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Fightweets: Will Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2 actually happen this time?

Unstoppable Press Conference

WSOF rebrands, a WEC legend announces his retirement, a fight fixing allegation emerges. Just another week in MMA. And if it’s another week in MMA, there must be another chapter in the Daniel Cormier-Jon Jones saga, so let’s get right into it...

Cormier’s options and Jones rematch

@RuckerYeah: DC-Manuwa or DC-Jones?

I don’t know about you, but listening to the back and forth with the likes of Cormier, Jones and Jimi Manuwa, a couple weeks after UFC 210 has come and gone, it’s come across to me like those party guest stragglers who haven’t taken the hint that everyone else has gone home and the host wants to go to bed.

I’m guessing lots of readers feel this way at the moment, too, since this was literally the only question I was asked related to the news UFC is targeting Cormier vs. Jones for UFC 214 in Anaheim.

But regardless, if this fight is made official, by the time it rolls around, it will be the big deal we know deep down it still is. We’re all a little fatigued by the endless drama between Cormier and Jones, and fans are rightly taking a skeptical stance because this would mark the fifth time the fight’s been booked, but it’s only been delivered once. Hell, the fact UFC president Dana White publicly stated on more than one occasion that he can’t trust Jones to headline an event right off the bat shows that he knows this, too.

With all that in mind, the idea of the UFC going to Cormier vs. Jimi Manuwa first, and making Jones take a tuneup fight in his return, seems more appealing on one level simply because it’s more fresh. But White is in need of an A-list main event (which DC vs. Jimi isn’t), thus he’s ignoring his previous words. And you’d like to believe on some level that Jones has to understand that he’s running out of chances.

If Jones is going to finally get his redemption tour started for real — and with another big run, he absolutely could still reach the status the greatest of all-time when all is said and done — then he has to make it to the gate this time. If not, it’s probably time to let go of the fight once and for all. And in the meantime, hopefully a couple months from now, we’ll actually be excited about this one again.

World Series of Rebranding

@Hunt5588: What do you make of WSOF re-branding? Any long term substance potential?

Aye, aye. Let me pause and rub my temples for a minute, then shake my head, then contemplate maybe taking a swig of something straight out of a bottle.

Alrighty then (I resisted the last idea, it’s work hours)...we knew World Series of Fighting was doomed when we went to their show last year in Garden Grove, Calif., at a rec sports complex, in which a talent like Marlon Moraes competed while girls volleyball games and pickup basketball games went on in the background. It was as close to a “Puppet Show and Spinal Tap” moment as this sport has ever seen.

Here’s one thing we learned long ago in the fight business: Presenting fights in a league format with standings simply don’t work, for all sorts of reasons. The International Fight League was one of the ideas which got off the ground during the era in which promoters found seed money for every half-assed idea someone could dream up, from Affliction MMA featuring Megadeth to the YAMMA pit. The IFL even managed to get featured on 60 Minutes. Either way, the people had zero interest in watching team MMA and the IFL was such a flop that it was just the about the only promotion the UFC couldn’t be bothered buying out during the gold rush period.

True, the newly dubbed Professional Fighters League isn’t another attempt at marketing a team fighting concept. PFL is attempting to put together a full year-long season with playoffs at the end and whatnot. But we’ve had more than a century of combat sports as evidence that people aren’t interested in following fighters as part of a league. Even when it’s done as close to right as possible — the Super Six boxing tourney put on by Showtime being the best example in recent years — there are simply too many things that can go wrong (which, in the Super Six tourney, found a washed-up Glen Johnson in the semifinals after injury withdrawals). And after two years’ buildup, the Dec. 2011 final, with Andre Ward defeating Carl Froch, only drew a half-full house in Atlantic City.

And that’s under the best possible circumstances, with an A-list television backer who knew what they were doing and with world-class talent. WSOF, on the other hand, has purged most of its best talent and its contract with NBCSN comes up at the end of the year. The new money marks investors say there will be a million-dollar prize for the winner. If I was a PFL fighter, I’d demand proof this money was being held in escrow before continuing on.

Fight-fixing allegations

@dpop2: Will this fight fixing investigation have any impact on UFC?

The fact that fight-fixing scandals along the lines of the one which has cropped up in South Korea against Tae Hyun Bang for his fight with Leo Kuntz comes up as rarely as it does is, in its own weird way underscored by how good an overall job the UFC and the sanctioning bodies have done in weeding this sort of thing out.

On the surface, fighting would seemingly be the easiest sport for a gambler to corrupt. A team sport fix would require the participation of too many people to pull off in this day and age. Participants in the bigger sports also make quite a bit of money, with even benchwarmers in the big four earning more money than they ever dreamed of making. A century ago, several members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox rebelled a against a cheap owner and doubled their season’s pay to throw the World Series. But now there’s so much money in sports that the NFL and NHL are both relocating to Las Vegas, which for decades was a taboo idea to even consider.

If you’re an undercard fighter making 10K to win and 10K to show, though, you might be tempted to accept a payoff to take a dive (and an obvious answer in the UFC’s case would be to pay their fighters more, but hey). But even in this case, the sudden gambling line movement — and a reported $1.7 million bet on a random undercard fight — served as a red flag which led to the investigation.

Beyond all this, what more you can you do? It’s a simple matter of human nature, you can’t take every ethical precaution and from time to time something like this is bound to slip through.

Next for Aljo

@WillDelToro: Aljo ready to make the jump to top 5 opponent?

Let’s give him a little time, this time. Aljamain Sterling became the flavor of the month when he was 12-0, and got written off when he lost a pair of tight decisions to Bryan Caraway (which could have been a draw with Sterling on a borderline 10-8 first round) and Rafael Assuncao (a coin flip of a decision). Aljo made the necessary adjustments and had a nice win over Augusto Mendes. I think before we go a little too nuts again, let’s maybe get him a ranked opponent, but not someone in the immediate path for a title shot, and let him build his way forward again.

Miguel Torres’ legacy

@Christopher_Kit: Where does Miguel Torres sit in Bantamweight history? Was he unfairly cut from UFC?

Former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Angel Torres announced his retirement without a ton of fanfare this week. The fact it came off so low profile only served to underscore how he’s become the forgotten legend of the WEC’s heyday.

Urijah Faber enters the UFC Hall of Fame this summer. Jose Aldo is still headlining pay-per-view cards. Dominick Cruz is the greatest bantamweight in the history of the sport. Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone, and Jamie Varner had a memorable triangle feud. Demetrious Johnson only started his climb during the WEC’s latter days, but even he gets more WEC props that Torres, who reigned as bantamweight champ in 2008-09.

Detractors have claimed Torres simply didn’t face a high caliber of competition in his prime. It’s true the Indiana native wasn’t exactly meeting the likes of Cruz, Cody Garbrandt, or T.J. Dillashaw. But it’s also true Torres started his career during the sport’s Wild West days. Nevermind the UFC not having a flyweight, bantamweight, or featherweight division then: they couldn’t even be bothered filling their lightweight title vacancy for several years. That meant Torres, who wasn’t a big bantamweight in the first place, more than once found himself fighting considerably larger foes.

By the time Torres arrived in the WEC, he had nearly three dozen fights under his belt. He was the type of competitor who wasn’t afraid to absorb two punches to get in one good one. His 2008 and 2009 brawls against Yoshiro Maeda and Takeya Mizugaki, were on their respective Fight of the Year lists for good reason. I was cageside for his fight with Mizugaki at WEC 40 in Chicago, and the wild, all-heart brawl remains one of the five most exciting matches I’ve ever seen in person.

Torres’ dropoff came immediately after the Mizugaki fight, which put him at 37-1. That it happened with the likes of Cruz and Joseph Benavidez coming up made it easy to say Torres was overrated. But he had a lot of mileage on the tires by that point. His decline was fairly swift, and he certainly didn’t help himself with his unfortunate “rape van” tweet which got him cut from the UFC.

In the end, though, Torres was an essential part of the package that made the WEC such a lightning-in-a-bottle experience which is so fondly remembered and will likely never be duplicated. While there’s some truth to the idea that he wasn’t as skilled as the next generation, he made up for it in heart and excitement, and for that, his legacy deserves better than he seems to get.

Holly Holm overrated?

@christopher_kit: If Holly Holm was to go 0-4, can we safely say the Ronda win was a one off and we can no longer consider her an elite fighter?

Man, tough crowd. I’m deliberately placing this right under the Torres question because there’s a bit of a similar theme. By the time Holm kicked Ronda Rousey’s head halfway across Australia, she was already approaching her mid-30s; was in her 10th UFC fight, and had a 33-fight pro boxing career as well as three kickboxing matches. Her expected matchup with Bethe Correia in Singapore will be her 50th official combat sports fight. The theme with both Torres and Holm: Fighters’ primes don’t always neatly match their highest-profile spotlights. And anyway, considering she was winning the her fight with Miesha Tate and got caught at the end, and that with a competent referee she would have had at worst a draw with one point deduction and at best a win with two, either of which would have been justified, let’s not write Holly off just yet, eh?

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