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Hot Tweets: What the first event on Fight Island should look like

Dana White
Dana White
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

This week, Dana White trademarked “UFSea”, meaning ‘Fight Island’ is real and it’s going to happen. So let’s talk about exactly what the UFC’s debut card on that mythical island should look like.

Opening Fight Island

While this is a great question, first we have to answer a number of other questions that are still up in the air. Is Fight Island even real? Where is it? When will it open? Will the UFC hold PPV events there, or just Fight Nights? Sadly we don’t have answers to the questions, however we do have rumors.

Rumor has it that Fight Island is real and it’s in Abu Dhabi. Rumor also has it that the UFC is looking to host a card there on July 25th and that the card will be headlined by a middleweight matchup between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till. I hope that last part is not true. Don’t get me wrong, Whittaker-Till is an excellent fight (not as good as Whittaker-Kelvin Gastelum, but whatever) but if that’s the main event of Fight Island’s debut, that’s a massive, massive letdown.

Fight Island has become this awesome thing that has people buzzing. Yes, some of that may be tongue-in-cheek because the idea of Dana White hosting his own private Kumite is somewhat insane, but people are genuinely fascinated by it. It’s literally the most interested people have been since the creation of Nate Diaz’s BMF Title, and like they did with that, the UFC is going to ruin it due to a total lack of imagination. Whittaker-Till as a main event is the same as a monochromatic silver belt - serviceable but anathema to what makes the whole thing fun in the first place.

Fight Island should be a grand and glorious spectacle. I’m talking lean all the way into the Bloodsport comparisons. I want video montages of fighters breaking boards and cinderblocks before they walk through the curtain. Set up the whole arena to look like the Kumite mat, just with an octagon. Pump in “crowd chants” of “Kumite”. The whole nine yards. Make the entire thing as completely ridiculous as the John Olivers of the world believe it to be. Casual fans will love it. Hard core fans will love it. Even cynics will have to begrudgingly love it.

Then, after setting up all the pomp, circumstance, and production, give the people watching something fresh and different. Promoting “Fight Island” alone will get people to watch but then presenting them with the same old UFC will just get them to move on. They won’t know the fighters, so they won’t care. Their attention will waver and they’ll change the channel to a rerun of Tombstone. So instead, let them get invested. Host the UFC’s first 8-man, one-night tournament in 24 years. Pick eight unranked lightweights, do legitimate background videos on them and mix those human interest pieces in with the show to give people a vested, rooting interest. That would capture new viewers imaginations by creating an actual Kumite and also build a new star out of thin air. Whoever took down the tournament, you can forever promote him as the inaugural UFSea Champion. Then on top of all that you can have a normal main event bout, as an after-dinner dessert.

Now, I said lightweight because that seemed the most likely course of action in this otherwise unlikely scenario. 155 is the deepest division in the sport, and if you literally picked eight lightweights out of a hat, you’d probably end up with four excellent fights. But, if the UFC was really ambitious, they’d go for an openweight tournament, and carefully select the competitors. Throw a few bad heavyweights in the mix with some good welter and middleweights. Make some David vs. Goliath fights. Get crazy with it. In the end you’d either have a new heavyweight heel, or a superheroic welterweight.

Another way to approach this would be to take Brad Katona, Mike Trizano, Martin Bravo, Ryan Hall, Erick Montano, Enrique Barzola, Glaico Franca, and Chad Laprise and throw them in a one-night Ultimate Fighter Tournament of Champions. And bring in all the other TUF champions to sit socially distant in the nonexistent crowd.

The point is, UFSea should be fun. Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till is kind of fun, but it’s also still very much in line with normal UFC operations. The UFC would never go for putting o tag-team MMA or 5-on-5 fights, and they probably wouldn’t even go for a team format either. But a one-night tournament is a throwback to the origins of the UFC that would fall perfectly in line with the absurdity of Fight Island, and it would be fun as hell. Come on, Dana. Let’s have fun.

Jon Jones, pariah

This is a complex subject that would take many thousands of words to dig all the way into so I’ll try to keep this brief. The answer, as with literally all things involved in the UFC, is money.

The primary reason Dana White isn’t interested in a Jones superfight is because it doesn’t make much sense from a business perspective. Right now, the heavyweight division does not lack for contenders. Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier will, at some point, have their trilogy fight. Francis Ngannou is waiting in the wings to challenge the winner and Curtis Blaydes is right behind him. This is one of the rare times in its history that the heavyweight division is not completely barren of contenders. What sense does it make to thrown one more into the mix, especially when that contender is champion of another division?

People seem interested in the idea of a “heavyweight grand prix” where the winner of Stipe-DC fights the winner of Jones-Ngannou, but that has no basis in promotional history. The only time the UFC creates tournaments like that is to crown a new champion for a vacant title, because doing so limits future options, and as a promoter, you always want to have options.

Further along these lines, the UFC is usually not in the business of making fights where they can have a losing outcome. Dana White’s philosophy has always been that of making win-win fights, where no matter the outcome, the UFC had a good line to pursue afterwards. Jones-Ngannou is an incredibly fun and interesting fight, but there is a good outcome and a bad outcome for the UFC. If Jones wins, they can make a superfight for the heavyweight title - that’s the good outcome. If Jones loses, a guy who isn’t even the heavyweight champion - and who lost convincingly to the current heavyweight champion - has now knocked out the guy they purport to be the best fighter in the world. Their light heavyweight title becomes instantly devalues and while yes, Nganou becomes that much bigger, he still could easily lose to Miocic, thus making it all for naught. Stipe will never be a star, he doesn’t have the temperament for it. So creating a scenario where he could very easily kill off two popular fighters without even fighting one, and getting only a modicum of a boost from it, makes zero sense for the UFC.

There also probably is the concern about potentially attaching two belts to the UFC’s most notorious fighter. When even in the best-case scenario you have a guy who has been stripped of three separate titles holding the two most prestigious belts in the organization, you probably haven’t made the best business decision.

A final note on the business side of things is that though Jones-Ngannou would be a huge fight, it wouldn’t actually do that much better than any other Jon Jones fight right now. It would be good, but not good enough to warrant the risk. Instead, Dana White can do what he always does: blame the fighters for being greedy and moving onto the next bout where he can pay them 15% of the gross.

Who can beat Israel Adesanya?

In the current middleweight division? No one. The only person who could is Yoel Romero, who has a somewhat reasonable argument to having won the fight, but any rematches would look very similar - Romero nullifying Adesanya but getting outpointed.

(Sidebar: It’s a joke of a fight now, but Romero’s fight against Adesanya was legitimately incredibly impressive. Compare the stats between all of Izzy’s other fights and his fight with Yoel. He was rendered damn near impotent, which is incredibly difficult to do. Izzy deserved to win the fight, but if you were judging fights on a curve of “who was more uncomfortable and pushed out of their element” Romero wins in a landslide.)

Outside of the entirely unique human being that is Romero, no middleweight is going to beat him, and probably no light heavyweight either, save perhaps Jon Jones. I could perhaps see Kamaru Usman giving Adesanya some trouble but still would favor Izzy. “The Last Stylebender” is a stud and going to hold the title for a few years.

Improving judging

The simplest solution to solving judging is to actually care about bad judging when it happens. There is limited to no accountability from commissions for bad judging, thus it persists. Seriously, 20% of bad judging is a dumb, nebulous scoring system and the other 80% is a lack of giving a shit. If judges no longer worked when they turned in abhorrent scorecards, judges would then be forced to reflect on terrible efforts, learn, and improve. Instead, they just keep getting employed. Until that happens, doing anything else won’t really make a huge difference.

Zabit Magomedsharipov

Yes he will. And we can’t say he should fix his cardio, his cardio might be totally fine. We’ve never seen him fight in a five-round fight and so, we can’t say his cardio will fail him. He fights in a specific style meant to maximize his opportunity to win in a 15-minute fight. It has worked. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

GSP vs. Conor

It would be either the biggest or second biggest fight in UFC PPV history. Not sure it would outsell Khabib-Conor but it would have a good chance of doing so.

Three-division champ

I’ve answered this before and I proffered two answers: Valentina Shevchenko and Henry Cejudo. Cejudo is now retired, but I still think I nailed it the first time.

Shevchenko is the flyweight champion and she will never lose that belt. She’s arguably beaten the bantamweight and featherweight champion - thus, she’s the most obvious choice to potentially hold three titles. Cejudo, if he does come back, could give Alexander Volkanovski a fight, thus he remains the second best choice.

However, I’ll add a third contender to the mix: Israel Adesanya. Considering the way Jon Jones has looked recently, Adesanya has a legitimate chance to unseat him, should they ever fight. He’s also a small middleweight and could *potentially* make the cut to 170, but heavyweight is a dumpster fire of a division and so he’d have a decent shot against any heavyweight champion at any given moment. Add Izzy into the mix.

Weight classes

Weight classes are largely dumb as hell, and primarily a way for promoters to have multiple shiny objects to use as promotional tools.

Yes, in fighting, size does matter. Conor McGregor, or any lightweight, would get throttled by the vast majority of heavyweights. That’s just physics and biomechanics. But having eight male weight classes and four female weight classes is highly unnecessary, outside of it creating more champions to promote.

The difference 5-10 pounds makes in a fight, is negligible. Now, certainly those differences are felt more heavily at the peak of the sport, where any advantage can be leveraged, but ultimately, does it matter if one guy outweighs the other by a ham sandwich? Contractually, yes but like, do any of us really care? The answer is no. It just gives us more things to think about, discuss, and argue.

In short, UFSea needs to play host to openweight tournaments. Let’s make fighting fun again!

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.

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