Week in MMA & Boxing #14
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
October 24 - October 30, 2015
Cormier needs Jones
Daniel Cormier won a decision over Alexander Gustafsson on 10/3 in Houston and the PPV numbers gave very strong evidence of the public’s view regarding his championship run. Nobody buys him as the real champion.
A hard working promoter of his fights, and very visible, given his hosting duties on UFC Tonight, Cormier did not draw well with Gustafsson. The problem, whether Cormier was to face Gustafsson, Ryan Bader, Rashad Evans or Glover Teixeira, is that they were all matches of guys that Jones had already beaten. Cormier may have talked of winning the title as the accomplishment of the goal of being the very best that eluded him in wrestling, and in losing the Jones fight. But the nature of the loss to Jones was something neither he, nor the title belt, would be able to fully overcome to the public without beating Jones in a rematch.
While the only numbers we have are based on very early returns, which are at best rough estimates, they would indicated a figure in the ballpark of 250,000 buys, which would be the lowest PPV number for a light heavyweight title fight since the 2006 explosion.
While Gustafsson was criticized as a contender since he was knocked out by Anthony Johnson in the first round of his prior fight, every other significant contender besides Johnson, who Cormier choked out, was tainted by having lost to Jones, and Gustafsson gave Jones his best fight. The lesson of the Cormier vs. Gustafsson PPV number could be a lot of things, but the biggest is that Cormier may have the belt, but the people considered Jones as the real champion, whether they agreed or disagreed with the punishment of taking the belt off him.
The show did probably closer to what an interim title fight would have done, and that’s probably because the public viewed it as a fight to see who would eventually face Jones in the big fight, and not as the big fight.
In that sense, as much as people thought the Jones reinstatement was the worst thing for Cormier, it’s something that he needed as much as anyone, even if that need may cost him his title sooner.
There is still the intrigue and interest of Jones returning to go after the title, which will draw. It’s hard to imagine the grudge match aspect being close to the first one. They’ll talk it up. Will Jones chasing the title and it being a big fight make up for the idea that it’s going to be very difficult to convince the public that Jones is in any jeopardy.
As champion, Cormier will get a bigger cut of the pay-per-view than he got the first time, so financially it’ll be the biggest thing probably of his life. He also has one last shot at exorcizing the demons of being one of the best guys of his era in two different sports, but never being the man or beating the man, even if he could beat almost everyone else.
One of the lures of the first fight was Cormier chasing. Really, belt or not, he’s still the one chasing the dream of public acceptance as champion. Challenger or not, Jones is the one not chasing anything but a physical belt.
While the show was short on star power, UFC’s 10/24 show at Dublin’s 3Arena had one of the hottest crowds in company history, which made for an entertaining show.
From a news standpoint, the biggest news was before the fight when Joe Duffy, the biggest Irish star on the show suffered a concussion in training seven days before the event and was ruled medically unable to fight on 10/21. Duffy had looked great with two straight first round finishes since debuting in UFC, is best known as the guy who submitted Conor McGregor in 38 seconds in a 2010 fight in Cork City.
Dustin Poirier, who was set to face Duffy, was then offered Norman Parke, but Poirier turned down the fight, saying he’d gain nothing from fighting Parke, and could break his hand or tear his ACL. He said he would rather wait for Duffy to recover and face him.
This came on the heels of the semi-main falling apart when Stipe Miocic pulled out due to injury on 10/14, and it was too late to find Ben Rothwell a new heavyweight opponent.
This left the show with a main event of Louis Smolka vs. Paddy Holohan, with the Hawaiian, Smolka, scoring a second round win. The crowd still cheered Holohan like crazy after losing, and Smolka praised the crowd when it was over. They cheered him as well. Still, when he left the cage, there were drinks thrown at him and one of the members of his team was hit with, of all things, a tennis ball. He took it in stride, saying that he expected worse since he beat the hometown guy.
UFC didn’t announce the attendance for the Fight Pass exclusive event, but the show sold out immediately when tickets were put on sale. The first time they were in the same arena, they drew 9,500 fans, a sellout, so the attendance should have been pretty close to that. At one point in the show, there was a “Croke Park” chant, so the fans clearly wanted a show brought to the 80,000-seat stadium in town. The UFC has said on several occasions that a PPV show would happen there if McGregor wins the title, with him making his first defense.
While not the best fight on the show, the high point was a win from Dublin’s Aisling Daly in the first UFC women’s fight in the country. Daly was in the TUF house for the women’s strawweight tournament the first time UFC ran Dublin. The place went crazy for her before, during, and even more after the fight. It was one of the most amazing reactions you’ll ever see, and she was the babyface of all babyfaces. She was so gracious and real that she came across like a giant superstar to the audience. But this was an audience, more than any other, that goes crazy for hometown fighters, and, even more than Brazilians ever did, on a per capita basis, will travel in great numbers to the U.S. for a big event.
It was a vivid lesson that while there are attributes that help you connect and be a star, but who can be a star isn’t cut and dried. In this case, Daly had a quality about her that would just make you like her (very similar to Bayley in NXT). She talked about how when she walked to the cage and got the big reaction, she walked as slow as she could so it would last longer. After winning, she climbed to the top of the cage to celebrate and was crying because the reaction so was big. She then did this ridiculously likeable interview about how long she had trained, talking about how UFC had said they would never use women so she thought for a long time, she’d never get the chance, but now she was in the first UFC women’s fight ever in Ireland. Overall, it was very close to the best reaction to an undercard fight and fighter in company history.
In the big picture, Daly appears to be a decent enough fighter but not of championship level. She’ll be great to have on every show in Ireland. But given this was a Fight Pass show, meaning very limited viewership into the U.S., it’s not like anything on this show is going to have worldwide ramifications.
The $50,000 bonuses went to Tom Breese and Neil Seery for best performances, and Darren Till and Nicolas Darby for best fight on a show with several candidates for that honor.
UFC is currently in talks about whether to purchase the naming rights on the new 20,000-seat MGM Arena in Las Vegas that opens this summer across the street from the MGM Grand. The new arena will be the new “in” place for boxing and UFC. The city will also be putting in a bid to get an NHL team, which would be the city’s first major league pro sports franchise.
The Fertitta Brothers have talked with the MGM and AEG (which will be managing the building) about spending several million dollars over many years to have the building called the UFC Center. It was reported in Las Vegas this week that the UFC is going to be looking at whether it’s a sound business decision for them, and either make the bid or not in about two weeks.
Diaz might get off
Nick Diaz’s legal team and the Nevada Athletic Commission have been meeting trying to rectify his suspension situation, so the issue may end up settled without going to court. Hopefully cooler heads prevail because the five year suspension just wasn’t justified. The commission released a statement saying that settlement talks between the two sides are ongoing. MMAFighting.com reported that Diaz’s suspension could be lifted at some point next year
Calderwood Pulls off
Joanne Calderwood pulled out of her 12/10 Las Vegas main event fight with Paige VanZant on the Fight Pass exclusive show of that week. VanZant will now face Rose Namajunas
Cyborg still working
Cris Cyborg said that she’s dieted down from 177 to 165. A couple of years ago, when Invicta tried the regular PPV based around her headlining and Tito Ortiz was managing her and trying to prove that she couldn’t make 135 to force Rousey to move up, her walk around weight then was 160. But I did see her in July a few days after her fight and again in September at Bellator and it was clear she’d dropped regular walk-around weight.
Rousey’s walk around weight varies between 148 and 152 and she doesn’t have an issue getting to 135, so Cyborg probably needs to drop a good ten more pounds to make the weight and still be healthy. The goal for now is probably to hit around 160 and cut from there to 140 for her next fight
Thurman vs. Porter likely to be moved to 2016
According to reports, the much talked about contest between WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman and Showtime Shawn Porter is being moved to 2016 rather than taking place on December 12th like what was talked about. The Thurman-Porter fight could take place on Premier Boxing Champions on Fox Sports.
The idea in moving the Thurman vs. Porter fight to 2016 is that it will give more time to build the fight to make it a bigger fight. If the Thurman-Porter fight were to take place in December, it wouldn’t give enough time to make it a huge fight.
There’s just not enough time to make it the huge fight that it deserves to be if they let the fight take place in just two months from now. It’s actually less than two full months due to October almost being over. There’s a possibility that the fight could take place on January 23rd, which is the first PBC fight of the year on Fox Sports.