The tides aren't changing, and other random thoughts
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Some random thoughts on this beautiful Tuesday in August …
I love MMA. Truly. I have devoted my entire professional career to it, for heaven sake. And I respect fighters tremendously. The fighters — not necessarily the fights, but the fighters — are my favorite part of the sport. So when you continuously hear how the best fighters in the world are broke or struggling financially, like we heard from Jared Cannonier this past week, it hurts. It really bugs me. MMA is a lot more fun when you don’t know how the sausage is made. When you realize just how many of these great fighters are left with very little, it’s tough to hear. And as a media member I appreciate it very much when they open up to us about their struggles because we always want raw honesty from interviewees, but then I’m afraid they’ll get reprimanded for doing so. It’s a bummer. They are not ungrateful, they are not trouble makers. Also, we are not trouble makers. They just want security, like the rest of us. And when you consider what they do for a living, and how life can change for them in a flash, how can you blame them?
I know people will watch that interview with Cannonier and say, “Oh, look at Helwani instigating!” I’m really not. I would prefer to live a drama-free existence, to be honest. But I genuinely care for these people. He brought it up first, after all. I just think it’s important for people to know that their favorite fighters aren’t living the superstar life that they think they are.
Do I see anything changing any time soon? No. There’s no reason to. The UFC or any promoter isn’t just going to change their ways out of the kindness of their hearts. They must be forced to change, and right now there is absolutely no collective voice pushing for change, and I don’t see any change coming any time soon. That’s unfortunate. Sometimes it feels like the media is talking about change more than the majority of the fighters.
My friends at the Lebatard Show had a good chat about this topic earlier this week.
Say what you will about WWE, but when they release someone, controversial decision or not, they’ll usually send out a brief tweet with a link to a Web site to wish the wrestler well in his or hers “future endeavors.” Sometimes it feels cold and callous, other times it feels like just keeping up with a gimmick because that term — “future endeavored” — has become a verb in that world, but at least it’s some kind of acknowledgment of their status. I’d much prefer this over the quiet “removed from the rankings” tweets that pop up on Twitter (also, I have no idea how people notice this stuff, but good on them). For example, Demian Maia deserves some acknowledgment. Alistair Overeem? Junior dos Santos? They deserve something. Anything. One line. Can we get one line for years of entertainment?
Maia’s contract has expired by the way, but his status is still up in the air. No finality there at the moment, I’m told. My friend Guilherme Cruz recently spoke to Maia about his future. I’d be surprised, at this point, if he returned to the UFC.
Gimme Cannonier versus the winner of Darren Till vs. Derek Brunson please. Winner gets the winner of Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2?
Speaking of Till-Brunson, I’m really looking forward to that card next weekend. Just a shame it’s not happening in England. Chuck Mindenhall, Petesy Carroll and I will resume our Spotify Greenroom/Ringer MMA pod duties for that card, meaning will do a live weigh-in show and then a post-fight show immediately after the conclusion of the card. Those shows will be turned into podcasts, in case you missed them. Looking forward to that very much.
I have had a great relationship with Overeem over the years. I loved having him on the show Monday, and I’m genuinely looking forward to his fight against Glory heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven on Oct. 23. I just wish he didn’t use the word “gay” to describe his disdain for pro wrestling. Unnecessary. Not everyone likes it, and this has nothing to do with that, it’s just not the way we should be describing our feelings towards things we don’t like in 2021. I don’t care if he doesn’t like it, I just wish he didn’t go there, that’s all. Kinda took away from his point, which was a valid one shared by many. I feel the same way when people use the word “retarded” to describe something we don’t like. We’ve grown past those days. I tried to correct him, and maybe I should have done a better job in that moment, but I also didn’t want to reprimand him or go down that rabbit hole in that moment. His views and comments, after all. I dunno. Tough spot on a livestream. And no, I’m not trying to cancel him or anyone. Just talking it out. Just sharing my thoughts. My feelings toward Overeem haven’t changed, and I appreciate him coming on when I know he doesn’t have to.
Overeem told me he tried to get the Fedor Emelianenko fight in Bellator, but didn’t get much love back from Team Fedor. He said this is the third time he’s tried hard for it, dating back over a decade ago. That’s a shame. A decade ago, when Strikeforce was just getting on a roll, it would have been a massive fight.
I can’t get enough of Gable Steveson. For a 21-year-old to be playing the field this well, is amazing. He’s flirting with wrestling, MMA and football just weeks after winning Olympic gold, and he’s playing it all perfectly. He told me on Monday that he kinda knows where he’s headed — my guess, and it’s just a guess, is WWE — but whatever. I hope he drags this out as long as possible. It’s fun. And if it is WWE, I hope we get to see him in MMA in about 5-6 years.
Also, he’s right: Brock Lesnar, as scary as he is, needs a haircut. I’m sorry, but what is going on there? That’s not him. Beard should stay, but the man bun or whatever that is was …
That said, WWE tells me the IG clip of his return was seen by over four million people, which they say is the most ever for their IG page, and I’d say at least half were due to the hair so maybe I should shut up. Love you, Brock! Let’s talk soon!
I love when people try to say I take a stance one way or the other because I can or can’t have a certain person on my show. I am so far past the days of caring about that stuff you have no idea. If someone doesn’t want to come on my show, God bless. There are plenty of people who do, and I’m more than happy to have them.
Bellator announced James Gallagher vs. Patchy Mix on Nov. 5 in Dublin. I hope that fight remains in tact because I love it. (Remember, they were originally supposed to fight in May before Gallagher withdrew.)
Someone asked me recently how many PPV buys Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley will generate. Such a tough question to answer. First off, Paul’s audience are youngsters who like to illegally stream. Will they pay? You hope so. Second, it’s on a Sunday. Does that affect the number? It didn’t for Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul. If none of those were a factor, I think it gets a big number. 800,000+ or so. Serious. The buzz leading up to Sunday will be big and it’s just a really intriguing fight with an intriguing undercard.
I can’t wait to be a part of the broadcast for the event. I’m just so excited. And I’m really looking forward to seeing Daniel Dubois, Amanda Serrano and Tommy Fury, among others, compete in person. And did I mention how excited I was to be working with Mauro Ranallo?!
In addition to my Showtime duties, I’ll also be doing sit-down interviews for BT Sport later this week in Cleveland with the main names. What a time to be alive. From WWE to The MMA Hour to Paul vs. Woodley in a week.
Is it me or does it feel like the MMA media covers the Jake Paul fights more, and certainly more seriously, than the boxing media? And this isn’t me trying to pick a fight with boxing media. I think they are fine (though I think the MMA media corps, for whatever reason, has way more talent in it right now), but it just seems that way to me. Maybe because Askren and Woodley were more established MMA stars? Maybe because we are used to wacky fights? I don’t know but it definitely feels that way to me.
By the way, is Paul becoming a little more of a babyface in the MMA world? I am certainly sensing that internally from the fighters I’ve talked to. Not only do they respect his dedication to the craft but they seem to respect his stance on fighter pay. I think the fans are slooooowwwwly starting to warm up to him, too. At the beginning of all of this, the mere mention of his name on my show would elicit a ton of hate, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore.
Miesha Tate vs. Ketlen Vieira is a solid main event. I was hoping for Tate vs. Holly Holm 2, but I guess that’ll have to wait.
Kevin Holland has been training with John Hendricks these days. I’m told it’s going very well. Hendricks, by the way, recently became a full-time cop. Cool!
Chael Sonnen will be subbing in for Kenny Florian on this week’s PFL broadcast. I always enjoy hearing Chael P in the booth. I think Bellator should have used him more there rather than the desk.
Another really busy week of fighting coming up with ONE, PFL, Invicta, LFA and UFC all holding events, plus Paul vs. Woodley.
Did you know the TUF finals are happening this Saturday? First I heard of it was Monday. Not trying to be a hater, but I have just had zero desire to watch that show this time around.
Also, does anyone believe the coaches are actually pulling off these silly stunts on their own? I liked them better when it seemed plausible that they were behind the stunts. I have a hard time believing they are coming up with bringing in massive snakes or repossessing cars without some help. Simple is better, guys. Also, can we get rid of the jerseys? Thanks.
UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is working on a few scenes for an upcoming episode of Law & Order. Nothing huge, he tells me, but he hopes it will lead to bigger roles.
Phil Baroni announced on Twitter recently that he was done fighting. I hope he stays true to that because I want him to have a healthy and happy next chapter. All the best to the New York Bad Ass. A true OG of the fight game. The build for his fight versus Frank Shamrock remains one of my favorite ever. True internet infancy stuff.
Enjoy your week. I’m back tomorrow for another live episode of The MMA Hour, and I’ll be back here, too.
Nice summation of the weekend's events. Appreciate the frank discussion of the distasteful comments from Alistair Overeem and what you owe the audience when something like that is voiced on your show. I know from experience that it's a difficult position for a journalist to be placed in.
Hey Ariel, I have a possible solution to fixing the pay issue for fighters in combat sports. It comes from a crypto background but I think it could be the future, we will certainly see this method used in other industries.
I would love to share it with you in a private message, what would be the best way to send this idea over?