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Twitter Mailbag: Talking Mo Lawal the Pro Wrestler, UFC on FOX Ratings, and More

Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s Twitter Mailbag time again, boys and girls. This time we tackle everything from Mo Lawal’s decision to moonlight as a pro wrestler, to the UFC’s flagging ratings on FOX, to the similarities between suffering a seizure and sitting through a Ben Askren title defense.

Got a question of your own? Find me on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA and fire away. I promise to at least have my neurologist read it aloud to me.

Adrian Garcia @AdriantheWizard
@benfowlkesMMA will King Mo's future double duties at Bellator & TNA hinder or rejuvenate his MMA career?

I have to admit I’m mystified by this one. I like Mo Lawal and I can understand why the chance to pursue both pro wrestling and MMA -- all while chasing that paper -- probably felt like an offer he couldn’t refuse. At the same time, I have my doubts.

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney compared this to Bo Jackson’s dual careers in pro football and baseball, saying "when Bo jackson played baseball he never tackled anybody, and nobody called that out as an oddity or something unusual. Nobody ever said, 'Why aren't you tackling anyone?'" That’s true, but the big difference is that whether Jackson was playing football or baseball, he was always still Bo. He never had to pretend to be anyone else. The same will not be true for Lawal, because pro wrestling is more theater than sport. Before all you pro wrestling fans start beating me with folding chairs, let me clarify that just because I don’t think it’s a sport does not mean I think it’s easy. It’s not. It’s incredibly physically demanding, not to mention dangerous. But the outcomes are pre-determined. The wrestlers are performers, there to play a role.

What I wonder is, how will Lawal balance those two? How can he go from a scripted rivalry one month to a genuine sporting competition the next? Where will he even find the time to train properly during all this? And what if he tears a ligament in his already damaged knee while jumping off the top rope or being thrown out of the ring? Will Bellator, not to mention MMA fans, offer him any sympathy if he has to pull out of the light heavyweight tournament because he injured himself while pulling punches on a guy with tassels on his tights?

I’m not so sure. I’m not sure that the physical grind of pro wrestling is a great idea for a guy who’s been in and out of the hospital as much as Lawal has lately. It’s his body and his bank account, so he gets to make the decisions about what’s best for each. I just hope he doesn’t think that the line between real fighting and fake fighting is going to be an easy one to jump back and forth across. Even Bo had his career in one sport cut short by injuries sustained in another. Unlike Lawal, Bo didn’t have to worry about what would happen to him while the referee was unconscious.

Koko Dionis @iamKokoD
@benfowlkesMMA which fight are you looking forward 2 the most this summer?

Does May count as the summer? I’m guessing it doesn’t, at least not where I live, since it can still rain and snow and hail at any point throughout the month as if daring you to complain about it and thus out yourself as a wimp from California. And if May isn’t the summer, then I have to cross the Strikeforce Grand Prix final between Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett off my list. I also have to cross off all of UFC 146, even though I admit I’m more excited about Cormier-Barnett more than I am about that entire card.

With all that off the table, the fight I’m most looking forward to has to be Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II. After everything that’s happened between those two, how could you not? It’s the must-see MMA event of the summer. You’ll know because even your friends who normally can’t understand why you waste so many Saturday nights on this crap will be calling you up, wondering if they can "drop by" that weekend. You know, just to hang out and catch up and oh, is that fight on tonight? Huh, I had no idea. Well, hey, if you’re watching it anyway...

My rule for such an occasion? Tell them that they’re welcome to grab a seat in your living room and watch the pay-per-view you bought. But first, oh, were they headed to the store anyway? Great, then they wouldn’t mind picking up some delicious snacks and ice-cold beverages while they’re out.

Eddie Gemayel @eddiegemayel
@benfowlkesMMA do you think hector lombard is being thrown into the fire too soon by putting him against stann already? #twittermailbag

Hector Lombard is 34 years old and has more than 30 professional fights. What are we waiting for? He’s not being thrown into the fire -- he’s jumping in while it’s still hot. To the UFC’s credit, there are very few easy fights to be had in that organization. The UFC’s habit of purging its roster of habitual losers every so often may seem brutal at times, but it does maintain a high standard for all-around talent most of the time. That’s a good thing. Who wants to see Lombard maul some over-matched has-been or never-was? Didn’t we get enough of that from his run in Bellator and on the Australian MMA circuit? We know Lombard can throttle the guys who aren’t quite at the UFC level. We’ve seen it. What we want to know is whether he can do as well against successful UFC fighters. One way or another, Stann will answer that for us.

Stealth Lee @stealthlee
@benfowlkesMMA What's worse: a seizure or a Askren title defense? #mailbag #toosoon?

First of all, I think Askren is already on his way to your house to challenge you to a fight, so you'd better start working on your takedown defense now. Second, this is hard to answer, since I don’t remember anything about the seizure. One minute I was pouring myself a glass of water, and the next I was wondering how I’d ended up on my back next to a broken water glass, and why my wife was kneeling over me, shouting our address at the 911 operators. Scary stuff, but mostly for her, since I have no recollection of it. For me, those few minutes are permanently gone. That’s pretty much the opposite of a Ben Askren title fight, where the 25 minutes you give up to watch it feel like two hours. I don’t know if that makes it worse than a seizure, but I can tell you that my wife doesn’t want to sit through either ever again.

joe mosqueda @joedaddy85
@benfowlkesMMA will I ever appear in your twitter mailbag article amongst other questions from the great fans of this great sport of mma?

Yes, but only once. And look what you wasted it on. What a shame.

Paul Silva @ThePaulSilva
@benfowlkesMMA Idea: B.J Penn fighting Aldo, what you think?

I don’t like it. I doubt Penn would either. There’s no point in fighting for a title that you have no intention of sticking around and trying to hold for an extended period of time. And, let’s be honest, there’s no way Penn wants to cut to 145 pounds a few times a year, no matter how fantastic his abs might look at that weight.

Brendan @CursedDiamonds
@benfowlkesMMA What's the best and worst part about having to suddenly confront your own mortality? Any funny stories come out of this?

The best part is being reminded to appreciate the life you have now rather than the life you assume you’ll be around to live later. Turns out you have far less control over what later might look like (or if it will exist for you at all) than you think. That is also the worst part.

Michael @coldplay0484
@benfowlkesMMA If Barnett wins the tournament has he earned a spot in the UFC?

He’s earned it even if he doesn’t win the tournament. The same is true for Cormier.

Joshua Fitch @joshuafitch
@benfowlkesMMA is the UFC making a long term mistake in not getting bigger fights on Fox, specifically title fights?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes, but it’s complicated.

There were a lot of factors that may have contributed to the recent ratings decline on FOX. A huge action movie had just opened that weekend, which also happened to be Cinco de Mayo (also known as the holiday that many Americans can’t explain the genesis of, but celebrate aggressively anyway). There was also a big boxing match that night, or so I hear. Individually, those sound like weak excuses for poor ratings, but together they form like Voltron to chip away at the UFC’s potential viewership. Maybe. Possibly.

Those are all minor problems that are, for the most part, outside of the UFC's control. The big problem -- the one that is in the UFC’s power to fix -- is the fight card. Remember the first FOX show? The one that drew an enormous audience despite the briefest of action? That was pitched as the "HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD!!!" You don’t need to know anything about the current state of the UFC or its roster to understand what that means. All you need to know is where and when.

Compare that to Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller. It was a good fight, and one that hardcore MMA fans knew would be exciting. But picture trying to explain it to your neighbor while the two of you discuss your Saturday night plans. Is it for a championship? No. Is it to determine who gets a shot at a championship? Maybe, but it depends who wins. Do they hate each other or something? Not at all.

What do you think: is he going to watch?

The UFC would make the argument that a) it was a fun fight, so shut up, and b) it was free, so shut up. Those are both valid points, even if telling people to shut up often brings about the exact opposite result. Still, when you offer up a fight like Diaz-Miller, what you’re really saying to the casual sports fan/network TV viewer is: You feel like watching some UFC tonight? You’re not selling a specific fight or a specific personality at that point. You’re not even selling a set of stakes. You’re selling the brand name and the vague promise of memorable violence.

Some nights that works. It just doesn’t work when there’s a new movie to go to and a 2-for-1 deal on Coronas at the bar down the street, which may or may not be showing this championship boxing match. The UFC could fix some of that by offering up big title fights on FOX, but then it has to convince champions to forego a cut of pay-per-view money and agree to the kind of fight that they really, really can’t pull out of, even if they get hurt or sick. That also involves the UFC giving up some pay-per-view money to bolster a TV deal it already has, and for what? Just to get a ratings number it can crow about? Just to shut up the people on the internet who -- let’s face it -- are the exact same people who will stay home to watch Diaz and Miller?

It’s a tough situation, and one with a lot of complexities. The UFC needs to decide what the role of the FOX events is going to be. Right now it seems to think that, like the Spike TV Fight Nights of old, it serves to showcase fighters who people will eventually pay to see. But that doesn’t work on people who aren’t yet MMA fans, and it doesn’t work if the fighters we just saw (Nate Diaz and Johny Hendricks, for instance) won’t fight again for nine or twelve months. True, some people will tune in just to watch some UFC. But then, the UFC already had those people. Wasn’t the FOX deal supposed to help pull in all the other people? Wasn’t that why it was so important?

Chad @CMG_77
@benfowlkesMMA excluding yourself of course, why hasn't more been made of/questions asked of the known trt users?

What are you supposed to ask them? If we already know they use testosterone, and if they go through the existing channels to get their therapeutic-use exemptions, what are we supposed to say?

‘Excuse me, Mr. Henderson, but do you still use testosterone?’


‘Okay, thanks.’

It’s not the known users we should worry about -- it’s the unknown users, and there are plenty. It’s also the athletic commissions, some of which have at least something resembling acceptable standards and some of which don’t. If we want to get rid of TRT -- or at least restrict its usage to those who really, really need it and are willing to go through a transparent, rigorous process to prove it -- then we need to direct these questions to the commissions and to the MMA organizations themselves. The fighters are going to get every advantage they can. It’s the job of the athletic commissions to draw the lines between fair and unfair advantages, and to stick to it even when it’s tough.

wb @wiksenn
@benfowlkesMMA what are your thoughts on championship rematches? And when is it right to have a rematch?

If there’s a controversial ending? Sure, go ahead and rematch. If there’s not another obvious contender already waiting in the wings, and the fight is one that, for whatever reason, people would like to see again right away? Rematch all you want. But if it’s just a close decision, and if there are other guys out there who have dutifully waited their turn for a crack at the belt, then I say we should move on. If the loser of the close decision is truly championship material, he’ll be back at the top before long. That doesn’t mean everyone else should put their careers on hold in the meantime, however.

Jason Rule @JasonRule
@benfowlkesMMA Promising UFC freshmen Denis, Thompson, and Cholish have hit a sophomore slump. Who comes out better for having hit it?

Nick Denis gets my vote, with Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson as a close second. Denis may have come out on the losing end against Roland Delorme, but he’s still an exciting fighter in a division that, as they say in the corporate world, offers plenty of advancement opportunities. Another blistering finish and he’s right back in there. I’m not sure it will be quite as simple for Cholish, who has some wrestling deficiencies in a weight class that’s overflowing with guys capable of exploiting them.

TheKidd @VineStreetLife
@benfowlkesMMA Ronda Rousy to headline a UFConFOX such a thing possible? Good idea? Best opponent? Answer away, genius. #TMB

No, it’s not a good idea. It’s a great idea. Remember what I wrote earlier about the trouble with asking John Q. Sportsfan to sit down and watch some UFC? A Ronda Rousey main event doesn’t have that problem. It allows you to explain to your neighbor in 30 seconds or less why he should make a point to be in front of his TV on Saturday night, and also why his girlfriend might be interested, at least once somebody takes slightly more than 30 seconds to explain the UFC’s historical reluctance to get involved in women’s MMA. Men will watch for the violence (and to see Rousey in a sports bra), while women will watch because they can relate to the struggle to prove that one’s genitalia should not determine what one is and is not capable of in the workforce (and sure, also maybe for the violence and the sports bra, depending on the woman).

As for an opponent, that depends on how Rousey does against Sarah Kaufman, and also whether Cris "Cyborg" can get clean and get right with the powers that be. All I’m saying is, Rousey-Cyborg is the rare fight where the poster alone tells you almost everything you need to know.

Seany Adams @rokabee
@benfowlkesMMA should we occupy NY MMA at this point?

You know what? The hell with New York. I’m sick of hearing about it. If the state wants to play politics with MMA while allowing everything from pro wrestling to bull riding to parade through Madison Square Garden, fine. I think the UFC should do what I did back in 2008 when I was sick of living in New York City: pack up and head west. Just saying, Montana would welcome the UFC with open arms and cheap beers.

Matt Giesbrecht @MattGiesbrecht
@benfowlkesMMA With the high potential of UFC 148 upcoming (less without Cruz), what do you rank as your Top 3 cards in history? #mailbag

To make this easy on myself, I’m going to limit it to the top three fight cards I’ve personally attended, and I will offer no explanation or defense of my picks. I base these picks on a) the quality of the fights I saw there, and b) what it felt like to be in that particular place at that particular time. That said, my top three events are, in no meaningful order: WEC 53, UFC 139, and UFC 134.

Max de Vries @MaxWdeVries
@benfowlkesMMA Has Nate Diaz ever said anything about a possible fight with Melendez if he should end up in the UFC? Would that happen?

Won’t happen. Not surprisingly, considering the lens through which the Diaz brothers view professional fighting, they are far less likely to fight their friends than, say, those wrestler types who see it all as one big, friendly competition. When the Diazes fight, they view it almost as a matter of life and death. You might play racquetball against your best friend, but you probably don’t want to meet him for pistols at dawn, if you know what I’m saying.

Terry Shillito @TerryShillito
@benfowlkesMMA With King Mo going to Bellator&TNA, do we see a UFC/WWE collaboration in the near future? Do we WANT to see that?

No and no. Just like the bookstore has separate sections for fiction and non-fiction, so too should the sporting world. I think the UFC has struggled for legitimacy long enough to appreciate that.

Safi Afzal @SlumDoggg
@benfowlkesMMA should bellator take a chance and sign rampage when he gets set loose by the ufc and make a Mo vs Rampage ppv?

I have a feeling that, should he decide to seriously pursue fighting in a timely fashion after his UFC exit, "Rampage" Jackson is going to request an unreasonable amount of money. I also have a feeling that Bellator will rightly wonder whether he’s worth the price tag and the headache at this point in his career, especially considering how much he complains about doing the bare minimum for the highest-paying MMA organization in the land. If I were Bellator, I’d sit back and give Jackson a chance to find out what the free agent market really looks like for a 33-year-old former champion. Even if it doesn’t bring his asking price down significantly, it can’t help but improve his attitude.

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