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Fightweets: Should Matt Hughes come out of retirement?

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Gallery Photo: UFC 171 media day photos

Just another week in this soap opera of a sport. Let’s get on with it ...

Hughes fighting again?

@PitbullLove70: Thoughts on Matt Hughes possibly fighting again?

When the news that former two-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes is pondering a return to fighting bubbled up this week, my thoughts were probably the same as most other people: Oh god, no. No. No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Please, no.

After all, Hughes went on a sharp decline before he decided to hang ‘em up all those years ago. That’s been just enough time to erase most of the memories of his drop off, like his quick knockout loss to B.J. Penn in their third fight, Instead, when you think of career of the first great UFC welterweight champion, you once again first and foremost remember things like his all-time classic comeback against Frank Trigg at UFC 52 and his wild battle with Penn at UFC 63.

This is why Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta created cushy front-office jobs for fighters like Hughes, Chuck Liddell, and Forrest Griffin in the first place: They wanted to protect the legacies of the guys who were loyal to them, who helped build up the sport. They were protecting them from themselves. There simply weren’t jobs to go around for every fighter on their way out, but there’s no doubt Zuffa brass came at this one from a good place.

Then, of course, WME bought the UFC. Then the bean counters needed to find a way to save a few pennies on their $4B investment. And it was decided that the dollar value one could place on the goodwill and PR value of having some of the fans’ all-time favorite fighters around was less than the cost of their salaries. This move, perhaps more than any else that has gone done in recent months, vividly demonstrated the power dynamics in the new era UFC -- do you really think White would have let Hughes and Liddell go if it was his call to make?

So now, if you’re someone like Hughes, your “job for life” is gone. You haven’t built up another skill in life as marketable as the ability to smash someone’s face in. And it turns out, over in Bellator, there’s a market for giving aging face-bashers one last round of glory and money, a roster of legends which includes someone whose face you’ve already done a number on once before in Royce Gracie.

And this leads us to the question that has popped up on so many ideas over the past year or two that seemed bad at first glance: Can you really blame the guy for wanting this? Along the lines of, you know ... Holding up a division could be a bad idea, but do you really blame Conor McGregor for grabbing the brass ring? Handing out interim belts like Halloween candy seems like a bad idea, but can you blame Max Holloway for wanting the opportunity? Michael Bisping should be fighting his top contenders, but can you blame him for wanting the big-money fight instead? And so on.

So no, I can’t blame Matt Hughes if he decides to come out of retirement and fight someone his age. Everyone from Stephan Bonnar to Dada 5000 has cashed in on the Viacom gravy train, so why shouldn’t he? Or maybe Vitor Belfort’s Legends League will actually become a thing. Hell, at this stage of the game, WME would probably have Hughes and Matt Serra fight over the last spare rib at a Chinese buffet if they thought it would bring in a rating.

Like so much else in the sport, Hughes’ return is one of those things that you don’t need to see, but you understand why someone wants to do it. So you roll with it and hope the light at the end of a tunnel isn’t an oncoming train.

Lorenz Larkin signs with Bellator

@RuckerYeah: Lorenz Larkin to Bellator. How good is their welterweight division now?

Pretty damn good, thanks for asking. First, though, let’s try to get a handle on why the UFC would let Larkin go, allowing him to sign with Bellator on Thursday.

I understand the cold reality of why some guys have been allowed to leave and/or cut from the UFC roster in recent months. I don’t mean to pick on Rick Story, but to use him as an example, he made $41,000 in his UFC 202 loss to Donald Cerrone and would have picked up another $41K to win. He was in the UFC for seven years and was given plenty of opportunity to break through. If people aren’t buying tickets to see Story after seven years, and several chances of breaking into the elite level, it’s probably never going to happen. In an era of major roster cuts, letting go someone like Story is the equivalent of a baseball team cutting a 30-something vet who hits about .250 and can be replaced by someone younger putting up similar numbers for less money.

In Larkin, though, you’ve got a guy who has finally found his rhythm and has clearly entered his prime. Since going to welterweight, he’s won four out of his five fights, three of them via finish, and he’s capable of being exciting and even spectacular -- clearly UFC agreed, or else they wouldn’t have bonused him twice during that run.

Unlike Story, Larkin still has plenty of upside. When someone like Larkin is allowed to walk, it sends an unmistakable message: The old Zuffa drive to not just be the clearcut, undisputed best in the world at every weight class, but to load the roster so deep that you’d be nuts to even question otherwise, simply isn’t a thing in the WME era.

Bellator’s welterweight class now features Larkin, Rory MacDonald, Paul Daley, Andrei Koreshkov, Michael Page, Brennan Ward, Douglas Lima, and, oh yeah, sometimes that Benson Henderson guy. That’s as solid a roster we’ve seen at any division outside the UFC since the middleweights in Strikeforce before Zuffa swallowed it whole.

That doesn’t mean Bellator’s 170 class has surpassed the UFC. That’s simply not an argument you can make with a straight face when Tyron Woodley, Stephen Thompson, Robbie Lawler, Demian Maia, Carlos Condit, Neil Magny and Jorge Masvidal are the top end of the class.

But Larkin has wins over Lawler, Magny, and Masvidal. And if you let a guy like that go, you’re letting your competitor build its credibility inch by inch. UFC still has the the best welterweight division, but Bellator’s is the best division we’ve seen outside the UFC in quite some time, and Zuffa wouldn’t have allowed things to progress even to this point.

Focusing on Rumble

@Trance4lifeyo: Do you think the UFC wants Rumble to win his rematch against D.C.? He is seeming to get the bigger rub.

Ehh, I think this is much ado about, well, not exactly nothing, but not that all much. Daniel Cormier has already taken Anthony Johnson’s best punch and found a way to win. That’s not exactly a surefire way to sell tickets for a rematch. The UFC’s best bet is to convince the public to buy UFC 210 is to sell the notion that this time around, Rumble is new and improved and better than last time out, so things might not go the way they did the first time around.

As for the infamous UFC 210 fight poster, which comes off like like the MMA equivalent of Andre the Giant wrestling a little person, with Rumble serving as Andre, I mean, sure, it wasn’t the best-thought-out design. But when Cormier doesn’t have an authentic grudge to work with, he’ll create a chip to place out of his shoulder -- remember all the hoopla about Patrick Cummins? -- so this works for him just fine, even if it was mostly a matter of Twitter finding something to get angry about on a slow day.

UFC Fight Night London

@RednckTruckrHat: Why should I care about this card?

I mean, I get it. At first glance, this fight card is headlined by Jimi Manuwa vs. Corey Anderson. WTF?

Glance beneath the surface, though, and you’ve got yourself a nice little Fight Pass card.

Let’s start with the main event itself. If this wasn’t a main event, and simply an ordinary main card fight, we’d be saying something along the lines of “this is a decent little fight.” Which it is. Manuwa is capable of delivering a one-hitter quitter at any time and Anderson is building some real momentum, with five wins in his past six fights. Manuwa, meanwhile, trucked Ovince Saint Preux in his last fight. It’s a consequential fight with the winner moving up.

Then there’s the co-main of Gunnar Nelson vs. Alan Jouban, which is almost criminally underappreciated. Jouban has built up a head of steam, has asked for legit opponents, and finally has one. Nelson rebounded from a loss to Demian Maia with a Perfomance of the Night finish of Albert Tumenov and an impressive win over Jouban would leave no doubt he’s back on track. There’s no doubt the winner comes out of this a player at 170.

And finally, one of the sport’s good guys, Brad Pickett, is making his curtain call in his hometown. Add all this up, and there are far worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.


@auggie85: how many times has dana denied something that turned out to be true? Can you list them. Haha

I would, Auggie, but it’s early Friday evening as I write this, I have tickets to Cavaliers vs. Clippers on Saturday night, and I don’t want to still find myself in front of my computer listing them all at tipoff.