UFC drops the ball on a fight announcement for the second time in a week

You would think after the whole Alexander Gustafsson v. Antonio Noguiera snafu, the UFC would find a way to ensure what they’re announcing is, you know, correct.

Turns out they just like making mistakes in pairs. For the second time in a week the UFC has scrapped a high-profile bout, this time being Jon Jones v. Glover Teixera.

Speaking to the media following Thursday’s press conference for UFC 167, President Dana White told reporters the fight would no longer be headlining UFC 170. He said Jones had to pull out due to injury – specially, as reported by Yahoo! Sports’, Kevin Lole, Jones foot which was injured in his recent bout with Gustafsson over a month and a half ago. Somehow in a 24-hour period, that injury forced Jones out.

While the UFC and White have yet to comment on a second embarrassing fight cancellation, the anticipation for comment can not be higher. Historically they have a tendency to throw blame around in places it often seems inappropriate. Even worse, the manner in which they cast blame peels back layers for the public to understand just how the UFC does business. Too often, the UFC uses corporate clout to pit itself as against a two or three individuals at a time – hardly a fair fight even in public relations terms.

Yet many of these issues are the fault of the UFC as any series of things. For example, way back at UFC 151 originally to have taken place on September 1, 2012 White went on a public barrage of Jones when he turned down a replacement bout thus scrapping the card. The UFC failed to highlight how if there were no other high-profile fights elsewhere on the card worthy of promotion to headliner status. The card depth was so weak – a trend the UFC also does no justice to by pitting their most mainstream worthy fighter in Jones to offset poor cards on paper – no other fight could justifiably be promoted. Whose fault is that?

You know the situation last week with Noguiera, in which White admitted only partial blame for booking a fight without asking one its contestants – whom he gave the large majority of the blame.The UFC is a powerful entity. Other than a few select fighters, the promotion will always win out in public tiffs because they hire everyone. If White is pissed – even if he misleads the public – his opinion is the only one that matters. It’s a shame, of course, because that same power is the reason MMA fans get to see the best fighters fight each other unlike boxing. The MMA game is like all sports leagues, a capitalist one. Those with the most influence – the very best and talented fighters, the executives, the matchmakers – control the resources.

In the case of UFC 170 and Jones’ foot, White hasn’t pointed the finger on this one…yet. It will be interesting to see how the UFC politicize this one.

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Jon Jones says he would kill NFL bad guy Richie Incognito…but not because he knows him

Jon Jones has two brothers who play in the NFL. If there is any professional a fighter in the game who has a more direct window into how locker rooms operate, it’s Jones.

It seems even so, he’s incredibly under informed regarding the Richie Incognito story.

When host Eric Bickel brought up the subject, Jones stated he was unfamiliar with it. Bickel then described Incognito physically to which Jones replied:

‘“I’d kill him. Someone tweet him, let him know I’d smoke him. Easy.”

Obviously, Jones was having a bit of fun. He even said he would start threatening the player on Twitter as soon as he could. First, he’ll probably have to find out what kind of a person Incognito really is because when Bickel let his opinions that Incognito was a douchebag be known, Jones had no clue.

“Is he?”

For those living under a rock like Jones (just jokes, please don’t tell him where I live), Incognito has become suspect number one in a scandal that saw his locker room interactions with a teammate quit the team. Incognito sent racially slanted, threatening text messages to teammate Jonathan Martin which apparently caused Martin emotional trauma. The scandal has brought up the subjects of bullying and locker room culture in its wake – two areas that have been mutually inclusive within the game for decades.

While we don’t know Jones’ true feelings on the entire case – as made clear by his joking demeanor – if anyone has the powers to find out and form an informed opinion on the matter, it’s him.

 


The UFC is going to sow the Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier rivalry for some real bread

We all know sex sells, but the other thing that sells is two big, pissed off athletes.

The UFC loves it some promotable controversy. Chael Sonnen made his career by providing the UFC with grudge match material against Anderson Silva.  Other notable rivalries are: Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, Uriah Faber and Dominick Cruz, Georges St. Pierre and BJ Penn, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Ortiz and most everybody. See a pattern here?

Big names, big drama, big fights.

While Jones already had a bitter rivalry with Rashad Evans, that always felt like a scorned ex-lover storyline. Too much personal baggage, too little pure animosity. The origins are important in any good rivalry.

The origin between Jones and Cormier is difficult not to admire.

Cormier says it all began at UFC 121 way back on October 23,  2010. As he tells it, the two had never met. The two found themselves in the same space backstage when Jones commented that Cormier looked like a wrestler. Such a comment could have been interpreted many ways, but to Cormier came off as a spoiled talent too big for his britches. Cormier, an Olympic medalist, replied by telling Jones, “I’m probably the best wrestler you’ve seen.”

Naturally (when dealing with competitors), Jones threw back a barb, “Well, maybe you get the cauliflower ear on the other side and maybe you can get a takedown against me.”

And there we have it. The rivalry began as the best do: competitiveness.

Things escalated when Cormier began insinuating his desire to drop to 205. Jones responded by essentially saying Cormier was beneath him by accusing Cormier of ‘wanting to be famous’ then commented on his physique, his reach, and his cardio as well as the crown jewel: his Twitter following.

A slew of other public run ins through the media and not – a heated standoff at the World MMA Award earlier this year – has turned this into a scintillating story waiting to explode in the octagon.

The UFC hopes both men can avoid the loss column (and Cormier can make weight) because this fight could be lucrative.


Gustafsson gets his replacement: Jimi Manuwa…wait, who?

Jon Jones did not appear too pleased yesterday when he commented on the easy match Alexander Gustafsson had booked against Antonio Noguiera. As Jones sees it, it’s a bit too convenient for the UFC and Gustafsson that his ticket back to the title would be a fairly pedestrian opponent.

Meet Jimi Manuwa.

Per MMAJunkie.com, UFC officials announced today that Manuwa, who fought recently on the UFC’s UK card, would get a crack at the Mauler on March 8.

Evidently the promotion thinks he can put on an entertaining show. Manuwa is 14-0 and 3-0 in the UFC – with all his UFC wins due to opponent injuries in their contests. Only one of those injury stoppages was between the bells, which can be credited to damage done by Manuwa. Even so, the UFC essentially replaces a guy who couldn’t keep himself healthy to a guy whose opponents can’t stay healthy during the actual fight.

Manuwa may very well be a solid challenge for Gustafsson – he has finished all 14 of his contests, with many by punches – but the point is we don’t know that now. It would be different were Manuwa on a streak of impressive wins against lesser competition or even one dominating win – but Manuwa hasn’t. He’s completely unproven in the UFC.

It’s the same argument made every year in college football by a Mountain West team looking to compete for a national title; Manuwa may be good, but is he UFC good?

Clearly the UFC sees this as a win-win. If Manuwa is a game opponent, they get a great contest and, ideally, Gustafsson wins in that scenario. If Manuwa gets starry eyed and falters, Gustafsson wins.

The UFC is very, very eager to keep a Gustafsson v. Jones rematch booked.


Them’s fightin’ words: Jones wants to see Gustafsson v. Cormier

As the FD surmised when the fight was first announced, it appears other parties believe the Alexander Gustafsson v. Antonio Noguiera light heavyweight match looked funny.

Except these other parties have far more weight to their words. The title holder himself, Jon Jones, said as much when he spoke with Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com:

“Seems like these guys are not really having the toughest time to get to the belt. (Glover) Teixeira goes from Bader to a championship fight. Gustafsson went from Shogun (Rua) to a championship fight.”

The truth of the matter is, Jones can’t exactly criticize. It was also he who fought Bader before an injury fill-in put him against Rua for a title shot. Not only did he take the same road as Teixera, he claimed the belt from the same guy who Gustafsson upended to book his match. It isn’t exactly like Jones went through hell-and-high-water to get a crack at the belt by comparison.

Even so, he makes a great point. However you look at it, the UFC conveniently placed Gustafsson in a less complicated follow-up to his title fight with Jones. Lil Nog has never proven a top fighter in the division and has injury history; a poor option to legitimize a title rematch for Gustafsson.

Jones goes on to say he believes that he, Cormier (though having never fought at that weight class), Gustafsson, and Teixera are the top four fighters in the division. He contends if any combination of those four fighters is not competing with one another, it determines nothing. He wants to see Gustafsson and Cormier next.

“No disrespect to Nogueira, but let’s see Gustafsson versus Cormier. It makes so much sense.”


Surprise, surprise: Jon Jones gets UFC video game cover

After three versions with THQ as their official video game developer, the UFC made the switch to the flagship sports game developer, EA Sports.

EA Sports is almost as famous for which athletes they pick to adorn the cover of each game. The scrutiny over who adorns the cover of Madden can be downright viscous.

As if he already had enough going for him being sponsored by Nike, Gatorade and the UFC, now Jon Jones becomes the inaugural cover athlete. It’s an important distinction as the new line of games with EA are not likely to sever.

In an official release by the UFC and EA Sports, Jones expressed his excitement.

“It’s another one of those surreal moments, one of those moments you just have to step back and pinch yourself and realize I’m not dreaming.”

A secondary athlete will be picked by vote (a la the Madden cover the last few years) to join Jones on the cover. Which only highlights how confident and powerful a brand that Jones is – that he would earn the cover outright.

Just one more line to add to his resume. Hopefully, it doesn’t manifest a curse a la Madden.


UFC 167, Chael Sonnen, and the issue of promotion

You know when Chael Sonnen opens his mouth (or gets his typing fingers going a la Twitter), something interesting is going to emerge.

Cue Mr. Sonnen. Via MMAMania.com, Sonnen spoke on TapouT Radio on SiriusXM yesterday and commented about the job his bosses at the UFC have done promoting UFC 167:

“…outside of my fight and St. Pierre’s, I don’t know who else is fighting that night.  The card as a whole has not been promoted. I think when you have Georges St. Pierre on a card, that at times they view that as enough. And it appears that that’s the case.”

Sonnen makes a great point. But without the strength of a union, it is a moot one for most fighters.

This is nothing new for the UFC. They often leverage the power of a single fighter for PPV cards. It is the individual fighter who people are there to watch. If the UFC felt a huge name such as GSP, Anderson Silva or Jon Jones is all it takes to win the derby, then they ride that horse. In the case of UFC 167, the UFC appears to think GSP is enough to sell it.

Conversely, this top-heavy tactic is often use by the UFC to promote weak cards, leveraging a name fighter to draw in the PPV numbers. Check the cards that Jones had headlined in the past and you will notice how incredibly weak they are. So in a way a lot of less known fighters benefit when a big name like Jones headlines their card because he draws them in.

The issue is this tactic is more often a disservice to the other fighters. The individual brand of each fighter who isn’t promoted suffers without the hype the UFC can provide. Fighters raise the issue about the lack of visibility they earn for their sponsors all the time – and this is directly tied to how well the UFC can promote that individual, as well. The FD thinks Sonnen is coming from. He says as much.

While it appears Sonnen is railing for his own purposes, he is voicing a majority concern. Sonnen – unlike most fighters – is a master of self-promotion. Not being given the chance to do his thing to its full potential irks him. Except he has a great ability to do it without the UFC anyways. Most other fighters do not have his charisma and self-promoting powers.

It is certainly an issue how a fight card is promoted. While it can be used to help a lot of fighters get eyeballs on their fights, it more often stunts their potential exposure through pre-fight hype. Unfortunately, it’s another thing for fighters they cannot control.

For your perusal, here is a look at how stacked the UFC 167 card actually is:

MAIN CARD

Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks – for welterweight title

Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald

Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

Ali Bagautinov vs. Timothy Elliott

PRELIMINARY CARD

Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham

Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites

Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story

Edwin Figueroa vs. Erik Perez

PRELIMINARY CARD

Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley

Vaughan Lee vs. Sergio Pettis

Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante