Unlike many of my mixed martial arts media colleagues, I never met Jeff Blatnick.
It wasn't for lack of opportunity: Blatnick was a judge on many MMA shows I've covered over the years. But I never did get around to introducing myself. I figured there would be some other time down the road, when I was in less of a rush to get down to cageside or back to the hotel, to hit him up and pick his brain.
Unfortunately, life doesn't always work that way. As you know by now, Blatnick, the 1984 U.S. Olympic heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist, died on Wednesday after complications following heart surgery.
It's not an exaggeration to say that without Blatnick, MMA as we know it might not exist. In the sport's Wild West early days, Blatnick was one of the first to grasp what MMA could become. His level of analysis as an announcer was years ahead of its time and still has rarely been matched. Blatnick's passionate advocacy for the developing sport and tireless work in helping to shape the current Unified Rules helped MMA through its darkest days.
While I don't have firsthand stories to share, several do and did, in case you missed them. As he does better than anyone else in this business, Dave Meltzer explained Blatnick's historical role in the sport; Loretta Hunt over at SI.com gave her take; and in this Bloody Elbow post, Nick Lembo, who has long set the standard for how a commission should be run over in New Jersey, shared his thoughts about his friend. They're all worth your time.
With that, on to this week's Fightweets, which return after a one-week hiatus. If you'd like to be considered in a future edition, go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.
@TheAntJimmyShow: Jon Fitch was near broke despite 16 UFC fights w/only 2 losses. What does that say about non-title fighter pay?
I'm not sure Fitch is the best example to use if you want to discuss fighter pay. Fitch talked at length about his financial situation in the lead-up to his UFC 153 win over Erick Silva. He said he bought a condo at the height of the housing bubble and also bought a large house for his family. He lives in California, one of the most expensive places in the country. I've been in Los Angeles for seven years, make a reasonable middle-class living, and can't even entertain the notion of buying one property here, never mind two.
I'm not passing judgment on Fitch, who has made it clear he takes responsibility for his own personal choices. I'm just saying Dana White isn't forcing any of his fighters to make investment choices like the one Fitch made, or advising anyone to live beyond their means. The good news for Fitch, at least, is that if he stays healthy and puts on a couple more performances like the one against Silva, he should be well on his way to digging himself out of his financial hole.
Fedor still Top 10?
@DestroyKillBurn: is Fedor still a top ten HW if he came out of retirement?
... OK, I probably shouldn't just leave this at one word, DKB. In hindsight, Fedor Emelianenko went into decline sometime around 2009. Remember the last victory of his epic, decade-long streak, against Brett Rogers? Emelianenko struggled with Rogers before pulling out the fight with a home-run knockout. That's the same Rogers who is 2-5 with a no-contest in his past eight fights.
After the Rogers fight, Emelianenko had one-sided losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, both of whom are now Top-10 ranked, and was finished by sometimes middleweight/sometimes light heavyweight Dan Henderson.
While beating the likes of Jeff Monson and Pedro Rizzo enabled Fedor to leave on a high note, those fights don't do anything to build the case for your ranking. And that's before you consider that Emelianenko is getting on in years, is undersized and clearly didn't evolve his skills set.
Really, it's simply time for Fedor's fans to give up the ghost once and for all.
Which camp would you join?
@JUSTOSLICE: If you were an mma fighter, what fight camp would you join and why?
Funny you mention this, Justo. The UFC hosted a media luncheon Thursday in Burbank with Junior dos Santos (I'll have a piece on JDS for MMAFighting this weekend). He talked at length about showing up, with no previous combat sports experience, to train with the Nogueira brothers. As dos Santos put it, he was little more than a punching bag at the time, and they basically kept him around because he could take a beating and kept coming back for more. As the current UFC heavyweight champ explained things, I tried to visualize myself in his position as a piece of raw meat for the Nogs, and after thinking about how that would go for me, I decided I'm okay staying behind my laptop from a safe distance at cageside.
Now, as for your question: Let's assume for the sake of argument that I woke up one day and found myself in my early 20s and in condition, rather than in my late 30s and about 15 pounds shy of the heavyweight limit. I was tempted to say I'd go with American Kickboxing Academy, in no small part due toJavier Mendes' proven ability to mold big guys like Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier.
But when push comes to shove, I'd probably go with Jackson's MMA. The volume of championship-level fighters the camp produces speak for itself. The diverse array of fighters speaks for itself. The number of guys who have gone to Jackson's looking for a career boost and found it -- the most recent example being Cub Swanson -- speaks for itself. The number of fighters who swear by the sense of family at the camp, from Jon Jones to Julie Kedzie, speaks for itself. A dedication level that was going to place Jackson in Andrei Arlovski's corner in Singapore and then in Jones' corner in Las Vegas in the same weekend (before that whole UFC 151 thing went down) speaks for itself. If you don't get the gist of this yet, Jackson's track record, his detractors notwithstanding, speaks for itself. So in some sort of bizarre parallel universe in which I'm young, in fighting shape, and had my pick of elite camps, Jackson's would probably be it.
@Fernando_rocha: Why is Nelson vs Carwin more appealing than Bonnar vs Griffin on TUF?
If Fightweets had out its own Submission of the Night award, I'd hand it to Fernando, since I had to tap out after trying to figure out what was being asked here.
I think you're trying to ask "Why did they make Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin, when Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin could have been done?" White shot the latter idea down wholesale over the summer when Bonnar tried floating it in the media. This was also around the time White was saying Griffin should retire. The UFC isn't likely to invest a season of "TUF" exposure in someone they're trying to gently nudge out the door.
Of course, you could also be asking "Why do I personally find Nelson-Carwin more appealing than Bonnar-Griffin?" Judging by the record-low numbers this season of TUF has brought us, Fernando, you might be the only person on earth who has had that thought.
Or maybe this is a roundabout way of asking "How long until we're done with this season of TUF, already?" In that case, the Finale is on Dec. 15, so, as of this writing, about seven weeks.
Or maybe I still haven't hit the mark, in which case, hit me up again and we'll try this again next week.
MMA media fights
@RuckerYeah: What's up with your co-workers dissing you on The MMA Beat last week?
Rucker refers to last week's edition of MMAFighting's enjoyable new show The MMA Beat, which was taped in the immediate aftermath of all the Jon Jones-Chael Sonnen hullabaloo. One point of discussion was last week's MMA Roundtable, in which I basically asserted there was quite an overreaction to the Jones-Sonnen announcement, which I stick by.
But my colleagues weren't "dissing" me, Rucker. If I'm going to hurl a grenade from out of nowhere, I have to expect return fire. That's fair and it's all part of the game.
That said, I do have to confess getting a bit of a chuckle out of one point on which my friends Ariel Helwani, Mike Chiappetta, and ESPN.com's Chuck Mindenhall agreed: That Frankie Edgar deserved an immediate shot at Jose Aldo Jr.'s featherweight title.
Three New York-area guys, sitting in a New York studio, unanimously agreed a New York-area fighter deserved to skip the line and get a title shot despite one win over four fights in two years. You could see that one coming like the Empire State Building on the Manhattan skyline as you take Amtrak down to Penn Station.
Anyway, I see my colleagues and raise the ante: As a native Bostonian, I'll soon write a piece calling for another title shot for Kenny Florian.
(No, dear reader who is about to scroll down and post an angry comment, I'm not really pushing for another title shot for Kenny Florian. Relax).
Will Lorenzo ditch Dana?
@DNeighbor: How long until the UFC is more valuable than the Fertittas' casino holdings & we get more Lorenzo & less Dana?
Well, both Station Casinos and Zuffa are privately held, which sort of makes this question moot, but, to play along ... even if that happened, what makes you think Lorzenzo Fertitta wants less of White? We're more than a decade into White's term at the Zuffa helm, which means plenty of exposure to White's unique way of running the company. If the Fertittas disapproved of the job White was doing, don't you think they would have reduced his role or let him go after, say, the "gay f-bomb" incident, or any of several other controversies?
@Elcujrino From your point of view what do you see happening in the MW division IF Boetsch and Belcher win with Bisping in wait?
You know what? I was about to launch into my usual spiel about how the Tim Boetsch-Chris Weidman winner should meet Michael Bisping, with the winner of that fight getting the next shot at Anderson Silva. But then two separate thoughts hit me: 1. With Jones-Sonnen on deck, all the chatter about a potential superfight involving Silva, talk about Ronda Rousey-"Cyborg" Santos, etc., it's starting to become clear that the UFC is thinking more in terms of jump-starting things in 2013 with big-money blockbusters rather than following straight divisional logic; and 2. Whenever we look at the picture at middleweight, we forget Vitor Belfort is still a factor and there's a show in Brazil in January in need of a headliner. So I've decided I'm done trying to map out the middleweight division for the time being. Hit me up again on this one after Dec. 29.
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