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Hot Tweets: The fallout from UFC 249 falling out, and Jon Jones’ place in MMA history

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Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson
Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dana White, and Tony Ferguson
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Let’s be honest, this past week there have really only been two stories in MMA: the ongoing saga of UFC 249, and the most recent arrest—and subsequent plea deal—of Jon Jones. But from those two trees have sprung many branches so let’s discuss them all, and see if we can’t make sense of such a chaotic world.


UFC 249: Will it happen?

As with many things in life the answer is: it depends. In this instance, it depends on what you mean by hope. Hope that, come April 18, some fashion of UFC promoted fights will be available for purchase? Sure, I think we can probably say that will happen. After all, the UFC is headed up by one of the few men more stubborn than me, and at this point, UFC 249 is not just an event to Dana White, it’s his personal (Dana) White Whale.

At this point, putting together UFC 249 is nothing less than a reckoning for Dana, an ideological imperative to prove to everyone that they are idiots and he alone has the brains and the balls to make this happen. Of course, balls has nothing to do with it. Moving forward with a fight card in two weeks time is, quite obviously, an absurd idea in the middle of a global pandemic but, come hell or high water, Dana will have his pound of flesh. So yeah, there will probably be a PPV event in two weeks.

Or do you mean hope that UFC 249, should it stay intact, will be even a shell of the event it was envisioned as? To that, the answer is a resounding no.

Neither Khabib Nurmagomedov nor Tony Ferguson will be fighting on it. The event is in two weeks and it doesn’t even have a location. At this point, fighters should be wrapping up their camps, making travel preparations, and getting started on their weight cuts. Instead, fighters can’t train because damn near every gym is closed (I mean really train, not the bootleg sessions fighters have been using) and they can’t make travel plans because they don’t have a destination. Who in their right mind would fight world class opposition in this state? Khabib is obviously out and Tony is not facing Justin Gaethe on two week’s notice to cement a title shot that is his already, in front of an empty arena and no media. And Conor? You must be outside your mind.

So yes, UFC 249 will go on, even if the location of the event turns out to be Dana’s backyard. And yes, many fighters will still compete at it, because they need the money and the UFC exerts vast amounts of control over their “independent contractors.” But the big dogs, the ones with leverage and say so, they aren’t fighting the Saturday after next because there’s very little to gain from it, and you shouldn’t want them to fight because this isn’t some barnyard smoker in Bumblef*ck, Iowa. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are two of the five best fighters on the planet, and as much as it sucks to have this fight delayed again, we should be more than willing to wait until August for the single most important fight in MMA history.

So no, there’s no hope for April 18 and the fact that it’s even being considered at this point is base lunacy. It flies directly in the face of all scientific and medical advice and potentially threatens to unnecessarily add to the workload of an already overburdened healthcare system. A more selfish act I can scarcely imagine and yet, this is the world we live in. I just hope that the sixth time is the charm for Khabib vs. Tony.


Tony’s comments about Khabib

First off, let’s be super, super clear here: if you legitimately believe Khabib ran from or is ducking Tony, you’re an idiot. Not “you’re wrong” or “you’re being a little ridiculous in your fanboyism.” You’re an absolute imbecile. Khabib is the undefeated champion of the world and has been fighting since he was seven years old. More to the point, he grew up in a place where terrorism and warfare was never far away. He’s not afraid of a sanctioned fight against a 36-year-old dude who presents a mostly favorable style matchup. So if you believe he is, you’re just an abject moron.

And fortunately, Tony Ferguson is not a moron. He’s definitely a little weird, and he has a different way of being than most, but he’s quite obviously not stupid and he doesn’t actually believe Khabib ducked him (neither does Conor for that matter but Conor can’t help but taking shots at Khabib despite the fact that every single time he does so, Khabib just “SCOREBOARD”s him and he kinda looks dumb). Tony is doing what you’re supposed to do in the absence of a fight: build it up for the future.

Tony isn’t going to fight Justin Gaethje on two-weeks’ notice. That would be idiotic. Outside of a paycheck, he gains nothing because he’s already the number one contender. Unless he can convince the UFC to strip Khabib (they won’t) or perhaps get an interim title out of it; not for the title itself (he’s already had one) but for the right to PPV points it carries with it when he does eventually face Khabib. Plus, Tony is probably mad at this entire situation, which is totally justifiable. This all sucks. So taking it out on your opponent who you have beef with is an easy way to make yourself feel better. Like shouting “f*ck” when you stub your toe.

The end result here is everyone will jaw and posture at each other but eventually the fight will get re-booked, and they’ll settle up in late summer. Or the fight will fall through again, Khabib will fight Conor, and then suddenly Tony, a 36-year-old man with a history of dangerous training habits who competes in a division where fighters age like bread, will be ancient overnight and this dream fight will loose all its teeth. Either or.


But what if he did

Stupendous question, my dear compatriot. Because here’s the sneaky truth about why Tony Ferguson won’t be taking a short notice fight against Justin Gaethje: he’d lose. Now, I’m not saying Tony is scared. That dude is scared of no man. But Gaethje is a super dangerous fight for him, with nothing to gain from it, and his team wouldn’t let him do it. Nor should they.

Ferguson is on an incredible run, no doubt about it. But check his last five fights: Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee, Rafael dos Anjos, and Lando Vannata. In four of those five fights he was hurt at some point, and against RDA he lost the first two rounds. Yes, he fought back and won but if you can’t see a disturbing trend there, then you are trying not to look. Gaethje is not Donald Cerrone, he starts fast and punches harder than damn near anyone in the division. He would level Tony early and personally, I don’t like El Cucuy’s chances to recover from that predatory motherf*cker.

Now, I know I’ve infuriated many of you, both with my previous comments and those ones just above so let me light on fire any olive branches you think might be coming: Conor and Dustin Poirier also thump Tony right now, for all the same reasons listed above.

I believe Tony Ferguson is one of the top-5 lightweights ever and based on his accomplishments, should be regarded as a top-5 P4P fighter in the world right now. In another world could easily have been champion, but in this world, he’s a slow starter who is very hittable and relies on otherworldly cardio and self-belief to outlast opponents, and that doesn’t match up all that well against the mentally strong and offensively potent forces that populate the top of the division right now.


That being said, how does he become GOAT?

Simple: for Tony to be GOAT he has to beat Khabib. That’s it. Nothing more.

Khabib has a case to be called the lightweight GOAT right now but it’s not really foolproof. If Khabib beats Tony, the GOAT conversation is over and he immediately solidifies himself in the overall GOAT conversation as well. And the same holds true for Tony. At this point, Tony’s career is only slightly worse than Khabib’s and a win over Nurmagomedov would make him the GOAT. Some sticklers might demand one title defense but, reasonably, it wouldn’t be necessary. A win over Khabib would be the cherry on a outrageously good career.

Now if he wants to be the P4P GOAT, he’d still have some work to do. The nature of being the GOAT of the best division in MMA means you’re not too far off the overall title, but for Tony to really get in the conversation he would need a few title defenses at least. If he were to beat Khabib, beat Conor, beat Poirier/Gaethje, and then take the welterweight title that would make him the unquestioned P4P GOAT in my opinion. That would be a Herculean task though and I think, given his age, the title of GOAT of all GOATs is probably out of reach for El Cucuy at this time.


Speaking of potential GOATS

I’m always fascinated by questions like this because they presume that Jones’s failings aren’t part and parcel of the entire Jon Jones package. If Jon had a different temperament, he might well not be “Jon Jones” at all.

I do not personally believe Jon Jones is the greatest fighter ever (I won’t get into the specifics because, that’s a whole separate issue) but I think he is without a doubt either the most talented or second-most talented fighter of all time (B.J. Penn being the other). If he had been able to get out of his own way in his youth, he would currently be the undisputed GOAT of all GOATs (not unlike B.J., honestly).

Instead, Jon continually shoots himself in the foot, creates controversy where there is none, and endangers the lives of innocent people by getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence. Jon Jones does not need GSP’s dedication, he needs someone to help him deal with whatever demons he’s wrestling with, and he needs the government to take his f*cking license away from him.


The 265-pound question

Eventually, Jon will go to heavyweight which means eventually, he’s going to fight Francis Ngannou. And at this point, you have to think that’s going to turn out bad for Jon. Jon was so unwilling to engage with the KO power of Thiago Santos he barely attacked a man with no knees, and almost lost his belt as a result of it. Ngannou is a bigger hitter than Santos, with a longer reach. Jon won’t come within a country mile of Ngannou and will have to be very strategic in closing the distance. Eventually, I feel like Ngannou is gonna crack and that will be all she wrote.


The UFC’s comeback card

Let’s end on a happy note and say the UFC finally comes to its senses and suspends all events until a reasonable time; let’s call it July, International Fight Week.

Between March 21 (UFC London’s cancellation) and July 11 (UFC 252) there will have been 12 events the UFC had to pass over. So let’s cherry pick the best fights from those events, while still trying to make it believable:

Main Card

Henry Cejudo vs. Jose Aldo

Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer

Mauricio Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar

Francis Ngannou vs. Jair Rozenstruik

Preliminaries

Mizuki Inoue vs. Tecia Torres

Niko Price vs. Muslim Salikhov

Vicente Luque vs. Randy Brown

Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa

Early Prelims

Marlon Vera vs. Eddie Wineland

Andrei Arlovski vs. Philipe Lins

Mackenzie Dern vs. Ariane Carnelossi

I’d be freaking stoked for this card. There’s a lot of different ways you could go with the main card but I tried to keep it reasonable with regard to the UFC still needing to headline other shows in the future. And the preliminaries are straight heat. Just full on bangers all the way down.

Dana, I’ll do Sean Shelby’s job for half the pay. You know where to find me.


Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tangentially 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.