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A few random thoughts on this last day of August 2021 …
I have to be honest. I keep looking at photos and videos from this past weekend. Not because I’m some crazy egocentric lunatic (even though I’m sure some will say I am) but because I still don’t believe all that actually happened. Like I said before, I’ve dreamed of doing that very job for years and for it to finally happen was just really special stuff for me.
Perhaps I’m too close to the sun on this one, but I thought the broadcast was a big improvement over the last Jake Paul fight(s). It had something for everyone. From legit boxers like Amanda Serrano and Montana Love, to prospects like Daniel Dubois and Tommy Fury, to hi-jinx from the Barstool guys, to the main event attraction. I thought the sport of boxing was treated with respect, while also making the evening feel unique and special.
Special thanks to Showtime photographers Amanda Westcott and my old friend Esther Lin for sharing photos with me from the week in Cleveland. They are awesome at their jobs. I can’t say enough good things about the Showtime crew. They really made me feel welcome.
Man, I loved doing those post-fight interviews in the ring. It’s just so special sharing the victory moment with men and/or women literally seconds after a huge win. I’ve done the backstage interviews before but never in the ring and it was, in a word, tremendous. I want to do more. It’s sorta like the NBA sideline gig: I’ve watched people do that job for so long, and practiced it for so long, I felt like I had done it before before I ever did it. And I was, somewhat surprisingly, not nervous at all. It just felt right. So much fun.
The key to those interviews, if you ask me, is to keep the questions short. Simple questions. I hate when the interviewer goes long or tries to flex by showing off their technical knowledge. No one wants to hear from you in that moment. Keep it short and fast, like a quick jab. That’s always been my philosophy.
I also loved doing those FACE 2 FACEs on Friday. Crazy numbers for that, too. I want to do more!
How cool were those entrances for the main event? I loved them. Different is fun, if done right.
I said at the beginning of the broadcast that Paul was fighting for respect, while Woodley was fighting for his legacy. I was worried, if Woodley lost, that his legacy would be tarnished like Ben Askren’s has been. I don’t know if Askren’s legacy is tarnished forever, and it would be a shame if it was, but I do think he did major damage to his legacy by the way he looked in that fight in April and the way it ended. I didn’t want the same for Woodley. And, in the end, despite the loss, I don’t think Woodley hurt his legacy at all. I think he represented himself and the sport as well as anyone could have possibly hoped. Do I wish he threw more? Yes. But anyone thinking he would let his hands fly after his last four MMA fights was delusional. He had his moments, he landed his shots, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Well, in the end it was enough to not tarnish his legacy but not enough to get the W.
Speaking of which, I think Paul won six rounds. He definitely lost the 4th, and it could have been a 10-8, and maybe the eighth, but that’s it. There was no controversy there.
And, back to my previous point, I think Paul did earn respect on this night. How could you not respect someone who just went eight rounds with a former UFC champ? And who took his best shots, too? How could you not call him a fighter now? How many 3-0 boxers are doing that? None. That’s how many. I mean, the British commission, for some unspeakable reason, changed the rounds of the Tommy Fury x Anthony Taylor fight from six to four rounds because they said he didn’t have enough experience. Meanwhile, he was fighting a guy who was considerably smaller than he was, and he entered the bout with 16 fights under his belt (10 amateur and six pro). That’s 12 more fights than Paul, and yet Paul was able to go four more rounds against a former MMA champion. Is he raw? Sure. But which 4-0 fighter isn’t? So, yeah, Paul should have earned your respect — if he hadn’t already.
So, in a weird way, both men sorta won on Sunday. Paul earned respect, Woodley kept his legacy in tact and both got paid. A nice night for all.
Now, who’s next for Paul? I’d be surprised if it’s Woodley. Maybe if the PPV numbers come back and they are monstrous, but I think that might be a tough sell. Woodley vs. Logan Paul could be fun — I loved when Woodley told him to “fall back” in that post-fight scene — but Logan is probably too big for “The Chosen One.” The tricky part for Jake is he can’t go back now. You can’t go from Woodley to, say, Dillon Danis. You just can’t. And you can’t go back to ex-athletes. I feel like a boxer is the way to go now. Did Tommy Fury do enough? He seemed to have been in pole position going into the fight, but he failed to really impress, in my opinion. Still, he might be the best choice because of his fan base, his famous brother and father and because his skill level is closest to Paul’s. They are both raw but the same size. And could you imagine a Paul family vs. Fury family feud? Total bananas. So maybe that’s the one.
Invicta should try to sign Amanda Serrano. She’s great and could get them a little buzz.
My lone regret from the night was letting Serrano’s head trainer, Jordan Maldonado, talk smack about Yamileth Mercado after their fight. That was unnecessary and uncalled for. I didn’t think he’d go there. Mercado lost but showed immense heart and grit. She didn’t deserve that.
I hate to admit it, but now I’m kinda excited to see the Vitor Belfort x Oscar de la Hoya fight on Sept. 11. Belfort got me pumped, as he is known to do. I’m most interested, though, in seeing Anderson Silva box again, however, I wish he was fighting a traditional boxer.
I just hope that Triller event actually goes through. Their spending and disorganization has been a little concerning.
Giga Chikadze is definitely a name to watch for at 145 pounds. He has arrived. I don’t think it makes sense to book him against Max Holloway, since the featherweight title fight is just a few weeks away and one presumes Holloway is next. It is a bummer, though, that Holloway has only fought once this year, especially considering how good he looked in January versus Calvin Kattar. So, if it’s not Holloway next, names like Chan Sung Jung, Yair Rodriguez or Arnold Allen make sense.
I’d love to see Chikadze fight Zabit Magomedsharipov, but alas, it doesn’t seem like Zabit has anything lined up at the moment. Bummer.
Ricky Turcios, the TUF 29 winner, is a very fun character. I can watch him sing karaoke all day. He’s also a fun fighter, too.
Well, UFC went with Marlon Vera x Frankie Edgar instead of Sean O’Malley versus Edgar. O’Malley said recently he didn’t want to fight in New York. The latter was definitely the first choice, but I like the former very much, too. Big spot for “Chito” as Edgar’s career winds down.
The plan, for now, is definitely to do Charles Oliveira x Dustin Poirier next for the lightweight title. Dec. 11 could be a possibility.
Paddy Pimblett makes his long-awaited UFC debut on Saturday. I’m excited about that. He turned down two previous opportunities to sign with the UFC in the past, which is rare. But I respect him very much for doing so. It feels like it’s been a while since a prospect had this much hype around his debut, especially considering most prospects are snatched up by a major promotion long before they are ripe. I’d also say there’s a little bit of pressure on him to do well for the Cage Warriors brand. Other than the undefeated Jack Shore, it’s been a rough go for Cage Warriors alumni in the UFC.
I really hope they air Pimblett’s entrance. It’s the best.
Big spot for Darren Till Saturday afternoon versus Derek Brunson. As Israel Adesanya told me recently, he can’t keep propping him up if he either doesn’t fight or doesn’t win. He has to beat Brunson to stay in the mix at 185, and that won’t be easy. Brunson has looked really good as of late.
I’m not putting too much stock into Kevin Lee’s loss last Saturday. He was coming off a 17-month layoff and two knee surgeries. Let’s see how he looks on the next one.
Sounds like Nathan Diaz is targeting a December fight against Vicente Luque. We already know he wants to fight then and he just posted this on Twitter. Sign me up for that.
The best finish of the weekend came courtesy of Emily Ducote in the Invicta main event. We’ll definitely be talking about this KO in December.
I can’t believe December is just three months away now. What the heck.
See you tomorrow for another edition of “The MMA Hour.”