Week in MMA & Boxing #36
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
April 22nd- April 28th, 2016
UFC 200 Set: Jones vs Cormier 2
A strange and at times embarrassing week for the UFC ended with the announcement that Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title would be the new main event for UFC 200 on 7/9 at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
It’s rare that a rematch of one of the biggest grudge matches in company history, and the best fighter perhaps in the sport’s history coming back to take the belt he never lost, ends up as a letdown main event. And while it will be big, as will the show and the weekend, when the dust clears, the questions will always be just how big could UFC 200 had been as opposed to how big it was.
Jones handily won the first fight when Cormier was 35 and he was 27. Now, when he’s 28 or 29, depending on the day, and Cormier is 37, Jones laid down the hard truths in a face-to-face interview building the planned fight up. Cormier isn’t going to be faster, or stronger, at 37, while Jones, in theory, is now entering his prime. In the first fight, the big question was whether Cormier’s wrestling would be enough to give Jones fits and win rounds. Instead, even with Cormier training with one of the greatest wrestlers of the era to get ready, it was Jones who had the advantage in the wrestling aspect.
One thing that will be notable to watch is what the UFC 200 brand name means. Ticket sales for Jones vs. Cormier on 4/23 were disappointing. The gate for the show was $2.3 million. It is possible that the gate was a little lower with people asking for refunds when Cormier was no longer on the show, but we heard nothing about new tickets being on the market and substantial refunds as was the case in March.
But that was still a disappointing number for a huge grudge match and Jones’ return. The prior Jones vs. Cormier fight, while doing a healthy gate, was not nearly as big when it came to live ticket sales as it was as a PPV attraction.
The hope for UFC 200, with the most expensive prices ever, and the largest capacity in Las Vegas with the new 20,000 seat arena, was to top the $12,075,000 gate record set in Rogers Center in Toronto for UFC 129. With McGregor headlining the loaded show and the big week of activities, they had a good shot at it. With Jones vs. Cormier, it’s very clear what the level of business in Las Vegas that fight was worth. Anything significantly past that level would have been generated by it being UFC 200, and a little from the stronger undercard this time out.
The announcement of the new main event confirmed that Conor McGregor was off the show after a dispute where the details are still sketchy. McGregor ended up playing his hand for more than he had and his belief in his intelligence and manipulation ability backfired on him. He became a guy who thought he was so much smarter than everyone else, which usually catches up to people.
What is known is the issues between the UFC and McGregor had been building for a long time. Several days before it became a public story when McGregor on 4/19 announced he was retiring, there had been a stalemate in talks, believed to be between McGregor and Lorenzo Fertitta.
McGregor was asking for something, which wasn’t clear, which UFC wasn’t willing to bend on, as they almost always had in the past for McGregor. McGregor claimed that he had made the company so much money (his claimed $400 million in eight months is ridiculous, although did generate more than $100 million for the company since July), that they should give him what he asked for.
The UFC’s side is that they created the platform and gave McGregor the biggest push of any fighter which gave him the opportunity to be the biggest star. They noted they were spending $1 million to make the television commercial and $10 million in total to promote UFC 200, the largest promotional budget in company history.
The reality is that UFC gave McGregor far more money in promotional backing for his shows, and much stronger undercards than the other top star, Rousey. But McGregor worked hard on promotion and delivered on his end in his fights. Even after losing to Diaz, because of his reaction and quest to get revenge for the loss, he was almost a sure thing to break every company business record at UFC 200.
Those talks ended with McGregor saying that he wasn’t coming to Las Vegas to shoot the commercial for UFC 200 nor attend the three press conferences, with the other two scheduled for Stockton and New York, nor appear on “Live! With Kelly and Michael” on ABC on 4/26.
He was told that if he didn’t show up in Las Vegas, he would be taken off the show. Several days later, with no movement and both sides having kept quiet, he announced his retirement. Dana White then announced that he had said he wasn’t coming to do the press conference, that you have to do it, an that he was off the show.
McGregor’s next move was to put up a Facebook post. Clearly the post was a way to sway to the public in his favor and pressure UFC to put him back on the show without him having to back down. UFC responded by saying McGregor was still not back on the show. McGregor had at first made UFC look bad because he went and told people he was willing to fight and just wanted a break from the promotional schedule. It did make him sympathetic to people because he made it clear he was willing to fight, and at that point, fans want the fight.
UFC felt that if McGregor was allowed to miss the key press conferences and not film the television commercial, it would set a bad precedent with fighters like Rousey and Jones.
Ultimately, it was a pissing contest that should have been settled days earlier because everyone involved is out millions of dollars if McGregor isn’t fighting. McGregor made it clear he wanted to fight. Diaz made it clear he wanted to fight McGregor. But whatever the real impasse was, it was still there and the fight wasn’t put back on.
On 4/24, McGregor Tweeted, “Happy to announce that I am BACK on UFC 200! Shout out to Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta on getting this on done for the fans.” The problem is there still had been no communication between the sides according to White. And clearly, there had been no agreement. The fight wasn’t on. Exactly what his strategy was is unclear, but it was an ill-advised move.
McGregor saying he’s paid to fight and not to promote, ironically a line his rival Aldo said last year. The line was ridiculous then, just as it is now, and nobody on the roster understands that better than McGregor.
The contracts specifically state fighters have to reasonably promote the fight. If he’s looking for a break, there is a compromise. But you can’t skip the TV commercials, or the limited major network mainstream talk shows since they are the key in expanding the audience and where the increased numbers are going to come from.
But in the end, he cried wolf one time too many, came across as desperate, and is out millions of dollars. UFC is out even more money. And exactly what positive come out of it? They showed McGregor, and every fighter on the roster, that when they threaten to pull you off the show if you don’t show up for media, they meant it, no matter who you are.
McGregor showed that he’s someone who can’t be taken seriously, which isn’t the best thing when his job is have the public take him seriously so he can talk them into being interested and believing what he says is legit when he’s talking them into buying his fights. And in the end everyone, from the promotion to McGregor, to the UFC fan base, all lost because the show, as big as it will be, is not going to reach its full potential.
MSG Show in November
Dana White during the week said that McGregor would be fighting soon, and at first gave the impression that the rematch with Nate Diaz is off the books and he’d next defend the featherweight title against the winner of the 7/9 fight between top contenders Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar with the interim featherweight title at stake. That would lead to a timetable of October or November, almost perfect with Madison Square Garden booked on 11/15 for UFC 205.
Jones, for his part, was already talking about defending his title if he beats Cormier, against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson on that show, which is also hoped for to be the site of Ronda Rousey’s return.
At one point when asked if McGregor would face the winner on at MSG, White said that wouldn’t be the case as they’ve got other things planned for that show and was expecting McGregor to fight before that date. Still, if Edgar, who is from New Jersey and had lobbied hard for the legalization of professional MMA in New York wins, McGregor vs. Edgar in MSG makes sense.
The Return of Jon Jones
Judging Jones’ performance at UFC 197 is kind of scary. Jones looked tentative, admitted himself he that he didn’t pull the trigger on 50 to 60 percent of the openings he saw, and his performance led to people questioning if Cormier or Anthony Rumble Johnson were his opponent that night that Jones may not have even won the fight.
But even not at his best, he handily won all five rounds and broke the arm of opponent Ovince Saint Preux in the first or second round, likely when Saint Preux attempted to block a kick. Jones captured the interim light heavyweight title, and immediately noted that it wasn’t the real thing, even though Jones himself had never been beaten for the original belt.
Jones, for his part, claimed it wasn’t ring rust for being off for 17 months, nor a conditioning problem even though he did appear more tired than in previous fights, while competing with a body more muscular than in the past after getting into powerlifting in the past year.
Jones claimed the difference is he had been specifically game planning for Cormier, and Saint Preux was a completely different fighter, both in size, style and strengths.
Mighty Mouse Impresses Again
The closest thing to an intriguing fight for Demetrious Johnson, the challenge of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo, lasted only 2:49. Cejudo’s strategy of trying to wear Johnson down in the clinch backfired, as Cejudo landed hard knees to the liver that ended the fight.
Johnson is now left with no viable opponents in the thin flyweight division. Even giving up size, he would likely be competitive at bantamweight. Before the flyweight division was created, Johnson had gotten a title shot at bantamweight and made a strong showing in a decision loss to Dominic Cruz. Today’s Johnson is a far better fighter, more skilled and quicker, but also physically smaller, than the Johnson of 2011. But Johnson made it clear that his goal is to break Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses. The Cejudo win was No. 8 for Johnson, so he needs three more to break Silva’s record of ten.
Cruz and Faber Heat Intensifies
Dominick Cruz went heavy after Urijah Faber when it came to the insinuations Faber made last week about Cruz’s changing physique and PEDs. “I understand all is fair in love and war,” he said on the MMA Hour. “I get that he is going t come and attack me. I get that he wants to attack my character. He’s been doing this to me since 2007. This is the Faber game. He wants to turn everybody against you and make himself the good guy. He can’t handle being the not liked guy. But at the same time, this is all based off of fear.” “This is his excuse. He’s setting up excuses for the loss that I’m about to serve him.”
But Cruz said Faber’s insinuations regarding T.J. Dillashaw bothered him more. “He has no professionalism. No loyalty. Before he said anything about me, he attacked Dillashaw on The Herd show and tried to deny it and say he didn’t. But it’s like he’s trying to destroy Dillashaw’s career, and this is somebody who is supposed to be his family, his best friend. They were brothers at one point. I mean, I’m not the biggest fan of Dillashaw.” “You can see in our last fight build up that he’s not my favorite person either. But he does mentor kids in wrestling and he does do stuff, and his own best friend is accusing him of using PED’s.”
“That’s a scumbag move. That’s your ex-friend, all because he left your camp? I mean, that shows the true colors of Faber. When you’re attacking me, I can understand that because he wants to ruin my faith because we’re fighting. But when you’re attacking a friend because he left your camp, you’re just a scumbag.
GGG Continues to Roll
Last Saturday night IBF/IBO/WA middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs) made easy work of little known Dominic Wade (19-1, 12 KOs) in stopping him in the 2nd at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Golovkin’s performance last weekend performance proved for one more time that he is one gear ahead of his competitors in the middleweight division.
Many all-time greats have gone up and down in weight for the chance to fight with the best. This is something that has happened and will keep happening. For example, we see now that Andre Ward has gone up the scales so he can face stronger opponents. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather went up in weight many times to secure their position to stardom and greatness.
If there are no great fights out there, you make them happen, you shift, you transcend into different weight sizes. You do whatever necessary to become an all-time great. It’s not just Saul Canelo Alvarez out there for Golovkin, there are many others waiting but in different weight divisions.