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Fightweets: Why do MMA’s superstars burn out?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

You’re probably reading this as UFC London is ongoing on Saturday. We’re no longer in the FOX era, where you’d have enough time to read everything that’s been published in the history of the site in between fights, so let’s get right into things in the latest edition of Fightweets:

Is being an MMA superstar a curse?

@chjobin: Rousey saying it’s a privilege to hear her speak. McGregor smashing cell phones. Is it a curse to be a big PPV star or they just are stupid folks?

Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey are far from stupid. You don’t shatter the glass ceiling and help redefine women’s role in athletics the way Rousey did if you don't have a brain in your head. And with McGregor, I mean, this is a guy who lured Floyd Mayweather into his orbit to make a gigantic paycheck, and then had the sense to strike while his brand was hot and launch his own whiskey. You don’t will deez tings into existence without a preponderance of functioning grey matter.

The problem, as we’ve found over and over again in combat sports since well before mixed martial arts was ever a thing, is that a superstar reaches a certain peak and the hype machine is so great that you either start to believe in your own hype, or you start to think you’re untouchable, and that’s where the downfall starts.

In the case of Rousey, unquestionably she bought into her own hype. Why wouldn’t she? Not only was she making it look easy in the cage, but she was being sized up for leading roles in Hollywood, and people were seriously debating if she’d beat Mayweather in a fight, and the hysteria reached the infamous “Once in a lifetime does not apply to Ronda Rousey” levels.

Get subjected to that type of talk for long enough, and that’s when you start to believe you can step in the cage with a three-weight-class world boxing champion in Holly Holm and beat her at her own game. Surround yourself with the type of people who allow you to buy into your hype, and that’s how you get yourself into a situation in which you tune out the outside world after Holm hands you your ass, turn off your fan base, and then return and look like the game has completely passed you by, barely a year after it seemed like the world was yours.

That was Ronda’s deal. McGregor has never come off like he bought his hype. But, I mean, since the Mayweather fight, we’ve seen one little hint after another of someone who believes the rules don’t apply to him, from his speeding incident in Dublin to his in-the-cage Bellator incident all leading up to the infamous UFC 223 fight week.

And what came out of the Brooklyn incident? He got the sort of slap on the wrist from the legal system we’ve come to expect from a society in which the wealthy can con their idiot kids into elite colleges, and then the UFC went and used the footage from the incident to make for the biggest grossing pay-per-view in company history.

Of course McGregor’s going to feel untouchable at this point. Every signal he’s gotten is that he can do no wrong. As long as his drawing power holds up, that won’t change.

That said, I’m not sure I’m willing to put this week’s issues involving a fan and his phone into this narrative. Have you seen how obnoxious some fans can be. Not just in MMA, but in all forms of sports and entertainment? Part of me is kind of surprised these sort of incidents don’t happen more often.

Still, there’s a bigger picture here. If McGregor has a downfall, it won’t be a Rousey-esque spectacular implosion, but rather the classic piece-by-piece breakdown. Maybe we’re in the middle of watching a future documentary unfold right before our eyes. Time will tell.

All-women’s UFC event?

@craigmoore02: Do you think there will ever be an all-female UFC fight card?

You do know there’s this all-women’s fight promotion called Invicta FC which has been around for seven years, helped open people’s eyes to the depth of talent on the women’s side of the sport, and is still doing their thing well after the UFC got into the WMMA game, right?

Seriously though, at this stage of the game, the idea of an all-women’s PPV main card or linear ESPN sounds worth a try. Why not? Themed MMA events don’t come along that often, in large part due to timing in terms of who is available to fight on any given date, but we’ve had them work.

The all-heavyweight UFC 146 main card, for example, helped set up the rematch between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez and also marked Stipe Miocic as a rising star. It was a well-received and well-executed event.

Granted, this isn’t 100 percent apples-and-orange comparison, but if you want to showcase how far things have come along, why not? A main card with two title fights, a couple clear-cut contender’s bouts, and maybe a showcase matchup featuring an up-and-comer, sounds like an event worth your time and mine.

‘Bones’ and heavyweight

@AgentTylerScarn: Does Jon Jones move up and fight DC right away for HW title or does he get a tune up fight at HW first?

I mean, at the moment, Jones seems content to simply fight whatever warm 205-pound body the UFC can dredge up, and ride that out for as long as that lasts. And to be fair, given that Jones’ UFC 235 bout with Anthony Smith reportedly did a shockingly high buy rate, I can’t fault him for not wanting to push out of his comfort zone. So we’ll keep getting game-but-unheralded challengers (If Thiago Santos is indeed next, he at least has a legit puncher’s chance of keeping things interesting the way he hits) until that inevitable jump to 265 occurs.

Whether or not it’s an immediate title fight would seem to depend on timing and circumstances. It’s not like we’re talking about DC, who was a natural heavyweight who damn near starved himself to get to 205. Jones will be giving up size to many of the top heavyweights. Maybe an Anderson Silva-like approach to moving up in class would be the best way for Jones to go.

Unless Cormier is still the champ, in which case, how can you not go straight to a title fight? Jones has already proven he can beat DC at 205 and this is the only wrinkle left which would sell a trilogy. I know all the reasons why this fight might not happen, but if I’m the only one banging this drum, I’ll do it until someone comes and rips the drumsticks out of my hands.

UFC London upset special

@knewri: Bigger chance to upset this weekend, Volkan or Masvidal?

Is “neither fighter winning sounds like a huge upset to me” an option? I mean, with Jorge Masvidal, sure, he’s going over to England and fighting Darren Till on Till’s home turf in Saturday’s UFC London main event. But Masvidal’s record, littered with so many split decisions, is one of the most deceptive in the sport. And when you examine Till’s record, he lost in bad fashion to Tyron Woodley; his win over Stephen Thompson was a questionable call; and he drew with Nicolas Dalby.

And in the case of Volkan Oezdemir vs. Dominick Reyes ... are we really writing Oezdemir off this soon? Yeah, he hasn’t looked great, but losses to DC and Anthony Smith aren’t exactly bad defeats. If Reyes wins, that would seem more down to the latter proving he’s the real deal than the former being a fraud.

Improbable title runs

@MattBrownM2: Do you think BJ Penn has a shot at making another run at the title?

Are we talking about the “Fighter who is tarnishing his legacy worst by insisting on continuing” title? Because there’s almost nothing I think I want to see less in MMA right now than B.J. Penn fighting again.

Bad decisions

@chinmaybhogle: How would you rank these potential decisions (worst - best)

1) CM Punk fighting again in the UFC

2) Brock Lesnar actually getting that title shot

3) Penn getting another fight after losing badly to Clay Guida

4) Vitor Belfort fighting Roy Jones Jr

Well, there you have it. I thought there was nothing I wanted to see less in mixed martial arts in 2019 than Penn continuing his fighting career, and then this guy drops “CM Punk fighting again in the UFC.” I think my work here is done.