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Twitter Mailbag: Talking Gross Armbars, Immediate Rematches, and More

Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The Twitter mailbag is back, and ready to tackle your toughest questions on everything from Tim Sylvia's public campaign to get back into the UFC to Ariel Helwani's incredibly unjust and unpopular decision to suspend me from The MMA Hour.

It's a full docket today and there's no time to waste, so we'll get right to it. If you want to ask a question of your own, you can find me on the old Twitter machine at @BenFowlkesMMA.

Milton Creque Jr. (@lawdahmussy)
has a referee failed to protect a fighter when the fighter is arm barred, refuses to tap then suffers a dislocation?

Good question, and one I’m sure we’ve all been thinking about ever since referee Mark Matheny let Ronda Rousey bend Miesha Tate’s arm in awful ways. It’s a tough call. If a referee stops an armbar in progress because it looks like the armbaree either has been or is about to be injured, he risks controversy. If he doesn’t, he looks like a sadist in latex gloves, which is, I think we can all agree, the worst kind of sadist.

I don’t think it’s the referees job to protect the fighter from dangers that the fighter is capable of protecting herself from. Tate could have tapped before things got bad, and she chose not to. To a certain extent, that’s her choice to make. I think that choice has limits, of course. If her bone’s sticking out of her arm and she still won’t tap, by all means, someone do something. But if we’re talking about a possible dislocation, do we really want the ref to be diagnosing injuries on the spot? If you can fight with a broken nose or hand, why couldn’t you fight with a dislocated elbow, assuming you could get out of the submission in the first place?

I think we have to take it on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Tate, her arm is totally her fault. She could have tapped, but she didn’t. I think she should get the opportunity to make that a point. Once her arm starts looking like a bad horror movie special effect, might be best for the ref to help her call it a night.

Albert (@albertheredia)
have you ever "sexted" a fighter before? That would be cray....

The closest I’ve come (so far) was accidentally sending Josh Barnett a text that was intended for my wife. I was on the road in Stockton, Calif., to do a story on Nate Diaz. As I was going to bed in my hotel room that night, I sent the typical ‘I love and miss you’ sort of text message that one sends to one’s wife in such situations, only I sent it to the completely wrong recipient. I’m lucky it was Barnett, actually. He has a sense of humor. When I wrote him immediately to explain that it was intended for my wife, he texted back, ‘You don’t have to lie. I miss you too, boo.’

Somehow I doubt this story would have ended the same way if I’d accidentally sent that text to Nate Diaz instead.

Zach Thorax @sephiroth872
do you regret that this hurt biz series didn't turn into the book in the end?

Not really. Considering how everything played out, I think it works better as a web series. Plus, this way it’s more likely to be read by the people who actually care about how an MMA gym operates and already know who Brendan Schaub and Nate Marquardt are. I think part of the reason I originally wanted it to be a book was because I felt like I should write a book, or like I wanted to have it sitting on my bookshelf to show people. That’s an ego thing, and ego is not a good reason to do something like this. I think it works best this way, and I think people will understand why when they see the whole thing.

Aaron Carroll @agc563
is @danawhite refusing to bring @timsylviamma back because he truly believes he can't hang. Or is it just pride?

Sadly, I cannot get inside White’s mind and fling open all its locked doors in search of the one true answer. All I can do is speculate as to why he’s so opposed to a Tim Sylvia revival tour, and there’s no shortage of possible reasons. Maybe he doesn’t think Sylvia has what it takes to compete with these guys. Maybe he just doesn’t think enough people actually want to see Sylvia try. Maybe he looks back on the years when Sylvia was heavyweight champ as a dark time for the division (at least in the UFC). Maybe he can’t get that image of Sylvia getting clocked by Ray Mercer out of his mind.

Whatever White’s reason, I can’t say it’s breaking my heart not to have "The Maine-iac" back in town. With all the quality heavyweights the UFC has now, who even has time to miss Sylvia?

Rob Rivera @RobRivera
with akiyama and rousey's judo success in the cage, will it influence other fighters to practice more judo?

Maybe. It will definitely encourage their future opponents to work on defending against it, which in turn might lead them to bring in some real judo experts, who would inevitably end up teaching them some offensive judo moves as well. For me, the bigger question is, will Rousey’s success encourage other female judo practitioners to move to MMA? I’m just saying, she was only the third best female judoka in her division at the 2008 games. Once some of these talented female martial artists see that they can make money at MMA (a little, anyway), they might decide it’s worth their while to trade the gi for some spandex shorts.

Jared @Orderx7
What's with @arielhelwani stealing your " Fighter vs. Writer" title & using it on @FUELTV? Can't he think of anything orig.?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I suppose that makes outright theft a version of flattery that’s so sincere it almost hurts. In fairness, while Helwani totally lifted the name of my feature, he also stole the formatting of his own "Five Rounds" feature from the MMA Hour. Of course, ever since he suspended me from the show, I’ve been unable to defend my Five Rounds title, which effectively sidelines the whole thing until I make my glorious return. For now, that’ll have to be punishment enough for Mr. Helwani.

Patrick Cusick @pcusick13
will your MMA Hour suspension end up being akin to Pete Rose's suspension from baseball? #twittermailbag

If you’re asking whether it will be remembered by the masses as a terrible injustice, then yes. If you’re asking whether it’s related to my serious gambling problem, no comment.

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
yeah, why did you bail on The MMA Hour 3 wks ago w/ no notice? Who was the "intv" w/ and how much do you regret your actions?

Okay, let’s clear this up once and for all. I missed my MMA Hour appearance in order to conduct a phone interview with Dr. Don Catlin, who some might say is the father of modern drug testing. I interviewed him for this article on the state of drug testing in MMA, and I found his insights into the topic to be extremely valuable. That may not compare to the fun I would have had swapping insults with you on the MMA Three Hours, but dammit, my job is to be the interviewer rather than the interviewee. If I had it to do over again, I’d do it exactly the same. Actually, wait, that’s not true. This time I wouldn’t apologize for blowing off your show. So yeah, I do regret something.

Justin Prejean @Filthy_Slunt
how do you see @PatCurranMMA vs. @JoeWarrenMMA playing out at #Bellator60 & does this fight excite you?

The fight definitely excites me, and I’m a little surprised there’s not more buzz for it out there, especially with so many fans complaining about the long Zuffa layoff in March. I was almost surprised to see Curran was a 3-1 favorite according to some online oddsmakers. I could see making him a slight favorite against Warren, who hasn’t fought since his brutal KO loss to Alexis Vila back in September, but don’t count that man out. I think Warren will surprise some people here, and I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he found a way to pull out a victory.

Tobias Lechner @minga_lechi
do you think the strikeforce heavyweights will change the ufc heavyweight division? Are they good enough for the ufc?

Do I think they will change the UFC heavyweight division? Um, haven’t they already changed it? They’ve certainly added depth to it, not to mention variety. A few years ago it was mostly enormous wrestlers at the top. The Strikeforce infusion also added Alistair Overeem (an enormous kickboxer) and Fabricio Werdum (a merely large jiu-jitsu specialist). Then you’ve got guys like Shane del Rosario and Lavar Johnson further down the food chain, plus Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett still waiting for their turn to fly the Strikeforce coop. Once all those guys are under the UFC banner at once, it should make for the best heavyweight division since the death of Pride.

Wanna Bet UFC @WannaBetUFC
Are you in favour of 0.5-unit 10 point must system? Close rounds are currently weighted too heavily (MM Rd 1/2), few 10-10's.

I almost hate to say it, but I’m with Dana White on this one. These judges seem to have a hard enough time with 10s and 9s, not to mention the mysterious and elusive 8s. I don’t see how a half-point scoring system will help them. I do agree that there aren’t enough 10-10 rounds, perhaps because judges fear a draw. Plenty of times we see rounds that are so close, picking a winner is somewhat arbitrary. Maybe the solution is to add the "sudden victory" round clause to all fighter contracts, which would take some of the pressure off the judges and give the fighters one more chance to make their case in a close fight.

Overall though, we need better judging and better judges. The way to do that is to hold judges accountable and evaluate their performances on a regular basis. This isn’t the Supreme Court, and state athletic commissions should not be handing out lifetime appointments. Be good or be gone.

Christopher Cheung @christopher_kit
who is the best mma fighter not from Brasil, USA or Canada

Alistair Overeem, who hails from the Netherlands. Though Britain's Michael Bisping and Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson both deserve a mention, as does Brian Ebersole, who hails from Parts Unknown.

James Hawkins @jmhawkins
Are you excited about TUF Live? Many are talking about the long break between Zuffa events, will this fill the void left?

I’m definitely glad to see TUF change its format after so many seasons of the same old thing. Live TV sounds like a real challenge, and I’m not sure I would have picked Friday night as the ideal slot for a reality sports competition show, but yes, I’m interested to see how the new TUF works. I’m also glad to see Bellator coming back, and I think this could make for some fun Friday night battles going forward. For more on that, I recommend checking out Loretta Hunt’s piece on Sports Illustrated. Tell ‘em the TMB sent you.

Ben Howell @BenjaminHowell1
Does Jon Jones move to Heavy Weight (whenever that happens) undefeated?

I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but he’s not undefeated now. His creative/illegal use of elbows earned him a DQ loss against Matt Hamill back in 2009. But okay, I see what you’re really asking, and I think the answer is yes. I think Jones will hold that light heavyweight title for a long time, though I do think his toughest tests are still in front of him. I think he beats Evans, then gets past a very tough Dan Henderson before smashing a retooled Phil Davis or maybe even a gradually ascending Alexander Gustafsson. That's when I think he looks around at the division he decimated and he weeps, for he sees there is no one left to conquer. Then I think he starts ordering his steak sandwiches with fries instead of a side salad, and he moves up to heavyweight in search of a new challenge.

Aron Gunningham @PureMMA
What's the point in an interm WW belt if it's going to be tied up until the main title is ready to be fought for? #mailbag

There really isn’t one, and thank you for pointing that out. Not that I’m in favor of interim titles in general, but I certainly don’t see the point in creating a new champion just so he can sit around and wait for the old champion to heal up. All it does is allow the UFC to put ‘interim welterweight championship bout’ on the fight posters, which, for a fight like Carlos Condit-Nick Diaz, it didn’t need anyway. Now that main events are five-rounders, there’s really no reason to go around creating fake titles just to inject a false sense of importance into top contender bouts. And if Condit is just going to put the interim title on the shelf and let it collect almost as much dust as the real one, it truly makes no sense.

Matt Pryor @CRUMxMMA
do you think it was a mistake giving Edgar the rematch? Especially considering Pettis/Bendo 2 has big money aspirations.

Gian Patelo @nogstai
Do you think Pettis actually deserves a shot on Henderson? Loss to Guida, SD to Stephens, and KO of JLau? I think not.

I put these two questions side by side to make a point about the tricky matchmaking position the UFC was in when it came to the lightweight belt. If the powers that be had decided not to give Edgar the same rematch opportunity that they forced him to give others, some people would have complained that he was getting screwed. Now that he’s getting another shot while Pettis gets overlooked, other people will complain that Pettis is getting screwed, and the UFC is missing the chance to hype a big title fight that already has one of the best highlights in MMA history to help promote it. There’s just no pleasing everybody here.

I suppose it comes down to what’s more important to you: fairness or fun? Giving Edgar the immediate rematch is fair. It’s what he had to do for his challengers, after all, so he’s kind of earned it. But getting Henderson and Pettis to run it back definitely sounds way more fun. It would also be easier to promote, even if there’s no way Pettis’ recent history would justify a title shot against any other champion.

Personally, I’d rather see Henderson-Pettis, but I can’t complain too much about seeing Edgar get another crack. More than anything, I object to the precedent the UFC sets with stuff like this. What, we’re going to do a rematch every time there’s a close title fight? What happens if Edgar wins a decision this time? Do we do it a third time, just to be fair to Henderson? We’re rapidly approaching the point where fair is just no fun.

Super D - Dave @FightSpectator
Q: who would win in a Gina Carano vs Ronda Rousey bout?

I have to go with the person who has actually been fighting and winning lately, and not the person who’s been hanging around on movie sets and green rooms, trying her best to stay away from the free shrimp cocktail. If Carano came back now and fought Rousey right away, I think her next movie might have to be one of those uplifting stories about a brave woman who triumphs in spite of her horribly mangled elbow.

Eddie Doty @LuckyBestWash
Will Sarah Kauffman be more dangerous to Ronda than Miesha was?

Yes, but I’m not sure what that means. She could get submitted in the second round rather than the first, and we’d all cite that as proof that Kaufman was more of a test than Tate was, but it wouldn’t help Kaufman much. I think her chances depend entirely on takedown defense. Obviously, she’s going to have an edge in the striking department. Rousey still has some work to do there, as we saw against Tate. But if Rousey can grab Kaufman and fling her to the mat as easily as she did Tate, it won’t matter.

You know how we hear about grapplers going to Thailand or the Netherlands to work on nothing but kickboxing? Kaufman might be wise to head to Japan and enroll in some judo classes.

Kengi Smith @KengiSmith
What are your thoughts on Brandon Saling, why has no one brought up the 88 on his shoulder? A known nazi mark.

People have brought it up, trust me. They’ve also brought up his criminal record, which is pretty horrifying. Saling allegedly lied about his criminal past in his licensing application, and, weirdly enough, that’s what he’s in trouble for now, and not the original offenses. Don’t be surprised if you never hear from this guy again, at least as an MMA fighter. And to all the people who wrote me emails about how stupid it was of the UFC to allow Dakota Cochrane, a former gay porn actor, to represent the company on TV? This sure puts that in perspective, doesn’t it? What Cochrane did might have been distasteful to some, but it wasn’t illegal. It didn’t hurt anybody. If you’re going to try and drum someone out of the sport for their past behavior outside of it, how about focusing your energy on the criminally violent, racist sex offender?

dp @DP1331
How would I get a job as a sports writer? Where do i start? How did you get to where you are?

I see this question a lot on Twitter and on forums, directed to me and to others, so it seems worth answering. The bad news is, you can’t have my job. I like it too much. The good news is, we live in a wonderful time for writers. It used to be that you had to come up through the right channels and know the right people for a media outlet to even give you a shot. No you can just start your own website and start writing, which is exactly what you should do. Not only is it good practice as a writer, it also gives you a body of work to show a potential employer when the time comes. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to offer you a job out of nowhere. Get to work, and then let that work help you find more work. Somewhere in there, hopefully someone will decide to start paying you.

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