For all of about a day, there, it seemed like a semblance of sanity had returned to the mixed martial arts world. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson was announced Thursday for UFC 209, paired up with a welterweight title rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson.
It was as if the MMA Gods were giving hardcore fans of the actual sport end of this sport a reward for all the weirdness we had to endure in 2016.
Then there was Friday the 13th. First, came a tweet from Ariel Helwani saying that Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, the second-wildest scenario in the MMA hot take universe (the all-time winner, of course, is Floyd vs. Ronda Rousey), is actually on the table. Then UFC president Dana White went on television and discussed the terms he finds fair to make such a matchup happen. Then Mayweather responded in his own inimitable way.
So much for a return to normalcy. On to another edition of Fightweets ...
Money vs. Mystic Mac
@DBell_MT: A little surprised UFC would spend that $ on Floyd. Don't they need to spend more $$ reintroducing him to MMA fans?
Oy vey. Okay, so where things stand now: White went on FOX Sports 1 and said that he was offering Mayweather and McGregor $25 million apiece to compete in a boxing match, with pay-per-view splits to be discussed. Mayweather then called White a “f***king comedian.”
$25 million is a staggering amount of money for most people. For Mayweather, who has made nine-figure paydays, that’s a staggering pay cut, which he made clear without actually saying so.
It would take a buy rate beyond anything we’ve ever seen to not only make up the difference in what Mayweather is used to and what he’s being offered, but also enough to make McGregor happy, and also leave enough to make the UFC and cable companies enough money to make it all worthwhile.
So, what to make of Dana’s game of The Price is Right? Let’s look at the options:
Door No. 1: Dana actually believed that offering Floyd and Conor $25 million and PPV points, or something close to it, would get the fight done. If you believed this at any point, you probably also believed Patrick Smith was really 250-0 going into UFC 1 and were astonished when he had his epic winning streak halted by Ken Shamrock.
Door No. 2: White went on the air to nip this one in the bud before it gets out of control, and deliberately floated $25 million as a lowball offer to make the Mayweather talk go away once and for all. And it’s not just the dollar amount, but also the fact he’s making an offer to McGregor on equal teams to Mayweather. Mayweather sees himself as the A-side of every event he’s on, and in terms of his PPV drawing power, he’s not wrong.
Door No. 3: White’s offer is simply the public starting point. It’s not like White is going to come out on television and say “Sure Floyd, we’ll pay you $100 million!” White’s been at this game long enough that he probably had an inkling Mayweather’s response would be exactly what it was.
At the end of the day, mind-boggling as it is to even ponder the notion this fight’s existence isn’t as preposterous as we long assumed, the bout would generate ridiculous levels of interest, and likely make a whole lot of money.
But it also could go really, really wrong for the UFC. This is McGregor fighting an undefeated Mayweather in Mayweather’s arena, after all, not Randy Couture fighting a shot James Toney under MMA rules. Mayweather clowning McGregor under boxing rules, which is the most likely scenario if this actually came off, would do more long-term damage to the UFC than a one-night killing at the box office would justify.
For that reason, I’m leaning toward choosing Door No. 2 in this scenario. Even if the promoter in White can’t help but leave Door No. 3 open.
Nurmy v. Fergy
@ZeroDaMMAdude: Agree that Khabib vs Tony for interim belt is logical? Despite many other interims we've had recently
You know what, at this point I’m just throwing in the towel on the whole topic of interim titles. We long had a consensus notion in combat sports on what an interim belt was supposed to represent. It meant the legitimate champion was injured or incapacitated for a long period of time and unable to defend his belt, so you took the next two fighters in line, gave the winner the interim belt, and either put him next in line for the champion’s return or promoted him to the full championship when it became clear the original champ wasn’t going to be able to fulfill his championship duties.
The scenario in recent years which played out closest to how an interim title should function came when Dominick Cruz was out for what turned out to be three years with various injuries as bantamweight champion. In his absence, Renan Barao won and even defended an interim belt, and when it became obvious Cruz wasn’t returning any time soon, Barao had so convincingly proven himself the next in line that his championship was fully accepted as legitimate when he was promoted to the real thing.
But now we’ll have three interim belts handed out in the span of seven months -- Jose Aldo and Max Holloway at featherweight and the Nurmy-Fergy winner at lightweight, none of which had to do with incapacitated champions and all of whom were connected in some way with McGregor.
At UFC 209, we’re going to get one of the finest in-ring 1-2 combos at the top of the card we’ve had in quite some time: The Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson welterweight title rematch and Nurmagomedov-Ferguson (for all the reasons I’ll get into next). At this point, I’m numb to the title belts, and I’m not going to let them ruin what seems like a sensational night of fights in Las Vegas.
So let the UFC give the lightweight winner a shiny trinket. Hell, let them shoot the ring-card girls out of cannons and surround the Octagon with a moat filled with alligators while we’re at it. We got a fantastic fight everyone really wanted, and in 2017, that will suffice.
@JDDomination: On paper, fight of the year?
Yes. From every conceivable standpoint. Two guys in their primes. 24 straight wins vs. nine in a row. Two endless gas tanks ready for five rounds. A guy who just mauls you against an inventive striker who comes at you from angles you usually only find in Mortal Kombat. Two guys who can hold up their end of things in the promotional department. This is the fight you want to show to the guy or gal who checks in every once in awhile to watch McGregor or Rousey and try to make them full-time fans.
Of course, they don’t always play out in the cage like they look on paper. But you know what? Going into UFC 195, you saw a potential Fight of the Year in Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit which turned out to be exactly that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Nurmy v. Fergy turned out the same.
@MBlackmoreMMA: Even though the Interim Title might not be needed, is this the best Interim Title fight ever booked? This fight needs to be 5R
Yes again. There have been some good ones on paper. Nick Diaz vs. Condit, after then-welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, fell out, probably comes closest. People expected a thrilling brawl and many ended up disappointed when Condit fought a tactical fight which earned him a victory. McGregor vs. Chad Mendes for an interim featherweight belt was obviously a gigantic deal, but also a bit of a letdown because the bout was when Jose Aldo had to pull out following a massive buildup. And if you go back to UFC 111, Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir, with the winner expected to fight Brock Lesnar, was a really big deal at the time.
Still, though, in his age when interim belts are tossed around left and right, Nurmagomedov-Ferguson sticks out. Many are convinced these are the two best fighters at lightweight regardless who holds the belt. At least going in, this is the best interim title fight the UFC has put on, regardless what value you put into that belt.
Where you at, Nate?
@WeissBrandon1: How much is reasonable for Nate Diaz to make for a non-McGregor fight at this point, and who would he get? I vote Eddie Alvarez
So here’s the thing: When Nate Diaz says he doesn’t love fighting -- as does his brother Nick, for that matter -- he means it. Diaz was willing to sit out for a year when he didn’t think the money was worth his while a couple years back just on principle. That was when he didn’t have a fat bank account to make such a choice easy. Last year, Diaz made more money from fighting McGregor twice than he ever could have imagined making in his life. And from every account, Nate is not going out and wildly spending is money. The Diazes just continue going on being the Diazes, living in Stockton and doing their thing, whether they’re millionaires or they’re flat broke or somewhere in between.
Nate is entirely content to sit out until the money makes it worth his bother. The UFC isn’t likely to pay the money he wants unless it’s the McGregor trilogy. So unless something significant changes, we’re not going to see Nate or Nick -- who according to Woodley on the Luke Thomas Show, turned down a fight at UFC 209 because the money wasn’t right -- for some time to come.
Demian Maia’s plight
@chinmaybhogle: So what's next for Demian Maia? What if GSP decides to come back? There's a couple of Diaz brothers in the mix too. WW is a bit of a mess.
So, there are two schools of thoughts on how to proceed after a fight like the UFC 205 welterweight title bout between champion Woodley and challenger Thompson: One holds that the champion did not defeat his challenger, and thus they need to rematch in order to settle this once and for all. The other is that it’s the challenger’s job to take the title from the champ, and a draw is a failure in that regard, so it’s time to move on.
I subscribe to the first theory. It doesn’t do anyone any good to have the champ move on after he hasn’t clear-cut proven he’s still the best in the division. And we have precedent for the Woodley/Thompson/Maia situation, anyway: Back at UFC 125, Anthony Pettis was supposed to get next at lightweight after Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Then Maynard and Edgar went to a draw, and Pettis had to take a back seat. Ultimately, it took a couple years for Pettis to actually get his title shot, but it worked out in the end.
Maia has been exemplary in the ring, has a solid case for a title shot, and has done nothing wrong. Hopefully he doesn’t end up shut out as long as was Pettis. But there’s precedent for going to Woodley-Thompson 2 and in this case a good one.
Yair Rodriguez vs. BJ Penn
@gelofool: BJ or Yair?
Put it this way: Most of the people who will write their “BJ shouldn’t have returned/should go back into retirement” columns for Monday morning have already done so and are just waiting to plug in the time and method of the finish.
@MattBrownM2: Do you expect to see more tickling in 2017? #Fightweets
RT @JohnMcCarthyMMA: Now for the 999th time, no there are no rules against tickling. You can tickle your opponent while he beats the shit out of you #AskBJM https://twitter.com/astrozombie92/status/
I didn’t know I had any need to see Brock Lesnar reinvent his MMA career as Brock “Tickle Monster” Lesnar until now.
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