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Twitter Mailbag: Talking KenFlo's Retirement, UFC's Injury Bug, and More

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

The Twitter Mailbag was flooded with an impossible number of question across an impossible swath of crazy topics. Sadly, we don’t have time for all of them, so I picked the best ones, which is to say the ones I felt like answering. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the only one I’ve got.

If you’ve got a question of your own, hit me up on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Now on to this week’s queries.

Stealth Lee @stealthlee
@benfowlkesMMA I've been watching Dana White dealing with the seemingly insurmountable BS in his job. Is there a worse job than his? #mbag

Well, he’s incredibly wealthy and flies around the world in a private jet, sharing cocktails with Olivia Munn and sitting in the best seat in the house at UFC events, so yes, there are many jobs out there that are worse than his. But okay, I see your point, and I’ve wondered about it myself from time to time. I definitely wondered about it last Saturday night when he stood in front of a bunch of us pesky reporter types just before midnight on a Saturday night and told us, once again, that we have no idea the "bulls---" he deals with on a daily basis. And I think he’s right. We know about a lot of the bulls---, but I’m sure we don’t know about all of it.

It makes you wonder, especially with some of the health problems he’s been dealing with lately, why he doesn’t kick his feet up and take an early retirement, or at least an extended vacation? He’s already rich. And besides, he’s said in the past that the UFC machine is like McDonald’s at this point; it can exist and operate effectively even without him there to sign off on every detail. So why, if the job is such an intolerable headache, does he keep doing it?

The only explanation I come up with is that, deep down, he loves this bulls---. He has to. For the same reason factory workers don’t keep punching a timecard after they hit the lotto, White wouldn’t still be here if this was just a job to him. Maybe it’s the thrill of success or the love of power, but he clearly enjoys some aspect of this more than he hates the others. He might complain about it sometimes. He might even genuinely hate it every now and then. But being UFC president is not a prison sentence. It’s just a really stressful, absurdly lucrative job that consumes your life and becomes your identity. If he expected anything different when he convinced his rich friends to buy this thing, he was kidding himself.

Aaron Daane @aarondaane
@benfowlkesMMA podcast/mailbag question: you touched on this, but I've thought of this before. Why do MMA athletes train until they r hurt?

MMA is that rare sport where the amount and type of training is left almost entirely up to the athlete. He has coaches and trainers to guide him, but it’s not as structured as the NFL or the NBA. The fighter can skip practices or add workouts. He can cobble together his training from several different sources. Because the fighter trains so much more than he actually competes, and because each competition is so critical, there’s tremendous pressure on him to get in the gym and try to answer a lot of questions that have yet to be asked of him. That leads to overtraining, which in turn leads to injuries. That’s part of the puzzle right there.

The other part is that, with so much talent packed into relatively few gyms, a lot of fighters end up regularly sparring guys they should be paid to fight. You walk into gyms like AKA and the floor is filled with superstar fighters, all beating the hell out of each other on a daily basis. Fighters say that’s necessary, that "steel sharpens steel." But do me a favor: take a couple swords from that samurai collection you bought from the late-night infomercial a few months back (you know the one), then go out in the backyard and bang them against one another for an hour. Then come back and tell me if they’re sharper afterwards.

Pedro Figueiredo @pedromfdo
@benfowlkesMMA give me your thoughts on a possible rematch between JDS and Cain?

I think it will happen, and I think it will end more or less the same way the first one did, albeit probably not as quickly. Junior dos Santos has excellent takedown defense, great footwork, and the perfect combination of precision and power punching. Cain Velasquez’s standup has improved over the years, but he can’t win a striking battle with JDS. He has no choice but to try and take the champ down and keep him there, and they both know it. That’s going to make it a lot tougher to do when he finally gets another chance.

Jay Bradley @jmichaelbrad
@benfowlkesMMA KenFlo's retirement got me thinking. In your opinion, who's the best UFC fighter to never win a belt? #twittermailbag

That’s a good question, but the use of the word ‘never’ implies that we must limit ourselves to those non-champions who are officially retired. For instance, Josh Koscheck is an excellent fighter who has never been a champion, but that doesn’t mean he never will, even if it seems unlikely at the moment. There’s also the question of whether we should limit ourselves strictly to UFC titles. Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson are both great fighters who have won championships outside the UFC, and surely those have to count for something.

In fact, the more I think about this question within those parameters, the more I wonder if the obvious answer isn’t Florian himself. I can’t think of any other officially retired fighter who won his way to as many UFC title shots without ever actually putting his hands on one. It seems kind of heartbreaking to come so close, so often, and yet keep coming up short. Of course, it’s still better than spending your entire career in the middle of the pack without ever even getting a whiff of the gold.

Steven Crocker @StevenCrocker
@benfowlkesMMA Is Dana White too 'Dana White' for the UFC as it becomes more mainstream? Do they need a more professional 'voice?'

Seems like we’ve heard some version of this off and on for the last five years or so. I know I’ve read enough opinion pieces with this same exact thesis that I no longer bother clicking on the headlines. People were making this argument well before the UFC got a network TV deal with FOX, and somehow they’re still making it afterwards. It’s true that White isn’t your typical sports league figurehead. Then again, MMA isn’t your typical sport. I’m not sure that the act of two men in tight shorts elbowing each other in the face is ever going to be truly mainstream, as least not the way that baseball or basketball is. I’m also not sure that the people who are turned off by professional cagefighting really care whether the president of the organization swears a lot.

Fight promoters have to be a certain type of person. The job is part pro sports commissioner and part carnival barker. One of White’s strengths is his ability to shove a narrative into the news and keeping pounding away at it until it starts to seem true. If that also comes with some f-bombs and the occasional vein-popping tirade, maybe it’s just part of the bargain.

Corey Martinez @NewfieMex
@benfowlkesMMA Hey Ben, why are people surprised about Nick Diaz punishment from NSAC? He tried to sue them!

People are surprised (or maybe just disappointed) because they’re reasonable enough to know that marijuana is not a performance-enhancing substance. It just isn’t. It’s a recreational drug, and a pretty harmless one. Testosterone, on the other hand, which seems to be flowing through the streets these days, often with the Nevada commission’s blessing, is one of the best performance-enhancers out there. The world in which testosterone use is punished less severely than marijuana, and sometimes not punished at all, is a world that seems downright absurd to many people.

But then, that doesn’t address Diaz’s specific case. He knew marijuana wasn’t allowed, and he tried to get away with it anyway. It was only after he was caught (again) that he went looking for a justification. So you’re right, he kind of asked for it with his open, habitual flaunting of the rules and his legal challenge after the fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that, logically, it makes zero sense to crack down on potheads while allowing professional fighters to juice themselves up with testosterone.

Ben Constable @BenConstable
@benfowlkesMMA #TMB How do you report the play-by-play and not miss half the fight, and in many instances, the finish?

The short answer is: you don’t. That’s why writing liveblogs sucks, and why you should reward those who do it by clicking on the link even if you don’t want to read it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cageside at an event, looked down at my laptop for just a second to make sure I’m not misspelling someone’s name over and over again, then heard the crowd gasp in amazement just before I look up to see one fighter unconscious on the mat. What happened? I ask my colleagues on press row. What did he get hit with? Then I realize that they’re asking me the same thing, and so we all sit quietly and wait for the replay.

Kyle Miller @steampunk22
@benfowlkesMMA What is going on with UFC 147? The card only has 4 fights confirmed and a weak main/co-main. Should UFC consider PPV tiers?

I think we can all agree that UFC 147 is a disaster. Nothing went the way it was supposed to, and there’s very little there that would convince anyone to spend money on it, especially when UFC 148, which might end up being the biggest pay-per-view of the year, is just a couple weeks later. My guess is that most fans will save their money to see Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen, while Brazilian MMA fans are once again expected to eat cold, stale leftovers and be grateful for the chance.

Matt Giesbrecht @MattGiesbrecht
@benfowlkesMMA Is this a make-it-or-break-it fight for @patrick_cote, with it being his third crack at the @ufc?

Sure, but I would have said the same about his last UFC bout against Tom Lawlor. He lost that one and got bounced from the big show, but his willingness to do the UFC a solid and accept a tough fight on short notice has earned him one more shot. If he puts on a good enough show against Cung Le at UFC 148, I’d bet he’ll get at least one more fight whether he wins or loses. What happens after that, however, is the real question. It’s pretty clear that Cote, while a solid all-around middleweight, is not a great one. He may not even be a UFC-caliber fighter, and yet he keeps getting chance after chance to prove otherwise.

Andrew Ballentine @Ballentine
@benfowlkesMMA If you were a pro fighter what camp would you like to train at and why?

Easy. I’d train at Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque. Not only do his fighters tend to be wildly successful, but Jackson himself is just an all-around great guy. Maybe some people need to have a maniac screaming in their faces to get motivated. Me? I like Jackson’s high school guidance counselor approach. If you didn’t die in your first week of sparring there, you almost couldn’t help but get better.

Josh @hurstje1
@benfowlkesMMA Q: Why don't we see MMA media members confronting Dana White with the ridiculousness he's been spewing re: TV ratings?

Maybe you don’t see people "confronting" White about it (it’s worth remembering that there’s a difference between an interview and an interrogation), but I have heard plenty of people ask about the FOX ratings. It’s just that White is very good at staying on message when he seizes on one that he likes. That’s why you’ll hear him repeat the same sound bytes over and over. That’s why every reporter has heard his four street corners analogy so many times we can sing along when he gets to the point where he says, "Fighting is in our DNA; we get it and we like it."

As far as his actual argument on the ratings front, what do you expect him to say? He’s the promoter. It’s his job to spin negatives into positives, or at least to give it a shot. It doesn’t mean any of us have to buy it, and it doesn’t mean that everyone who interviews him is obliged to treat it like the climax of a courtroom drama. He's not going to break down in tears and admit that a downward-trending ratings line is actually bad news rather than good, but that doesn't mean he isn't thinking it.

Graeme Brookes @Mr_Brookes04
@benfowlkesMMA quick & good? Your views on a beard protecting your chin? As stated by Dr Rogan PHD. ZZ Top would be the P4P kings!

If a beard does anything at all to prevent knockouts, it’s probably more visual than physical. You look at Johny Hendricks when he’s at his beardiest, and you can’t even be sure exactly where his chin is in among all that fur. How do you hit a guy on the button when you can’t even see it?

Billy Young @dynamiteBdog
@benfowlkesMMA who do you think moves to 205 easier? Cain or Cormier?

Neither. They’d both have a hard time with it, and neither one really needs to. They might be a tad short for heavyweight, but it doesn’t seem to keep them from winning fights. Besides, they’d be short for light heavyweight, too. I see no reason not to let them stay at heavyweight, where they’ve both proved to be a walking nightmare for bigger, taller fighters.

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