Week in MMA & Boxing #35
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
April 16th- April 22, 2016
McGregor Shakes up the MMA World
Thus has to have been one of the craziest news weeks in UFC history. We have full coverage and thoughts on everything that has transpired in the story of Conor McGregor announcing his retirement, being taken off UFC 200, and announcing he's no longer retired and all the inside scoop here.
What Now for UFC 200?
The fact the UFC didn’t announce either Robbie Lawler or Rafael dos Anjos against Diaz in a title fight, a deal they could have easily put together, would indicate either they were either strongly leaving the door open for Conor to come to his senses and agree to terms, or they working on something bigger that they couldn’t pull the trigger on the deal at short notice.
The only thing bigger that would come to mind would involve Georges St-Pierre.
Dana White said that they would be bringing Diaz to Las Vegas and talk to him about a new main event for the show. From the outside, the logical move, barring St-Pierre fighting, would be Diaz getting a shot at either lightweight champion dos Anjos or welterweight champion Lawler.
But St-Pierre is the lone prospective opponent that would enable UFC to do even close to the big numbers expected out of the show, particularly if that $10 million promotional budget is accurate. St-Pierre in the slot would still allow them to keep the dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez fight on 7/7 and leave Lawler to headline in August.
St-Pierre’s public statement on the MMA Hour on 4/18 was that he was going to do a camp and see how his body reacts, and then make the call if he’s going to fight again or retire. He seemed to be more open to fighting in interviews of late, and those close to him have been even stronger that he’d be coming back. But St-Pierre made it clear that he would have to renegotiate his current contract, because he made a lot of money on sponsorship when he was a fighter, and with the UFC Reebok deal, he couldn’t make that kind of money. So he was indicating he felt it was only fair for UFC to increase his purse to make up for his lost revenue.
UFC 200 Prediction
On the surface, the lineup with dos Anjos in the match at 500,000 to 600,000 buys, but the idea of it being UFC 200 could knock it up slightly. For Lawler, I’d peg it a little higher. For St-Pierre, because of UFC 200 and the loaded undercard, and St-Pierre not having fought for three years, it could do 1,000,000.
If the McGregor vs. Diaz’s first fight did 1,500,000 buys as UFC has claimed, a rematch would be bigger, and throwing in the more loaded undercard and UFC 200 name, I’d figure the difference with him and without him at 1.1 million buys for a Lawler or dos Santos fight, and UFC’s cut would probably be at least $30 per buy, so that’s $33 million right there, not including his being worth $5 million more at the gate, and untold revenue whether it’s merchandise, Fan Expo, tickets to the other weekend shows and value of the brand being as big as it would be, and that doesn’t include the huge increase in revenue to the Las Vegas economy that McGregor brings.
With St-Pierre in the spot, which would not be an easy negotiation because it would probably be earlier than St-Pierre was thinking about fighting. St-Pierre from all accounts doesn’t need the money nor will he put himself in a position of fighting if he’s not fully ready. So while his name makes the most sense from a business standpoint, it may be a deal that doesn’t work on that day.
If St-Pierre is going to fight later this year, that first bout buzz he’d do here would be another big show later in the year, so it’s not as if putting St-Pierre on the show, if possible, would mean McGregor really doesn’t mean $40 million conservatively for the show. He still does over the long run.
A UFC 200 with the right promotion and the last week buzz may get that Pacquiao-Mayweather momentum where old records get destroyed. By that I don’t mean 4.65 million buys, and it probably can’t do close to half that, but we’ve seen when it comes to the big shows of late, they usually have been exceeding even the most optimistic predictions. McGregor, more than anyone, realizes that, and knows his leverage for a move is the biggest right now.
But McGregor is also in a position to lose more money than ever before by missing this show. UFC 200 only comes along once, and UFC 300 will be eight or so years away.
International Fight Week
UFC was planning the biggest week of its history in July with three straight nights of championship fights, the Fan Expo, Hall of Fame, culminating in UFC 200, which two day ago looked to do the biggest PPV numbers in company history. But now things like very different. The fifth annual International Fight Week, which is very much the Las Vegas version of WWE’s WrestleMania week, will take place with activities from 7/5 to 7/10.
The third night will be the UFC’s debut at the new 20,000-seat T Mobile Arena, which is less than a block away from the MGM Grand.
At this point UFC has announced its Fan Expo will be 7/8 to 7/10, which will include all kids of amateur tournaments from different disciplines, the 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony, a 5K run with fighters and a number of fan events. Last year featured several concerts.
The idea is to make the Hall of Fame ceremony itself more significant. This year it will be a ceremony airing live on Fight Pass as part of Fan Expo. Last year was a big step in the sense it was done as a television production with planned speeches and big names. The idea is to eventually get it like WWE, where they can hold it as a separate major event, probably starting in a small arena.
The company announced its fourth championship fight of the weekend, this one headlining the first show, a 7/7 Fight Pass Exclusive show, with dos Anjos vs. Alvarez for the lightweight title. Of course this fight is very much subject to change. This is the first men’s title fight ever put on Fight Pass live, and easily the biggest title fight ever put on the service. It’s another example of the company trying to push the importance of Fight Pass with more live events and bigger UFC fights by not putting this on UFC 200. Thus far that is the only fight announced for the show.
The 7/8 show, the FS 1 show, is headlined by Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha for the strawweight title. The footage of Ultimate Fighter is expected to build that into a significant grudge match, as the two didn’t get along at all, and actually got into an off camera fist fight at one point. How much it becomes depends a lot on how many people watch the show, which debuts on 4/20 and climaxes right before the title fight. The card will also include the two TUF title fights, a light heavyweight and women’s strawweight final. Also announced are Scott Askham vs. Anthony Smith, James Krause vs. Ross Pearson and Li Jingliang vs. Anton Zafir.
The 7/9 show, the UFC 200 card will feature a five-fight PPV with Diaz in the main event, the other two title fights, plus Cain Velasquez vs. Travis Browne, where Velasquez would be in line for a heavyweight title shot with a win, and Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum.
Other fights announced for the show are Derek Brunson vs. Gegard Mousasi, Cat Zingano vs. Julianna Pena, Joe Lauzon vs. Diego Sanchez, Sage Northcutt vs. Enrique Marin and Jim Miller vs. Takanori Gomi.
UFC on FOX Review
The snake-bit UFC on FOX show saw the main event changed last week, and then in the three days before the show, two matches fell apart, one of which was a key match on the show.
The new main event of the 4/16 show at the Amalie Arena in Tampa saw Glover Teixeira stop Rashad Evans in just 1:48. It was Evans’ second straight bad performance after coming back from knee surgery at the age of 36. One was left with the feeling it may be the end of the line for him. Teixeira, who challenged Anthony “Rumble” Johnson after winning, moved back into the light heavyweight top tier with Daniel Cormier, Jon Jones and Johnson with the win.
Rose Namajunas won a close decision over Tecia Torres in a bout that probably determined who faces the winner of the 7/8 strawweight title fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha. Namajunas got straight 29-28 scores in a bout that was so close that in a poll of 21 media members scoring, ten had it for Namajunas (we had Namajunas winning rounds two and three, as did two of the three judges), nine had it for Torres and two had it a draw. Torres outlanded Namajunas 61-46 overall in significant strikes, but Namajunas had a 27-20 edge in strikes to the head, and also got two key takedowns, the latter of which gave her the third and what turned out to be the deciding round.
The show did 2,487,000 viewers on FOX from 8-10 p.m., a number slightly higher than I’d have expected given the lineup and the fact it ended at 10 p.m., so you didn’t have a long main event to build the overall number. We don’t have details at press time regarding the main event viewership or the numbers for the 6-8 p.m. period on FOX. It led FOX to winning the night in the 18-49 demo, but finished third behind ABC and CBS as far as overall viewers. It did nearly double the terrible 1,262,000 prime time viewer number that NBC did with Premier Boxing head-to-head.
Flyweight Ultimate Fighter Change
The concept of season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter being a flyweight tournament with the winner getting a title shot is apparently now on hold. The tryouts that were scheduled for last week were canceled.
Demetrious Johnson did an interview with Dave Doyle where he said that he found out about the plan for him to defend his title (if he beats Henry Cejudo on 4/23) in December against the tournament winner was nothing UFC ever brought up to him, and he found out about it from a fan on social media after UFC had already released the information publicly. He said he’s not against the idea, just noted that he compared not being told anything to some fan telling him that his wife was pregnant.
Diego Brandao, 28, a 2011 winner of The Ultimate Fighter who has had mixed success in UFC, was arrested on 4/15 after he allegedly hit a strip club employee in the face with a gun on 4/14. Brandao was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and willful assault with a deadly weapon.
According to the police report and MMA Fighting, Brandao argued with a DJ at the strip club “Knockouts” in Albuquerque, late Wednesday night, which is 4/13. After midnight, he was asked to leave. He then left the club. When he returned, he was not allowed back in due to his behavior when he had been inside. He then allegedly attempted to force his way in by allegedly throwing punches at employees and allegedly hit Anthony Romero, a bouncer, as well as others outside the club. He then left again. He allegedly came back another time that night, this time with a gun. The club ordered the patrons of the club into the bar for shelter when they found out he was armed.
A witness claimed Brandao pointed the gun at the person’s chest and then at Otero before hitting the employee in the face with the butt end of the handgun. The report said that Brandao then pointed his gun once again at the group before he walked back to his vehicle.
Brandao was under a temporary suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission after testing positive for marijuana after his Jan. 2 loss to Brian Ortega in Las Vegas.
UFC issued a statement that they were aware of the incident and in the process of gathering more information. “While we are concerned by the nature of the reported allegations, it is important to note that Brandao is entitled to due process in a court of law. We will have no further comment until more information can be gathered.
Rumble wasn't ready for Jones
Anthony Johnson said that even if he hadn’t had dental surgery, that he probably wouldn’t have taken the short notice fight with Jon Jones. While he didn’t say it this way, evidently at this stage of his career, to rush into a match with Jones without preparation when he’s earned a legit title shot he didn’t think was the best thing for his career, and there is a strong argument in that direction.
Big Bellator July show
The company announced a 7/16 show in London at the O2 Arena headlined by Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson and Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley, plus Michael Page and England’s Linton Vassell are on the show. Because it’s a U.K. show, Spike will likely air the show on a tape delay in prime time. Granted, Slice has proven to be the biggest ratings draw the company has, but the guy just failed a steroid test for both nandrolone and testosterone.
Slice vs. Thompson is a rematch of a May 31, 2008, fight which drew 7,281,000 viewers on CBS, the second most in U.S. history (trailing only the 2011 Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos fight on FOX). Slice won that fight via third round stoppage when Thompson’s ear exploded. Thompson, who is 37, is coming off losses to pro wrestlers Bobby Lashley and Tsuyoshi Kosaka in his previous two fights.
This week’s UFC 197
UFC 197 will be an interesting PPV test. Had Jon Jones fought Daniel Cormier as scheduled, I couldn’t see the show doing less than 700,000 buys. It’s still got Jones’ return after nearly 17 months and is going to get plenty of SportsCenter coverage based on that, and we’ve seen that when SportsCenter gets behind a match, it usually swells interest levels pretty big. But the show is all about Jones, as nobody takes Ovince Saint Preux seriously as an opponent in their interim title match.
The undercard isn’t really that strong as far as names go. Henry Cejudo is as viable a challenger as Demetrious Johnson is going to have, but Johnson is as a weak a drawing champion as UFC has ever had. Edson Barboza vs. Anthony Pettis is a quality lightweight fight and also one that looks to be good as both men usually have entertaining fights and they also both are badly in need of wins. Andre Fili vs. Yair Rodriguez is an action fight on paper and the show also features the return of the first strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, who is on the FS 1 prelims (and not even featured) in her first fight since losing the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The show is going to be pushed as a build to Jones vs. Cormier, likely in the fall, as Cormier will be part of the broadcast team. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Fight Pass with Efrain Escudero vs. Kevin Lee, Clint Hester vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Cody East (coming from Dana White’s Looking for a Fighter series) vs. Walt Harris in a heavyweight battle.
The FS 1 fights at 8 p.m. are Glaico Franca vs. James Vick, Esparza vs. Juliana Lima, Danny Roberts vs. Dominique Steele and Chris Kelades vs. Sergio Pettis. It’s really amazing the positioning of Esparza here since she is ranked No. 2 contender (behind Claudia Gadelha) in UFC’s official rankings yet two unknowns are slated in the match ahead of her as you’d think she would be the FS 1 pushed main event if not on PPV.
The main card at 10 p.m. is Fili vs. Rodriguez, Rafael Natal vs. Robert Whittaker, Barboza vs. Pettis, Demetrious Johnson vs. Cejudo for the flyweight title and Jones vs. Saint Preux for the interim light heavyweight title
This Week's Bellator
A big test show is this weekend, as they are running 4/22 at the Mohegan Sun Casino headlined by Benson Henderson challenging welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov. This week’s show will start one hour earlier than usual, at 8 p.m. Eastern. Henderson was a name fighter who had headlined PPVs and FOX shows, particularly the latter, which had done well, but he wasn’t a superstar and had key recent losses to Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. But he’s still a top quality fighter and would be favored to take the title here, even though Henderson fought mostly at lightweight in UFC and is small for a welterweight (he had a 2-0 record in that division in UFC).
But you could also make a case that Henderson is the best fighter, and certainly the most proven at the top level who is still young enough (32) to be considered the latter stages of his prime, on the entire roster. However, Henderson said this week that no matter what, he is going to retire before his 34th birthday, which would be November 16, 2017. He told Ariel Helwani that he was retired when he was 33, but said it could be 33 years and 11 months. He said he was going to join the military before his 34th birthday and retire from fighting. He said he plans to join military reserves, although noted that recruiters have told him he could be in the reserves and continue his fighting career. Both Brian Stann and Tim Kennedy were still enlisted and continued to fight.
Bellator has proven they can draw with the Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Slice types, and Tito Ortiz drew well the first time but disappointing when he challenged for a title. But Henderson is the biggest test of a UFC name while still a quality fighter, but not a freak show, when it comes to ratings drawing power. The rest of the show on TV features Brent Primus vs. Gleristone Santos, Jeremie Holloway vs. Michael Page (who is a very entertaining striker), Evangelista Santos vs. Brennan Ward (a big area favorite) and Patricio Pitbull Freire vs. Andrey Koreshkov.