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Fightweets: So, about that Anderson Silva title shot ...

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Guilherme Cruz

The news that the sport's best pound-for-pound fighter, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, tested positive for cocaine metabolites in a test conducted a month prior to his UFC 182 victory over Daniel Cormier, and all the resultant fallout, is the biggest to hit the sport in quite some time.

So I'll of course offer my thoughts on the situation in this week's edition of Fightweets. But we're on Day 5 of the Jones news. And you've read so much about the situation by this point that you're probably getting to the point your eyes are about to glaze over. So I'm going to kick off this week's column with my thoughts about a news item that probably would have stolen the headlines in any other week: UFC president Dana White stating that Anderson Silva will get a middleweight title shot if he defeats Nick Diaz at UFC 183.

Oh, and we'll discuss everyone's favorite cowboy, Donald Cerrone, too. So let's get right into it.

Title shot for The Spider?

@ZeroAcidCool: Silva getting a title shot so soon is ridiculous,thought they'd do the GSP Superfight? #Jacare #Rockhold.

You know, there's part of me that sort of wants to give the UFC a pass on this one, simply because he's Anderson Silva. He's the greatest mixed martial artist we've ever seen. Simply because of all the "wow" moments he's provided, one last chance at the title seems like something he should be allowed, if he beats Nick Diaz next weekend simply because he's The Spider.

But still ... a lot has changed in the middleweight division since Silva, whose last victory at 185 pounds was two-and-a-half-years ago, has been on the sidelines. Luke Rockhold and Jacare Souza both have highly credible claims to the next shot at Chris Weidman's title. Lyoto Machida pushed champion Chris Weidman in the final rounds of their bout last summer like he's never been pushed before, and he has been untouchable against the rest of the division. Middleweight has never been better.

So why is Zuffa looking at pushing Silva back into a title shot? For reasons similar to why they're concerned about Jones' health, but let him go ahead and fight Cormier anyway: Weidman-Silva was a monster seller. After a year in which PPV revenue went way, way down, the company is clearly emphasizing getting the financials back on track in 2015, which makes divisional schemes less important than ever before. They weren't about to put their biggest-selling fight in quite some time, Jones-Cormier, on ice unless they absolutely had to. Conor McGregor gets a featherweight title shot against Jose Aldo if he defeats Dennis SiverFrankie Edgar, could tie McGregor in knots on the mat with one hand while checking his phone to see if Dana has texted him offering a title shot with the other. But Edgar couldn't fill a stadium like McGregor-Aldo will, so he won't get a rematch, even though his case is stronger in his division than Silva's is in his. It's also why White is publicly floating the idea T.J. Dillashaw and Urijah Faber are totally cool with fighting each other, despite Faber saying otherwise on The MMA Hour, since it will do bigger business than anything else Dillashaw can do with Dominick Cruz out. It's also why CM Punk has a UFC contract and Quinton Jackson is (we think) no longer in Bellator.

But if the UFC's game plan for 2015 comes down to "cash is king," then, why wouldn't you go to Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre?

Silva vs. GSP was MMA's most speculated fight for years, save Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Assuming GSP wants to return, and most signs seems to point toward it, in some ways the fight makes more sense than ever. You wouldn't be putting two divisions on hold for an extended period of time, as would have happened when both were champs. GSP's return fight is going to be a big seller anyway. St-Pierre is not likely to interfere with teammate Rory MacDonald's potential welterweight title shot. So why not go all out and add another blockbuster to the schedule?

Not to mention, there is precedent for finding success with a much-anticipated fight even after both fighters' peaks. Fans wanted Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva for years and years, as both reigned at 205 pounds. They put Chuck in a PRIDE tournament to try to make it happen (he lost to Rampage along the way) and they even brought PRIDE reps into the cage at UFC 62 in Las Vegas, thinking they had a deal. The bout finally happened at UFC 79, after both lost the title and were beginning downswing ... and it was pure magic. Fifteen minutes of intensity and an electric arena atmosphere among the most memorable in the history of the sport. It wasn't quite the same as if they met at their peaks, but it was still among the most fondly remembered nights in MMA history.

As for Weidman-Silva 3 (yes, this assumes Weidman defeats Vitor Belfort): Silva didn't have him in the slightest bit of trouble in either fight. Additionally, Weidman is well on his way to becoming a draw on his own - while PPVs were down in 2014, Weidman vs. Machida was still the biggest-selling of the lot - and if he claims another big-name scalp in Belfort, which most expect he will, he'll only become bigger. He doesn't need to rehash someone he's already handily defeated twice.

Several factors stand in the way -- like Silva winning in a couple weeks, and GSP actually returning. But if it was up to me, I'd go with Silva-GSP over rehashing Weidman-Silva in a heartbeat.


@samwilliams2410: What should be done about the NAC's failure to do anything right?

I mean, the Nevada Athletic Commission is a non-elected state governmental agency. If you live out of state, you basically have zero say in it. If you live in Nevada, your options are either complaining to the governor, or going to commission meetings, which are open to the public, and letting your voice be heard during the open comment period. Neither of them are likely to amount to much, but you can at least let your voice be heard. In the meantime, until NAC proves they're able to get their act together on testing, perhaps the UFC should hold off on that idea of giving commissions money to conduct year-round testing.

@AMMenEspanol: How's cocaine NOT a PED? And, how's use in the middle of training camp for a fight "out-of-competition?"

Question for those who have been arguing cocaine is a performance-enhancing drug: If it really was effective, don't you think fighters would be popping for coke left and right the way they do the whole spectrum of PEDs?

As for in vs. out of competition, this has been explained a few times over the course of the week (and my colleague Luke Thomas put together an excellent rundown/summary of what this all means, if you're so inclined), but "in competition" is defined by WADA as 12 hours leading up to competition. And NAC follows WADA. Except when it doesn't. But that aside for now, that's the reason Jones' test was out-of-competition.

@MattyCarr26: What do all the events of the past few days do to the progression and expansion of MMA?

Unless something catastrophic comes out of Monday's NAC hearing, not a hell of a lot. Here in The MMA Bubble, there always seems to be this fear that the mainstream is going to find out that this is a dirty business, and then they're going to abandon it in droves, and UFC will be back to putting on shows in Lake St. Charles. Guess what? The public knows that grown men stripping half naked, stepping into a cage, and beating the snot out of each other isn't a pristine industry. They still watch, anyway.

While we who care passionately about the sport have rightly questioned everything that's gone down over the past week, all that really sunk in with the general public is that an elite athlete has a substance abuse problem (And maybe, to a lesser degree, that NAC is messed up, but that's likely to be chalked up as a simple matter of government inefficiency in action). Not only has the public long since gotten used to stars having addiction issues, they love redemption stories. If handled correctly, Jones' comeback could make him a bigger star than ever before.

@sigep422wesg: Please tell me how u can fail a drug test of any kind & still fight?

When a bumbling bureaucracy is supposed to test for performance-enhancing drugs, then instead accidentally tests for substances that aren't within their purview during the out-of-competition period instead, that's when. Their rules are written in such a matter that they can't punish Jones for the transgression, or else they're inviting potential legal trouble.

@_ScottBond_: Forget all the nonsense of suing, did the NAC & UFC ignore Jones' failed test for the $$$ his fight would bring?

A big, obvious yes, and a less-obvious no.

Yes, in one sense, because that's completely, totally what they did. The NAC's priorities were never more clear than the meeting last fall in which they let Belfort, who was expected to fight in Vegas, get licensed, while throwing the book at Chael Sonnen, who was done producing million-dollar gates. NAC will let anything go as long as it keeps the money coming to the state. Just ask Floyd Mayweather. As for White, obviously, there was a $3.7M gate and the biggest buy rate in a year hanging in the balance.

On the other hand, it's no, because, as much as you might want to dismiss a lawsuit as "nonsense," you're damn sure Jones and his camp could have made a ton of legal noise if the fight was pulled due to a test NAC technically wasn't supposed to be testing for. While it might just seem another in the chain of Keystone Cops escapades, you can't just gloss over it entirely.

@Gabezilla77: Does an interim belt between Gus & Rumble make sense to do? Who knows when JBJ comes back healthy?

Only if something comes up in Jones' post-fight test results. Otherwise, maybe it makes me a bit naive, but I'm going to give someone who admits himself to rehab the benefit of the doubt at the outset every single time. I would rather end up getting burned for that trust than risk slandering anyone who is sincerely looking to get his or her act together. So without concrete evidence to the contrary, I am taking Jones at his word, hoping he gets straightened out, and given that this was a case of street drugs and not PEDs, since he's trying to get straight, I think his belt should be waiting for him when he returns.

Cowboy Up

@TokoBali2: Gotta love Cerrone for doing it, but isn't it unethical to just let him do a weight cut and fight twice in 2 weeks?

You can question the ethics of many things in this business. This isn't one of them. If Donald Cerrone was being forced to fight against his will and thus enter a weight cut he didn't want to make, then yes, that would be ethically bankrupt. But, I mean, as much as we've become inured to the nanny-state mentality in this country, there's still such a thing as free will, isn't there? Donald Cerrone is doing what he loves by turning around and fighting Benson Henderson on two weeks' notice. Which, incidentally, enables him to achieve his goal of fighting six times in 365 days, with a week to spare. If he wasn't fighting this weekend, he'd be off wake boarding, rock climbing, or, I don't know, rappelling off the top of a skyscraper or something. He's making choices on what to do with his life knowing full well that they might catch up with him one of these days. Given how many bigger things there are to worry about out there, if Cowboy wants to be Cowboy, I say let him do it.

Especially since this move, other than the obvious physical rigors he's putting himself through, is all upside. If he loses? Guess what, he turned around and fought Ben Henderson on two weeks' notice. The only fans he's going to lose for it are the ones who want to get your attention on Twitter by being contrarian for its own sake. If he pulls this off? Then the Legend of Cerrone, already a wildly popular fighter, is etched in the sport's history for good. So with so much crap going on this week, let's leave on an up note and recognize one of the guys who represent why we started getting involved in all this in the first place.

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