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Hot Tweets: Richard Schaefer advising Jon Jones, Cody Garbrandt’s future, and Carla Esparza’s title shot

Jon Jones (EL, MMAF)

This weekend is a rarity in MMA: a weekend without a major MMA event taking place. However, last weekend we did get a pretty decent Fight Night from the UFC with a couple of very important performances from the stars of the show so let’s take this down week to discuss UFC Vegas 27, a recent fight announcement, and, of course, the latest in Jon Jones’ ongoing saga with the UFC.

Jon Jones retains Richard Schaefer as “career advisor”

ICYMI, former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has hired former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer as an advisor, ostensibly with the hopes that Schaefer will help him navigate his ongoing contract dispute with the UFC.

I am highly skeptical that this changes anything though obviously I, like everyone, hope that it does.

Richard Schaefer is undeniably good at what he does (putting together big PPV events and promoting combat sports) but be that as it may, that doesn’t really have much bearing on the current state of affairs with regard to Jones and his contract dispute. Jon Jones wants to be paid more money (which, yes, he should be) however, Jones has a contract with the UFC that clearly outlines how much he is entitled to get paid. Those numbers are not the same and thus we have a standoff. And unfortunately for Jones, that standoff does not favor him.

Schaefer could be the Leonardo Di Vinci of PPV negotiations and it wouldn’t change the facts on the ground: while the UFC might like to have a Jones-Ngannou superfight, it by no means needs one. Jones fought just once last year, a bout most people thought he lost, and then vacated his 205-pound title. Normally you would think that arguably the greatest fighter ever choosing to walk away from his belt for no real reason would be a blow to the UFC but it barely broke their stride. They crowned a new champion and just right on kicking, having, by all accounts, a phenomenal year despite COVID-19 upending the world. they didn’t miss Jon Jones one bit.

And that’s the difficult thing for Jones to overcome here, regardless of who is helping him: he needs the UFC but they don’t need him. Unless Schaefer has a time machine and can go back to before Jones re-signed with the UFC, there just isn’t much he can do here. If this standoff continues, the UFC will go right on making money hand over fist, meanwhile, Jones is stuck sitting on the sidelines, doing whatever it is he enjoys doing. Moreover, ever month he sits out he fades more and more out of the public consciousness which clearly drives him absolutely mad, and that will only get worse as Jones realizes that while his legacy is obviously exemplary, it’s not unassailable. He has the myriad personal issues, wins that look less and less impressive in hindsight, and terrible performances his last several times out. If Jones never fights again, he’ll no doubt be a Hall of Famer but he would also leave a big door open for other fighters to come along and supplant him, and there is a zero percent chance that Jones is okay with that notion.

The other thing that fans and even Schaefer himself have pointed out is that he has a great relationship with UFC President Dana White. Woo hoo. Look, superficially that’s great but in actuality it’s less than a turkey’s fart. What, you think Dana White is going to give up money because he likes the guy? Get real. Jones could have Dana White’s own mother negotiating on his behalf and the UFC President would still be putting the screws to him. That’s just who he is. The scorpion and the frog.

The only way that signing Schaefer makes one bit of difference here is if we view this entirely in the inverse. Dana White is intractable but Jon Jones is not. Jones has conceded defeat before and given the circumstances, it’s the only plausible end to all of this. So if Schaefer can wield his new-found advisory abilities to convince Jones to settle for less, then perhaps a deal can get done but like I said, I doubt it. In the end, all we’ve accomplished here is a big, splashy announcement that reignites fan interest in a fight most had written off but is unlikely to have any substantive effect.

Cody Garbrandt’s future

Honestly, it doesn’t seem like anything good is next for “No Love”.

Look, we’ve seen Cody Garbrandt lose before, this isn’t new. But we’ve never seen THAT happen to him. Rob Font absolutely dummied him, picking Garbrandt apart, countering beautifully, and tattoo the former bantamweight champion’s face with his piston-like jab. It was a consummate shit-kicking if ever we’ve seen one and that type of loss is much more difficult to come back from.

In my opinion, Garbrandt should make the cut down to 125. He’s talked about it for years and now seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. For one, he’s not an enormous 135 (though he’s not really “small” for that division either. For another, flyweight is simply an easier division to make hay in. We talk about it all the time but 135 pounds is among the best weight classes in the entire sport, filled with a deep roster of super-talented fighters. Can Cody hang around there and get good wins? Absolutely. But the sledding is much easier down at 125 and so he might as well take advantage of that.

That being said, though I believe Garbrandt should drop down, I hope he doesn’t do so with the intention of challenging for the title. I mean sure, a hook fest between him and Deiveson Figueiredo would be sensational television but No Love has now lost four of his last five fights. No matter how good his KO of Raphael Assuncao was, he doesn’t deserve a crack at any title right now. Let’s make him earn it with a win over any top-5 flyweight. If he wins, then Garbrandt is right back in the game. If he loses yet again, then would could be having a more serious conversation about his future.

Carla Esparza dominates Yan Xiaonan

If the UFC doesn’t give Carla Esparza the next strawweight title shot, this sport really has jumped the damn shark. She is CLEARLY the most deserving challenger and literally the only reason to deny her here is a transparent ploy for the UFC to lever Weili Zhang in the Chinese market. It would be the sort of brazenly absurd thing that would fit right in in 2021.

Here are the facts: Zhang Weili was knocked out in less than two minutes but Rose Namajunas. She had only had one title defense before that. Meanwhile, Esparza is currently riding a five-fight win streak with four of those coming over ranked contenders - and that includes her shellacking of Yan Xiaonan last weekend. Moreover, Esparza has a wonderful story behind her as well, with Esparza winning the inaugural title over Namajunas and now the tables being turned. That’s some Disney Channel stuff right there.

There is no rational way to look at the facts and determine that Weili is the most deserving of a title shot. If Dana White really goes through with that, it will be a travesty.

Max Holloway set to face Yair Rodriguez

Sometimes people get injured. Sometimes, a global pandemic f***s the whole world in half and things get chaotic for a bit. What, do you think all these people who literally only earn income when they fight, just don’t want to fight? No, life happens. Live with it. Now that that’s done, let’s talk about the fight itself because it has layers.

Is this good matchmaking? No, it’s the exact opposite of that. Yair Rodriguez is exactly the kind of exciting fighter that you would want to give a title shot to build up your champion and instead the UFC is setting him up to take a savage ass-beating from a guy who already has two losses to the champ. The UFC is killing off a contender here with no real gain. That’s incredibly dumb but it’s also going to be fun as hell.

This fight is an absolute banger. Yair Rodriguez excels at doing two things: flashy, spectacular violence and getting hit. That pairs nicely with Max Holloway throwing 400 strikes a round and stunting on fools. For as long as this lasts it’s going to be filled with beautiful violence and we should all just enjoy that. Life’s too short to get too wound up about bad matchmaking, especially when that matchmaking at least delivers guaranteed fireworks.

Impossible choices

Welp, I’ve had a good life. Guess it’s just my time.

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