It’s the dawn of a new era in the UFC, as UFC Brooklyn kicks off the company’s five-year deal with ESPN. And you guys want to talk ... title belts? Alrighty then. Let’s have at it.
New UFC belt design
@Kristian_Ibarra: Is all the hate on the new belt warranted?
Nah. Look, there are few bigger feeding frenzies on social media than when, well, anyone decided to change the design of anything that’s been around awhile. A major website changes their design? Out comes the pitchfork mob. A team changes their uniform colors or logo? Out comes Comic Book Guy to declare “Worst Uniforms Ever.” And so on. When was the last time a major design format of some sort was changed and people went “yeah, that’s great!”?
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that people were up in arms when the UFC legacy belt was formally unveiled Friday, replacing a design which has held forth since 2001.
Before this announcement, you never heard people pining for the old belts, or saying anything like “man, those belts look awesome.” They look like, well, belts from a generation ago.
Whether the minimalist look of the new championship belt was a bit too far in the opposite direction is a reasonable question. On the other hand, the next features of the championship which will include the champ’s name (The coolest upgrade in title belts design in our lifetime by far was when the NWA added a nameplate to what’s now known as “the Ric Flair belt”), home flag, weight class and number of successful title defense is pretty cool, too.
The old belts outlasted Mike Goldberg, the Fertittas, non-Reebok gear, many a UFC Hall of Fame career, the Spike and FOX eras. The look was due for a refresh. Now, if only they’ll get rid of Face the Pain one and for all. At this point, one can only assume that song will survive a nuclear holocaust along with cockroaches and spiders.
UFC on ESPN pacing
@spacebawz: How much are you hoping for better pacing on ESPN?
I’m optimistic about how the UFC is going to come across on ESPN platforms after talking to some of the highest-ranking executives in the company for a piece which ran on Thursday. The UFC is obviously not going to be put on the same level as the NFL, but when ESPN obtains a property, it puts its muscle behind the product in a way FOX only did in fits and starts. To me, the fact that UFC Brooklyn simply feels like a bigger and buzzier deal than the T.J. Dillashaw-Henry Cejudo would have felt if the company had simply gone through the motions on another assembly line PPV of the month seems telling.
Event pacing, though, remains an open question. That subject ended up on the cutting-room floor from my feature because, I mean, it was a 2,000-word piece and you have to stop somewhere. But the general impression I got is twofold: 1. There isn’t much you can do about shows on linear cable, in large part because advertisers are buying X amount of advertising time and that time needs to be filled, but 2. There’s room for some flexibility on the streaming events.
So yeah. I wish I had a better answer for you then “wait and see,” but at least in regards to streaming event pacing, we’ll have to wait and see.
Greg Hardy’s future
@RRumbleweed: Although a PR nightmare at the moment, could Greg Hardy’s potential success in MMA be a good thing for the sport long-term (other high-end athletes see his transition and try to replicate)?
This is a bit of an awkward question to work around, but I get where you’re coming from with this. If you can separate Greg Hardy, the former NFL All-Pro, from Greg Hardy, the man with a history of domestic abuse, could he be used as a potential example for other high-level athletes to make the jump over?
But it’s just not that simple. Hardy lost his football career in large part because his domestic abuse issues more or less banished him from the NFL. If that hadn’t happened, it would be highly likely he’d still be making those giant football paychecks, and would not be competing in mixed martial arts. Even the benchwarmers in the major stick-and-ball sports, much less the the elite, are pulling down better pay than all but the biggest stars in MMA. Why would you give that up for a sport in which you get punched in the face?
Until MMA’s pay scale changes, the only elite competitors of Hardy’s size and athletic gifts who gravitate to this sport are going to be those who also come with Hardy’s baggage.
@JohnTOakes: Which attempt at pre-fight intimidation in MMA do you think was the most effective?
You know what’s kind of funny about this? I immediately started thinking about the opposite. Every lame attempt at trash talk we’ve had come our way in MMA, and every weak attempt at intimidation (If T.J. Dillashaw goes out and smokes Henry Cejudo at UFC Brooklyn, we might add Cejudo using a snake at the press conference face-off to this list, which is a shame, because otherwise everything about Cejudo’s presentation was that of someone who gets it). I even thought about “Hurricane” Peter McNeely’s attempts to psyche out Mike Tyson and wondered if we can retroactively claim that for MMA’s all-time bad list instead of boxing.
But really, the most intimidating fighters have been the ones who never whose reputations precede them and never say a word. How many really bleeping tough fighters looked like deer in the headlights when they found themselves on the other side of the ring from Fedor Emelianenko? Was Tim Sylvia ever the same after Fedor ran right through him? How many fights did Anderson Silva basically win during the staredowns at the weigh-ins? How many times did fighters crumble when Chuck Liddell swarmed them, with Chuck never having to say a bad word about them in the buildup to the fight? How many women, somewhere in their head, believed the “once in the history of the world” out-of-control hype about Ronda Rousey and found themselves on the wrong end of an armbar before they knew what hit them?
Sure, you’ve got your occasional Conor McGregor, who absolutely psyched out opponents on his way up, inspiring countless piss-poor imitators, but I’ll take the no-words-needed psyche jobs done by a Fedor or Silva state over running at the mouth any day of the week.
@davidkwak_: Will TJ bounce back to his BW fighting weight on fight night? Or will he be a lighter, more depleted fighter?
That’s the million-dollar question heading into fight night, isn’t it? Yes, I know there were people grumbling on Twitter because of the amount of time spent wondering if Dillashaw would make weight, only to have Dillashaw do so early in the weigh-in period. But it was a valid line of questioning based on the pictures we saw. That includes the picture of Dillashaw looking like a famine victim on Thursday night.
Here’s one more shot TJ Dillashaw’s teammate and Bellator bantamweight Juan Archuleta, who fights next weekend, just sent me of dinner. Steak salad, and a dollop of almond butter for dessert. pic.twitter.com/LUpCWbOC03— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) January 18, 2019
Will such dehydration make him more susceptible to a knockout punch Saturday night? Maybe. While Dillashaw should great dedication in getting there, let’s hope this is a one-and-done at 125 for the bantamweight champ.
@AndiJutlander: Could there possibly be a rematch between Cejudo and Dillashaw at BW, if Cejudo prevails?
Addressed this last week, but since a bunch of people asked again, you’d almost have to run this one back again, wouldn’t you? If the UFC is going to get rid of the 125 division (and maybe they shouldn’t, if they’ve got a champ like Cejudo who has displayed the charisma which burst forth this week), and Cejudo goes up to 125, I mean, a bantamweight division in which the champ has been defeated by a fighter from a smaller weight class is going to be a room inhabited by a very large elephant until those two competitors fight again.