Welcome fight fans to what is the debut edition of my new weekly column (no really) TFI Fighting! Every week I’ll be bringing my perspective on the latest news from the world of combat sports. Without further adieu let’s get on with this week’s column!
Another Silver Lining: Jose Aldo vs The Korean Zombie
Today Dana White broke the news that Anthony Pettis had followed in the footsteps of Alistair Overeem, Renan Barao, Cat Zigano and Little Nog by dropping out of a featured bout on a summer UFC pay per view. Yes after taking the Winter and Spring off (maybe it was out injured!?!) the UFC’s injury bug has returned. Except this time there’s a one difference.
These injuries are helping the UFC.
Losing Alistair Overeem ensured that both him and Junior Dos Santos remained in title contention rather than being put in a final eliminator that would have relegated one of them to also-ran status. It also gave the UFC a much-needed marketable fighter for its debut on Fox Sports 1. Likewise, despite the damage it did to Saturday’s card in Winnipeg, Little Nog withdrawing from UFC 161 freed up Shogun to end the UFC’s torturous quest to find a main event for its big Boston bash.
Meanwhile Renan Barao’s injury managed to take two fighters off the marquee that was a negative for business. Other than Urijah Faber’s matches the male bantamweight division has failed to connect with the paying audience to the extent that promoting light heavyweight clash Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson to the main event has almost certainly made the event easier to market to the average fan. Likewise, while she lost to Cat Zigano there’s few who would deny that Miesha Tate is the perfect rival for Rhonda Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter 18.
Which brings us to Anthony Pettis. I admit I was never a fan of him challenging Jose Aldo. It just didn’t make any sense. It was clearly advertised on network television that Pettis had earned a title shot at 155Ibs by destroying Donald Cerrone. The UFC has been guilty on far too many occasions recently of not honouring its stipulations which has predictably resulted in fans no longer caring about the multitude of “final eliminator” matches that the promotion books. Which is why they have to give away title matches to secure good ratings on FOX.
The imperative to follow through on what they had promised the viewing audience is even greater when doing so would lead to a rematch of one of the best matches in the sport’s history. Benson Henderson vs Anthony Pettis was a twenty-five minute masterpiece with a jaw-dropping finishing sequence where Pettis secured the title in the final minutes with a cage-assisted kick that was literally like something out of a Bruce Lee film. Sadly both men seem disinterested in meeting again. Last February while Henderson cheer-led for Frankie Edgar to be given an unearned rematch, Pettis nonchalantly went on holiday despite insiders warning him that he was about to lose his promised title shot. And after Pettis defeated Cerrone, Henderson made clear his disinterest in the rematch, something that ‘Showtime’ clearly concurred with judging by his challenge to Aldo.
Whatever their motivations both men’s preference has clearly hurt the lightweight division. Henderson vs. Pettis II would have been the match to reintroduce the division to pay per view, particularly if the UFC had been in position to heavily feature Pettis on the telecast of Henderson vs. Melendez. Instead taking Pettis out of the division has left the UFC with a largely unknown TJ Grant about to headline a pay per view that, despite all the recent exposure enjoyed by Henderson, will surely bomb commercially.
And the crazy thing is that the featherweight division didn’t need Pettis to give Jose Aldo a marketable challenger. In Chan-Sung Jung, “The Korean Zombie”, the UFC had a popular, exciting fighter who in his previous three victories had one of the best submissions (against Leonard Garcia), one of the quickest knockouts (against Mark Hominick) and one of the best fights (against Dustin Poirier) ever seen in the UFC. Aldo vs. Zombie is a match that many fans have rightly been demanding to see for over a year. Pettis’ injury means we finally get to see it and hopefully it’ll ultimately mean we’ll finally see Pettis vs Henderson II.
Cheap Plug: WWE vs. UFC
On behalf of Fighting Spirit Magazine I recently spoke to WWE Hall of Famer and talent scout Gerald Brisco about the promotions plans for talent development. In a wide-ranging interview where he touched on the new WWE Performance Centre, how the promotion evaluates talent, HHH’s role in Talent Development he gave his verdict on the UFC’s impact on WWE’s ability to recruit talent:
“In the beginning it did affect us but now we’re more on an equal playing surface with the UFC. I don’t sense that we’re losing as many guys as we did when the UFC first got really big. I think the bloom is off the rose”.
He also gave us an insight into how WWE convinces athletes to choose pro-wrestling over sports competition:
“The argument I use is that you can be doing pro-wrestling for years whereas UFC is like pro-football and other sports in that it’s for a very limited amount of time. We give athletes the opportunity to have a much longer career than other sports”.
You can read the entire article plus my column on why Showtime’s relationship with Golden Boy is doomed to failure and my reports on May’s UFC events plus much, much more by buying the magazine through the FSM App on Android and iTunes. It’s also available on the newsstand throughout the UK and Ireland.
UFC Pride: Josh Thomson vs. Gay Marriage
So this week saw the UFC’s latest stop on its LGBT outreach tour saw lightweight contender Josh Thomson trot out the old trope of “well if you allow gay marriage then what about incest, paedophilia, polygamy or beastality”. This is both dumb and offensive. It’s dumb because that sort of slippery slope argument can just as easily be used against heterosexual marriage as homosexual marriage “oh you let this guy marry a girl…well what’s to stop him marrying his sister..or a friend’s daughter…or one of the sexier Lassies”. Equally it should be clear that allowing siblings to marry or one person to have multiple spouses is a far more significant change in family relations than letting gay relationships being treated in the same way as similar straight ones.
And it’s offensive to compare homosexuality with paedophilia or beastality because it clearly seeks to say that there’s no moral difference between a loving relationship between adult, consenting homosexuals and predatory sexual acts between adults and those who are unable to truly consent. It might not be as crass as Nate Diaz going round calling people he deems unmanly and dishonourable ‘fags’ but Thomson’s comments were far more bigoted and hateful.