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Fightweets: Hey Mighty Mouse, what about TJ?

Demetrious Johnson
Demetrious Johnson
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

I’m writing this at about 30,000 feet en route on Wednesday afternoon en route to Boston for Thanksgiving. So whenever you happen to read this, hope you and yours have/had a great holiday. And with that, onto this week’s Fightweets ...

Quiet as a mouse

@AyoGuyy: Anything new about the Mighty Mouse-Dillashaw fight? Also, what's the likelihood Diaz-Woodley doesn't happen since Nate hasn't signed or even acknowledged Tyron?

We’ve barely heard a word out of UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson since UFC 217. That, of course, was the night T.J. Dillashaw finished Cody Garbrandt to start his second bantamweight title reign and immediately made it clear he wanted Mighty Mouse next, and would go down to 125 pounds to make it happen.

The silence is a little weird, because we’ve heard from Mighty Mouse constantly this year, about everything and anything, from his contract to his ESPY to his choice of opponents. And he deserves every bit of attention he’s gotten, having surpassed Anderson Silva’s title defense record. But all the champ’s noise earlier this year makes the sudden radio silence from the champ’s camp stand out.

That silence certainly lends itself to speculation. I won’t claim to know Johnson’s thoughts at this point. For all we know, he could come out next week and declare that he’s ready to fight Dillashaw. But three weeks after UFC 217, Johnson vs. Dillashaw remains the fight to make, nothing else exciting is going to pop up in the division, and publicly ignoring the Dillashaw’s challenge is only going to make the latter camp’s words ring louder.

Easy road for Ngannou?

@DanFromOR: Francis Ngannou road to the top.... His last 3 opponents are a combined 2-12 in the UFC... seems he's getting the push and a insanely easy SOS. Thoughts?

I mean, sure, there’s the teeny tiny little fact that the bulk of Ngannou’s UFC competition up until this point is sort of like the big top 25 college basketball program that loads up the non-conference schedule with the likes of the local Division II teams, but hey. And, let’s note you mean 2-12 in their last 14, not overall; one of those fighters is former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski, whom Ngannou starched in under two minutes.

Only so many competitors break through and become big stars. You have to be willing to take calculated gambles, both on the fighters’ end and the promoter’s. Say what you will about Conor McGregor, but he took so many chances during his rise to the top that his fans are quick to forgive him when he aims high and misses.

Ngannou? He’s got the look of a star. He’s doing all the right things one needs to do in order to to get to the top both in and out of the cage, including moving his camp over to Las Vegas in order to further his training, and making himself readily available to the media on order to get his story out there (the anti-Jose Aldo, if you will).

Potential heavyweight contenders who can check off all the boxes only come along every so often. So sure, maybe he’s getting his big break of a fight a bit early in the crafty veteran Alistair Overeem. Maybe this will turn into a heavyweight version of Yair Rodriguez, who seemed to be on a rocket ship to stardom, only to have a very bad night against Frankie Edgar. Or maybe it ends up more like McGregor, who was razzed for his strength of opposition and the UFC’s favorable matchmaking all the way up to the moment Aldo was knocked out in 13 seconds.

We (and by “we” I mean my media colleagues and myself) have been quite harsh on the new UFC ownership for their lack of starmaking since taking over. So we shouldn’t complain when they’re giving someone who might be able to carry the ball in the biggest games every chance to do so.

Cyborg vs. Holm big enough?

@mindslit: Is Holly and Cyborg big enough draw to be the main event for such a big card?

Absolutely. The UFC women’s featherweight title fight, which, unless we hear otherwise very soon, looks like it’s going to the UFC 219 main event, is the biggest bout that can be made involving currently active women’s fighters. Holly still has a following and can draw big with the right opponents; she was basically made for life with her knockout of Ronda Rousey. Cyborg, all due respect to the super-tough Tanya Evinger, is finally getting that big UFC spotlight she’s wanted all those years.

Considering both fighters’ popularity, Cyborg’s long unbeaten streak and Holly looking to become the first women’s two-weight class champions, on top of a lineup that is still solid even after taking some hits, then I don’t see why this doesn’t heat up on a holiday weekend and become, maybe not a UFC 217 or 214-level event, but still solidly one of those elusive “middle-class” PPV cards.

Fighters gone wild

@FlayersMMA: What will it take for the UFC to finally do something concrete about the recent upsurge in homophobic slurs? Surely a blank statement outlining set penalties (min 6 month ban) to all roster would be more than enough?

Did y’all see the Sports Business Daily story which made the rounds recently, the one that stated the UFC’s initial attempts at getting a huge boost in their rights fees on their next contract isn’t exactly going so smoothly? I know at first glance this doesn’t seem like it’s related to the question at hand. If you’re thinking about why the UFC might not get the money they want for their product, you first think of things like too many diluted fight cards, not enough star power, the fact WWE is coming due around the same time.

So, too, does the recent rash of fighter misbehavior factor in, in its own way. From the rampant use of homophobic slurs, to Colby Covington’s race-baiting, to McGregor’s antics at a recent Bellator show, the UFC has been getting a steady stream of bad press at the worst possible time.

Yes, there’s a small segment of the audience who will respond to this with something to the effect of “OMG you cuck do you expect them to sit down and drink tea together in the Octagon derp dee durrrrr.” If there were enough such fans to make for a giant bidding war for the UFC’s services, they might have a point. But there isn’t and they don’t.

But the UFC is asking to be treated like one of the big mainstream sports. They are certainly looking for mainstream money in their new deal. If they want such acceptance, they need to to start acting like a mainstream sport franchise. Mainstream sports fine and suspend even star players for homophobic outbursts. They would absolutely discipline a competitor who ran onto the court or field during another team’s game and assaulted an official, which is the equivalent of what McGregor did in Dublin.

If you’re a network with only X-amount of dollars to spend in what’s a declining cable landscape, would you meet the UFC’s exorbitant money ask? Or might you take a look at the baggage involved with being tied to a franchise whose athletes are being perceived as out of control, and maybe think twice about such an association? This is at best a minor part of the puzzle on the UFC’s next rights deal, but if for no other reason than public perception (since doing the right thing in and of itself hasn’t been enough of a motivator), then it’s past due time the UFC start to get on top of fighters who do damage to the brand outside the cage.

Holloway-Aldo 2

@MikeJBknows: Is Jose Aldo making a mistake choosing to rematch Max Holloway so soon? If he loses, should he finally move to lightweight? #Fightweets #UFC218

Nah. I certainly can’t blame Aldo for taking the championship opportunity while it’s there. If anyone’s career has exemplified how often plans can go off the rails in mixed martial arts, it’s Aldo. So if I was in his shoes, I’d jump on an opportunity that might never come up again, too.

Now that said, I don’t see anything new that suggests a result any different than the first time out at UFC 212. With two losses to Holloway, the luster would totally gone from a McGregor-Aldo rematch (which was remote at best in the first place), so yes, the long-awaited move to 155 might be Aldo’s next stop after next weekend.

Fighter unions

@RiniMMA: How can the fighters negotiate for a % of TV revenue? Could enough low level fighters declining fights affect the UFC's ability to meet their Fox/FS1 requirements?

That’s a great question. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it happening.

The horribly fumbled rollout of the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association set the movement back quite a bit. The UFC sale and change of ownership was the time to start to exert leverage. Instead, the MMAAA fizzled immediately.

This is the problem with trying to organize such me-first, individual businesses: The people at the top are the only ones with the leverage to do something about it. Ronda Rousey, at least, kicked down the door and opened things up for women’s fighters to get onto the biggest stages. McGregor is more concerned with starting his own promotional company. Georges St-Pierre was at the initial MMAAA press conference, and has barely mentioned it since. When the talent at the top with the ability to effect change doesn’t give a rat’s ass if their colleagues can make ends meet, how exactly does such an alliance move forward?

I get where you’re coming from, but do you really see low-level fighters declining fights on mass? It’s a microcosm of our own society: Every fighter thinks they’re the next millionaire, and in the meantime, they need to pay their bills. They’ve already gone through insane levels of sacrifice merely to get to the level so easily dismissed as “low-level UFC fighters.” As is proven by the merry-go-round of late replacement fighters you’ve never heard of stepping into UFC cards on a seemingly weekly basis, the show will go on.

T-Wood vs. Nate?

@MMA_and_Beer: If it gets made, is Nate vs. Woodley the most absurd title fight in UFC history?

I mean, you were around when Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen happened, right?

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