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Some random thoughts on the eve of my day of atonement …
I hope you appreciated what Luke Rockhold did on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour. What’s that, you say? Well, there was an active UFC fighter openly criticizing the UFC’s business practices. From the uniform to the lack of collective bargaining, he covered a lot and said a lot. More than most say. It takes a lot of guts to do that, and it’s precisely why we don’t see/hear it often. Because if you do speak the way he spoke, you’ll get shelved. Seems to me like Rockhold is in IDGAF mode and isn’t afraid of the repercussions. I give him a lot of credit for saying what I would guess 90-95% of the roster, if not more, is thinking.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and it’s what I asked him, too: Why doesn’t he actually rally the troops? Well, he believes he’s doing enough by speaking out about it, and there is something to be said for that, but at some point someone has to take the next step. Who that person is, I don’t know. But talking will only go so far, which is not far enough.
Regardless, really interesting stuff from Rockhold, and I appreciated his candor very much. Here’s the interview, in case you missed it:
By the way, whenever we talk about fighters coming together, I often feel like we miss the point. There are 500-something UFC fighters on the active roster right now. And those fighters come and go. The real key is to get the 10-something managers in the game to come together and then to get their fighters on board. But that’s a harder task than galvanizing the fighters because a good portion of the managers care more about their standing with the UFC than keeping their fighters happy. Just telling it like it is. Not all, but some. And that’s enough to make it almost impossible. That’s obviously a problem. In fact, a few years ago in Las Vegas, a bunch of managers met to talk about potentially coming together. Nothing happened and at least one person involved told the UFC the meeting happened. And that was that.
According to sources, a number of influential industry individuals have come together to create a new MMA league that is structured more like the NBA/NHL/NFL rather than your typical MMA promotion. This new league would also include an athlete association that implements a CBA with 50/50 revenue share, guaranteed contracts, health insurance, career-ending insurance and a pension plan. The plan is to announce the venture in the coming days, I’m told. They are hoping to launch in 2023.
The above plan sounds really interesting, as well as ambitious. I’m curious to see how it plays out and who they can attract to be a part of it, because we’ve learned over the years, time and again, that the fight game is a lot more different than the other sports.
The other big story from Monday’s show was Jake Paul saying he’d like to fight Jorge Masvidal next. That would be quite the scene, buildup and fight. But, of course, the issue is Masvidal is under contract with the UFC, so the chances of them wanting to play ball with Paul and Showtime seems unlikely. Not impossible since they did it for Mayweather vs. McGregor, but much more unlikely given the time (the UFC needed to make that fight back then for financial reasons) and given the star power involved (Masvidal does not have the same clout with the brass as McGregor did back then). I don’t think it’s impossible, though, but I highly doubt it happens.
It still feels like Tommy Fury is the way to go for Paul next and then a big MMA fighter in the spring, if all goes according to Paul’s plan.
Masvidal is meeting with UFC brass this week in Las Vegas, I’m told. It says here they’ll try to make the much-ballyhooed Leon Edwards vs. Masvidal fight in early 2022. I don’t hate the fight, but I hate that it might happen two or so months after the welterweight title fight in November. That fight should have happened around the same time as Usman vs. Covington 2.
That potential big MMA fighter for Paul to face next year could be Nathan Diaz, who is approaching the end of his UFC contract and really seems keen on fighting Vicente Luque. Why the UFC isn’t jumping all over this fight is beyond me.
I don’t think Sean O’Malley is ducking anyone. I don’t think he is afraid to fight any big names. But he is 100 percent right when he says, essentially, what’s the point in fighting big names for his current pay, which is relatively low considering his star power? He told me on Monday that he has three fights left on his deal. He wants to finish those up and see where his future lies. Things can get supremely interesting for him if he wins those three fights and tests the free agent market. He’ll have the kind of leverage we haven’t seen from a free agent in quite some time, if he chooses to do so.
My bud Adam Glyn, who’s one of the hardest working (and nicest) media guys in NYC, caught up with Conor McGregor outside his hotel yesterday. Here’s that convo:
If I’m a major boxing promoter or network that televises boxing, I’m talking to Anderson Silva’s people right now. There’s some legitimate intrigue and excitement surrounding Silva’s foray in the sweet science, not to mention money to be made. What a cool, unexpected story in 2021.
Am I the only one who finds it hard to believe that Nick Diaz is fighting again in less than two weeks? I mean, I did predict at the beginning of the year he’d fight this year, but I just can’t believe it’s actually, almost here. I just hope he’s doing this for the right reasons: because he wants to. Not because he has to. Big difference.
Speaking of flying under the radar, Yoel Romero makes his Bellator debut on Saturday versus Phil Davis. His first fight since March 2020. It’s a shame his Bellator debut didn’t happen against Anthony Johnson in May, because there seems to have been way more buzz for that fight than this one.
That main event goes up against the UFC’s fight night card, headlined by Anthony Smith vs. Ryan Spann, though the Bellator event will end later. In the past I haven’t loved when the UFC and Bellator ran the same nights, but considering how thin both cards are, I dig it this time.
Also, how crazy is it that Romero’s Bellator debut is happening in the same building, the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., where his amazing UFC debut happened over eight years ago?!
PFL star and soon-to-be free agent Kayla Harrison is going to be at the AEW tapings on Wednesday. Dan Lambert, her friend and the founder of the gym she trains out of, American Top Team, is heavily involved in AEW these days. Harrison is a known pro wrestling hater, but I am kinda hoping she secretly falls in love with it like she fell in love with MMA after being an MMA hater. She has the gift of gab and could be a better pro wrestler than Ronda Rousey, in my opinion.
Have you secured your Heelwani merch yet? Only the coolest cats are rocking it and it’s limited ! All of my proceeds are going to the great charity, No Kid Hungry.
Congrats to CFFC on their 100th event this week. That’s a great achievement. It’s important to have more promotions out there like CFFC.
Rest in peace, Suzy Friton. The long-time UFC makeup artist passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. Suzy Q, as she was affectionately known, was much more than just a makeup artist. She was part of the fabric of the UFC. She was a best friend to every employee, fighter and Octagon Girl. She had an infectious smile and laugh, and always seemed to be in an upbeat mood. She always went out of her way to make everyone feel loved and cared for, including me, and was one of those people who really seemed to have a special joie de vivre. I was so sad to hear of her passing. Beautiful souls like Suzy are what this world sorely needs. She will be missed.
Rest in peace, Norm Macdonald. What a bummer. What a legend. May he rest in peace.
(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)