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Fightweets: Was UFC right to strip Nicco Montaño of her title?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

So, we had a UFC 228 title fight drop out on weigh-in day. Just not the one most of us expected.

After weeks of speculation, and with a backup in place in Kamaru Usman, Darren Till came in a pound under the welterweight limit for his Saturday matchup with champion Tyron Woodley in Dallas.

But Nicco Montaño had to pull out of her bout with Valentina Shevchenko, as she was hospitalized due to the effects of her weight cut. Then later in the day, she found out she was stripped of the flyweight championship by the UFC.

And with that, we’ve got plenty to discuss in this week’s Fightweets ...

Was the UFC right to strip Montaño?

@Jamieson84: Has there been any talk/rumours of @NiccoMontano being stripped of the title?

Well, this was obviously sent in before the news broke early Friday evening that Montaño was, in fact stripped of her championship and that Valentina Shevchenko will fight for the belt as soon at the earliest possible convenience.

I have no ill will toward Montaño and wish her a speedy recovery from her hospitalization, but the UFC did, in fact, make the correct call in stripping Montaño of her flyweight belt.

The champion’s job is to make it to the scale and weigh in for a championship fight. If you make it to the scale and miss weight, you forfeit your championship. If your weight cut is going so badly that you don’t even get a chance to make it to the scale for the sake of your own health, why should that be treated any differently? Shevchenko upheld her end of the bargain and Montaño didn’t.

It’s been one hell of a rough ride for first-time women’s champions in the UFC, and it seems to be getting worse and worse. (We’re obviously not including Ronda Rousey here: She held the Strikeforce bantamweight belt and was tested against the best competition well before she was brought over to the UFC).

Carla Esparza won the first UFC strawweight title by defeating Rose Namajunas in the TUF 20 Finale, then went on to take just a brutal beating from Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first title defense (to her credit, Esparza has competed well enough since then to remain a factor at 115).

Germaine de Randamie, meanwhile, took advantage of uncalled fouls to eke out a win over Holly Holm to claim the featherweight title at UFC 208, came up with all sorts of reasons to stay on the sideline when it became clear her only plausible next foe was Cris Cyborg, and ended up stripped of the title. She’s scheduled to face Raquel Pennington in Denver on Nov. 10, which, if it goes off as planned, will be GDR’s first fight since the Holm bout, nearly two years ago.

Now we come to Montaño, who went on an underdog run as the 14th seed out of 16 fighters on The Ultimate Fighter 26 and ended up winning the championship in just her sixth pro fight.

As a quick thought exercise, imagine your reaction to the booking of Shevchenko vs. Montaño if the belt wasn’t involved, and Montaño was just another fighter with a 4-2 record. Shevchenko is a straight-up killer with wins at bantamweight over Holm and Sarah Kaufman, and many feel Shevchenko defeated champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 215 (I personally had Nunes winning but it sure was close). Now add 58 kickboxing fights, with three wins over Jedrzejczyk.

If not for what, with the benefit of hindsight, sure seems like a flawed method of crowning first-time champions, there’s no way in hell you’re even considering signing this fight.

Yes, Montaño had only been champion nine months, and they’ve given some fighters, like Dominick Cruz, as much as two years to get healthy before stripping championships. But she’s had one issue after another, and at the end of the day, she never even got to the scale when her job was to make weight for a title defense.

The UFC has taken lots of justifiable criticism for the way it has handled its championships, whether the real deal or interim titles, over the past couple of years. This time, though, it sure looks like, at worst, they simply sped up the inevitable.

Shevchenko’s frustration

@SigepWesleyG: This is 2nd time Valentina’s opponent has pulled out within days of fight, what does this mean, Dave?

Shevchenko fired off a pointed social media post on Friday which made it clear that she didn’t buy Montano’s weight cut issues and that she wanted to “escape from the fight.”

I can sympathize with Shevchenko’s frustrations for sure. She had her UFC 213 fight with Nunes pulled the morning of the bout (Nunes, incidentally, made weight the previous day). It’s got to be beyond frustrating to have this happen twice in two years in two weight classes.

Twice in just over a year, Valentina Shevchenko put on a show at the open workouts, just to have her fight then fall out.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

But I can’t go along with the idea this was some sort of orchestrated stunt on Montaño’s part. You mean to tell me she went through an entire training camp, brought herself and her team all the way out to Texas, and went through days of relentless grilling of a skeptical media, then went through the bulk of her weight cut, all to come up with an excuse not to fight (which means she doesn’t get paid)?

She went through all that instead of just pulling the plug from the comforts of home and not going through all this commotion, including getting stripped of the title and being subjected to public ridicule? Highly unlikely.

I understand why Valentina is frustrated. In the court of public opinion, she’s the uncrowned champ, she’ll get her shot soon enough (Can you say “Shevchenko vs. Jedrzejczyk?”), and for now, that will have to suffice.

Sage Northcutt vs. Logan Paul?

@Eire247: Sage is the pure version of the Paul brothers anyway, I hope the fight happens because he will get a lot of fans from it

Like pretty much everyone else in the MMA media, I wanted to run far away when I first caught wind of the Logan Paul vs. KSI boxing a couple weeks back. Hell, I’m 45 and don’t keep up much with pop culture anymore. I didn’t even know who KSI was when I first heard about this, and only knew of Logan Paul because his Japanese controversy made mainstream news.

Then I saw the numbers: a reported 5 million YouTube buys at $10 a pop and sellout crowd in Manchester, England paying a reported $3.5 million. Those are numbers a lot of promoters in this sport would love to have.

Then you also take a look at pro wrestling, in which the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and their crew took a YouTube show called “Being the Elite” and built their online stardom into the massive “All In” event last weekend in the Chicago area. That they can put on an event of that level in a WWE-dominated world was like the Rebel Alliance winning a battle with the Death Star.

And then I remember how, a decade back, I was enraptured by the original YouTube fighting sensation, Kimbo Slice, and how I ruthlessly mocked the people who put Kimbo down and called him a freakshow, all while he was setting MMA ratings records that stand to this day.

And I started wondering, am I now turning into that guy? Am I that old-timer who is angrily wagging his finger at The Kids These Days and telling everyone they should do things the way we did it way back in 2005?

No, I’m not that guy, not yet at least.

I certainly wouldn’t want to see Sage Northcutt vs. Logan Paul in the UFC. We’ve already seen CM Punk stink out the joint on a pair of UFC PPVs and we have no desire to see it again.

But Northcutt is a UFC free agent (Side note: How the hell did that happen? The guy WME pushed hard and fast coming out of the gate is no longer under contract, right at the time he’s maturing into a legit fighter? Come again?). If he and Paul want to set up their own YouTube PPV, then there I’m certain there are plenty of people out there who would plunk down another $10 on the promise of seeing Sage punt Paul’s head into the upper deck.

You adapt or get left behind in this fast-moving business. Kimbo wasn’t “supposed” to go legit after fighting the likes of Adryan and Afro Puff on YouTube. If the people want Sage vs. Logan, than let the people have Sage vs. Logan.

What about Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz?

@Woolman7242: Will Tito and Chuck actually make decent money working with Oscar?

Depends on whether they’re getting their money up front or working for pay-per-view points. Oscar De La Hoya has made a lot of noise about the pay scale in mixed martial arts. Perhaps he’ll put his money where his mouth is and pay Liddell and Ortiz enough in guaranteed money for their trilogy fight scheduled for Nov. 24 in Inglewood, Calif., to make the rest of the industry take notice.

Beyond that? Well, there’s a reason Bellator has put their legend vs. legend fights on basic cable, where people don’t have to pay extra on top of their cable bill in order to view the bouts. They tried it once with Bellator NYC, headlined by Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva, and haven’t been back.

Who knows? Maybe the nostalgia factor, the first chance at seeing “The Iceman” in a decade, will take hold, and the people will pay to see this fight. Or maybe Golden Boy will learn the hard way, like Elite XC’s Gary Shaw before him, that the business isn’t just as simple as switching over from a ring to a cage and then throwing up the doors and expecting to make a profit. Time will tell.