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Fightweets: Which fight should be next for Michael Bisping?

Michael Bisping
Michael Bisping
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A big Bellator event leads the crazies to crawl out from under their rocks and cry “fix,” a UFC fight gets moved from one card to another, and Michael Bisping seems to be angling to fight someone other than his top contender.

To quote noted philosopher Anderson Silva, “is normal.” So let’s get on with another edition of Fightweets.

Who should be next for Bisping?

@christopher_kit: If you're Dana White, and your loyal servant Bisping is pleading to avoid Romero - what do you say?

If I’m Dana White, I probably fill a swimming pool full of $100 bills and dive in, then when I got bored with that, I’d charter a plane up to a ski lodge, where I spend the night feeding the fireplace with another pile of Benjamins, but hey ...

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Chris here lives in Britain. If UFC middleweight Michael Bisping was caught on tape mugging an old lady in broad daylight, you’d get a a bunch tweets from Brits justifying it. So if Bisping, who would of course never do such a thing, is getting heat from Britain for his selection of opponents, that’s really saying something.

In Bisping’s case, I can understand why he wants to make that one, big gigantic payday. He turns 38 next month. He has been grinding away at a top level for a long time, he has taken every tough fight they could throw at him for a decade, and he suffered a serious eye injury along the way.

He’s the sort of loyal trooper whom White would have taken care of in retirement during the Zuffa era. But as Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes could tell you, that era is over. So you can’t blame Bisping for wanting to make a big score while he can.

You know who else went through the meat grinder for a decade against every opponent they could throw his way? Nate Diaz. And then last year he went out and made so much money that he can pick his spots from here. So I can’t blame Bisping, or any of several other champs, for looking at what Diaz did and then turning around and doing their best for the big payday.

But the problems here are: 1. There are very few fighters who could fit that bill. Basically, there’s one, Georges St-Pierre, and there’s no indication WME is anywhere close to bringing the CAA-affiliated superstar back anytime soon (Bisping is also trying to push a Silva rematch, but I mean, Bisping-Silva 1 was a Fight Pass event, not a megafight, and Silva is yet another year removed from his most recent victory which was in 2012. 2. Bisping’s already had a pass on fighting contenders and was given the rematch with Dan Henderson he wanted, and in Bisping’s hometown of Manchester, England, to boot. 3. Middleweight is full of killers, one of the most top-heavy divisions in the sport at the moment. 4. Yoel Romero is a money fight. Everyone was watching UFC 205. Everyone remembers Romero’s knockout of Chris Weidman and the awesome back-and-forth between Romero and Bisping at Madison Square Garden. All they have to do is re-run those clips on a loop and the fight sells itself.

If by chance a GSP-Bisping fight gets made, I suspect at the end of the day, we’d all look the other way and accept it, because St-Pierre’s return would be such a big deal. Barring that, though, every other indicator points to Bisping-Romero as the fight to make.

Is Chael Sonnen through?

@RuckerYeah: So what’s next for Chael after that garbage showing against Tito?

I can’t blame you if you watched Bellator 170 and then came to the conclusion that you don’t want to watch Chael Sonnen fight again any time soon.

This is a guy who is 39 years old after all, and he hasn’t won a fight since his submission of Mauricio Rua in Boston in the summer of 2013.

But still ... 2.2 million people watched Tito Ortiz’s first-round finish of Sonnen, and they weren’t all tuning in for Ortiz alone. A mere 930,000 tuned in for Ortiz’s previous fight, against Liam McGeary. Sonnen’s gift of gab, and return after a long absence, was every bit as important to the hype of the fight as the specter of Ortiz’s last fight.

At some point, Sonnen is going to have to start winning fights again if he’s going to be able to maintain his drawing power.

But for now, there are still fights on the table which make look like potential winners in the ratings department, chief among them the longstanding feud with Wanderlei Silva. Are you really telling me that if Bellator manages to put this together, you won’t watch when fight night rolls around and there’s nothing else on TV? Don’t lie to me.

(And, c’mon, you’d watch Sonnen vs. Fedor Emelianenko. I know you would).

One assumes Sonnen is smart enough not to go chasing after titles at this point in his career. With the right matchups, though, Sonnen not only is still relevant, but his ability to help promote everyone else under the Bellator umbrella means far more to Bellator than the number on those disclosed paydays would seem to indicate.

So yes, if Sonnen fought this weekend, you probably wouldn’t watch. He’ll be smart enough to disappear for awhile. Just long enough that you’ll be excited for Chael vs. Wandy when they finally make it.


@TSCSPodcast: Why does it seem that people continually question the legitimacy of Bellator main events?

In a way, it’s best to consider Bellator’s legends fights -- from which the ridiculous cries of “fix” inevitably spring -- to be the sports equivalent of going to see a nostalgia rock act.

If you by a ticket to see, say, Motley Crue, in your mind, it is still what you remember from when you were a kid in the 1980s, a bunch of Satan-worshipping badasses who rocked Madison Square Garden or the L.A. Forum until your eardrums bled. Instead, you get to the show, and you’re reminded that it’s now 2017, this is a half-filled casino theater in Billings, Montana, and up on stage are bottomed faces and beer guts stretching spandex to its very limit, and you all of a sudden realize shouting at the devil isn’t quite what it used to be.

Likewise, casual fans remember that a generation ago, Ortiz was the badass who got them back into watching the UFC years after they stopped watching the Royce Gracie version of the sport when it disappeared from cable, and in their heads, they’re going to relive the glory days for a little while.

Then, when they turn on the fight, not only does it end quickly, but in a manner in which no one really got hurt, with Ortiz quickly taking Sonnen down and submitting him.

So with the fight not resembling the Ortizes or Sonnens of their memories (I mean, aside from Chael losing via submission), all it takes from there is one tweet from a respectable source, like Dan Hardy’s ill-conceived shot at the fight, for the “fix” crazies to come out of the woodwork.

I mean, really -- Sonnen had not fought in more than three years, looked to be outweighed by a full weight class, and had 8 of his 14 career losses via submission going into the fight -- and we were supposed to be surprised he was submitted?

And if Bellator was going to fix a fight, why would they do so in favor of Ortiz, who was retiring, and not Sonnen, whom they are counting on to help build the company over the next couple years?

People have gone to prison for fixing fights. Scott Coker is responsible for the millions of dollars Viacom has pumped into the Viacom brand. Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission is the best commission head in the country. If you believe Coker and Foster are going to risk committing felonies just to give Tito Ortiz a warm and fuzzy sendoff, then you must have a PhD in alternative facts from Trump University.

Fight card shuffles

@ThatKiddSwiz: What is your opinion on Derrick Lewis & Travis Browne being moved to Halifax main event?

I mean, the first thing is, if I had tickets for UFC 208 in Brooklyn, which is a card that wasn’t exactly bursting to the seams with great fights from top to bottom in the first place, I wouldn’t be too happy if I lost a fight which seems almost guaranteed to be explosive.

The second thing is, if I had tickets for the UFC Fight Night in Halifax, I’d probably still be a bit bummed out that I won’t get to see Junior dos Santos fight, but, considering Lewis and Browne have a combined 32 of their 35 victories via finish, I’d feel pretty good about seeing a knockout (even granting I’d have to block Lewis’ horrendous fight against Shamil Abdurakhimov out of my brain to make that one work).

The third thing is, if I’m dos Santos, I’d be pretty happy about these developments, since the strong rumors to come out since his original Halifax main event against Stefan Struve was pulled had JDS facing Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title at UFC 211 instead.

The fourth and final thing is, given the ongoing trouble UFC is having filling their fight cards in the first part of 2017, hopefully it’s starting to dawn on WME that this business isn’t as easy as it probably looked when they plunked down $4B to buy it, and have the brainpower to nip this in the bud before it gets out of control.

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