It would seem all’s quiet on the western front this weekend, as there are no UFC or Bellator events on the schedule.
But something always fills the void. In this case, we had Thursday’s incident between Tony Ferguson and Fabricio Werdum at a UFC 216 media lunch, and then Friday, Conor McGregor broke his silence.
Which is all we need, really, to fill another edition of Fightweets ...
@comfortablejoe: Do you think Werdum’s non-apology apology will be enough for the UFC? He should be fined, but is there any actual chance of this happening?
It isn’t just that Fabricio Werdum hurled “maricon,” the Spanish equivalent of “faggot,” multiple times at Tony Ferguson during their bizarre near-skirmish at a UFC 216 media event Thursday in Los Angeles.
It isn’t just that Werdum, who has lived in Southern California for many years, and is fluent in several languages, tried to hide behind alleged cultural differences leading to a misunderstanding the use of the word -- Emile Griffith would like to have a word with you about that one.
It’s not just that Werdum also went on to Daniel Cormier’s Instagram post in support of Jon Jones, one of the classiest and most magnanimous things we’ve seen in mixed martial arts this year, and left the same nasty comment there for no apparent reason, as well.
It is just as much about seeing a heavyweight claim he was going to pick a fight with a lightweight in Ferguson.
Which wasn’t the first time Werdum has threatened significantly smaller people, either, as he said he’d slap Conor McGregor, then a featherweight, not all that long ago.
Put all of this together and it doesn’t paint the prettiest picture.
That’s before we even get to Werdum’s ties to Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. While fighters like Chris Weidman have disavowed their past ties to Chechnya since news of the torture of gay men in the state has come to light. Werdum, however, has doubled down on his support of the dictator, sending out pro-Kadyrov tweets on multiple occasions. He offered a weak defense of his continued relationship late in his media scrum on Thursday. While I believe Werdum when he says he doesn’t want to see violence against innocent people, he’s still accepting money from the perpetrator of said violence, and that in and of itself is a tacit endorsement of the atrocities.
On Friday night, the UFC issued a statement in which the company said it was “disappointed” with Werdum’s comments, and that he would perform LGBTQ community outreach in Las Vegas. Putting aside for a moment that I’m not sure how many gay people in Las Vegas are eager to have Werdum mingle with their community at the moment, the statement entirely sidesteps the issue of Werdum’s relationship with Kadyrov.
Considering that just last Saturday, Ari Emanuel, the CEO of WME, which owns the UFC, was given an award for service to the LGBT community, the UFC’s initial response is entirely underwhelming.
Conor and lightweight belts
@AerialPennMMA: Will the Interim 155 title be defended by winner of Tony vs Lee before Conor as champion fights either one to unify the titles? #UFC216
Well, our man Petesy Carroll shipped off to Glasgow recently for McGregor’s first public appearance since last month’s Floyd Mayweather fight, and from the sounds of things, Mystic Mac hasn’t ruled out any potential future opponents except for maybe a Marcus Brimage rematch.
So Conor’s going to sit back and let things play out for awhile. As well he should, at this point. The UFC lightweight champion is going to go sit on his newfound giant pile of money for the rest of his life, but he’s going to enjoy it for a bit. You know you would, too.
That brings us back to Ferguson and Lee next weekend at UFC 216, a fight which should be much bigger than it is, given both the talents and personalities involved in the fight (As an aside, doesn’t the fact Ferguson didn’t back down from the much larger Werdum reaffirm the belief he’s exactly the type of crazy we like from our fighters?)
At the end of the day, Conor’s going to go where the most money is. Maybe Floyd burns through all his, and needs a rematch. The Nate Diaz trilogy fight will make the UFC more money than any other fight they can make, and offer the most mainstream excitement the UFC can offer during a period in which they’re going to be angling for a new television contract.
So with all that in mind, while McGregor vs. the Ferguson-Lee winner certainly ranks higher than McGregor vs. Paulie Malignaggi, which is a fight only Malignaggi’s accountant wants to see, it’s also a drop from a Diaz rematch. I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the interim belt get defended first.
Next move for Daniel Cormier
@fifis_av: Can you confirm if DC is moving up to HW?
It sure doesn’t sound like it, given that DC is now angling for a fight with Volkan Oezdemir. And I can’t say I blame him. Matt Hughes told me once about how eagerly he accepted his first fight with Georges St-Pierre, because he knew GSP was going to be trouble, and that it would be better to get him out of the way earlier than have to contend with him later. So Hughes submitted GSP in the first round of their UFC 50 fight. That bought Hughes another two years as welterweight champ before St-Pierre finally worked his way back into contention and took his belt.
I’m not saying Oezdemir is the next GSP, but he’s certainly got the feel of a guy who’s going to be a presence at the top of the light heavyweight division for some time to come. DC’s pretty smart. If he can fast-track Oezdemir now into a title shot that might be a bit too soon, then by the time Oezdemir rebounds, he’ll be someone else’s problem, as DC will either be a heavyweight or retired at that point.
(Me? I’d still rather see DC vs. Stipe Miocic, but if that’s not happening, DC-Oezdemir seems a lot more fresh a matchup than a DC-Alexander Gustafsson runback. Sorry, Gusty).
@mookiealexander: HBO Boxing just ran a successful themed show to showcase the 115-lb division. Should the UFC run something similar for its top divisions?
I agree, Mook. We actually saw a version of this a few years ago with the all-heavyweight main card of UFC 146, headlined by then-champion Junior dos Santos’ TKO finish of Frank Mir. Also victorious were Cain Velasquez, Roy Nelson, Stipe Miocic and Stefan Struve, all via finish. The card set up the JDS-Velasquez rematch and helped propel future champ Miocic forward.
Of course, things don’t always align to make a fight card themed on one division. But UFC 146 is fondly remembered and the HBO show was a success. With FOX ratings leveling off, why not give this a whirl? A four-fight FOX main card showcasing the depth of talent at lightweight or featherweight is as solid a marketing gimmick as any.
Down the tubes
@chjobin: Who's had the worst downward spiral? Johny Hendricks or Ben Henderson?
I don’t think this one’s even a contest: Johny Hendricks. The former UFC welterweight champ lost four of his past five and five of his past seven, missed weight in his last two welterweight fights, and went up to middleweight and has missed the target there, too. That doesn’t even address the fact he’s mostly looked like a shot fighter once his fights start.
Ben Henderson? He’s a guy who used speed and elusiveness to take seven straight decisions in his run up to the UFC lightweight title and subsequent reign. Now he’s 33, he’s still an entirely competent fighter, but he’s lost half a step and that’s been the razor-thin difference between winning and losing split decisions, most recently last weekend against Patricky Freire. Unlike Hendricks, Henderson still seems to have to fight left in him, and whether he can make some tweaks here and there will tell the difference on his career’s latter stages.
@Najem66: Where do you think @CarlosCondit will fit in this welterweight mix? #NaturalBornKiller
Carlos Condit breaking his silence and announcing he wants to return to mixed martial arts was like seeing the sun break through the clouds after it’s rained all day. We don’t know whether the former WEC champ and UFC interim titleholder will still be the Carlos Condit of old, the guy capable of putting on crazy exciting fights on any given night. I’m willing to give him a mulligan for the loss to Demian Maia, because for one thing, Condit was coming off his war with Robbie Lawler, and for another, Maia was on fire at the time. But he’s had a year off, he took a break, presumably his head is clear, and now we’ll get a fair view of how much he has left in the tank. I don’t think you should throw Condit to the sharks right away -- no doubt a fighter like Kamaru Usman would love to make his name fight Condit -- but either way, even “Condit vs. TBD” is one to mark on your calendar.