It's the welcome start of a few weeks without a major fight card, which will make for just enough time to build up proper anticipation for next month's UFC 205.
Meanwhile, the two biggest drawing cards in the sport filled this week's news void: Conor McGregor, due to his escalating battle with the Nevada Athletic Commission, and Ronda Rousey, who will return from her year away from the sport and challenge Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight title at UFC 207.
And with that, we're off ...
Conor and Nevada
@Jome20: So he did something that he should have been fined for. But now is threatening based on his star power? How is that OK?
After hearing UFC president Dana White say that McGregor won't fight in Las Vegas again any time soon, in the wake of McGregor getting fined $150,000 by the Nevada Athletic Commission for his bottle-throwing incident with Nate Diaz at the UFC 202 press conference, my first instinct was to dismiss it out of hand.
Nevada has no state income tax. The bite the state of New York is about to take out of McGregor's pay at UFC 205 on taxes alone is going to be significantly bigger than the NAC's fine. Once word gets around about how much of their paycheck the Empire State grabs, fighters might become a little less starry-eyed about the mystique of fighting at Madison Square Garden and ask to get booked right back into Vegas. That alone made me think the initial talk was just bluster.
But then came Friday's McGregor interview with Rolling Stone, in which he basically dared the NAC to try to collect on its bill. And as I thought about it some more, I realized Nevada, at this stage of the game, needs McGregor more than McGregor needs Nevada.
McGregor is responsible for the second through fifth-largest mixed martial arts gates in Las Vegas history -- in order, his Jose Aldo fight, first Nate Diaz fight, second Diaz fight, and Chad Mendes fight. The biggest is UFC 200 -- tickets which were largely sold on the notion of Diaz-McGregor 2, before the bout was pulled from the card. The combined gates on the top five are nearly $54 million in ticket sales alone. That's before you count all the hotel rooms filled, meals eaten, taxi rides taken, and on down the line.
Sure, Rousey's back in Vegas for at least one more fight. But Floyd Mayweather says he's retired and Manny Pacquiao is near the end of the line. So that leaves Canelo Alvarez and McGregor left supplying Vegas with their biggest-money weekends.
If we were talking about a commission which exercised power in a fair and rational manner, then we wouldn't even be having this conversation. But the current incarnation of the NAC is on an unbridled power trip. You would have thought the brushback to the Nick Diaz suspension -- which got so much attention the White House actually had to answer a petition, and an arbitration in which the punishment was reduced -- would have knocked a little sense into this motley crew. Instead, they took the recommendation of the Nevada attorney general -- a $25K fine, not altogether unreasonable, and arbitrarily increased it sixfold.
NAC will win its petty little battle, because it has the power to suspend McGregor if he doesn't pay the $150,000 fine, which the commissions will have to honor. But McGregor will win the war. He can take his show elsewhere and make huge money in New York, California, back home in Ireland, pretty much anywhere he wants to go at this point.
If that $150,000 ends up costing the state of Nevada several more nights of eight-figure revenue, then in the long run, the joke is on Pat Lundvall and company in the end.
Return of Ronda
@Dr_Kwame: Should Ronda receive an immediate title shot?
Yes. Look, I know quite a bit has changed since Ronda lost the title to Holly Holm last November. But let's not forget that Rousey is singlehandedly responsible for opening the door to women's competition in the UFC. In less than five years, we went from White swearing there we'd never see WMMA in the UFC to women's fights being such an integral part of the promotion it's impossible to even imagine there was a time when they weren't a part of it. It's also worth remembering that was the first loss of Rousey's career, and that she was on a rarely seen run of dominance before the shocking loss (Which included, incidentally, easy wins over Sarah McMann and Bethe Correia, both of whom defeated current champion Amanda Nunes). And she's the second biggest draw in the sport behind only McGregor. Sorry, Julianna Pena, but if you add up all the factors from star power to actually earning the shot on her merits, and the only scenario in which Rousey shouldn't get the title shot is if she specifically requested a tuneup fight first.
Rousey vs. Cyborg, continued
@Rodrigosnow89: One day will happen Ronda Rousey vs. Cyborg happen?
Well, White sure seems to think so, since he's now said more than once that Rousey wants the fight with Cyborg that has been speculated upon longer than any superfight save Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre when announcing Nunes-Rousey on FS1 the other day.
Cyborg's done her part, too: Not only in making the good faith effort to get down to 140 pounds, despite the fact that she is clearly borderline torturing herself to do so, but to also deliver ratings and continue to get the job done in the cage in the process. Oh, and it's worth noting, since Rousey uses Cyborg's PED suspension as her go-to reason not to make the fight, Cyborg has fought seven times since, gets USADA tested these days like everyone else, and every time, she's come up clean.
White's obviously not above bluster, but it's also hard to imagine he'd come out and say Rousey wants the fight if Ronda's adamantly opposed to it. He's not going to pick a fight with Ronda for no good reason. Still, until we hear Rousey come out and say, on her own volition, that she's willing to fight Cyborg -- and willing to meet her in the middle on weight -- then I wouldn't go ahead and book that bout just yet.
Dana, Ronda, and the media
@RuckerYeah: What do you think of Dana blaming the media for Rousey leaving the sport for a year?
El. Oh. El.
Pop quiz: Who said "Once in a lifetime doesn't apply to Ronda Rousey. It's once, ever, in human history. There's never been a woman like her. Her ability to not just beat, break fighters, but to destroy. She's like a superhero, a freak of existence. When Ronda Rousey leaves the sport, you may never see someone like her again, not just in mixed martial arts, but in any sport."
Hint: It wasn't us. Or MMA Junkie, or Yahoo, or Bleacher Report, or FOX, or any of the major or minor newspapers. It was the UFC's own, in-house hype machine. Tell me again who hyped her up into something she could never possibly live up to?
@hunt5588: Can we just take a quick sec and appreciate and thank Dave Sholler for all the work he has done for WEC/UFC?
Yes. Yes we can. In a decade as an MMA reporter, I've seen the entire gamut of public relations types, ranging from the terrible (like the person in the early days who once tried to get us all to line up single file to go into a press conference, as if we were all kindergartners), to the absolute pros. And Dave Sholler is an absolute pro.
PR types and journalists have different jobs with different goals and different interests and can often come into conflict. But the true pros keep it professional and get along at the end of the day. All in all, it's been a pleasure getting to know Sholler and I know I'm not the only one in my business who wishes him all the best as he heads off to his dream job with his hometown Philadelphia 76ers.