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Fightweets: Should Jon Jones get an immediate title shot?

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Unstoppable press conference photos
Jon Jones with his belt
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Remember when Super Bowl weekend used to be one of the most anticipated weekends on the MMA calendar? Not so much this year. But either way, the beat goes on, so let’s get into another edition of Fightweets.

Should Jon Jones get an immediate title shot when he returns?

@JHKamper: Jones getting immediate title fight - the right call?

There are plenty of reasons why Jon Jones shouldn’t get an immediate light heavyweight title shot upon his re-licensing, which, if all goes well, should occur sometime in July.

In fact, they’re all the reasons why just a couple months ago UFC president Dana White said this: "I would never take the risk of headlining a show with Jon Jones again. I'd put him on the card. But I wouldn't headline with him until he consistently gets back on track.”

For the benefit of those living under a rock the past couple years, the things from which Jones need to back on track include being stripped of the light heavyweight title following a hit-and-run accident, and, oh, the huge UFC 200 giant mega-card that got thrown into disarray when Jones popped for a banned substance in the days leading up to the fight.

But that was then, and here’s the reality of now: WME bought the UFC for, roughly, oh, about $876 trillion or so last summer. The idea behind the lofty price tag (OK, I was off by $875.996 trillion) is that they’d make a profit off network and cable television rights fees when they came due in 2018.

In the meantime, the two drivers of the boom which pushed the UFC to two of the most wildly successful years in the history of the fight game in 2015-16, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, aren’t going to be around in 2017. Rousey used her legendary head movement to zig and zag her way from the penthouse to the outhouse, and McGregor is going to hold out until he either gets to fight Floyd Mayweather or gets a cut of the UFC’s action commensurate to what he brings to the table.

That makes it a whole lot more difficult for the UFC to put up 2016-like numbers this year. And do so in an environment where the smoke signals seem to indicate that the sports rights fee bubble is going to burst.

All of a sudden, Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2, one of the few bankable big fights out there if they can get both fighters into the cage unscathed, is a roll of the dice a whole lot more worth taking than it was a few months ago. And if Cormier loses to Anthony Johnson at UFC 210, then at least Johnson vs. Jones, the fight which was scheduled when Jones was stripped, would bring closure to the situation.

So that’s why White’s changed his tune, but in the meantime the danger will always lurk that White’s words from a few months back will prove prophetic.

"Millions of dollars are spent on this, and for a card to fall apart — how many cards have fallen apart because Jon Jones gets in trouble for something?" White said. "So no, I'm not at that place with him."

Cowboy’s legacy

@dpop2: Do you think the UFC and or coaches need to do a better job focusing fav fighter but keeps shooting himself in foot

@TheBraz100: With Cowboy Cerrone taking a beatdown, where does he stand in the weight class, and who should be on his radar next?

So here’s the thing: Donald Cerrone is only one fight off the UFC record for victories, and it only took him six years to get there. He’s tied with Georges St-Pierre for second all-time with 19, just behind Michael Bisping’s 20. Bisping took 10 years to get there and GSP 9.

If “Cowboy” continues taking his usual four fights per year for a few more years, and doesn’t have a sharp drop-off in the process, it’s entirely possible when all’s said and done, he’ll be comfortably in front of the race for most UFC wins ever.

And wouldn’t that be a more fitting testimony to Donald Cerrone’s legacy than whether he wins a title?

Cerrone is really, really good. But he’s not perfect, and he never claimed to be. A huge part of his appeal is that he’s a genuine dude who doesn’t back down from a fight or a challenge. It’s why we tend to look the other way when he puts in the occasional bad performance, like last weekend against Jorge Masvidal, or when stuff comes out of his mouth that might get other people in trouble.

What would the other path be? For Cerrone to be like the bulk of the roster and play it safe? He could fight twice a year and pick his spots and hope things break his way. But then he wouldn’t be Cowboy Cerrone, would he? So Cerrone isn’t going to be champion. So what? If he ends up doing things his way, and ends up with, say, 25-28 career UFC wins, that’s hell of a thing to be remembered by. So I say, make peace with the fact Cerrone will never quite scale the mountain and enjoy his run while it lasts.

Who’s next for JJ?

@Paperboy_ca: three 115lb fights this weekend. Best looking in victory gets JJ?

For the record, the three strawweight fights on Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night card in Houston are Alex Grasso vs. Felice Herrig; Jessica Andrade vs. Angela Hill; and Tecia Torres vs. Bec Rawlings.

It may as well serve as open audition night for the next challenger for Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s belt, as she seems to have all but lapped the pack at 115 pounds.

There’s still a contingent who wants to see another scrap between Joanna Champion and Claudia Gadelha. I’m even willing to concede she’s probably still the second-best fighter in the division. But we’ve seen this fight twice already and JJ has won them both, and while neither was a rout, the second win was more convincing than the first. I’m not in a rush to go right back to that fight.

From where I see it, Andrade starts Saturday’s race in the pole position. She acquitted herself well as a totally undersized bantamweight, going 4-2 in her last six fights at 135, and has looked like an absolute killer at 115. She’s schooled former Invicta atomweight champ Jessice Penne and standout Joanne Calderwood in back-to-back fights. A win over the reigning Invicta champion in Hill only bolsters her claim.

If Hill beats Andrade? Then it becomes wide open. Maybe someone else puts on a such a convincing show Saturday night they leave no doubt they deserve the shot. Or maybe we end up with JJ-Claudia 3, and there are worse places to be.

Next for Masvidal?

@mercethecurse: Who is @GamebredFighter gonna go up against next if you're @seanshelby?

Jorge Masvidal is now 9-4 in the UFC. Three of those losses were split decisions and a couple of them were atrocious. But after schooling Cerrone last weekend for his second straight finish and third straight win, he’s won three in a row and he’s in that window in his early 30s where he’s still in his prime and also has veteran guile.

In Masvidal, you’ve got a career grinder refining and peaking his game at the right moment. He needs a big name to push him over the top, but he’s not quite sellable for a title shot yet. So he needs to be someone with name value, and it needs to be consequential: There’s no use beating up Johny Hendricks or Matt Brown at this point. So that leaves us a short list. Demian Maia, rightly, seems to be holding out for a title shot and he basically told Masvidal he’s not interested, anyway. If Carlos Condit isn’t going to retire, this might be the right fight. Maybe Robbie Lawler is the answer, given they’re no longer American Top Team teammates. Beyond that, it’s hard to find a fight which makes sense.

MayGregor? McWeather?

@Call_Me_Beardo: At what point do we become uninterested in the posturing by all parties involved in Floyd/Conor?

I’m already getting there. I’m also getting a little tired of champions holding out for “money fights,” especially since for all the proposed fights, the UFC has made exactly zero of them which don’t include McGregor.

But I digress. With Mayweather and McGregor, we better get used to it. Do you remember how long it took to make Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, even though it was obvious from the get-go that it would be a once-in-a-generation, transcendent event? It took about seven years to make the fight, so long that by the time they actually got into the ring, the fight sucked because Pacquiao’s prime had passed.

Granted, given that he’s pushing 40, Mayweather doesn’t have that much time to waste. But he’s going to do his thing, his way. And McGregor isn’t getting back into the Octagon any time soon, and any attempt he makes to box outside of his UFC contract is highly likely to end up in a courtroom.

So make your peace with it, because it’s not going away any time soon.

Hurricane warning

@GHurricane: Do you think I can heal up & fight on the @UltimateFighter 25 Finale in June? That would be a cool story. #goals

Depends, Gerald “Hurricane” Harris. Are you going to deliver another one of your super-cool slams, like you did to that guy who missed weight by a billion pounds? Cuz if so, I think this is something we can all rally around.