It’s a quiet weekend on the mixed martial arts calendar, but per usual, it’s far from all quiet on the Western front. So let’s dive into another edition of Fightweets.
@bobbybloor: What is Al Iaquinta's best course of action going forward? Fight out his contract?
@BookieSumner: If other fighters speak up with the same aggression as Raging Al, could we have a more influence fighters union on the way?
Al Iaquinta made quite an impression this week, didn’t he? The Long Island lightweight returned with a vengeance last weekend after a two-year absence. First, he finished Diego Sanchez in the first round of their UFC Nashville bout, his fifth straight win. Then he had some choice words about his future. Then he told Dana White to go f*ck himself. Then he ripped into everyone from Kevin Lee to Sage Northcutt.
Other than that, it was another uneventful week in Al’s World.
At some point, this whole trend of UFC fighters constantly complaining about how unhappy they are about things is going to start to wear a little thin, just like the idea of champions angling for money fights now meets more with eye rolls than excitement.
Gegard Mousasi coming out of nowhere to air his grievances was one thing, because he had been so quiet and polite for so long that his new public persona was novel. But if everyone starts doing it — while not bothering to get a real union up and running or actually doing anything about to try to force the UFC’s hand (anyone hear from MMAAA recently?) — then this will soon get just as tiresome as fighters grasping for “money fights” that people don’t actually want to see. At the end of the day, most fans still watch fighting for escapism, and have their own gripes about their workplaces, and are going to get turned off by a nonstop stream of complaints about fighters complaining about theirs.
But we’re not quite at that tipping point yet. And in fact, Iaquinta just might be Peak Angry UFC Fighter. First off, Iaquinta is good. Really, really good. He’s got four finishes in his five-fight win streak and eight wins in his past nine fights. If Iaquinta was mediocre, he’d be just another undercard guy whose complaints get headlines for a day on his way out the door before the machine moves along without him.
Maybe Iaquinta retires again. Maybe he fights out his contract and goes to another promotion. Here’s another idea: Maybe the UFC should run with it. Why does every fighter not named Conor or Ronda have to fit into the cookie cutter? Not everyone should have to happily put on their Reebok gear and fight whoever the UFC wants to them face and blah, blah, blah. The UFC is run by Hollywood types now. The angry rebel is an archetype that’s made the entertainment industry billions of dollars. Run with it. Give him a show on Fight Pass and let him go full Howard Beale.
I don’t want to see a dozen copycat Iaquintas, each one less effective or convincing than the previous, which is what I fear is coming. Half of you guys seem to want to Iaquinta to vicariously vent for you, and the other half seems to want him to get his ass kicked. But all of you seem interested. So I say let Al rage on, and let the UFC roll with it.
Speaking of rage ...
@ciaranrace6: Can Mike Perry ever be a true star with his troubled if not racist past/present?
And we move on to a polarizing figure of a different sort. You would think Mike Perry would have been humbled a bit by his one-sided loss to Alan Jouban back in December, but it’s clear based on this past week that this is far from the case.
My colleague Patrick Wyman put it best on Twitter this week when he described Perry as an “anthropomorphic Tapout shirt.” Perry’s UFC success feels like that bro in the audience at 2006 who would boo the second the fight hit the ground actually jumped into the cage and started knocking people out when a more educated fan told him “yeah, well let’s see you try this.”
And therein lies the rub. Perry is really, really good at striking and delivering exciting finishes, which makes his fights must-see, even if he’s not nearly as refined in the rest of his game. He also has a knack for making heat-drawing comments, such as the lack of respect shown the likes of Jake Ellenberger, the veteran he knocked out last weekend. Once again, we have a fighter who a certain segment of the fan base will rally behind, and another one who wants to to see him get shut up, which means he’s got potential for stardom.
Then there’s the flip side, which is that if some of his past actions are an indication, Perry seems capable of saying or doing something that turns into a PR nightmare, and big corporate WME is likely to be less lenient than Zuffa on such matters. Until that seemingly inevitable point, we’ll see how far his considerable potential takes him — and close the circle by noting, of course he took shots at Iaquinta this week.
UFC to Edmonton
@soccertrs007: Main event for UFC 216
I’ve always has a soft spot for Edmonton. I first started watching hockey during Wayne Gretzky’s prime and watched the Oilers completely dismantle my Boston Bruins in the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals. I even took a picture at the Gretzky statue when I covered WEC 49 in town in 2010. This came after the lady guarding the gate at the media parking lot lectured me about why I shouldn’t be allowed into the lot because Yahoo wasn’t “real media like the Edmonton Journal.”
Anyway, UFC makes its Edmonton debut on Sept. 9 with UFC 216, and I hope for the good folks of your fine city that this show doesn’t end up like a Calgary or a Winnipeg, two of the most notoriously boring evenings in MMA history. As for what might headline? I know everyone’s hoping Georges St-Pierre makes his big return here and fights Michael Bisping, but that seems like a fight that’s going to be held for a Vegas or New York supershow.
There are still too many variables at this point to state much of anything with confidence, but here’s one thing: Flyweight Demetrious Johnson has said he’d like to fight again sometime around September. If you can pair up Mighty Mouse going after a history-making 11th successful title defense with either another title fight, or at the very least, a popular fighter, you could have enough of a 1-2 punch to make the show something to remember.
Justin Gaethje to UFC
@MorganWaltzMMA: Justin Gaethje looks to be UFC bound. How well does he do in the most stacked weight division?
The former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion is going to hit his ceiling somewhere during his expected UFC run. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as the fun is going to come in seeing how far Gaethje can get before maxing out.
Gaethje is an exciting, all-action, heavy hitter who seems allergic to the concept of defense. In WSOF, that meant you could count on his fight being the one you actually stopped and watched as you zipped through the rest of the card on your DVR. In the UFC, his hitting and his heart are both ferocious enough to get him to a certain level, but there’s just a point at which the talent is just too good. My best guess is that he’ll settle into a “fun fight” level, a guy you’re glad to see on the card and maybe one who finds himself in FS1 featured bouts, trying to lure those last-minute PPV dollars. But given the word on the street is that a first fight would be with Edson Barboza, we’ll find out sooner rather than later just where he stands.
@luke_dorsch: So....CM Punk...what's up w/ that??? LOL
The “that” is in reference to the announcement Punk is one of 10 athletes appearing on the MTV show The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros, which begins airing on May 16. I’m not in any particular rush to see Punk fight in the UFC again any time soon. But I’m also not going to snark on him here: The winner of the series gets a $50,000 donation made to the charity of his choice, so this is simply a chance for Punk to keep himself in the spotlight while potentially having some good come out of it, as well. Best of luck to Mr. Brooks.