The Wayward Ship of Mixed Martial Arts

By: S. Davis

aldo

For weeks there’s been a subject within sports that I’ve tried to view from all sides before typing out my thoughts: Jose Aldo Jr.

I have no idea what direction this column will take considering how repugnant I find the treatment he’s received from the UFC – and fans of mixed martial arts as a whole. Let’s jump to the first order of business and the matter that has him, at what seems, like the end of his contractual ties to the UFC (provided he can successfully walk away from the five or six fights remaining on his current deal): The UFC featherweight championship.

My memory can be cloudy at times but he accomplished what was required to gain his rematch for the undisputed featherweight crown due to his victory at UFC 200 – and yet still has to chase his tail. The sport has to be about merit over just mere money or spectacle fights. Or am I wrong here? At what point does actually winning crucial fights and climbing invalid rankings matter? The UFC doesn’t have a lot of stars, especially if the label is applied directly to Conor McGregor.

If McGregor is the draw that the world says he is then it should never matter who shares the cage with him. I mean he’s the sole reason that every card he performs on breaks records. It must be cool to see him fill out a full fight card on his own while miraculously changing weight classes in mere minutes and shadowboxing himself to the delight of the cheering fans in the audience and in the stands. I need to learn how to clone myself. What a trick!

He secured a shot at Aldo by defeating Dennis Siver. Dennis Siver. Aldo earned a rematch for the official featherweight belt by defeating another worthy challenger for McGregor by besting Frankie Edgar. No other champion has been blocked at the door to a title shot and/or rematch in such a fashion. The interim title is created ONLY to ensure a unification bout. Period. There is an interim champion while the actual champion is healthy and active. What? Exactly. The match should be booked – or should’ve taken place already.

How many of you would deal with lies from management every time a performance review is issued (in this case substitute “performance review” for fight agreement/contract)? How would YOU cope with being lied to on more than one occasion by your employer when YOU’VE accomplished every task that was placed on your desk in order to claim the goal you were reaching to attain? Why are all these obstacles in the way of such a long reigning champion? He’s traveling detours that McGregor bypassed since signing with the promotion.

Is Ronda Rousey walking directly into a title shot in her return? Of course she is and she deserves it. Does it make sense? Ehh…

I do not want him to leave/retire but I fully understand if he follows through with his decision. It’s sad that he can’t get a rematch while White and new management allows the featherweight champion to take a third fight outside of the division in which he’s supposed to reign over. McGregor’s being allowed to jump for two consecutive belts when Aldo, B.J. Penn, and Anthony Pettis were all told they would have to surrender a title to chase a second. Aldo deserves his rematch – and some respect by the promotion. I hope he isn’t holding his breath because recent history shows it isn’t coming.

What is a two division champion worth when he hasn’t made a single title defense? At least the allure of Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre had two champions with long reigns as an additional selling point of the card. The headlining fight of UFC 205 should be full of fireworks but selling it as a historic moment for the challenger – if he defeats Eddie Alvarez, who’s being preposterously overlooked – rings hollow when the only reason he would hold two championships, simultaneously, is because others before him were blocked from the same opportunity.

A few days ago White was quoted as saying “he can’t make McGregor fight anyone” to which I laughed. What have I been watching for the last eight years that I’ve been following the UFC? He can’t “make” a fighter sign a contract as the president of the promotion? That’s not what I’ve seen in my small time as a viewer of the product and of his actions, specifically.

I’ve heard – too many times to count – that Aldo’s the reason that he isn’t a draw. That his refusal to learn passable English is the reason the company can’t sell him to the masses. Is Vitor Belfort a draw? Is he big business on pay-per-view? His English is perfect so why isn’t he crushing television sales all over?

What about Anderson Silva – arguably the greatest martial artist of any weight to ever compete in the sport – and his ability to move the needle? Does he do massive numbers? What are his metrics? He’s able to converse in English and shows a level of comfort with the language; has the UFC promoted him in the manner in which they should’ve while he was on his ascent?

What about Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Chuck Liddell, Penn, Pettis, Rashad Evans, Chris Weidman, Michael Bisping, etc? They all speak English and they’re all stars to varying degrees but in the numbers game that fans and media slobber over – to the point of nausea – are they bankable? Can they sell an event on their own? There are over 500 fighters on the roster but only a handful of stars. Remember McGregor sells events completely alone.

So the position that Aldo doesn’t draw shouldn’t matter since the UFC has other notable athletes that aren’t bringing in the casual viewer. Again, if the Irishman is a walking one million buy-rate by his mere existence than he can share the marquee with a stuffed bear and make a killing.

That media hasn’t supported an Aldo title shot is odd when you look at the other side of the equation and witness how giddy they are when discussing the featherweight champion. (How many defenses of the title does he have by the way? Isn’t that how combat sports measures the dominance of a champion in their weight class?) They’ve gone from reporters/analysts to cheerleaders with press passes.

McGregor’s been disrespectful of his fellow fighters before he even got the UFC push – and now when any fighter mentions his name (mostly in response to a question) they are labeled as haters and “jealous bums.” Have we forgotten the comments he made about going into Brazil’s favelas and “capturing those fit to work” during the promotional tour for UFC 189? What about his attack of Rafael dos Anjos for having the gall to even think of leaving Brazil to give his family the type of life he could only dream of as a child? That’s humble though?

I get the sales aspect of his persona, which is a rip-off of Vince McMahon, don’t be fooled, but hasn’t he gone too far with his verbal attacks? I may be posing the wrong inquiry since everyone else claps and cheers. He’s smart by using the leverage he’s acquired – and I’m happy that he’s challenging the UFC as it pertains to pay and contract negotiations because they’ve been grossly negligent. I respect him for that but the hypocrisy that follows the majority of his actions is hilarious. RDA is a traitor to his country by relocating to California but McGregor sure does spend ample time in Newport Beach and Manhattan Beach.

What does it say about the UFC if Aldo leaves? What message does it send if they allow him the freedom he hopes to gain in a meeting later this week?

Are they upset at him over his injury history? I’m sure that doesn’t help but an injury is a reason to pull out of a fight, in my opinion. Walking into a cage, to FIGHT, another well-trained athlete is not akin to stepping on a basketball court, baseball diamond or even a football field. No one should ever enter a fight – with regulated rules – when they aren’t as close to optimal condition if they can avoid it. Fans use his injury history as an argument to question his record and weaken his claim for a title shot. I’m sorry but that’s weak.

Would YOU fight when the whole world and your opponent is fully aware of your exact physical impairment? Would YOU risk your title with these circumstances at your feet?

Furthermore he’s a target for declining to rematch McGregor at UFC 196 once dos Anjos had to pull out. So he’s killed for that yet when anytime any other fighter gets knocked out in the fashion in which he did when he lost the title – time, as in months off, seems to be the accepted way to recover. He escapes that luxury though.

What the hell am I missing here?

Why was the camera footage of him completely inconsolable after losing the featherweight title released? What’s the reason it got leaked? Where are the other athletes’ tapes, post-fight? Where’s the footage of McGregor after he was finished by Nate Diaz – or any fighter on the losing side at the end of the night?

UFC officials, namely White, seem surprised that Aldo has a list of gripes. Really? He’s the first featherweight champion in the company’s history and accumulated seven actual title defenses. He was forced to shove Edgar out of the picture (succeeded there) in a match that didn’t have to take place and still has to wait for an opponent that has other plans besides making the cut to 145 because it’s too hard but can still call himself the champion of the division. He has every right to have real problems with UFC management.

A 13 second knockout shouldn’t eliminate a decorated career or become a stain on his resume. Especially when he’s not being afforded a rematch, one he earned by winning that ridiculous interim title. A pinpoint left hand doesn’t foretell the outcome of a rematch. Cain Velasquez was soundly defeated by Junior dos Santos once, earned his way back to a heavyweight title rematch…and, well, we saw the two fights that closed out their trilogy.

If the fact that he fails at being a draw is the sole reason to deny his title shot then there isn’t a single athlete in the company that should get a chance to book a fight at all. It’s just about stars, right? There are only three stars connected to the UFC: Rousey, McGregor and Brock Lesnar. The fourth, St-Pierre, is having his motives, heart, and desire questioned when the informed are aware that someone in the UFC is balking at paying GSP a fight purse that he clearly deserves.

I’ve been excited to see the growth of the UFC – and MMA – over the last eight years but the luster of it is waning, I have to admit. The hypocrisy surrounding one fighter has me less energized for the sport. The rabid fans that have come out of another universe want to view the sport through lenses that don’t exist for everyone else but I forgot that one fighter sells pay-per-views without the support of an undercard. I guess I’m tone deaf.

This could all be a negotiating tactic by Aldo and I truly hope that it is. He’s definitely one of the best fighters ever and on my top three of all-time. Although I mostly hate lists, my three favorite fighters are Jones, GSP and Aldo. He’s fought against the best the weight class has offered without the added benefit of convenient matchmaking.

Has he set fire to the company’s plans by having to cancel title defenses? Yes. He’s been hurt, yes, but he defended the featherweight crown seven times without a bad night at the office. Footwork and a devastating left was his undoing but it shouldn’t define him. Can you name a former champion that dealt with these diversionary tactics while upholding his end of the bargain only to be turned away time after time? There isn’t one.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s