for Brown, and if he beats Lawler, that answers the "he hasn't beaten any top guys" thing once and for all.

Title shots are as much about timing and circumstances as anything else. Brown, in his 30s, with eight straight wins including Lawler, would never be more primed for a title shot. MacDonald is just about to turn 25 and is on a two-fight win streak. MacDonald is wise to cool his jets and see how things play out. He'd be best off with one more win as is, but he's in a solid enough spot that if something happens to pull the Lawler-Brown winner out of a title fight, he can credibly step in and take the title shot. That's not a bad place to be, especially considering where he was after losing to Lawler last year.

Jon Jones doesn't want to fight in Sweden

(person whose Twitter name I lost): It seems like only American Champions can demand the luxury of defending the belt at home.

Nameless guy, you know that the UFC exists to make a profit, right? And that, with very few exceptions, the most money in gate receipts is almost always to be made in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA? They call the place the fight capital of the world for a reason. If their biggest consistent money maker was Sweden, or Mexico, or the Fiji Islands, they'd have the biggest fights there instead. And if you don't believe me on that one, consider that at his peak, Georges St-Pierre fights were giant revenue, so he often went and fought in his home country in Montreal's Bell Centre and Toronto's Rogers Centre instead of Vegas

As for the case to which you refer, though, which is Jones refusing to fight on Alexander Gustaffson's home turf, Jones is 100 percent within his rights to refuse go over to Sweden and fight (and yes, the fight is worth more in North America, when you factor in the costs of doing business in Sweden, which has confiscatory tax rates).  He's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, he already beat the challenger once on neutral ground, he gets some say in where the fight goes down.

Hating Schaub

@johnsnow266: What has to happen for the UFC to cut @BrendanSchaub?

Wow, harsh. I don't know that I'd put Schaub on the chopping block in the near future. But to play along, given that the UFC needs 98,542 fighters to fill all the slots on the schedule, and given the lack of depth at heavyweight, I'd guess Schaub would have to go on a skid of Garcian proportions to get axed.

@TannerRuss2: Which soccer player would be the best should he choose to crossover into MMA?

I guess that Luis Suarez guy from Uraguay. I mean, sure, biting is expressly forbidden in the unified rules, but so was half the stuff Kimbo Slice did in his backyard brawls, and, I mean, how many millions of people watched his fight with James Thompson?

Got a question for a future edition of Fightweets? Go to my twitter page and leave me a tweet.

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