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Fightweets: Time for Ronda Rousey's haters to throw in the towel

Esther Lin

Ronda Rousey makes the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Nevada Athletic Commission cracks down on performance enhancing drugs and loses their minds over marijuana in the process. A Bellator weigh-in goes awry. A long-awaited fight goes down on an early-morning fight card.

Just another week in the wild world of mixed martial arts, right?

Before I get started with another edition of Fightweets, my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Corey Hill. Can't say I knew him too well personally, but I've been through deep losses in my personal life this year, so my heart goes out to his family and friends. RIP.

Rousey, SI, and detractors

@Kevinjdd: UFCs biggest star on the cover of SI ... best thing that could have happened post-Jones fiasco?

It was certainly a breath of fresh air after a string of bad news. Ronda Rousey getting the cover of Sports Illustrated is a big, big deal, for reasons my colleague Dave Meltzer explained well in this piece.

First things first: The raging debate of whether Rousey is or isn't the most dominant athlete in sports, as was implied by the cover title. Do the semantics really matter? For those going off on tangents about the depth of the women's bantamweight class and blah blah blah, you do understand SI is still trying to continue to sell magazines off newsstands during a time everyone is doing their reading online, right? "Ronda Rousey is undefeated, but has been steamrolling a division without much depth," aside from the second part being inaccurate, doesn't exactly make for a magazine cover which will fly off the shelves.

I don't know about you, but I'm at the point I can't get too worked up about Rousey's haters anymore. During every step of Rousey's ascent to the top, we've heard why the UFC women's bantamweight champion, and by extension the women's side of the sport, is going to fail. We heard that women couldn't headline a successful UFC event ... then UFC 157 was a home run. We heard UFC would only commit to Ronda and nothing else and then move on from WMMA ... and then the UFC went out and added strawweights, in addition to hosting Invicta cards on Fight Pass. We heard that Rousey being double-billed with other title fights on PPV was a sign she couldn't draw (which ignored the UFC has been doubling up on a lot of key dates, like UFC 187 and 189, in order to have a backup if one title fight falls out due to injury), then UFC 184 drummed up far better sales and media attention with Rousey headlining than Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort was tracking before that fight fell out.

And now, rather than acknowledge that Rousey got MMA back on the cover of SI for the first time in nine years, Rousey's detractors have been reduced to nitpicking whether she's actually the most dominant athlete alive. The scope of the criticism has been whittled from "she'll never be able to headline a show" all the way down to this. While you're under no obligation to like a personality is brash as Rousey can be, at this stage of the game, if you're still in denial about her skills and trailblazing accomplishments, than that's a reflection on you, not her, or the UFC or the rest of MMA's fan base.

New Nevada regulations

@PitbullLove70: So if you smoke a joint 2 weeks before a fight you get the book thrown at you. But beating a woman is cool?

That's a pretty pointed way to phrase things, but yeah ... convicted and seemingly unrepentant woman-batterer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is fawned over by the Nevada Athletic Commission so long as his events bring the state gazillions of dollars. And on other hand, under NAC's new guidelines imposed Friday, a fighter with a medical marijuana card who smokes a joint is going to be treated to the most reactionary drug regulations this side of Indonesia.

There is a lot to digest coming out of the new rules imposed in Friday's NAC meeting. The full list of penalties can be found here.

But I believe there's a clear delineation between the commission's stance on performance enhancing drugs, and the new rules on recreational drugs, particularly marijuana.

Start with PEDs. Under the new rules, which go into effect in September, a fighter's first offense will result in a three-year suspension; a second offense a four-year suspension, and a third results in a lifetime ban. If we're serious about cleaning up the PED culture in a sport in which human beings inflict physical punishment on one another, then the rules have to have some bite, including running from a test, which is pretty much a de facto guilt admission and now includes a lifetime ban on a second offense.

(The commission also ruled that a winning fighter who tests positive, who previously would have had his bout changed to a no-contest, now gets a loss on his record, while the losing fighter in that contest would still get a no-contest. This is just weird from a consistency standpoint. Either a bout is a contest or it isn't, on both sides of the coin).

Then there are the rules on recreational drugs. Under Tier 1 of the new policy, cannabis is listed along with opiates, sedatives, sleep aids, etc. Punishment ranges from 18 months on a first offense, to three years for a third and lifetime banishment for a fourth.

This is madness. Marijuana is not a PED. The trend in this country, particularly out West, is toward decriminalization and outright legalization. In Nevada itself, marijuana is legal with a medical card. Obviously you wouldn't want a stoned fighter competing. Out of competition, though? Fighters live through chronic aches and pain. Would you rather they get hooked on potentially lethal prescription drugs? At a time the rest of the country is becoming enlightened on cannabis, NAC responds by going back in the direction of the Reagan-era War on Drugs at its worst.

Of course, there's plenty of time between now and September for things to change, and if nothing else, NAC has proven they'll go on bipolar swings in their rulings from meeting to meeting which would put Roger Goodell to shame (or would, if Goodell was capable of shame). There will surely be more to this story in ongoing months.

Weight misses

@ElCujorino: Seems like an increase in fighters missing weight, isn't it about time fighters just fight at their natural weight?

I don't know if that's actually true, or if it just seems that way in the wake of an eventful Bellator 137 weigh-in on Thursday. Brandon Halsey was stripped of the middleweight title for missing weight for his planned title defense against Kendall Grove, and the co-main of Eduardo Dantas vs. Mike Richman was on again/off again/on again after Richman missed at bantamweight.

Halsey's a big middleweight who has talked about going up to light heavyweight. He even tweeted Thursday night that he had "lost 47 of 50 pounds" since starting camp, which translates to a staggering percentage of his body weight. Richman is a former featherweight who has dropped to 135 in the past year.

The conventional wisdom has long been for fighters to get down to the absolute lowest weight their body can possibly handle. Thursday's Bellator fiasco shows this hasn't changed. But, to oversimplify things, look at Anthony Johnson. Look at how much weight he'd cut getting to welterweight, where he'd then gas and lose to the likes of Josh Koscheck and Rich Clementi. Look where he is now, on the brink of the UFC light heavyweight title, with nine straight wins since coming up from middleweight. I'm not saying this is a one-size-fits-all solution, but Johnson's career trajectory at 205 compared to 170 and 185 should give every fighter who tries to get down a weight class too far something to consider.

Blaming Reebok

@RuckerYeah: Can you explain to me why people are blaming Reebok for the sponsor thing?

People are adding one and one and getting three, perhaps? I can understand why those who aren't paying close attention to Reebok's exclusive apparel deal with the UFC might take a glance at things and assume that because fighters could wear what they wanted to and now they can't, then it must Reebok's fault. But you hardly have to dig deep to realize this isn't the case. Reebok made a business deal. They're throwing $70 million at the UFC where no such market previously existed and they made the deal in good faith. How the UFC decides to distribute that money is not Reebok's fault.

One thing I do get a bit of a chuckle out of is the notion in some corners that Reebok is somehow going to be scared off by obnoxious MMA fans on Twitter. Reebok has sponsored 50 Cent, outspoken athletes like Curt Schilling and Allen Iverson, and PED cheats like Andy Pettitte, among others. They're not about to walk away from a new relationship just because MMA fans are being MMA fans. This is an MMA bubble "issue" if there ever was one.

Best fights

@MorganWaltzUFC: With all these title fights scheduled, which one has you most excited and why? Do you see any belts changing hands?

Wow, questions about actual upcoming fights two weeks in a row. I sense a trend here. I mean, if we're talking the excitement of the buildup and the hype, nothing is going to match Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor at UFC 189 in July. But in terms of the actual matchup, and the ramifications on their division? I'm looking forward to Rumble vs. Daniel Cormier at UFC 187 above the rest. I'm intrigued by how DC can rebound from his loss to Jon Jones. I'm interested in seeing whether Johnson can maintain his hot streak. I like the style matchup: Can Cormier impose his will while avoiding Rumble's power? And I like that the matchup itself puts something fresh atop the 205 pound class, all while understanding that Jones is more than likely going to be back at some point without ever losing his title in the cage. All in all, it makes next weekend on to anticipate.

Faber's future

@WetDreamofAmin: Do you really consider Faber a legend? I never thought of him as one or even near Edgar's level.

I hear this one every time Faber loses a fight, as he did against Frankie Edgar on Saturday. Yes, Urijah Faber is a legend of the sport. When he held the WEC featherweight title, that belt was the de facto world title in his weight class. If you didn't watch Faber before he got to the UFC -- and he already had nearly 30 pro fights by the time he arrived, so he was already on the back end of his prime -- I could see why you might wonder what the hype is. But Faber was the man in his weight class during his day. His charisma outside the cage and exciting style in it set the tone for the WEC and made it the most fondly remembered of all the defunct promotions. Basically, every fighter under 155 pounds owes him a debt of gratitude for proving smaller guys can become stars in the big leagues. That all adds up to legendary status.

Mark Munoz

@ScreaminDemonLP: What is Mark Munoz's legacy?

Corny as this might sound, Mark Munoz's legacy is that you can be a nice guy in this crazy, dirty business and still have a successful career. Believe me, and believe everyone else in the sport you've heard this from: Mark Munoz is one of the most genuine people in the industry. Maybe that wasn't enough to make him a UFC champion. But it's rare that fighters get to walk away on their own terms, fighting in their mother country for the first time, and put in the type of performance Munoz did against Luke Barnatt on Saturday. And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

Got a question for a future edition of Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.

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