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Hot Tweets: Is Adesanya vs. Gastelum the best fight ever and should we have a PED MMA league?

Israel Adesanya
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC 236 went down last Saturday and gave us two new interim champions, in two of the most exciting divisions in the sport right now. It also gave us an instant classic that is the frontrunner for Fight of the Year and maybe in the conversation for Best Fight of All Time. Let’s talk about all of that, plus PEDs.

Best fight ever?

I’m on the record as saying that Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit is the best fight I’ve ever seen. When that battle was over, I felt as exhausted as both Lawler and Condit looked as they laid their arms up against the cage to recover. But I have never felt like the way I did on Saturday night after watching Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum leave pieces of themselves scattered across that cage.

Now, the reality is it’s hard to call it the best fight ever because I was sitting cageside which is very different than the at-home viewing experience. But I can tell you for a fact that after that fight everyone on press row looked like we had just been in a car crash. Personally, I was so spent from watching it that the main event, as great as it was, still felt tame; like getting attacked by a bee after fighting off a grizzly bear.

So, while calling it the best fight of all time might be premature, I can say with certainty it is now my favorite fight of all time, and I feel pretty confident it’s one of the five best fights ever.

The lightweight title picture

Ooooo. This is a great question. If you are restricting me to one of these two answers, then Tony Ferguson should get the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier. Ferguson has done more than enough to earn a legitimate title shot. Dustin has an interim belt, which ostensibly means he will get the next crack at Khabib and then the winner of that fights Tony and finally there should be some semblance of order in the lightweight division.

But, if you just want to know what should happen next at lightweight, Tony should get the next crack at Khabib. Like Poirier, Tony won an interim belt and has deserved his day in court for a long time. And even with the Max win, Tony’s resume at lightweight is undeniable. At this moment, Khabib and Tony are the two best 155ers on Earth and they need to battle it out for supremacy. Have Dustin ready to step in if something happens (like it always seems to do with Khabib-Tony) but otherwise, Dustin can get the winner of that fight and lightweight will be fully cleaned up.

And in the meantime, do Justin Gaethje vs. Conor McGregor because that might be even better than Adesanya-Gastelum.

Khabib’s dominance

I’m not sure this is true in general (I don’t know many people dismissing Khabib’s dominance) but, for the sake of argument, let’s say it is. I don’t think cultural differences have anything to do with it, I think it comes down to Khabib’s fighting style.

Wrestling will always matter in MMA, but in recent years, there have been less and less “pure grapplers” succeeding in the upper echelons of MMA. So when fans see a fighter like Khabib, who is so dependent on the takedowns, all they can think of is “what happens when he can’t get them?” But what Khabib does is so vastly ahead of the rest of MMA grappling, it’s almost ridiculous. There will be a day when Khabib can’t get takedowns against someone, but I don’t foresee it coming soon in the lightweight division. He’s a completely different type of animal and I won’t be shocked if he retires undefeated sometime in the next few years.

Max’s next title defense

Deserve? Probably not. He’s only on a one-fight winning streak after all. But he makes sense as the next title challenger for Max.

If Alexander Volkanovski beats Jose Aldo, then he would certainly deserve the next title shot. But if Aldo keeps bumping off contenders, then Frankie fits in nicely as a good challenge for Max. He’s only lost to the elite of the elite, he’s a former champion, and the two were already supposed to fight once before. Moreover, as great as Max is, his title reign has been small. He’s beaten Aldo twice and Brian Ortega. If he really wants to go down in the Pantheon of greats, Max needs to put together and extended title run. Give Frankie one last chance to claim gold in a second division and let Max actually start putting together a title run.

Most entertaining fighters

This list starts and ends with Justin Gaethje. He’s the most exciting fighter in the history of the sport. And even though Dustin Poirier’s recent run has been close to nirvana, Gaethje’s entire career has been bangers. After Gaethje, Poirier and Max should both be discussed, as should Conor McGregor. Love him or hate him, when was the last time Conor was in a boring fight?

Moving on from lightweight, Thiago Santos has been awesome lately, as has Johnny Walker. Robbie Lawler once used to own this list and is still hanging around the edges. Similarly, Donald Cerrone still has it. Marlon Moraes is throwing heat, and as much as people want to say Demetrious Johnson was boring, that’s nonsense. That dude is still gangbusters.

Drugs: are they bad and should we care?

I got a number of variations on this same theme so let’s just address it in one section.

I’m not a rules expert, but my guess is promoters should probably not come out and say “we don’t care what you take” for a host of legal reasons. However, being open about not drug testing, or only doing a cursory fight night test is totally doable and basically the same thing, so yes I think this format could exist. I also think it’s a good idea.

If you are a fighter and want to take drugs to better your performance, extend your career, accelerate your recovery, or just because you like them, you should be able to do it. Much of drug testing in MMA is arbitrary and there are a number of pretty good arguments against having it in the first place. However, you should not be able to do PEDs and compete against someone who is under the impression you are not doing those things. So if an organization makes it clear that they don’t care, and fighters want to compete, I’m all for it. And you know what, the fans would be too.

As much as a large segment of fans want to get on a high horse about “doing things the right way” or whatever, they don’t really care, because at the end of the day we are all in it for spectacular moments. PEDs are just medical science providing fighters a way to give us more of those, so as long as those moments are coming against willing participants, I’m all for it. I’ll leave you with my favorite argument for PEDs in sports:

Usain Bolt is the fastest human being ever. He’s so fast, it’s ridiculous. And he has never failed a drug test. If he is a legitimately clean athlete who has never taken a banned substance in his life, put him on the gas immediately. How fast can he go? Can he outrace a puma? I want to see incredible things that push the boundaries of human imagination, so let’s get Francis Ngannou on the sauce and see if he can knock out a building.

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