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Fightweets: Has Lyoto Machida's legacy been tarnished?

Guilherme Cruz photo

UFC on FOX 19 goes off Saturday, but without one of the card's planned featured matchups: Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson, which was pulled when Machida reported a violation to USADA. That was just one item of note in a mostly glum week of news, so let's get at it ...

What becomes of Machida's legacy?

@ynneKrepmatS: With Machida admitting to using banned substances, what do you think this does to his legacy?

When the news broke midweek the Machida-Henderson rematch was off because Machida self-reported a potential USADA violation, I couldn't help but notice fan response was a little different than it is for most such news items.

I saw disappointment in the UFC light heavyweight champion, rather than the anger and venom one usually finds on Twitter when a fighter potential runs afoul of doping rules. Machida carried himself throughout his career with a certain sense of dignity, treated people with respect, and actually lived the martial arts ethos that are often just paid lip service in this sport. So the response was essentially "Not you, too."

But it didn't take long before it became clear the banned substance in question, 7-keto DEHA, isn't exactly a performance-enchancing drug. To paraphrase my colleague Luke Thomas from this week's edition of The MMA Beat, at times it seems like USADA busts have been more about playing "gotcha" with fighters who bought the wrong supplements at GNC than its is in trying to catch hardcore PED abusers.

Of course, in Machida's case, like Yoel Romero before him, a fighter is responsible for what they put in their bodies. USADA has an easy-to-access list of banned substances with a search function. But should someone who uses an essentially harmless substance like 7-keta DEHA, really be punished the same as an actual PED user? It would be a shame if Machida, who's been cooperative with USADA, gets a two-year ban that would likely be a career-ender over something like this. A six-month suspension, similar to Romero's seems more in line.

As it regards Machida's legacy, it's tough to say. I personally don't believe this to be that big a deal. I still believe Machida is, if not quite a Hall of Famer, then just one step below, a former champion with a unique style and many memorable career moments. But fans who saw screaming headlines about Machida and USADA violations might not be as willing to take the time to look at the beneath-the-surface nuances in the case, and might very well end up considering his legacy tarnished no matter which facts emerge in this situation. It's unfortunate, but that's the society we're living in.

Death of Joao Carvalho

@hunt5588: Do you see any of the Irish fallout for the tragic death of Carvalho impacting the sport in other countries?

The thing that really jumps out when you watch Carvalho's loss to Charlie Ward in Ireland last weekend, which unfortunately cost him his life, was just how ordinary the fight seemed. This wasn't a vicious war like 1982's fatal battle between Ray Mancini and Duk Koo Kim, which caused boxing authorities to trim championship fights from 15 rounds to 12. Carvalho is seen pushing forward and initiating offense less than a minute before the fight's finishing sequence.  There was no one particularly devastating blow struck by Ward. The referee's stoppage was fine. All in all, it came off like just another fight on just another card.

Which is the most sobering reality of them all: You can do everything right in this sport, from proper medical work and staffing to proper matchmaking to good work by the referee, and there's still no guarantee that something can go horribly amiss.

As to your question, I can't imagine there will be much brushback beyond the current tabloid hysteria in Ireland over the fight, which will most likely settle down when the tabloids find the next thing to get hysterical about. In the early years of the Unified Rules era, there was a pervasive fear that a death in the ring would bring everything to a halt. There have been deaths in competition -- admittedly on smaller shows, which attract far less attention than major events -- and I don't mean to sound cold about it, but they simply haven't stopped the growth of the sport. Combat sports in various forms have been around for centuries worldwide. There's always been a risk of of catastrophic injury and death when two competitors step into an arena and compete with their fists and feet. This makes it no less troubling when it occurs, but it's a risk adults choose of their own free will.

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez on Fight Pass

@CHINO_BANKS: Does 155 title being defended on Fight Pass devalue the belt or the person holding it?

Twitter reactions to Fight Pass bout announcements are a 50/50 proposition at this point. If a Fight Pass event is underwhelming, you get pelted with complaints that you're not getting your money's worth for a paid service. On the other hand, when a truly big FP bout is announced -- such as Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping in February and Friday's announcement that Rafael dos Anjos will defend his lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez on July 7 in Las Vegas as the headliner on a Fight Pass card -- the complaint pivots to the idea it's an insult to the fighters that they're being relegated to Fight Pass.

There's a difference between what Fight Pass means to individual fighters at this point, and what the UFC is attempting to build with the online streaming service. You can look at what dos Anjos thought he was getting a few months back -- a giant paycheck for a megafight with Conor McGregor -- and what he ended up with -- the Fight Pass matchup with Alvarez -- and it's hard to see anything but a major downgrade.

But then there's the matchup's placement in the greater context. The UFC's big fight week will feature three straight nights of title fights. RDA-Alvarez has the potential to kick things off with a bang. We're all slowly migrating from cable boxes and satellites to streaming services, anyway (I'd personally ditch my overpriced cable package tomorrow if I didn't have to have it for UFC/Bellator/WSOF fights for work). The sooner the UFC establishes that Fight Pass is a place where you'll occasionally get exclusives like title fights and big-name fighters and not throwaway matchups, the better positioned they'll be when the trickle of people getting rid of cable turns into a flood.


@CallumaPark: Is TUF dying?

I think people started asking this question sometime around 2007 or so, but given the events of the past couple weeks -- in which it was announced the winner of the next season of The Ultimate Fighter would receive an immediate flyweight title shot, only to have the have the show's tryouts abruptly canceled -- the question's being asked again. We're not sure yet why the TUF 24 tryouts were yanked. Were there not enough qualified applicants? Did Demetrious Johnson balk at it? People are being tight lipped, so until someone speaks up, it's all speculation. Either way, TUF has had to rely on out-of-the-box hooks, like crowning the first strawweight champion, to lure in viewers over the past few seasons. Maybe the turmoil around TUF 24 is a big cosmic hint that the series' sell-by date is coming due.

Why watch UFC on FOX 19?

@RuckerYeah: So many fights fell out of this UFC on FOX. Why should I watch?

Oh I dunno ... I'm interested in seeing what Rashad Evans still has in the tank. And Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres is a quality strawweight matchup. But Michael Chiesa vs. Beniel Dariush stood as a potential show-stealer before all the fight fallouts turned Saturday night's card into swiss cheese, and looms even more so now. That's good enough for me.

(I've finally gotten around to creating a professional Facebook page. If you've been a loyal Fightweets reader over the years, do me a favor and like the page to help me get it up and running. Thanks!)

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