Twitter Mailbag: Looking ahead to Bendo vs. "The Punk," and more
In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, we look ahead to Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 10 main event, break down recent fight bookings and questionable pound-for-pound claims, then finish with more performance-enhancing drug talk.
If you’re not into that, why not ask a question of your own by tweeting it to @BenFowlkesMMA? The worst that happens is you get to tell people you’re “very active on social media.”
@benfowlkesMMA Is there a reason we need a rematch between hendo/shogun. Do either one really gain anything (besides head trauma) in this.— Quinton (@QuintonRoss1995) January 22, 2014
This is one of those situations that reminds us how fighting is different from other pro sports. If Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua were tennis players about to do it again at the Australian Open after an epic match at last yearâ€™s Wimbledon, we wouldnâ€™t have any mixed feelings about it. But Hendo and â€œShogunâ€ arenâ€™t tennis players â€“Â theyâ€™re fighters. And in fighting an epic match usually entails some pain and suffering, and maybe even the kind of head trauma that will change your life years from now. We enjoyed it the first time, but do we really want to see them do it again?
Itâ€™s a weird question to start asking ourselves. Usually what we fear in these great fight reruns is that the second meeting wonâ€™t live up to the first. Now we wonder whether we even want it to. At the same time, as long as theyâ€™re both still in the business of professional cage fighting, and both in similar spots career-wise, why not have them go at it again? What, weâ€™re worried that they might hurt each other? Dude, thatâ€™s the job description. If weâ€™re afraid that the second fight might look too much like the first, and if we all agree that the first was awesome, what are we really telling ourselves about this sport? This is the fight fanâ€™s quandary, especially as we learn more about how brain trauma works. We want blood and we want knockouts, but we donâ€™t want to feel bad about it. Seems like thatâ€™s our problem more than itâ€™s Hendersonâ€™s or Ruaâ€™s.
@benfowlkesMMA Do you think @BensonHenderson can finish a 3 rd fight w/ a fighter like @THEREALPUNK? #TwitterMailbag— Justin Prejean (@F1LTHYslunt) January 22, 2014
First of all, since itâ€™s the main event of UFC on FOX 10, the Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson fight is a five-rounder instead of three. But even with the extra two rounds to work, no, I donâ€™t see Henderson finishing this fight. As youâ€™ll see if you take a look at Thomsonâ€™s record, that guy hasnâ€™t been put away very often. I guess the question is, does Henderson need to finish this fight, or can he content himself with another highly tactical performance en route to a decision? The former lightweight champ is now eight fights into his UFC career, and the only one of those bouts that didnâ€™t go the distance was the one he lost. If he wants to get another crack at that belt any time soon, Iâ€™d argue that he needs to reinvent himself as something other than an offense-negating stealer of rounds in his post-championship era, and quick.
@benfowlkesMMA so if GSP doesn't say sorry to Dana is he kept out of the UFC hall of fame?— David Wells (@Davidwellsj1) January 22, 2014
All that would do is further de-legitimize the UFC Hall of Fame. Thereâ€™s no way UFC executives are that petty or that dumb. No. Way. Say what you will about the glorified employee of the month club that is the UFC Hall of Fame, and I have, but even White couldnâ€™t justify giving Stephan Bonnar a spot while Georges St-Pierre gets left out. Iâ€™d hope that he wouldnâ€™t want to even if he thought he could.
@benfowlkesMMA why is trash talking in the NFL exciting and entertaining, but in MMA it's considered classless? Both sports are dangerous.— Houston Hefner (@HoustonHefner) January 22, 2014
This question confuses me. Did you mean to flip it the other way around? Because it seems to me that we canâ€™t get enough trash talk in MMA, where the mic is thrust in front of the winning fighterâ€™s face in the hope that he will disrespect someone new and thus give us a fight that feels personal even if itâ€™s not. Itâ€™s in pro football where, when Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman made some pretty tame post-game comments that would barely be worth a headline in MMA, people lost their minds. Seriously, what did Sherman say that was so bad, or even all that interesting? At least Cole Miller came up with â€œClownboyâ€ when calling out Donald Cerrone. Sherman was talking trash on a dude named Crabtree â€“Â imagine the possibilities! â€“Â and the worst thing he called him is a â€œsorry receiverâ€? Missed opportunity. If heâ€™d said that after an MMA fight, weâ€™d probably still be more interested in which fighter did or did not soil his pants.
@benfowlkesMMA If Belfort doesn't request a TRT exemption for Weidman fight, does that mean he doesn't need it for any future fights? #TMB— (@YourAnonMMA) January 22, 2014
Sounds like Vitor Belfort will request that therapeutic-use exemption after all when he fights Chris Weidman in Las Vegas. This is according to â€œUFC Tonightâ€™sâ€ Ariel Helwani, and it contradicts a statement from Belfortâ€™s manager Glenn Robinson (that one to MMA Fightingâ€™s Ariel Helwani) just two days earlier. Is it weird that the guyâ€™s own manager wouldnâ€™t know whether he planned to ask for permission to use synthetic testosterone? Yes it is. The fact that itâ€™s even a question highlights one of the many, many problems with TRT in MMA. Presumably, testosterone-users are getting this free pass because their legitimate medical need is truly that great and that urgent. If thatâ€™s the case, they canâ€™t get off it. If itâ€™s not the case, they shouldnâ€™t get that free pass to begin with.
Also, say Belfort didnâ€™t apply for a TUE. Or say he applied and the Nevada commission turned him down. How would they ensure that he wasnâ€™t using it anyway? The normal drug testing regimen in Nevada does not include a carbon isotope ratio (CIR) test, which is the only way to detect the presence of synthetic testosterone. Some fighters get caught just through the basic urine test, but only if they arenâ€™t smart enough to manipulate their testosterone-epitestosterone ratio (one of the ways BALCO clients avoided detection was allegedly through manipulating epitestosterone along with testosterone). If they are that smart, or even just smart enough to time their dosages in order to beat the urine test (not terribly difficult, according to experts), they could pretty much use synthetic testosterone with impunity, since state athletic commissions seem unwilling to shell out for the one test that might catch them.
Hopefully, if the NSAC didnâ€™t give Belfort an exemption, it would follow up by doing a CIR test just to make sure he really did get off the stuff when he was supposed to. But if he got off the stuff, wouldnâ€™t that be detrimental to his life, his health, and his career? Seems like the Nevada commission must choose between giving a former steroid cheat permission to use a different steroid, or else declaring the exemption that aided him throughout 2013 was bogus to begin with.
@benfowlkesMMA Dana recently said if Renan Barao stopped Urijah Faber he would be P4P #1. Uhhh what? Did he forget about Jones and Aldo?— (@ryan211) January 22, 2014
That statement seemed to raise a lot of eyebrows, and for good reason. The way I see it, itâ€™s proof of two things: 1) Pound-for-pound rankings are meaningless, except as fodder for promotional materials and arguments among fans, and 2) Dana White will say anything to sell a fight. Absolutely anything. Honestly, picture him sitting around his Las Vegas office, seizing upon a barely plausible narrative that might get people talking about an upcoming pay-per-view, then deciding, “Nah, I canâ€™t say that. It would be disingenuous.” I have an easier time imagining him starting fires with his mind. So no, I doubt White forgot about Jon Jones or Jose Aldo or anyone else. Itâ€™s just that this is the fight he has to sell now, and itâ€™s a fight between the interim bantamweight champ and a guy he already beat once. Youâ€™ve got to tell people something, right?
@benfowlkesMMA If Silva vs RoyJonesJr happens, does anyone actually win? Seems irrelevant to boxing and mma worlds, no?— Darcy LeDrew (@DarcyLeDrew) January 22, 2014
It is irrelevant, and it almost certainly wonâ€™t happen, so we should all stop talking about it. And by we, I mean both media and fans. Websites only run these stories because readers click on them so reliably. But after you click on them, all you get is the same speculative talk about how and when and where they might fight, though we all know itâ€™s no closer to becoming a reality. How about if we all agree not to mention it again until thereâ€™s a signed bout agreement between one Anderson da Silva and one Roy Levesta Jones? Can we do that, please? No, probably not. But we should.
@benfowlkesMMA do you find it weird that Alistair moved his camp further away to thailand, away from the commission? #tmb— Daniel (@Danielkrepi) January 22, 2014
Not especially. Word on the street was that Alistair Overeem was never really a member of the Florida-based â€œBlackziliansâ€ team in any meaningful sense. Even Glenn Robinson of Authentic Sports Management, which represents Overeem, admitted that he â€œran his own camps out of our gym.â€ For him to pick up and move somewhere else for this fight, especially after how the last couple turned out, doesnâ€™t necessarily raise any red flags for me. He could have stayed in Florida and likely been just as safe from any surprise drug tests from the commission in New Jersey, where heâ€™ll fight Frank Mir at UFC 169. Maybe that should tell us all we need to know about the sorry state of drug testing in MMA.
@benfowlkesMMA What is the ceiling for Anthony Johnson in the Light Heavyweight division in the UFC?— Anthony Prokopchuk (@anpro) January 22, 2014
I donâ€™t know, but I do know we wonâ€™t find out by watching him cold-clock journeymen in World Series of Fighting. The best he can hope for there, aside from a few easy paychecks, is that it will serve as a launchpad back into the big leagues. For that, WSOF is well-positioned. Maybe thatâ€™s the best it can do, is rehabilitate old UFC talent while occasionally grooming some new fighters, getting them just enough exposure that we all start to wonder what would happen if they moved over to the UFC. Surely thatâ€™s what Anthony Johnson is hoping for. Itâ€™s not such an impossible dream, since the UFC will need some new (old) blood at light heavyweight soon.
@benfowlkesMMA Any word on the main event for ufc on fox 11 card in Orlando??— Kevin Fey (@RealKevinFey) January 22, 2014
You might not want to hear this, but that card might already be about as good as itâ€™s going to get. UFC president Dana White recently said that the heavyweight tilt between Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne could very well be the headliner, unless something better pops up. â€œAnd something better would have to be a title fight,â€ White added. Paging, world champion Demetrious Johnson…
@benfowlkesMMA Is it fair 4 Bjorn 2 criticize Dana's comments re: GSP's stance on PED test'n when most Bellator shows R on Tribal land? #TMB— Aaron Fisher (@ph1sher) January 22, 2014
I donâ€™t know what the exact percentage of Bellator events on tribal land is, nor do I think that tribal land necessarily equals especially lax drug testing, but you do raise a good point about Bjorn Rebneyâ€™s convenient timing on performance-enhancing drug issues. In a lot of ways, Bellator wants us to consider it the UFCâ€™s equal. But with that status should come a certain amount of responsibility, and Bellator doesnâ€™t seem particularly eager to share in that part of it.
If anything, Bellator should see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation. If Rebney thinks St-Pierre was on point with his drug testing complaints, then why isnâ€™t Bellator going above and beyond the existing regulations to make sure its athletes are clean? Why aren’t we hearing about how much better its testing regimen is than any faced by UFC fighters? Probably because that would be expensive, and maybe Rebney believes that not enough people would care to make it worth the effort. And maybe thatâ€™s true. Maybe thatâ€™s also why this is a persistent problem that isnâ€™t getting fixed, because as much as we might whine and complain about PEDs, what we really want is to see the fighters get in there and bang, bro.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAYâ€™s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.