The UFC's back tonight after a three-week absence ... which means Conor McGregor isn't far behind. So let's talk McGregor, as well as topics in the news this week like Cung Le's drug test, "the injury bug," and the Jose Aldo-Chad Mendes rematch in the latest edition of Fightweets.
Is McGregor vs. Siver the right call?
@Souldak: Do you think it was a mistake booking McGregor-Siver instead of waiting to see what happens with Mendes-Aldo?
It sure seemed that way if you watched Conor McGregor's Q & A in Brazil on Friday, which was pretty much 45 minutes of the Rio de Janeiro crowd jeering and taunting McGregor, with McGregor giving it right back. It wasn't too difficult to look at that spectacle and envision Aldo vs. McGregor in a sold-out atmosphere.
Still, I think the UFC is making a solid, calculated gamble in booking McGregor vs. Dennis Siver as a five-rounder for a Jan. 18 FOX Sports 1 card in Boston. For all the publicity McGregor has generated, for all the page views he provides MMA websites, and for his undeniable stardom in his Irish homeland, McGregor has yet to headline a big event in the United States. His Marcus Brimage fight was undercard on a cable card from Europe; his Max Holloway fight was undercard on a U.S.-based cable card; his headline bout against Diego Brandao was on Fight Pass; and his Dustin Poirier fight was on PPV, but wasn't a main event or co-main, even though it was basically the main event to the fans in the building at UFC 178 in Las Vegas.
You could put McGregor in with the Aldo-Chad Mendes winner straightaway, with things as they are, and have it become a big fight. Or you could feature McGregor on a January night when people are home watching television, presumably with a FOX promotional push on the NFL playoff broadcasts, with McGregor in a grudge match (McGregor and Siver have sniped at one another for months).
If McGregor shines in that spotlight, and does a solid ratings number, then his title shot will be much bigger than if you went to it now. And even if he loses, McGregor has heat with both Aldo and Mendes, and can easily be booked against the loser of the UFC 179 main event. Obviously there's an element of risk involved in booking this fight, but the chance of a big return is solid.
Speaking of gambles, you know what's a roll of the dice? Booking Boston on the day of the NFL's conference championship games. The New England Patriots, 5-2 as of this writing, have been to three straight AFC title games and seven of the past 11. While the fight is going to do a big TV number, which is the thing that matters most, live-event- wise, this has the potential to be the UFC's biggest arena-booking gaffe since they ran in Canada on the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Cung Le fallout
@CreamyAdventure: Is the Cung Lee HGH case MMA's version of the OJ case? We all know he did it but he got off on a flaw in the system.
@Creamyadvneture: Can he sue the ufc for defamation to try to convince us the fans he didn't use hgh (even tho look at him we all know he did)?
Okay, so comparing Cung Le's situation - getting suspended after a drug test, having his suspension arbitrarily lengthened, then having the whole thing thrown out - to O.J. Simpson's murder trail isn't exactly the most tasteful analogy. But I think it serves a purpose, because it shows that the damage is done.
Lots of fans like Creamy are sending out tweets like this, continuing to doubt Le. Michael Bisping, who has been given plenty of reason to doubt whether his opponents follow the rules, still believes Le is guilty and simply got off on a technicality. And so on. Really, the snark flew as soon as the 42-year-old Le posted his gym pictures, long before he was ever tested.
Le seems to understand this, since he wants the UFC to apologize for the botched test. As for pursuing anything beyond an apology he may or may not get, I mean, I don't see what it's going to do for him. Even if Le won a hypothetical lawsuit, it's not like he's going to sway over doubters. If anything, this will simply keep the issue in the spotlight. And, just ask Randy Couture about the UFC's pit bull legal team, who have far more resources and will be will to drag out such a process as long as it takes. Fair or not, it's probably best to just drop it, make it go away, and move on.
What is becoming clear, though, is that the time is nearing for the UFC to hand over drug testing for its international events to an independent agency. The UFC absolutely had the right intentions when instituting the policy of self-regulation on events like the Macau card from which this whole mess sprang, but all it takes is one case like this to show the flaws in the approach.
What to do about all the injuries
@HatrickSwayze: We need a solution to the amount of injuries and lack of fight power we're seeing in UFC this year, what is it?
Great question. If there was a simple answer to fixing the problem, it would probably be under control by now. I do know that from here on forward, I'm done referring to whatever is going on with injuries and fight fallouts in MMA as an "injury bug." That implies that what's been happening the past several years is something similar to a seasonal flu making the rounds. It's pretty clear things aren't going to change any time soon.
One of the biggest issues impeding change is the sport's decentralization. This isn't a league of franchised sports teams which each have a vote on league matters in a board of governors, whose edicts are final. Fighters are training in independent gyms. A list of best practices would be helpful, but it's not like the UFC has the manpower to monitor what's happening on a day-to-day basis. So on some level, the gyms and the individual fighters have to learn to better protect themselves in training. Which is far easier said than done, given the simple nature of what they do.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the UFC's schedule expansion. The UFC could better handle injury fallouts when the cards were deeper. It wouldn't require a massive schedule rollback to make a difference. If the UFC simply trimmed the schedule by a half-dozen events next year - an average of one show every two months - that would be somewhere in the vicinity of 60-80 fewer fights in need of filling. About a dozen of those would be the sort of pay-per-view quality fights that have been glaring in their absence from the events the UFC has been asking fans to shell out $60 for, the ones which are now main and co-mains on smaller fight cards. We have to accept schedule expansion as a reality. But it couldn't hurt to trim their worst-drawing dates and by extension help meet the fighters partway in solving this issue.
Changes to the scoring system
@DCdoctr: Is there any realistic chance that MMA will change/update the 10-point-must system?
Doubftul. The closest there was to critical mass about reforming MMA's scoring system came last year, in the wake of Georges St-Pierre's controversial victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. Many were in favor of looking at new ways of scoring bouts, or, at the very least, making more liberal use of the system in place now and scoring more 10-8s and 10-7s, instead of scoring 97 percent of rounds 10-9.
What came of the outcry? Little. California State Athletic Commission Executive Director Andy Foster wrote a letter to his peers trying to push the issue forward - and followed up over the events under his control by recommending his judges score more 10-8s - but that was about the extent of it. If the head of the biggest (in terms of number of shows in his jurisdiction, by far) commission in the country couldn't get the rest of the commissions to strike while the iron was hot, the chances of hit happening now are slim to none.
@Ech05M1ke: Aldo or Mendes who you got
Aldo. I've heard all the talk about how Aldo hasn't improved, how his skills have regressed, etc. I've seen little actual evidence in the cage. Just because Aldo isn't steamrolling people like he did in a smaller WEC cage doesn't mean he's lost a step. Now, Mendes' improved striking is what makes this an interesting rematch. I'm not discounting Mendes' chances at all and I think he's going to make Aldo earn his money. But Aldo is the longest-reigning current lineal weight-class champ for a reason, and I suspect he'll remind us why on Saturday night.
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