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Fightweets: Is Tyron Woodley right about MMA and race?

Gallery Photo: UFC 167 Press Conference

One legend returned to abysmal results last weekend. This weekend, another one fights the last match of his legendary career. But in the middle, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley sparked a whole of lot of discussion with his comments on racial issues in the sport of mixed martial arts.

So let’s get into another edition of Fightweets without further ado.

Tyron Woodley’s comments

@Muffin_of_Stud: Any substance to Woodley's racial mistreatment claims?

I’m not in Tyron Woodley’s shoes. I’m a white Irish guy from Boston. I can’t ever pretend I know what it’s like to grow up with a dozen siblings in Ferguson, Mo., like Woodley. I’ll also never know what it’s like to wake up in the morning, turn on my smartphone, and have an army of Twitter eggs hurling racial slurs at me.

I also know, as just anyone who has ever met the UFC welterweight champion can tell you, that Woodley is one of the most thoughtful and forthright people you’ll ever come across in this often unsavory business. Woodley shakes the hand of everyone in the room when he enters and looks you in the eye when he’s talking to you. He doesn’t dodge questions. He’s a man of integrity.

So if Tyron Woodley says that race plays a factor in in his promotional push, I have every reason to believe this is what he truly believes.

I also feel he’d better help his case if he better explained what specifically makes him feel this way.

The examples he cited on ESPN on Wednesday weren’t the best at bolstering his case. UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who is well admired by those in the know for his marvelous skill set, has made it clear over and over again that he his little interest in becoming a superstar. He views the PR end of the job as a hassle. He wants to show up, fight, and then go home and play his video games. If someone doesn’t have interest in becoming a superstar, and doesn’t put the work into becoming one, we shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t, in fact, become one.

Jon Jones, for his part, has brought fan disapproval upon himself in a manner which cuts across racial and ethnic lines. Fans would turn thumbs down on a fighter who ran from the scene of a car accident no matter his or her skin tone.

Despite not coming up with the best examples, while I can’t quantify this, at heart, you know there’s something to what Woodley os saying. I’ve often found myself wondering why Woodley and especially Daniel Cormier aren’t bigger stars than they are. Both of them come from the wrestling culture of discipline and respect. Both of them take on tough challenges. Both of them are family men. Both of them handle their business right. Cormier, in particular, is loaded with charisma. As are Will Brooks and Aljamain Sterling, for that matter. And yet fans haven’t taken to them like they have others of similar backgrounds.

But, this comes in an MMA world which embraced Anderson Silva as a superstar, and falls in love with fighters from Canada to Brazil to Japan. MMA has been a leader in pushing women’s athletics as equal to the men’s in the sporting world.

In other words, there are multiple layers to this, which brings me back to my original point. You’ve got to have your head in the sand to deny there’s something to what Woodley has to say. But if there’s something specific that happened to push Woodley to come out as strong as he has (aside from the Twitter eggs, which poison discourse in all walks of life), then it would help for him to come out and say what it is.

B.J. Penn, Tito Ortiz, and legacies

@passionatepatk: I know I have asked this before but at what point does do late career loses effect legacy? This is for Tito and BJ

So, both Tito Ortiz and B.J. Penn have been in the news, with Ortiz headlining what he’s calling his final fight Saturday night against Chael Sonnen at Bellator 170, and Penn coming out of a 2-1/2 year retirement to terrible results against Yair Rodriguez.

And they’ve served as dueling examples on how and how not to handle the twilights of a fight career.

Ortiz went 1-7-1 over his last nine UFC fights. But he was competitive in the vast majority of those contests, and I still believe he deserved the decision in his final UFC match against Forrest Griffin in 2012. In the cage, while it’s been clear Ortiz isn’t the fighter he used to be, it’s never been embarrassing watching, and he’s always given what he’s able to give.

He then went over to Bellator after a year away and instantly became relevant again. He’s by and large taken smart fights. He’s an important part of the Bellator story under Scott Coker: The ratings success of his November 2014 fight with Stephan Bonnar was a huge part of Viacom’s decision to go all-in building the Bellator brand.

Penn’s another story altogether. That win over Diego Sanchez in which Penn looked like the world’s most dominant fighter seems like a century ago. The losses have gotten worse and worse and worse as time went on. The night of Penn’s loss to Frankie Edgar in July of 2014 was one of the saddest we’ve ever experienced in this sport, both from what we saw in the cage and in his emotional retirement announcement afterward.

Those memories were just starting to fade when he returned and took just a vicious beating from Rodriguez. Penn’s spirit is willing, but his body is shot. He’s still a legend. You can never take away how his feuds with Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre helped put the UFC over the top. But he’s now vaulting toward the top of the “guys who stayed on too long” list, and it can only get worse from here.

So, what if Penn fights again?

@BreadandWater94: You know BJ is going to fight again.. so if you HAD to choose.. who would you pick to give him next?

Right now, I don’t even want to see Penn fight in a hypothetical Bellator legends fight. If he needs an outlet and insists on continuing in combat sports, then get him onto one of those submission grappling supercards, where he can show off the thing he does very best on the ground while not getting punched and kicked in the head.

Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi

@hpaulg: Is the Weidman-Mousasi fight a contender killer fight?

More like a killer fight between contenders. Gegard Mousasi has been begging for a real fight against name competition for awhile now and went out and mauled people until he got it. Weidman, after back-to-back bad losses, needs to prove he can still hang with the top guys. This UFC 210 matchup is one great fight.

In the last couple weeks, we’ve gotten the announcements of this fight, Woodley vs. Wonderboy, and Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. This shows that after a couple months of events like Paige and Sage 2, one-sided promotion of Ronda Rousey, and so on, the new era UFC isn’t turning its back entirely on the sort of meaningful, consequential matchups which helped fuel the company’s rise. That’s a good thing.

Why’s Jouban unranked?

@bourassaruob: Why is @AlanJouban not ranked inside the top 15? Is he deserving of a ranked top 10 opponent?

Have you seen the panelists for the UFC rankings recently? Do you see anyone on there from MMA Fighting, MMA Junkie, ESPN, SI, Yahoo, or any major newspaper? Have you heard of half the guys on there? That’s sort of your answer right there. Most of the guys in the bottom third of the UFC’s welterweight top 15 are there for name value more than recent results. Hopefully Jouban, winner of three straight fights and five of six, will be matched with one of them next, and with a win there, it will be obvious even to the writers from that he belongs.

Nurmy vs. Fergy

@TylerStrang9: How you see Khabib vs Tony playing out?

I’m still stuck on “25 minutes of awesomeness.” I’m still giddy we’re getting this fight. Get back to me for something more specific when we get closer and the euphoria has worn off.

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