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Fightweets: Should the UFC make a Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor rematch?

Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Well, then.

The biggest fight in UFC history led to the biggest controversy in UFC history which dovetailed right into one of the most newsworthy weeks in UFC history. So let’s not waste any more time before diving into a new edition of Fightweets.

Should the UFC make the rematch?

@Mmafan2016: Who should Conor fight next?

@JamesDoyleMMA: Will Dana take the risk and book Tony-Khabib despite it falling through before ?

Those were just two of the many questions I received about which fights should be booked next for the UFC 229 main event combatants.

I don’t know about all of you, but, as of Friday afternoon I think I’m finally ready for a break from all the Khabib and Conor madness. Tired, too, of all the arguments that try to paint a black-and-white picture when there are so many shades of grey to everything about this, and when it is obvious that no party in this madness is an angel. Most of my thoughts on the evening of infamy at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 6, I already expressed in last Sunday’s UFC 229 Aftermath, and they haven’t moved much since.

But the issue of where both fighters go from here remains. There is, of course, the fact that both Nurmagomedov and McGregor have will face the Nevada Athletic Commission hearing on Oct. 24, where they are likely to receive punishment. Given the NAC’s history with re-licensing every troublemaker who can still make them money from Mike Tyson to Floyd Mayweather, we’re going to take it as a given they’re not about to issue too harsh a sentence on fighters who can deliver another $17 million gate.

The biggest favor Nurmagomedov did to McGregor with his actions in the brawl was to completely distract from the fact that the champion absolutely trucked the former champ and made him look in a different league (McGregor incidentally, did Nurmagomedov a hell of a favor, too, in declining to press charges, and thus keeping his team out of a situation in which any of a number of them could have potentially been deported).

Instead, the talk is back on the rivalry. And you know McGregor will be able to convince his fan base, who would drink special Kool-Aid if Conor ever commanded, that the one-sided nature of the first fight was entirely down to ring rust, and that this time would be different.

Would it be, though? At this stage of the game, what you see from McGregor as a fighter is what you get. McGregor’s performance against Nurmagomedov suggested he was more concerned about Proper No. 12 sales than proper takedown defense. Conor may have escaped danger on the ground against Chad Mendes, but little suggests he’s going to find an answer to the Russian’s mauling ground assault.

If the UFC wants to play the long game, here, they’ve got three potential money-making fights. Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson obviously isn’t Nurmy-vs.-Conor-big. But in the wake of all the UFC 229 fallout, not to mention Ferguson putting on a such a superlative show in his win over Anthony Pettis in front of that massive audience, the bout would be bigger than anything else UFC has done to date other than UFC 229, and by a wide margin. Big enough to hope the fifth time is a charm. And you best believe that if McGregor and Nate Diaz decide to settle their trilogy, that’s an easy million-plus seller.

The first fight was one-sided, there are other interesting and sellable fights available for both, and it would be in everyone’s best interest to cool the heat, which seems to be approaching Biggie and Tupac levels, down for awhile.

Those are all compelling reasons not to make the rematch. But WME has proven over and over they’ll go for the big grab now and worry about the consequences later. There’s little denying that the rematch would be bigger money than the record-breaking original, regardless how it looked in the cage. So while the answer is no, they shouldn’t go back to a rematch, you and I know there’s a pretty good chance they will.

Has Dana checked out?

@MacPherson9999: Dana takes no responsibility for the melee, calls someone who suggested they’re culpable “an idiot.” How much is enough with this guy? No self awareness, no critical thinking, ability to see big picture, intellectual flexibility. He’s a child. Will the WME suits cut the cord?

At some point at last week’s UFC 229 press conference, after Khabib took off and before Conor showed up, White, who looked like he would have rather have been anywhere except where he was at the moment, was asked a question unrelated to the fight, to which his response was “I’m so not there right now.”

Which kind of seems to sum up general state of the game for the UFC president these days, doesn’t it? Look, the UFC was a rollicking Wild West shootout of an entity throughout the Zuffa years, too, but things never have gotten as publicly out of control as they have in the past year or so. And white White the only real public face of the company on the corporate end, it’s easy to see that he doesn’t go to as many events as he used to and doesn’t make nearly as many media appearance and assume he’s either lost control, doesn’t care, or both.

In the Zuffa era, you used to know exactly where things stood at all times with UFC brass, because not only did White go everywhere he possibly could in order to evangelize for his sport, but you knew they were backed by a money man in Lorenzo Fertitta who cared passionately about his product. When things got hairy, and they frequently did, Fertitta was the good cop who smoothed things over.

But he’s gone, Joe Silva’s gone, most of the team who built the UFC into a multibillion-dollar entity is gone. If you’re White, and you’ve pocketed $400 million, and purchased all your neighbors’ homes so you can bulldoze them, and you make TV appearances shopping for decorations for your weapons room, and you really never had to work another day in your life if you didn’t want, would you put yourself through all this?

People say the UFC is turning into WWE. Maybe it’s just turning into Hollywood. WME is one of the biggest names in all of the entertainment industry. How many times over the years have we seen big movie stars get away with things normal people wouldn’t get away with? Maybe what we’ve seen from McGregor and Nurmagomedov in 2018 is exactly what we should have expected when a Hollywood agency took over a fight promotion.

I can’t answer the idea of whether White should take a break, because unlike with Fertitta during the previous regime, you never hear anything in public from the WME’s higher-ups. For all we know, WME could be happy with the direction of the company, and pleased with the job Dana is doing. As long as WME brass don’t speak out at all about the UFC, we’ll never know.

Jones and Gusty ready to throw down

@meepmma: Jones and Gusstaffsson 2! Does Jon really deserve a Title shot straightaway after everything he put the @ufc through?

I mean, two years ago White said Jones would never headline another pay-per-view again. Jones was on suspension then. Since then, he’s returned, headlined against Daniel Cormier, been suspended again, and immediately upon reinstatement, was named to fight Gustafsson in the headline bout of UFC 232. This all came together in the immediate days after the UFC got 2.4 million PPV buys for a fight which was sold on McGregor’s unpunished (by the company) criminal acts. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Gallery Photo: UFC 165 photos
The excitement of Jon Jones’ thrilling first fight with Alexander Gustafsson will be enough for many to overlook Jones getting handed another big chance.
Esther Lin photo

And hey, the UFC executed well on a shrewd calculation: That the announcement of Jones vs. Gustafsson would deflect a fair bit of the criticism from Jones getting booked an immediate title fight upon his return. And they’re right. I mean, did you see the first fight between Jones and Gustafsson? (Those of you reading this who came on during the Ronda/Conor peak can go watch it on Fight Pass [subscription required] and then return here. We’ll wait for ya. Back? Okay, good.)

Some have called it the greatest MMA fight of all-time. I don’t know if I’ll go that far, but at worst it’s on a group of fights you can count on one hand among the all-time greats.

Call the matchmaking hypocritical, call it amoral, call it what you will. But another word a lot of people are also calling UFC 232, with Jones-Gusty 2 and Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes is “awesome.” So if we’re resigned to marching forward with a UFC whose decision-making is all over the map, at least this time we’re getting something really good out of it.

But why Gusty?

@aaronnoroozi: Why is Gustafsson getting a title shot when he’s been inactive over the last 5 years and also lost 3 of his last 6 fights?

Well, that’s one way of reading the numbers, but it’s also fairly selective. Who else are you going to go with? DC vs. Jones 3 wasn’t booked, for whatever reasons. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, who knocked out Gustafsson in one of those three loses you cite, is retired. There’s finally some fresh blood at light heavyweight, but neither Anthony Smith nor Dominick Reyes are quite there yet (Smith being the closer of the two).

And, of course, two of those three losses you mention just happened to be two of the greatest fights in MMA history, Gusty’s losses to Jones and Cormier, both of which he came up a whisker short after epic wars. It’s not like Gusty suffered three first-round KOs here.

So yeah, Jones-Gusty was the best call, and while I’m at it, at the end of the day, I’m fine with making this for the light heavyweight belt. Cormier told the Los Angeles Times he’s going to make more than double for his hastily made Derrick Lewis fight than he made for knocking out Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. That tells you that Cormier used his leverage to make a nice payday to give the UFC what it needed -- a headline bout at MSG and a title for the Jones fight.

There were three guys in the LHW top mix. One’s off to heavyweight. One has never legitimately lost a fight. Then there’s bronze medal guy, who comes up just short. Jones vs. Gustafsson is fine here.

DC-Black Beast

@Woolman7242: Why would NYSAC allow Lewis to fight DC this quickly?

Well, we never know what will actually happen until fight day. The New York State Athletic Commission could wake up tomorrow and officially declare the sun rises in the West and sets in the East, for all the sense some of their decisions they’ve have made. But, while Lewis is technically under medical suspension until Nov. 6, three days after UFC 230, he can be cleared at any point from now until then.

And, guess what? Ticket sales at Madison Square Garden weren’t exactly so hot before the heavyweight title fight announcement. The NYSAC takes its cut of the gate and thus benefits from having this fight atop the bill. So while the NYSAC is the most unpredictable thing to come out of New York since Johnny Rodz, it seems a pretty safe bet they’ll sign off on this fight.

@Dual_Threat3: Thoughts on DC/Lewis? Realistically what can Lewis do?

Umm, have you ever seen Derrick Lewis fight? I don’t consider myself an X’s and O’s guy, which is why I never try to fake it, but even I can tell you that what Lewis can do is weather the storm and wait for the opening to land his big right hand.

@ruckeryeah: Is Derrick Lewis the most fan friendly fighter to have played the game these last few years or what?

And that right there is why I know that when the time comes for fight week, I’ll be able to wrap my brain around it, even knowing there’s so much wrong about the way this fight was booked. I remember back at UFC 192, after Lewis TKO’d Viktor Pesta, he stopped halfway back to the locker room and took his time signing autographs for fans in his hometown of Houston, and completely ignored UFC flaks who were trying to get him out of the way so the show could go on.

Lewis legitimately one of the funniest people you’ll ever come across in life. He might be the pound-for-pound social media champion of MMA. There does not appear to be a hateful bone in the man’s body. And he seems completely oblivious to how much the fans have come to love him, which makes him only that much more compelling.

And Lewis appeals to the initial reason why so many people came to love MMA in the first place: Pure displays of heart. No one since Forrest Griffin has a fighter gone further on heart in this sport since Derrick Lewis, winning bout after bout he has no business on paper winning. No offense, DC, but if Lewis pulls off the miracle, it will be one of the greatest stories in MMA history, regardless how many things were wrong about the making of this match.

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