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Twitter Mailbag: Heavyweights, TRT, Chael Sonnen's Chances in Brazil, and More

Michael Chandler, photo courtesy of Bellator
Michael Chandler, photo courtesy of Bellator

It’s Friday afternoon, which means it’s time again for the Twitter Mailbag. This time around, the TMB talks Bellator, TRT, heavyweights, and Chael Sonnen’s chances of making it out of Brazil alive. Plus some other stuff.

Got a question of your own? Come find me on Twitter @BenFowlkesMMA. I’ll even pretend to be interested in what you have to say at first. On to the questions.

@AdriantheWizard which Bellator champ has the toughest test in defending his strap after the tournaments are done?

That would be lightweight champ Michael Chandler. It’s not because he isn’t a capable fighter -- as the bout with Eddie Alvarez showed, dude can scrap a little bit -- but there are still some quality lightweights hanging around in Bellator. Chandler had a close fight with Missoula, Montana’s own Lloyd Woodard (406, what?!) on his way to the belt last year, and I’d say the winner of Friday night’s Woodard-Patricky Freire fight probably deserves to be the tournament favorite. In general, I think there’s probably more talent in MMA at the 155-pound division than anywhere else. The UFC doesn’t have the roster space for all of them, which is good news for Bellator, but will likely mean a stiff challenge for Chandler.

@TheHarrison101 Two weeks in, Bellator/TUF 15, which are you watching live, what are you DVR'ing?

I feel like a jerk for admitting this, but even with its new live format I still end up DVR’ing The Ultimate Fighter. Maybe it’s just habit. Maybe it still feels too much like TV. I don’t know. I do know that, after living with DVR for the past few years, I have completely lost my patience for commercials. I’ve gotten spoiled that way, and I admit it. I’ll sit through commercials when I have to -- which is to say, during live sporting events and at basically no other time -- but a TV show? Even a TV show I really like? Forget it. I’ll just set the DVR and check it out once I have the luxury of flipping through the same four video game ads. And yes, I realize this makes less sense now that the weekly TUF fight is live, but cut me some slack. How much TV can MMA fans really be expected to watch on a Friday night?

@JDRCheckit #mailbag how does the all HW card do? Do we see the big KO's or knock down gas out brawls. Or something like Rothwell-Hunt

My buddy Chad Dundas over at ESPN explored this very question in a column recently, and he rightly pointed out that it’s often a feast-or-famine type deal when the big boys get in the cage. Sometimes they knock each other out in a hurry, and sometimes they wheeze on one another until the referee finally makes them stop. When heavyweight fights are good, they’re great, and usually pretty quick. When they’re bad, they’re an assault on the senses.

The good news for UFC 146 is that the main card match-ups seem almost designed to make sure that there’s at least one man in every fight willing to push the pace. Guys like Alistair Overeem, Frank Mir, and Antonio Silva have the ability to become slow, ponderous performers at times, but fighters like Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez -- hell, even Roy Nelson, at least lately -- are known for keeping the action going. I think we’ll get more feast than famine on this one. Or maybe I’m just hoping.

@NoOrdinaryChris do you foresee women's MMA actually coming to the UFC in the next year or two? Interested in your take.

As long as there is a Strikeforce, I think that’s where women’s MMA will stay. I think it will only improve now that Zuffa matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby get to tinker with it, but I don’t think anyone at the UFC feels like they absolutely have to get these women into the Octagon right away. If they’re content to leave Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce, Ronda Rousey will have to stay too.

For me, the bigger question is what will happen if (okay, let’s be real, when) Strikeforce eventually disappears. I don’t see Zuffa still running these two competing promotions five or ten years from now, so what happens then? I think a lot depends on how the women’s division performs between now and then, and what kind of roster it has at the time of the eventual Strikeforce dismantling. If Rousey follows Gina Carano to Hollywood, and if the division can’t add fresh faces quicker than it loses them, I could easily see Zuffa declaring women’s MMA a failed experiment. But if the Rousey revolution is the beginning rather than the peak, maybe female fighters have a future in the UFC. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.

@nogstai Chael Sonnen is an interesting character, but he's a nice guy in real life. Does sending him to 80k brazilians, a good idea?

I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but either way I think you’ve hit upon a legitimate question. Sonnen -- love him or hate him -- is a fascinating person and a good draw for the UFC. But after going to Rio de Janeiro for UFC 134 last summer and witnessing the overwhelming vitriol the locals had for even a video image of the man, I have to wonder whether the nation of Brazil appreciates his brand of humor the same way we do. Maybe he’s done too good a job selling them on the whole pro wrestling persona, or maybe they just don’t get the joke. Either way, I don’t think Sonnen is going to be buying a vacation home in Ipanema any time soon.

It seems like it’s going to be difficult enough for him to show up and fight there, but can you imagine if he actually beat Anderson Silva in a packed Brazilian soccer stadium? What if he won a close decision? Or benefitted from a questionable stoppage? They might have to airlift him out of the Octagon just to get him home in one piece.

@Odin_MMA Fedor. 205. UFC. Your move Fowlkes... Do you think Fedor would be reinvigorated?

Not really. Fedor can go down in weight if he wants, but he can’t go back in time. His fight with Dan Henderson in Strikeforce showed that. If anything, he might be better off at heavyweight, where he still has some hope of being the quicker man. The fighters at light heavyweight these days are too athletic and too well-rounded. But hey, if Fedor wanted to try it and his management team wanted to get reasonable about their contract demands, I’d watch it. I just wouldn’t get my hopes up for a Fedor revival if I were you.

@EricArsenal I like the 8 week UFC PPV gap being filled by TUF. Gives the fighters their own spotlight. What are your thoughts?

Their own spotlight? Maybe. If you completely forget about the existence of Bellator, which also goes down every Friday night during this UFC pay-per-view hiatus. While TUF allows viewers to follow the slow reveal of a reality show tournament a week at a time, Bellator essentially offers the same experience, only with more tournaments and far more fights. As long as viewers are willing to trade talk for action (and who isn’t?) and the UFC brand for the Bellator one, it sure seems like Bellator offers the better deal right now.

@DeadpandaCP Condit, MacDonald, Ellenberger. Is this a newbreed of fighters or are they contenders because GSP is out with his knee?

I don’t know if I’d call them a new breed, but they’re all athletic, capable fighters without any glaring holes to exploit. Then again, so is Georges St-Pierre. All three of the guys you mentioned probably have a better chance of waiting GSP’s career out than of beating him in the cage.

@MMAOUTSIDER should the UFC push Edgar so hard to drop weight? yes he's small, but I think his record and performance deserve more respect.

I understand the push, what with the general lack of major contenders for Jose Aldo’s belt. But I agree that Edgar has done enough at lightweight to get to make his own decisions. Apparently the UFC thinks so too. He is getting the rematch he asked for, after all.

@shawn_w_smith Some NCAA wrestlers are considered naturals for MMA while others aren't. What are we looking for to determine MMA prospects?

An ability to deal with getting punched in the face, for one. A desire to stick with this long enough to actually get good at it, for another. The latter might be tougher to find than the former. You take guys who have spent so many years honing one specific skill set to such a fine point, they often don’t want to start all over as a rookie in something else. It’s rough on their egos, and the money is too distant a dream at first to pull them through all on its own. In short, what we’re looking for is someone humble enough to learn new skills, and stubborn enough to keep showing up to the gym even when it seems like a bad idea.

@bradsucks will the UFC's handling of TRT blow up in their faces or should they keep looking the other way?

At this point I think it’s clear that the controversy over testosterone-replacement therapy isn’t going to go away on its own, nor should it. This is a complicated issue that needs to be explored and examined more, not ignored. When confronted with "Rampage" Jackson’s admitted use of it, Dana White’s response was to basically throw up his hands and claim there was nothing the UFC could have done about it, since some athletic commissions allow it for some fighters. That’s an absurd response, especially since it came after an event in Tokyo where the UFC acted as its own commission, which it seems increasingly incapable of doing in an open and transparent manner.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here: professional fighters are being given permission to inject themselves with a powerful hormone -- one that increases strength and endurance -- before they attempt to hurt another human being for money. That’s a situation full of dangerous possibilities. It also might not be entirely fair, depending on what they have to do in order to get that permission.

Some fighters claim that they need it. They say their testosterone levels really are well below normal, and it’s a condition that they deserve to be able to treat. But even that defense raises all new questions. My colleague Mike Chiappetta has an excellent look at the link between head trauma and low testosterone, and I suppose it shouldn’t be hard to believe that getting hit in the head for a living might not be great for your natural hormone levels. Then again, if you’ve already suffered that sort of head trauma, why should we pump you full of testosterone just so you can continue suffering more of it? We wouldn’t medically clear a fighter with other signs of brain trauma, would we? And how can we be sure that a person’s low testosterone levels are due to head trauma and not past steroid abuse?

Testosterone is a performance-enhancing substance. If it wasn’t, these guys wouldn’t care so much about being able to get their hands on it. The UFC has no problem butting heads with "the government" when it comes to things like getting MMA sanctioned in New York, so it’s disingenuous to claim that it’s powerless to buck the athletic commissions (which have varying standards for therapeutic-use exemptions to begin with) on this issue. We can disagree on what ought to be done about TRT in MMA and why, but I don’t think you can make much of an argument that the right thing to do here is nothing at all.

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