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Fightweets: On Cody vs. TJ vs. DJ

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UFC Fight Night 81 photos

A huge stretch of fights is almost upon us. So let’s get right into things as we enjoy the holiday weekend, a.k.a. the calm before the storm.

Cody vs. TJ vs. DJ

@TerranceJamesII: How can MM complain about $ for his fights, but then turn down TJ fight which everyone wants to see

@JonnyRay730: Would it tarnish DJ's legacy if he knowingly turned a big fight down for reasons that's don't make sense

@_theoldcrow_: Would Demetrious Johnson's record-setting title defense vs Ray Borg instead of TJ Dillashaw sour the accomplishment? Worthy of an asterisk?

@dpop2: What TJ thinking for going down in weight? Just the title? I'm with DJ doesn't make a ton of sense on any1 part. Not DJ, Not TJ and Not UFC

So many questions, so many angles, so many layers. Everyone seems to have taken a strong stance on whether T.J. Dillashaw should sit out until UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt returns from a back injury or go down to 125 pounds and fight champion Demetrious Johnson for what would be his UFC record-setting 11th title defense. And from there, on whether Mighty Mouse should take the bout.

No, Johnson vs. Dillashaw is not a “money fight,” per se, like a Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey fight. And no, it’s probably not going to break box office records.

But it’s one of the best matchups you can make under 155 pounds and an intriguing stylistic matchup. If you’re Dillashaw, and haven’t fought so far this year, do you want to wait on Garbdrant’s back injury? Anyone who’s had a back injury can tell you how difficult it can be to function in day-to-day life, nevermind a career like fighting. Who knows how long he’ll really be out?

Of course, this brings up the notion Dillashaw would be jumping the line at 125. But I mean, really, can we stop with the nonsense that not giving Ray Borg a title shot at this point would be some sort of gigantic travesty? Borg’s without a doubt a talented fighter with a lot of upside. He’s on a two-fight win streak and has missed weight twice in his past four fights. People are reacting to the notion of Dillashaw potentially cutting ahead of Borg as if Borg just mowed through Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and Henry Cejudo all in a row and that’s simply not the case. A fighter with Borg’s credentials wouldn’t be next in line anywhere except 125.

And as an aside, remember when Frankie Edgar was allowed to cut the line and drop down and challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title? It’s been a little weird seeing those who beat the drum for the UFC 156 fight turn around and say Dillashaw doesn’t deserve this fight. Edgar went into that bout the winner of just one of his previous four fights (one of which, admittedly, was an all-time terrible decision in his rematch with Ben Henderson); Dillashaw has won six of seven, and the one loss was a razor-thin decision to Dominick Cruz. The idea behind Aldo-Edgar 1 is that the fact a former champion was dropping weight justified things. It was the correct call then -- Aldo’s decision win over Edgar was a fantastic fight -- and it would be the right call here.

And yet, all this said, I don’t blame Mighty Mouse in the slightest for playing hard to get. Johnson is absolutely not ducking Dillashaw. He’s finally in a position in which he has a bit of leverage. In the UFC’s boom-and-bust scheduling cycle, they’re burning through six title fights in less than three months between UFC on FOX 24 and UFC 213, including the Yoel Romero-Robert Whittaker interim middleweight title bout. Daniel Cormier defends the light heavyweight belt against Jon Jones at UFC 214; Garbrandt is out; middleweight champ Michael Bisping has a knee injury; women’s featherweight champ Germaine de Randamie seems to have dropped off the face of the earth; lightweight champ Conor McGregor, you just might have heard, is taking his hand at boxing. Once we get to the other side of DC-Jones 2, we’re going to hit another thin patch in the schedule. So Johnson’s being smart in holding out for a better deal if they want him to fight Dillashaw. UFC needs him at the moment more than he needs them.

So, in summary: 1. I like the idea of Johnson-Dillashaw; 2. Don’t tell me Ray Borg is being robbed; 3. Don’t tell me you’re not okay with this fight if you were okay with Aldo-Edgar 1; 4. All that said, I totally don’t blame Mighty Mouse at all for exercising his leverage now that he finally has some.

Why allow Conor to box?

@ThomasTheorema: With the risk of Conor retiring afterwards, why isn't the UFC doing everything they can to stop the fight with Mayweather?

I understand this line of thinking in general, but it simply doesn’t hold up. The UFC is on pace for a staggering dropoff in PPV revenue in 2017 as compared to 2015 and 2016. This is, of course, because McGregor is taking time off and Rousey has crashed and burned. Only one of those two are salvageable as an A-list draw. So if McGregor wants to box Floyd Mayweather, what’s the point in antagonizing their one remaining superstar? They can’t force him back into the Octagon to fight anyone any time soon.

Now, you add in the fact the UFC’s new Hollywood overlords needed to start recouping the $4B they overpaid for the brand, and soon. The best bet here is to work with McGregor on making the Mayweather fight. If it happens, the UFC thus gets their cut of what will be one of the biggest paydays in combat sports history, which would come out to more than anything they can do on their own at this point. If not, hey, they stuck by their remaining superstar and stayed in his good graces, and his return to MMA will be a giant deal.

Sure, the risk is that McGregor makes so much money fighting Floyd he never has to work another day in his life. But you have to make the best of the hand you’re dealt, not sit around wishing you had a different hand, and the UFC’s done the best with what’s in front of them.

Interim lightweight belt?

@CodyAM1993: With the new 185 belt on the line in July, how likely is an interim lightweight title bout of @TonyFergusonXT vs Nate Diaz?

I’m not sure the two are related, but yeah, If Floyd vs. Conor happens, you almost have to go with an interim lightweight title fight. If McGregor ever returns after fighting Mayweather, should the bout be made, you’re talking about one hell of a long absence between MMA fights. So yeah, UFC was already prepared for one this when they put together Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov for an interim belt at UFC 209, only to have it fall apart the day before the fight.

It seems like we’ll get Ferguson in an interim title fight either way. He’s chomping at the bit to fight again. It’s the other end of the equation which remains volatile. On one hand you have Diaz, who is living off his UFC 202 paycheck and made it clear he’s in no hurry to return until the price is right. On the other, Khabib is a killer when he gets into the cage, but, more often than not in recent years, his body doesn’t let him get to that stage. If you’re the UFC, you’ve got to decide which is the better gamble: Paying Nate what he wants and seeing how the buyrate comes in when he’s not matched with McGregor, or daring to try putting together Ferguson-Nurmagomedov for a fourth time? It’s a roll of the dice, but one the company needs to make sooner rather than later.

Where should Mousasi sign?

@arriagaroy: Should @mousasi_mma wait for free agency? And check the highest bidder?

To be clear, Gegard Mousasi’s contract is up. But as he said on FS1 this week, he’s got six weeks left until the UFC’s exclusive negotiation window ends, and he’s not exactly thrilled with the offers which have come his way so far.

Mousasi has continued to do promotional work for the UFC, making a recent trip through Southeast Asia. And he was featured on UFC Tonight, which is pretty much an in-house organ these days. That’s pretty rare treatment by the UFC for a fighter who could soon walk to the other promotion. Mousasi’s been his sassy self throughout this process, but the mere fact he’s continuing to do work for the UFC during this period would seem to indicate things are going amicably behind the scenes.

At the end of the day, it comes down to getting the numbers Mousasi wants. The ball’s in the UFC’s court, if they want to blow him away with an offer that keeps him from getting to full-fledged free agency, great for him. If not, be all means, Mousasi should wait and see who’s going to show him the money.

Mauler hater

@msolis1982: Why do I dislike Gustafsson? I don't even know why

Hmm. You got me on that one. Did he steal your lunch money or something? If I was to list, like, the 200 most dislikable fighters, I don’t think Alexander Gustafsson would even cross my mind. He’s been an above-average competitor who’s twice come within a whisker of winning the light heavyweight championship, against two of the greatest fighters of his generation in Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, and both times in epic, thrilling encounters. And if nothing else, his matchup on Sunday against Glover Teixeira should be fun. What’s to hate about him?