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Fightweets: So who should Khabib Nurmagomedov fight next?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Well then. Last week was ... interesting, wasn’t it? But there’s no rest for the wicked or for the UFC lightweight division, so let’s move forward.

What next for Khabib, and where does the lightweight division go from here?

@Cesar_NEXTLEVEL: U think @TonyFergusonXT deserve a title shot next?

@RuckerYeah: Who should Khabib fight next?

@dpop2: Conor fights Mayweather or Khabib in MMA first?

@dubste86: Where does the winner of Gaethje-Poirier fit into the title picture at 155?

There were more questions where these came from, but this is enough to paint the overall picture: For a division with an undisputed champion in Khabib Nurmagomedov, there sure is a whole lot of dispute about where things stand in the lightweight division.

That’s what happens when you let one guy hold the belt for a year and a half without defending it before stripping him; crown an interim champion, schedule him to defend the belt, then pretend the belt doesn’t exist anymore when he injures himself on your time; then, when Opponent No. 5 in six days misses title fight weight, basically just say they’ll ignore the commission and make him champ anyway.

None of that helps with the credibility of your undisputed championship. What does help, though, is that the man who emerged with the title out of all this, Nurmagomedov, is someone who is 26-0, 10-0 in the UFC and has never been knocked down in his UFC career. If you’re going to make every belt but one disappear and start fresh, this is the guy.

Still, it seems likely the “undisputed” thing won’t be entirely cleared up until Nurmagomedov fights the other title claimants. McGregor, of course, leads the pack here, because he’s going to be far and away the biggest-money fight out of all these. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the UFC to discipline McGregor. We’re more than a week removed from “the most disgusting thing ever” and the UFC has done nothing further to discipline McGregor. If any justice comes from the van incident, it will come through the courts.

If McGregor’s legal situation keeps him from fighting, or if he decides to fight Nate Diaz, or Floyd Mayweather, or vanish to Colombia and never be heard from again, or whatever he might do next, then Ferguson, with his 10-fight win streak, seems the obvious choice, depending on how soon he can return from his knee injury. Of course, if that fight was scheduled, it would be the fifth attempt to make the fight, and they’ve made it to the cage zero times, so I wouldn’t go holding my breath waiting for that one.

That’s a whole lot of variables if you’re someone like Dustin Poirier or Justin Gaethje, who meet in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 29, not to mention Eddie Alvarez and a host of others. Maybe Alvarez should go ahead and make an actual “Most Violent Fighter” belt and start defending it. Or maybe, considering Al Iaquinta just got a title shot on 24 hours’ notice, you should just keep doing your thing and hope you’re in the right place at the right time the next time something wacky happens. Because if we’ve learned anything the past couple years and particularly the past couple weeks, there’s no real rhyme or reason to anything anymore.

UFC TV deal

@EdgeLife4Me: Given the news on the potential new TV/streaming deal, as a journalist, do you like the rumoured terms? What if any changes would you like to see?

So we normally wouldn’t comment on unsubstantiated rumors, but the thing that was thrown out by gossipmonger Terez Owens, who is sometimes right and sometimes very wrong, had some interesting tidbits, including the idea of splitting the contract between multiple networks, fighters exclusively fighting their non-PPV fights on one network or the other, dropping the number of pay-per-view to six per year, and replacing The Ultimate Fighter with the Contender Series.

My reaction to this? Even this isn’t exactly true, if there is at least some smoke to this, then there are seeds for some very good ideas around which to create a television deal.

So much of the way the UFC is run is still predicated on the way the company did things back when “Face the Pain” was actually considered cutting-edge music. TUF is front and center here. TUF outlived its usefulness years and years ago. The brand has been bled for every last permutation No one cares about reality show drama anymore. Contender Series is fresh, it’s new, and even in it’s nascent state, it has already produced up-and-comers the caliber of Sean O’Malley.

Likewise, the lower-end pay-per-view events have fallen off to the point that it’s hard to imagine they’re making the UFC a ton of money. Pay-per-view isn’t dead. But the past few years have proven that you need to have something big and potentially memorable in order to get the public’s attention. Doing monthly PPVs in 2018 simply because that’s what worked in 2008 is bringing diminishing returns. If the UFC gets enough network/cable money to make up the difference, it totally makes sense to drop the PPV’s to six, making less out-of-pocket demands from your fans, and giving the big events enough time to build anticipation and seem special again.

Some of the other ideas thrown out there are pretty “meh.” You’re taking a real gamble as a network if you buckle down on promoting one particular fighter. Imagine if you bet on Renan Barao in 2014? Or Jon Jones in 2015?

Either way, it’s encouraging to see so many out-of-the-box ideas emerging. The more the UFC looks the way it should heading into the 2020s and the less they do because it’s what worked in the ‘00s, the better the sport will look in the long haul.

PRIDE never die

@TheIconWillyB: In honor of Pride Never Die week. What is your favorite Pride moment(s)?

My favorite moment? Really, it was my pick for 2007 Fight of the Year, the legendary Nick Diaz-Takanori Gomi brawl at PRIDE 33. An absolute wild, next-level melee, ending with Diaz finishing Gomi with a gogoplata after suffering a broken orbital bone (it was later ruled a no-contest because Diaz popped for weed, but no one besides the Nevada Athletic Commission cares about that). If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and look it up, right now.

But of course, picking that fight kind of feels like cheating, since PRIDE fights in Nevada were conducted and scored under Unified Rules and not PRIDE rules. As for classic moments in Japan, I’ve gotta narrow it down to two: Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama’s legendary 2002 brawl in Saitama, and Kevin Randleman dumping Fedor Emelianenko on his head and nearly finishing him, only to find himself finished seconds later. I don’t know if I could pick one or the other, but both perfectly encapsulate the freewheeling, Wild West days of PRIDE’s heyday.

Immediate rematches

@hunt5588: Does JJ and Garbrandt getting immediate rematches following stoppage losses set an on going precedent or will these be rare instances for champs moving forward?

So, I’m not sure you can ascribe any deep meaning to the UFC’s main-event matchmaking these days beyond the idea they’ve developed an oddball fetish for having a title fight in the main event and will put an interim belt on anyone with a pulse who can make weight in order to make it happen. If they have to throw a former champion who got knocked out the first time right back to the wolves to make a title fight happen, so be it.

But, that doesn’t mean taking an immediate rematch is necessarily a good idea for a former champion. You have to go all the way back UFC 46 and 49, when Randy Couture lost the UFC light heavyweight title to Vitor Belfort due to a fluke eyelid injury 49 seconds in, then won the rematch, to find someone who was finished to lose a title and then won it right back. That’s 13 years ago with a unique set of circumstances.

Renan Barao should be considered the cautionary tale here. Remember when Dana White was trying too hard to proclaim him No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world going into his UFC 173 fight with T.J. Dillashaw? Good times. Anyway, Dillashaw gave Barao a wicked beating in that fight. They went straight to a rematch at UFC 173, and Barao had to drop out the day before the fight because of a weight-cut mishap. He finally did take another fight next, beating Mitch Gagnon. Then he was matched up with Dillashaw again, took a worse beating than the first time, and his career has slowly and steadily gone downhill since.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk did better in the rematch with Rose Namajunas last weekend than in their first fight last November, But she’s now lost two in a row to someone who looks like she’s about to blossom into a dominant champ. JJ could go up to 125, but for now, her path to the top at 115 is blocked. Garbrandt will be looking at a similar situation if he loses to Dillashaw for the second time in less than a year. The risks are obvious, but that doesn’t stop the UFC from plowing ahead blissfully.

Funky Ben

@somayitbe: Is it fair to keep Ben Askren out of the UFC ? The guy deserves to fight in it, he doesn’t ask for an insane amount of money, so why is he not signed yet?

I mean, define “fair.” Was it ridiculous that the UFC, which will bring you CM Punk vs. Mike Jackson in June, acted like Askren didn’t meet the criteria for making it to the big leagues? Sure was. But Askren decided what was a fair price for his services. Bellator chose to let him walk as champion rather than meet his price. One FC met his price, and Askren went over to Asia, made a lot of money, and came out of his experience unscathed.

If the UFC decides at some point they want to meet his price, they’ll give him a call. In the meantime, Askren gets to sit on the sidelines and make grandstand challenges to UFC champs while not having to worry about his financial situation. Things seem to have worked out pretty fairly for him.

Just no

@MMAKayfabe: With Ronda Rousey doing so great in her very first pro wrestling match ever, how do you think she would do in a boxing match against, say, Floyd Mayweather?

(Throws dolly in MMAKayfabe’s direction).