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Hot Tweets: UFC 246 and the 2020 UFC champions

Conor McGregor
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It was the last of the dead UFC weeks and now we have UFC 246 and the return of Conor McGregor heading our way. So let’s discuss Conor’s comeback, what’s in store for 2020, and who will hold the belts at the end of this year.

UFC 246

It’s definitely not just you. UFC 246 is going to end up as one of the biggest PPVs of the year just by the sheer fact that it’s Conor, but I’ve been very confused by the UFC’s approach to Conor’s return. The UFC hasn’t had an event in almost a full month but instead of using all that time off to spam Conor promotional material, it’s been pretty quiet. Yes, there have been more commercials than for your average event and yes, a more diverse selection of commercials, but really, for the return of their biggest star I would’ve expected the full court press on this one.

Now, there could be a couple of reasons for this. One, though the UFC could be doing more, much of the promotional weight of Conor’s rise came from McGregor himself. He used to put himself out there constantly and that’s no longer the case. You can’t blame the man, he’s made his money, but that’s probably a factor. As is the timing of it all. What with the holidays and the New Year, the UFC may have just opted not to throw too much weight into all the noise, and instead is going to ramp up promotion this week, following the college football national championship. Then there’s the fact that with the ESPN deal, maybe the UFC feels less pressure to promote individual PPVs?

But the great big elephant in the room is that maybe it feels underwhelming because McGregor himself is underwhelming. McGregor had a terrible 2019 from a PR standpoint, and he hasn’t won a fight in over three years. McGregor is a star and stardom fades hard in MMA. Going out and getting your ass kicked repeatedly is going to put a damper on even the most ardent fan bases.

Think about it this way: a few years ago, most everybody knew who Conor McGregor was and when he would fight, those people who knew nothing would ask their MMA fan friends about him (if you’re reading this, I bet it happened to you). Then those friends said, he’s very good but Khabib is going to kill him. And then that happened and so suddenly, a bunch of otherwise interested parties probably lost interest because, well, Conor’s just a loud mouth guy who go worked the last time he fought. His fans will still care because they will always care but until Conor makes a statement victory and builds his profile back up, the public at large is going to be less enthusiastic.

All of that is to say that the Cowboy fight is a perfect set-up bout for McGregor, and if he does what he should, we’ll quickly be living in a Conor McGregor world again.

Who is next for Conor?

Man, if Conor loses, whoa buddy is that bad. I honestly haven’t given that much serious consideration to it because Donald Cerrone is the most perfect possible opponent for him to look good against, but if Cerrone pulls off the upset, Conor is a lost ball in the high weeds. I don’t even know where you could go from there. Maybe run it back? Or pull the trigger on Conor-Nate Diaz III before that fight suddenly disappears forever? I honestly have no idea. There will be no shortage of opponents lining up to make their bones off Conor if that happens, but I don’t know who he would possibly want to fight. If he lost to Cerrone and it wasn’t a close fight, I seriously wouldn’t be shocked if he retired, at least for a year or two.

But, should McGregor take care of business and style on Cerrone next weekend, then the world is his oyster again. He says he wants to fight three times in 2020 and he wants the lightweight title but Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson still have to settle their business first. That leaves Conor with either taking a fight with Justin Gaethje, which would be a terrible idea, or a fight with Jorge Masvidal, which is equally as bad but at least wouldn’t hamstring him and his lightweight title concerns. My guess if that if Conor wins, he holds out and sees if he can jump in to save the Khabib-Tony fight when someone inevitably pulls out. Then he just waits and fights the winner of that fight because it’s the highest upside for him, especially if Tony upsets Khabib.

Frankie Edgar’s move to 135

I know many people are uncomfortable with the idea of Frankie dropping weight this late in his career but honestly, he should’ve been a bantamweight ages and ages ago. It’s one of the most remarkable aspects of his career that this man was arguably the best 135er in the world for a good stretch and instead, messed around and won a title TWO weight classes up. So while I don’t think Frankie will get the belt now, he’s too far gone, you know what they say, better late than never. And there’s only one person who Frankie should be fighting when he drops down: Dominick Cruz. Cory Sandhagen was an idiotic fight that made no sense for Frankie and likely would’ve just gotten him mauled. But a Cruz-Edgar fight could headline a PPV, even as a non-title fight, and a win probably would give the UFC enough justification to shoot him right into a title shot.

Dominick Cruz. It’s the only fight to make.

Jon Jones’ 2020

Well, in the immediate it’s Dominick Reyes. After that, he probably knuckledusts Corey Anderson because, why not? Then he either moves up to heavyweight or he waits around for Israel Adesanya.

When Jon Jones won the title, he lorded over a division that was old and bad but people thought was great because of all the names that inhabited the top tiers. Now the division just remains bad and no one cares too much about the division. Unless he moves to heavyweight, Jones’ 2020 is going to feel very underwhelming, which is unfair because his level of excellence is incredibly rare in MMA.

Catchweights and other divisions

Nope. There’s no need to. How many people in the world can name all the various boxing weight classes? Can you? I watch boxing regularly and it’s still a challenge because you don’t need to have that many weight classes because, here’s the thing, no one gives a sh*t about them.

Weight classes exist for fighters and promoters; fighters, so they can feel optimal, and promoters so they can have more belts to use as a tool to make people care. But fans, by and large, do not care. Sure, we’d rather fighters face people roughly their own size, but roughly is the operative term there. They aren’t sticklers for it because, why would they be? Would you ever not fight someone because they had five pounds on you? And if they won would you think it was only because of the five pounds? No. No one cares, no one should care, and people asking for more weight classes are insane.

A great sadness

At this point, it’s B.J. Penn and it’s not close.

Talk to anyone who was seriously a fan of or involved in MMA in the late 90s through the early 2000s, and every single one of them will tell you that B.J. was the best fighter in the world. He was your favorite fighter’s favorite fighter and for nearly a decade he was probably the best lightweight on Earth. There are a hallowed few in the history of the sport who carry the kind of respect other fighters had for B.J., with good reason. The man, a natural 155 (or 145er), f*cked around and fought Lyoto Machida at heavyweight for god’s sake, and he didn’t do badly at all. It’s cliche to say but seriously, there isn’t ever going to be another B.J. in the sport again and his insistence on fighting late into his career has cratered his record, which was already spotted with the losses to his own ambition.

B.J. Penn should’ve ended his career as the consensus greatest fighter who ever lived and instead his record stands at 16-14-2, and if you ever called him the GOAT, everyone will look at you like you’re either embarrassingly old, or a massive Stan.

Women’s 145

Uhhhhh, it’s existing I guess? The UFC is still nominally booking fights in it and at some point may let Amanda Nunes defend her belt because, why not? But they’re never going to put a full press into growing it as a real division because it’s too risky. At any given point, Nunes could retire and then there’s basically no reason for them to care anymore. As it stands, 145 let’s the UFC promote Nunes as a double champion and gives her more possible opponents to choose from because she’s already worked most of the bantamweights on the roster.

The biggest fight that never was

Fedor-Brock is certainly up there as is Rousey-Holm II. But my vote will always go to Georges St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. That fight would’ve been second only to GSP-BJ as far as excellent superfights go and it would’ve probably been even more marketable, given where the two were at in their careers. Alas, that’s one that never came to be.


Seriously, Eric? Andrei Arlovski by a friggin’ landslide. Even with his nose turned sideways on his face, Pitbull still dominates this category.

Biggest fight to make in 2020

It’s Khabib vs. Ferguson until that fight actually, physically happens, and maybe even until a month after it happens, just to be safe.

As far as fights that are not yet made, I’m actually coming around on the Khabib vs. GSP superfight. As a rule I hate superfights and I know Gaethje deserves his shot but there is definitely something intriguing about Khabib at the height of his powers against an obviously faded GSP. But in the interest of not being tarred and feathered in the comments, I’ll say Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou. I’ve always wondered how Jones would fare at heavyweight as some of his worst light heavyweight performances have come against men who could match his physicality in some respect, and given his dreadful performance against Thiago Santos, brought on by caution of Santos’ knockout power, I’m fascinated by what he’d look like against a hitter the likes of Ngannou.

Oh, and for the record, Jones-Adesanya has next to no interest for me. Jon will absolutely thunderstomp Izzy, and I’m a man who predicted Izzy to be champion last year.

2020 champions

Speaking of champion predictions, with the first UFC event of the year coming up, might as well get them out there.

  • Heavyweight: Francis Ngannou - DC beats Stipe, Ngannou fights for vacant belt, JBJ stays at 205.
  • 205: Jon Bones Jones - Come on.
  • 185: Yoel Romero - An absolute homer pick. Romero has been the best middleweight in the world for nearly five years. Even if he won’t be champion, I won’t pick against him.
  • 170: Kamaru Usman - Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal aren’t taking it from him.
  • 155: Khabib - He’s the best fighter I’ve ever seen. Full stop.
  • 145: Brian Ortega - I love Volkanovski and think Ortega isn’t a great fighter (despite the fact that he keeps making me look like a moron for picking against him). Volkanovski makes his money on the edges but out there on those edges, Ortega is lethal.
  • 135: Jose Aldo - Homer pick again. Don’t care. Jose is going to get the title shot and beat Cejudo.
  • 125: Deiveson Figueiredo - It feels like Joseph Benavidez might just be one of those guys cursed to never hold a title.
  • W145: Amanda Nunes - but I don’t even think she’ll defend it this year.
  • W135: Amanda Nunes - she’s the WMMAGOAT.
  • W125: Valentina Shevchenko - She’s the best female fighter on the planet by a mile and the best one in her division by light years.
  • 115: Zhang Weili - I’m drinking the Kool Aid. Her physicality is incredible and she’s only getting better.
  • BMF: Masvidal - In name only. Usman will beat Masvidal but he won’t hand over the belt and then we’ll all forget it until Nate fights again.

Sound off with your own in the comment section.

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.

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