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Hot Tweets: With the UFC finally out of the picture, where should Cris Cyborg go next?

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Cris Cyborg
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In case you missed it, Cris Cyborg officially became a free agent yesterday. After beating Felicia Spencer at UFC 240, Cyborg’s contract with the UFC was up and amid the increasingly acrimonious feud, UFC president Dana White said he would be releasing the former featherweight champion from the matching period because they no longer wanted to re-sign her to the UFC. So let’s talk about Cyborg plus a bit of UFC history and a lot more.


Where does Cris Cyborg go next?

The real answer is “it depends on the terms of the deal,” but let’s play this out.

ONE is immediately off the table. Yes, ONE Championship in an emerging product that has recently poached a number of high-end UFC former champions with an eye towards building a regional-based promotion that still rivals the UFC but they lack any kind of weight division even close to 145 pounds and there’s still a cap to how much that partnership would grow her brand.

PFL is at least a little interesting. Their big incentive is the presence of a dedicated women’s lightweight division/tournament structure with a $1M prize payout and a marketable fight against Kayla Harrison down the line. Plus, PFL is still paired up with ESPN so that keeps Cyborg’s profile extremely high, especially as she would instantly become a focal point for them.

But Bellator has the most bells and whistles to throw at her. Firstly, Bellator offers Cyborg a chance to reconnect with Scott Coker, who she flourished with in Strikeforce, and given how things went with Dana White, Cyborg seems highly interested and working for a boss who treats her well. Coker has always been more fighter-friendly than White, and along those lines, Bellator offers Cyborg the opportunity to once again be the focal point of a major promotion instead of a slightly more important cog in a machine. Perhaps most interesting though is the presence of an actual featherweight division in Bellator, something the UFC never put any effort towards developing even when they finally conceded and made the division for Cyborg. Oh, and Bellator’s willingness to cross-promote with Rizin is another cherry on top, boosting Cyborg’s international profile even more.

All things considered, unless someone opens up the checkbook, I just don’t see how Cyborg lands anywhere but Bellator.


Apologies

Absolutely, both men owe her a public apology, though that will likely never happen, especially now.

This is all really very simple: what Dana White said was inexcusable - flat out. Yes it’s been many years, but he has never walked it back and never publicly apologized for it. Maybe if he had, this situation wouldn’t have devolved in such a manner but that’s not White’s way. It should be though. Apologizing for something you said and did that was objectively wrong and bad is not a sign of weakness. Everyone makes mistakes and most people can think back to a time when they went way out of bounds trying to be funny or being caught up in a moment or something. No one needs to be vilified forever about their past transgression but if you don’t apologize and show contrition, then it’s not a past transgression - it’s a current one. You’re still owning it.

Outside of his personal attacks towards Cyborg, whether White owes her an apology for his other issues is up for debate. It’s hard to argue White didn’t actively try and hurt her marketing and negotiating power with his tactics of throwing her under the bus, lying about her not wanting to fight Nunes, dismissing her from the UFC, etc. . . but that’s business. White knew Cyborg wasn’t going to come back and he knew he wanted to control the narrative and minimize her public persona as much as possible as she’d soon be fighting elsewhere. It’s cold but so is the world.

Honestly, looking back at Cyborg’s time in the UFC it is honestly amazing it even worked for as long as it did. In my opinion, White seemed to actively dislike her and they handled her in a way that bordered on outright derision - forcing a weight cut to 140 for no reason and promoting it as if Cyborg was the one too scared to cut to 135 pounds to face Ronda, finally making a 145-pound division but not including Cyborg in the inaugural title fight, refusing to book Cyborg to fight more than twice a year despite Cyborg nearly begging to be more active, and ya know, never even pretending like they were gonna build a real featherweight division for her. It just goes to show the UFC really has no agility nor creativity in its promotion. They had one of the three greatest female fighters of all time, one of the extremely rare fighters in MMA who had their own brand and star power outside of the UFC machine, and it couldn’t find a way to build her into something more. I’m willing to bet Scott Coker will have much more success.


Threats to Max Holloway

Alexander Volkanovski is absolutely who Max should be worried about. No disrespect to Calvin Kattar, but Volkanovski presents a much more interesting fight for Max, at least at this point.

Obviously, from a practical sense Max should be concerned about Volkanovski as he’s the next challenger up, but he should also be concerned about Volkanovski’s game. The Australian fighter is, in many ways a younger, more physically imposing version of Frankie Edgar. And though Max beat Frankie cleanly, he also struggled some against a fighter whose best years are behind him and was lacking in many of the physical tools when compared to the champion.

Max Holloway is a great champion and a deserved favorite over Volkanovski, but this will be his toughest challenge yet.


Biggest missed opportunity

I think the obvious answer is Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre. I know that’s one of the very few fights-that-never-was in MMA that I still think about what could have been. I was never all that interested in a Randy Couture-Fedor Emelianenko fight or the like. Give me two of the seven best fighters of all time going at it when they are near their peaks and both in the middle of historic reigns of dominance. The UFC failing to make that happen will always be its biggest failing as a promotion.

Aside from that one, I’d also like to redo Michael Bisping’s title reign and have him fight Yoel Romero because Yoel has been the best middleweight on the planet for like, five years and somehow is going to retire without holding the UFC title.


Worst title fight in UFC history

That actual answer to this is unquestionably Dan Severn vs. Ken Shamrock at UFC 9. I know I employ hyperbole liberally, but I sh*t you not, it’s among the worst fights ever to happen in the sport. If you’ve never seen it, I cannot stress to you enough just how bad it is or how bad of an idea it is for you to look it up on FightPass and waste 30 minutes of your life. That being said, I’ll also throw out one that isn’t from the Mesozoic era of MMA.

I was not always a Tyron Woodley fan. I’m sure there are many reasons for that, primarily his insistence on calling out people who had no business fighting him for the title. But he grew on me substantially as a champion, in part because even though he called for fights he would never ever get, he never refused to defend his belt against the best of the best. During his reign, I think Woodley was the second best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and said as much. But damn if right after I came to this conclusion and started supporting him he didn’t go out there and stare at Demian Maia for 25 long, oh so damn long minutes.

I get it, Demian Maia is tricky and scary to fight against when instead you can just win a by stuffing takedowns and avoiding all tie ups, but Woodley took that game plan to the worst possible extreme. Yes, he got the win but Maia, though a competent kickboxer, is not a K-1 champion and Woodley should’ve been able to bulldoze him if cared to try at all. He did not and it resulted in one of the worst fights in recent memory that was made all the worst by Woodley trying to Jedi Mind Trick us all into thinking it was actually captivating stuff.


Conor’s return

ICYMI: Dana White said Conor McGregor is looking to return next year and is waiting to see how the lightweight title situation unfolds over the next few months.

Of course he should, there are buckets of money to still be made in MMA. Boatloads even. If Conor keeps fighting for a few more years he can fill an Olympic pool with $20 bills and dive headfirst into it like Scrooge McDuck.

As for his legacy, that’s fine. The truth is, fighters care a ton about their legacy when in reality only a handful of people, at most, ever have something to be worried about. Take B.J. Penn for instance. If you are new to MMA you may be under the impression B.J. Penn is terrible at fighting. Well, he is. Now. But historically, he’s one of the 10 best fighters ever and if he loses 50 more fights in a row, that won’t change.

Conor exists in a similar space, and by that I mean continuing to fight can only improve his legacy. At this point for Conor, losses only damage his mystique with fans, not his legacy. He’s already a revolutionary and a guaranteed Hall of Famer and no amount of losing will change that. He’s also still really good at fighting so if he reclaims a belt, or even adds a third to his collection at welterweight, that would only increase his legacy.

Had Conor retired after waxing Eddie, sure, things would be a little different. Conor’s fans would call him the GOAT and explain how’d he’d have beaten everyone had he not retired early, but instead, everyone else would just have to write those statements off instead of having the handy retort of “Khabib.”

Still, Conor’s gonna be fine and he should come back and fight Justin Gaethje because that’s the best fight in the history of human combat.


Rogan’s commentary

ICYMI: Last weekend, Joe Rogan had a night to forget in the commentary booth, inspiring a number of fans to question his performance.

Perhaps a little of column A and a little of column B. Rogan has always had a tendency to attach himself to the first narrative he sees and ride that train until the wheels fall off, then ride it some more. I do think the UFC is giving us so many other looks at commentary these days that perhaps it is more noticeable when Rogan does something like that, especially since he’s only working the marquee events and those events inspire the most interest.

The fact is, we will soon be looking at a UFC world without Rogan. He’s spoken candidly about decreasing his role in the past and he’s been pulled back to only doing the United States PPVs for some time already. Plus, he’s really not needed anymore. When Rogan was brought in, he was a celebrity who could provide color because he knew and loved fighting. With the size of the UFC these days, that love of fighting has noticeably waned—that’s natural—and now the UFC has a bevy of former and current fighters who know more about MMA than Rogan and are more actively invested in the commentary gig.

Joe Rogan is a UFC Hall of Famer and deserves a ton of credit for helping to grow the sport to the level it is at today. He doesn’t need to get put out to pasture just yet, but it’s coming, and sooner than most people expect.


Thanks for reading this week and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.