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Fightweets: Dana White blames everyone but himself for CM Punk fiasco

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s a rare quiet weekend on the MMA front. But last weekend gave us plenty to discuss, so let’s jump right into another edition of Fightweets.

CM Punk-Mike Jackson fallout

@OnlyForKoolKids: Putting clearly out of their depth pro wrestlers on a main card, giving title shots to fighters who failed to make weight, giving title shots heavyweights who score two flashy KOs against diminished opponents - how bad is Dana White for the UFC’s credibility?

Wow, that’s a pretty harsh-sounding indictment when you string them together back-to-back-to-back.

I’m not sure it’s fair to lump Alistair Overeem, assuming that’s the person you’re referring to with the heavyweights, in with all the rest. ‘Reem was on a streak of six wins in his previous seven fights before his loss to Francis Ngannou, and earned the right to step back in and fight another solid competitor in Curtis Blaydes.

That said ... man, just when you thought the lingering embers were finally being snuffed out on the raging dumpster fire that was CM Punk’s attempt at a mixed martial arts career, along came Dana White with a bottle of kerosene.

“A lot of people talk sh-t about CM, well, get in there. Come on over,” White said on a recent podcast. “Have a fight and fight one of these guys.”

Except, as some of my colleagues have noted, White left out the part where Punk was paid a half-million dollars to be part of his all-time stinker of a fight with Mike Jackson at UFC 225.

Yeah, there probably aren’t a lot of people who would jump at the opportunity to fight in the UFC for 10K to win and 10K to show. But for half a million per fight? Not only would professional fighters making a whole lot less than that jump at the opportunity, but so would most amateur fighters, and probably people with no MMA training willing to get knocked out just to collect the check.

Here’s where those who remain of Punk’s defenders point out that Punk earned his spot through his fame in pro wrestling and blah blah blah. But, even with UFC 225’s pay-per-view numbers being hotly argued this week (something UFC could refute by, you know, releasing documented numbers), there’s nothing that suggests Punk brought the company any new business this time around.

White’s words about Punk-Jackson in the wake of UFC 225 have come off like he wants to place the blame for this fiasco at the feet of everyone except the people who booked the bout, whether that call was made by White himself or his WME overlords.

You do not have to combine the promotional brain power of PT Barnum, Vince McMahon, and Bob Arum to know that Punk’s drawing power in MMA was killed the minute he got steamrolled by Mickey Gall at UFC 203.

It’s not Mike Jackson’s fault he couldn’t singlehandedly turn the fight into a remake of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar; he looked exactly like he was, an 0-1 fighter who happened to be a lot better than the 0-1 fighter he faced.

There’s even some logic in saying it’s not Punk’s fault for taking the opportunity, although his complete lack of form in the cage hardly made him look like someone who has been seriously training with a coach the caliber of Duke Roufus for three years.

No, in this case, the UFC was the one who made the call to plow ahead with a second Punk fight after all evidence suggested he doesn’t belong anywhere near the UFC. Lashing out at fans who had the temerity to call this stinkbomb of a fight exactly what it was isn’t the sort of thing that is going make those folks want to pony up $65 for your premium, A-list product again any time soon.

Conor’s return?

@MitchThinks: Why should anyone believe Conor McGregor will fight in the UFC again?

Well, Forbes’ recently released, highest-paid athlete list had McGregor making $85 million for the Floyd Mayweather fight last year. That’s a hell of a lot of money.

But that’s before the feds take their share of his paycheck. And before the Irish feds take their share. And before his agent, manager, trainer, and all take their cuts.

Then there are the costs of taking care of your family, friends, and crew in the loyal manner of an Irishman who has made it and is true to his roots.

Now add in the fact that McGregor has made it quite plain he enjoys living the lavish life, and ... well, the general notion McGregor has so much money he’ll never need to fight again might not be such a certainty after all.

The window on a fighter’s prime earning potential closes faster than you’d think. The clock is ticking.

McGregor appeared contrite appearing in a New York City court on Thursday. His manager made a statement which said all the right things. Hopefully that’s a sign McGregor is ready to get serious again.

UFC and Greg Hardy

@chjobin: Where do we draw the line between entertainment and morale/ethics? Can we appreciate those like Hardy for their athletic career despite their past behavior? Mayweather made a fortune even after his jail time.

That’s a good question that goes to the heart of the controversy over Greg Hardy.

If you’re reading this, you know Hardy’s story by now. He was charged with domestic violence during his NFL days, and then on a drug charge.

He also happens to have quite a bit of potential as a professional fighter, in a division that isn’t exactly super-deep on talent, and is training at one of the world’s elite camps in American Top Team.

The fight industry has had a dirty side since ... well, since there’s been a fight industry. MMA is no different. Last year, the horrors of Ramzan Kadyrov’s dictatorship and his ties to MMA hit the mainstream, it became an issue for a minute, and then everyone kind of shrugged and moved on.

I’m not suggesting people who love combat sports and want to make this corner of the world a better place refrain from speaking up. But there’s a certain point where, either you continue to support the system despite moral objections or you don’t. If you feel strongly against Hardy getting a crack at the UFC, then you can always vote with your dollars.

Romero’s future

@TrustInCam: If Yoel moves up, what’re the odds he beats Cormier for the title? AND if that happens, what’re the odds we get a CHAMP v CHAMP trilogy with Bobby Knucks?

So, this week, we found out that Yoel Romero’s team is planning on suing the Illinois State Athletic Commission over what they claim was the commission going against its own rules by not allowing Romero a full two extra hours to cut down to middleweight championship weight for his UFC 225 fight with Robert Whittaker.

On one level, I can’t blame Romero’s team for trying this: Romero was rewarded for missing weight by three pounds against Luke Rockhold with a shot at Whittaker’s belt, which means the UFC sent out a clear signal that someone who didn’t do his job right will be rewarded, anyway.

Romero’s team openly admitted they were going to simply use the first weigh-in as a loophole to buy another two hours to finish the job. And why wouldn’t they? The system consistently rewards people who prod every last gray area in the rulebook.

Until it doesn’t. In this case, the video footage of Romero looking like he’s at death’s door as he makes his way to his second weigh-in attempt and leaves afterward is out there for the world to see. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be that difficult for the Illinois commission to argue they were doing the most fundamental task of their job in protecting the health and safety of the fighter.

So here’s another idea: How about just admitting that Romero should be a light heavyweight at this point in his career, and move forward from there? He already holds the ignominious claim of being the only competitor in UFC history to miss weight on back-to-back title fights. He’s a superlative athlete, one whose tenacity and skills should be admired. But he’s 41 years old. Physiological changes even catch up to the finest athletes in the world eventually. Letting Romero go up, freed from brutal weight cuts, and seeing what he can do at light heavyweight against a fresh set of opponents, seems a far more appealing way to spend what’s left of Romero’s prime than miring himself in a legal squabble and staying in a division in which he’s already lost to the champion twice. I don’t know if Romero can become light heavyweight champ and force a superfight, @TrustInCam, but I’m more interested in seeing him try than in the course he seems to have picked.

Duck-sized horses

@The_Hendawg: Who would win in a fight. 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck?

What if we just have Kentucky Derby winner Justify fight? After all, we’ve been told that fame in and of itself justifies a huge purse to fight on a PPV, MMA skill be damned.

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