Fightweets: Will Showtime stay in MMA?

Esther Lin

By now, unless you're coming back from an overnight camping trip in a remote location without internet access, you've heard that Strikeforce will run its final show on Jan. 12 and that Ronda Rousey is the first UFC women's bantamweight champion, as the company adds women's MMA.

Among the key questions unanswered as of Friday -- and right now, few who matter are talking on the record -- is whether Showtime will stay in the mixed martial arts business.

Showtime's involvement in mixed martial arts, while not without its flaws, is ultimately a good thing, for reasons obvious and less obvious. The obvious? More high-profile MMA promotions mean more jobs for fighters. This in turn means more work for everyone on down the line from production to the announcers to the road crew. The more big-money promotions there are, run by people with a long and competent history in the fight business, the bigger the industry can grow.

Then there's the less obvious sidelight: Dana White and company over at Zuffa simply do better work when they're being pressed by legitimate competition. Compare the UFC of this year, when Zuffa had Strikeforce in-house and no real promotional competitors (sorry, Bellator), to the previous several, when Zuffa aggressively counter-programmed their foes (remember the night Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia went head-to-head with Anderson Silva's light heavyweight debut?) and you have your answer.

The next question, though, is whether there's enough headline talent not locked up to Zuffa at the moment to make the sport worth Showtime's while. In past years, there always seemed to be a Fedor, Frank Shamrock, or Gina Carano around who could headline a card. But what's out there now? Strikeforce itself barely had enough talent, toward the end, to even fill out a card.

Which way Showtime decides to go with MMA is one of the bigger items to keep an eye on as the calendar turns toward 2013.

On to this week's Fightweets. If you want to be considered in a future edition, go to my Twitter page and leave me a question.

@xX_FROST_Xx: With the welterweight division broadening, does GSP really need to fight Silva now? Shouldn't Diaz be first?

Oh, we'll see Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre alright, making the big assumption that St-Pierre beats Carlos Condit on Nov. 17. All the news coming out of W. Sahara Ave in Las Vegas over the past few weeks points to the idea that the UFC is planning on putting together a blockbuster 2013 (and for all intents and purposes, we can start the 2013 calendar on Dec. 29, 2012, when Junior dos Santos meets Cain Velasquez). Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen on "The Ultimate Fighter" is meant to jumpstart that show's ratings and their April 27 fight will be one of the biggest of the year. Jose Aldo's fight with Frankie Edgar is a pseudo-superfight and the biggest-money fight you can make for Aldo at this stage of the game. Women's fighting gives the UFC a fresh set of match-ups and a potential gigantic fight in Ronda Rousey vs. Cristiane Santos.

UFC is going big next year, and none would be bigger the superfight fans have speculated about for years (Okay, maybe Silva vs. Jones, but that's not in the cards at the moment). It's pretty much coming down to now-or-never for Silva vs. GSP, so assuming St-Pierre beats Condit, this is the window to make it happen.

(Which means Condit will probably smoke GSP next weekend).

As for Diaz, he's coming off a loss to Condit and has been suspended most of the year. In the divisional scheme of things, he should earn another win before getting a title shot (of course, for everyone in MMA from promoters to media to fighters to fans, the phrase "title shots need to make sense in the division" really means "it is critical for the sport's legitimacy that title shots need to be earned in the division, unless it is a fight I really like," but let's set that aside for now). The biggest chip Diaz has in his favor is that St-Pierre wants to fight him. But given the events of the past 15 months or so, Diaz needs to prove he can be relied on to actually show up for a scheduled fight and not flunk a drug test afterwards before he's handed a main-event role.

@Ruckeryeah: Why is Anderson Silva going to UFC 154? And was anyone actually at that WSOF show?

Of course, Rucker, Silva is going to Montreal simply because he's a fight fan. He can be found front row cageside at every MMA event from the biggest UFCs down to your local fight nights.

Okay, maybe not. Silva's obviously heading up to Montreal to go into the cage and challenge St-Pierre in the Octagon after the welterweight champ fights Condit. Of course, there's a big risk in this. Remember when Brock Lesnar was cageside in New Jersey for the Shane Carwin-Frank Mir interim heavyweight title fight, so that Lesnar could come in challenge Mir to a trilogy fight after the bout? Yeah, not so much. Lesnar did a decent job of channeling his inner pro wrestler in making it appear he really wanted to fight Carwin after Carwin destroyed Mir, but White, as he wrapped the belt around Carwin's waist, looked like he would have rather have been anywhere else at the moment. Then there was the time Wanderlei Silva showed up and got into the Octagon for a staredown with Chuck Liddell after UFC 62 for a PRIDE vs. UFC showdown, which didn't happen until the latter bought and shut down the former. Granted, sometimes the "get into the cage and challenge the winner" thing works -- Think GSP telling Matt Hughes "I am not impressed by your performance," -- but they're taking a big gamble in assuming GSP will defeat Condit and put together the superfight.

As for World Series of Fighting, the building was almost full at Planet Hollywood. But the cage and lighting rig was set up on a platform near the stage, and NBC's hard camera was pointed toward the stage, not the crowd, so all the average viewer saw for most of the night was a row of reporters and a half-full VIP section.

But that said, Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer said on Friday that the paid gate was just over $82,000, which basically means most of the crowd was let in for free. The show had an announced payroll of $352,000. That puts the company more than a quarter-million in the hole before they turned on the light and opened the doors, not to mention the event was a time buy on NBC Sports Network. I did take Economics 101 in college, but even if I hadn't, I'm pretty sure I could have figured out that's not a model for a long-lasting business.

@ElCujorino: How do you feel about the UFC doing in my opinion very little to get the "little" guys coverage?

I'm assuming by the "little guys" you mean the flyweights. You do know that the UFC is headlining UFC on FOX 6 with a 125-pound title bout between Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson, right? Giving the flyweights the opportunity to headline live on network television is kind of the opposite of "doing very little to give the ‘little' guys coverage." I'm not sure whether this decision is brilliant or insane, but it's certainly bold. When White went on his epic rant against fans who booed the Johnson-Joseph Benavidez fight at UFC 152, he basically dared fans to take it or leave it. Those fans have their chance to vote thumbs up or thumbs down on Jan. 26.

@Kmillz13: Which of the recently announced fights scheduled for UFC on fox 6 are you most excited for?

I like all four fights which have been announced, for different reasons. There's a little bit of everything: The title fight, a grudge match that could deliver fireworks in Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis; Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira offers both star power to the masses in "Rampage" and Teixeira's opportunity to make himself a star; and T.J. Grant vs. Matt Wiman, if it's on the main card, could be the show stealer. Basically this card has the ability to be exact opposite of the UFC on FOX 2 card in the same United Center which set the tone for 2012.

@DanielANash: What is QJ thinking taking a fight against Teixeira? Couldn't beat a young Wandy, and this guy is a reincarnation.

I agree with your summation, Daniel. It's hard to picture this fight going any way other than "Rampage" withering under Teixeira's assault. But, "What was QJ thinking?" is a question that has debated for years and will never have an adequate answer. You can't figure out what's going on in between Jackson's ears, you can only go with the flow.

In this case, though, let's give the guy some credit. We don't know why he's decided he wants to take a fight that seems to have little upside and a ton of downside. But a whole lot of other name light heavyweights, when presented with a potential date with Teixeira, suddenly decided they needed to heal a hangnail, or it was their daughter's birthday party that day, or any reason not to step into the Octagon. "Rampage" took the fight. That has to count for something.

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