We are two weeks down, one to go in the UFC's longest planned break of 2014. And unlike most UFC-free weekends, there isn't a crush of second-tier events filling the void.
But fear not ... something always manages to fill the vacuum in the mixed martial arts world. And this week was no exception, from Chael Sonnen's latest controversial comments to Conor McGregor's Career Path of the Week to Anderson Silva's return. So let's get right into another edition of Fightweets, already.
Chael Sonnen, PEDs, and apologies
@RuckerYeah: Heard Chael's podcast. Do you think he should apologize?
As is the case with most things Chael Sonnen, I see a few layers to his refusal to apologize for his use of performance-enhancing drugs. On the first edition of his new podcast, Sonnen told MMAFighting's own Ariel Helwani that he's "not going to apologize because he's not sorry.
Now, should Sonnen apologize? Let's put it this way: If you don't think so, then go to someone like Michael Bisping or Brian Stann and tell them that Sonnen doesn't owe them an apology. Bisping and Stann have never failed a drug test. They lost to Sonnen. Sonnen went on to title shots and big pay-per-view money while Bisping and Stann never quite reached that plateau. So yes, on one level Sonnen owes such guys an apology.
But on the other hand ... I don't know about you, but I'm so tired of hearing insincere apologies from those, from fighters to politicians to really anyone in a public spotlight, who get into some sort of trouble. It can get pretty nauseating sometimes.
On that level, I think I'm actually okay with Sonnen coming out and saying he's not sorry. Sincere contrition for his actions would be the best-case scenario. But if he simply isn't sorry, then I'd rather hear him say it, than have us all get our intelligence insulted one more time with a fake apology.
Calling out your next opponent
@debbietravers: What are your thoughts on fighters asking for/calling out opponents?
I mean, the idea that self-promoters in the fight business get ahead faster than the rest has been obvious since the days of John L. Sullivan. And if we need a more contemporary reminder, look no further that a certain Irish featherweight, and how his career has taken off.
On the other hand, let's use everyone's favorite whipping boy over the past couple weeks. Rafael Assuncao has been kicked around by pretty much everyone for not doing a song-and-dance routine on command in the wake of his seventh straight victory. Guess what? There's a reason the Conor McGregors and Chael Sonnens are few and far between. Not everyone has McGregor's personality or Sonnen's ability to sell ice to Eskimos. And yet, with each passing month, we seem to put more and more pressure on fighters to fit the mold.
Assuncao is a polite, thoughtful guy who can't fake it, so he didn't try. You know what would have been worse? If he had actually gone ahead and done so, and had it obviously ring false, when you and I and he and everyone else knows Dominick Cruz had the best case for a shot at the bantamweight title. How phony would it look if Assuncao suddenly behaved like McGregor? Such phoniness would bring a worse backlash on him than the approach he took.
It's a simple reality of the "business" part of the fight business that fighters who aren't overly charismatic tend to have a longer path to the top. Jon Fitch needed to win eight UFC fights in a row to get his shot at Georges St-Pierre, for example, while Josh Koscheck got his shot on a three-fight win streak. But in the long run, I have more respect for Assuncao for being true to himself instead of caving in to demands that he turn into something he's not.
Next up for Conor?
@Fraz1001: Who should Mcgregor fight now that he's said he's not waiting on Aldo/Mendes?
First off, I wouldn't keep anything off the table with McGregor at the moment, given the manic manner in which he's bounced from plan to plan in recent weeks: First, he was going to be ready to step in should Jose Aldo or Chad Mendes have to drop out. Then he announced a fight against Diego Sanchez which was never going to happen. Then he declared that he was going to win both the featherweight and lightweight titles (the last person who made a similar claim was a young Brandon Vera, who announced he was going to win both the 205 and 265 belts, and, well, you know how that turned out). By this time next week I'm sure he'll be challenging the winner of Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier.
This might come off like I'm dodging the question here, but really, right now McGregor's best bet is to sit back a bit and let things play out. Let Aldo vs. Mendes happen. Let Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson happen. For that matter, let Dennis Bermudez vs. Ricardo Lamas happen, too. The UFC has already demonstrated that they will eagerly put their full promotional muscle behind McGregor's fights, so let the dust settle and whatever makes sense, makes sense. In the meantime, I'm sure McGregor will keep himself in the news by offering to fight everyone from Demetrious Johnson to Cain Velasquez.
(Mea culpa: I saw a question asking what I thought about Renan Barao-Mitch Gagnon and Urijah Faber-Francisco Rivera fights in my timeline a couple days ago, wrote this answer without cutting and pasting the question, and now I can't find it on my timeline).
I'm going to do this in list form, since there are so many running strains here: 1. Obviously, Dillashaw and Cruz are locked in for a title fight; 2. Barao and Faber are the next two in line after Dillashaw and Cruz. 3. Barao has beaten Faber twice. Unlike Silva-Weidman, which would be a blockbuster under the right circumstances, I think Barao-Faber is a harder sell; 4. UFC probably wants to ease Barao back into things after his recent troubles; 5. They also very likely have an eye on Cruz-Faber 3, should Faber win, which would be the biggest money, non-McGregor lighter-weight fight out there; 6. Faber was unenthused about rematching Assuncao; 7. Faber has been a Zuffa company man on so many occasions that he's probably earned the right to call his shot on not wanting that fight; 8. Gagnon and Rivera, respectively, are live underdogs who have earned thier opportunities to step up in competition, so 9. All factors considered, I think the UFC has done a reasonable job of navigating their way through a tricky situation.
Is PPV dying?
@davidwellsj: Is it a matter of time before the UFC PPV's going extinct like the dinosaurs?
Actually, you can lose "UFC" and ask straight-up if pay-per-view itself is going the way of the dinosaurs.
It's probably heading in that direction. But the reduction of PPV as a percentage of a company's income isn't going to mean the end of big-money combat sports. This is an industry which has adapted to changes from the invention of television itself to closed-circuit TV to cable and PPV. Smart promoters have always adapted to emerging technological trends; those who don't tend to get left behind in a hurry.
The money being thrown at live sporting events to offset cable cord-cutting has become ridiculous, from the NBA's new deal to the NFL's new DirectTV contract. While niche sports obviously won't be making NFL dollars, the rising tide is going to lift all the boats.
Concurrently, streaming services are being ramped up, with HBO and CBS making news on that front this week alone.
It's no longer 2009, where PPV was the model. Network money, international expansion, and streaming services are the future, with PPV a part of the mix.
The UFC took its fair share of lumps this year for implementing its change in strategy, by engaging in aggressive worldwide expansion, increasing the schedule, and offering its Fight Pass online service. (Losing their two top PPV draws in back-to-back months in Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, just as they were going in that direction, was obviously a worst-case scenario coming to fruition and made the transition more difficult than it would have been otherwise).
So much of the noise on the MMA Twitterverse fails to look at the big picture and simply panics based on whatever's happening in the here and now. But despite this year's turbulence, it could very well be that a decade from now, we look back at 2014 as the year the UFC took a considerable short-term hit in order to correctly position themselves for future growth.
Silva vs. Weidman 3?
@Grahamchad89 (and a couple others): Do u think Anderson gets another shot at Weidman after the Diaz win?
I summarily dismissed this idea when I first heard it. Chris Weidman has defeated Silva twice, after all. But on second thought, it might not be such a bad concept. Manny Pacquiao was 2-0-1 against Juan Manuel Marquez going into their fourth fight, and there was certainly no lack of interest there. Likewise, there's a big portion of the public that still believes the Silva-Weidman 1 was a lucky punch and Weidman-Silva 2 was a fluke accident. What if Silva returns, in what is undoubtedly going be one of the biggest MMA fights, well, ever, and looks like the old Anderson Silva against Nick Diaz? All due respect to Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold, etc., but I think the demand to see if Silva can regain that title one last time would trump any other considerations.
@Theiron_aaron: Since they canceled the last Los Angeles card with Aldo, don't you think us LA fans deserve a do-over?
I live in LA. Any fight night which finishes with my sleeping in my own bed at the end of the night is fine by me. But it's also not an accident that the UFC has never been booked Staples Center during NBA season: With the Clippers, and that other basketball team which used to be relevant, having dibs on dates at the building, as well as the NHL's Kings, it's almost impossible to find a free Saturday on the building's schedule over the winter. So I'd put money down on a return to Anaheim before they go back to LA, if they took bets on such matters.