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Hot Tweets: Jeremy Stephens, eye pokes, and the future of B.J. Penn

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

This past week, Jeremy Stephens was pelted with trash for getting poked in the eye, B.J. Penn was released from the UFC, and Michael Venom Page beat a thoroughly overmatched Richard Kiely. Let’s talk about all that plus, what I’d do if I ruled the UFC and a hypothetical MMA tag-team match.

Jeremy Stephens and the no-contest heard round the world

Of course not. Only an absolute buffoon would believe that Jeremy Stephens in any way faked an eye injury. For one, it’s Jeremy Stephens. Whatever you may think of him as a fighter, there is no way to question his heart. He’s done more than enough to earn that respect from every MMA fan. But then on the most very basic level, why the hell would he fake the eye injury? It’s not like this happened deep into the fight and Stephens was losing. This was almost immediate. What fighter would spend months training for a fight and then fake an injury immediately?

Every fan, and especially every fighter who is questioning Jeremy Stephens should go get their head examined.

But what about eye pokes?

I like where your head is at but no. With open-fingered gloves, eye pokes are just gonna be part of the game. The only surefire way to get rid of them is to allow them but since that is not gonna happen, we just have to live with them. We could do a better job in the aftermath though. Firstly, give fighters five minutes to recover from an eye poke. There’s no reason not to allow that. And secondly, referees need to start taking points more aggressively. The way MMA is currently constructed, every fighter gets basically two to three free fouls a fight before the ref deducts points. I know we are reticent to dock points because in three-round fights that is a big deficit to overcome but if you really want to curb eye pokes, that would get it done. Fighters will Jon Jones it much less (also, this is low key an argument for why all fights should be five rounds).

There are lots of fighters who almost never poke someone in the eye. It’s a learned habit. It can be unlearned, we just need to properly discourage it.

The three best fighters ever

I like to answer GOAT questions in this fashion because at the end of the day, the discussion surrounding “Greatest of All Time” is incredibly subjective and this puts that at the forefront. We can’t really prove who is the best (though it’s obviously incredibly fun to argue about) so this is as good a way as any to determine your top-3. For me it’s Georges St-Pierre, Jose Aldo, and Demetrious Johnson.

Fire yours off in the comment section.

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Because this is how Dana does business. Dana’s “if Tony accepts the fight” statement is the most transparently absurd thing in recent MMA. He was immediately laying the groundwork for Tony to get jumped by someone else because either it’s a more lucrative fight for the UFC or because Tony might want to be paid more than a pittance. Dana might as well have said “So yeah, Conor is gonna get the next lightweight title shot if I can possibly swing it because 2.4 million PPV buys”.

Just look at how the UFC handled Colby Covington. They offered him less money to challenge for the title than they gave to him to face Robbie Lawler and then immediately tried to blame him for the fight falling through (it has since been worked out). This is how they do business. It’s our way or the highway and if you choose to not accept the crumbs we deign to dole out, then we will excoriate you in the court of public opinion. Just think back on the history of fighters Dana has said “don’t want that fight”. It’s littered with great fighters who, coincidentally, also have an understanding of their worth and want to be paid something close to their value.

So yeah, Tony is either gonna make $100K to fight Khabib or they’ll give it to Conor and blame Tony for being scared, because that makes any kind of sense at all.

King for a day

Immediately give every fighters a substantial contract raise. I’d be fired after the first day but once fighters actually got a taste of what they should be getting (roughly 50 percent of the UFC’s revenue instead of the 20-ish percent they currently take home) perhaps then they’d understand what they’re missing out on and act accordingly. In the end it would likely hurt the UFC but it sure would make me feel like I did a tangible good thing with my brief tenure.

Should I last any amount of time after my first decree here are the things I would make happen, in order or importance.

  1. Legalize knees to the head of grounded opponents and standing headbutts. (I know, commissions etc, but if you say it, the ABC will eventually follow).
  2. All fights between ranked fighters are to be five, 5-minute rounds instead of three.
  3. Change welterweight to 175 pounds and institute a 165 pound weight class. The BMF title can be for that inaugural belt.
  4. Fire Greg Hardy.
  5. Renegotiate the Reebok contract to allow fighters to opt in or out of the Reebok deal. Should fighters wish to join in, they can or they can opt to find their own sponsorships, though we’d have some limitations on what sponsorships would be allowed.
  6. Issue a decree: any failed USADA drug test results in a two-year UFC suspension - if the fighter would prefer to be released, OK - no tainted supplement defense or any other excuse allowed. A second failure and you are banned from the UFC permanently.

I’ll be honest, I wanted my last one to be “End USADA completely” but at this point the program is so ingrained into the psyche of UFC fighters I don’t know that is a feasible idea. So instead I opted for making USADA operate in the way it should if we’re going to have it at all: zero tolerance. You are responsible for what goes into your body. Don’t take supplements if you don’t want to run the risk. Plenty of fighters have never failed a test, you don’t have to either.

B.J. Penn’s future

Sadly Scott Coker was not willing to definitively say he would not sign B.J. to a contract and I think it’s pretty obvious why. Bellator is heading back to Hawaii soon and it would make sense for them to put Penn and Ilima-lei Macfarlane on that card. I certainly hope cooler heads prevail here but it feels like that’s inevitable.

If for some reason it doesn’t happen though, there is a 100 percent chance Bare Knuckle FC signs him. I like how Bare Knuckle started as this kinda fun outlier thing and has quickly devolved into the MMA retirement home. This sport sure is something.

Speaking of Bellator

A little of column A, little of column B. Following his loss to Douglas Lima, MVP needed a soft touch but Richard Kiely was legitimately promotional malpractice and I wouldn’t be surprised if they threw him another softball before they try to ease him back into the real waters of welterweight with a Daley rematch. I don’t think they’ll let him keep crushing cans forever but at this point it does seem like he’s gonna be a guy who will never be getting thrown into the deep end.

It’s all so weird though. Michael Page’s career has been one of the most closely managed ones we’ve ever seen in MMA, which makes sense in a way as that’s a good way to build stars. But consider that Bellator is the same organization that took Aaron Pico, the best MMA prospect possibly ever and certainly a better long-term bet than MVP, and have thrown him to the wolves over and over again to the point where they may have ruined him already. I have no idea what the hell is going on here.

Tag team MMA

Gotta go with the heavyweight and the flyweight. Aside from their Olympic pedigrees, the real boon for the Daniel Cormier-Henry Cejudo team is the fact that they have the biggest guy. DC would handle Tyron Woodley and then what is gonna happen, Masvidal’s gonna tag in and beat him? Nah. DC walks through this.

Now if we’re talking two-on-two, I’m still taking DC-Triple C. Cejudo can dart around and avoid getting sucked into a fight, while DC handles either T-Wood or Street Jesus. Then once that is taken care of it’s two on one and that’s the end of that.

I’m gonna almost always select the heavyweight and the flyweight versus the two welterweights. It’s just science.

Covington vs. Cejudo - who is worse?

I’d rather lay down in traffic.

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.