Two-time Olympic gold-medalist Claressa Shields was at UFC 245 Saturday night campaigning for a fight against Amanda Nunes.
Problem is, I don’t think there is much interest in this fight. Nunes said if Shields wants to fight, get in the Octagon with her. We’ve seen this story play out before, and it’s predictable. Plus, I don’t think Shields is that big of a draw … yet.
But Shields did propose an idea that I have long liked when it comes to this boxer-vs.-MMA-fighter debate: a two-part series. One boxing match and one MMA fight. This is a fun concept.
So, I’ll take things one step further: replace Nunes with Kayla Harrison, and now we’re onto something.
Like Shields, Harrison is a two-time Olympic gold-medalist. And, like Shields, Harrison is undefeated. Shields can’t make 145 — she usually fights around 165 — but she can definitely make 155, which is where Harrison fights.
And wouldn’t ya know it, the Professional Fighters League is in desperate need of a boost. Harrison told me on Monday she’ll be fighting as a lightweight again next season. Who wants to see that? She’s the only talented female lightweight on the planet. There’s no intrigue in her going for that title again. At all.
So, if I’m the PFL brass, I’m calling Shields’ promoter right now, and I’m proposing a two-fight deal: Shields vs. Harrison in boxing, and then Shields vs. Harrison in MMA. Or vice versa. Two-time gold-medalist vs. two-time gold-medalist. The judoka vs. the boxer. Just the kind of shot in the arm the PFL, and Shields for that matter, need.
When I asked Harrison about this idea, she didn’t hate it. In fact, she said, “it would be very exciting.”
I’m sold. Sign me up.
As for Nunes’ future, amazingly, she is a champion in two weight classes, yet she doesn’t seem to have any interesting options right now. Maybe she needs to take some time off to let the divisions play out. In the meantime, I’d like to see Irene Aldana fight Aspen Ladd to determine who’s next at 135. As for 145, well, there isn’t much there. I think Megan Anderson needs at least two more wins at 145 pounds before she can be considered.
Not the end of “Chaos”
Dana White says he doesn’t want all the things Colby Covington says get in the way of his toughness and adds that he’d like to see him fight Tyron Woodley. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
I have to admit, I felt a little bad for Colby Covington on Saturday night.
Now, before I explain, let me be very clear: Over the past two and a half years Covington has said a lot of indefensible things. A lot of abhorrent things. A lot of things that crossed the proverbial line. And I’m not talking about his politics. I don’t get worked up about characters and the persona they play on TV, the same way I don’t think The Undertaker actually lives in a graveyard. Ya feel me?
But from the “filthy animals” remarks to spoiling Star Wars movies, to his comments about the late manager Glenn Robinson and Mike Perry‘s wife and much more, there have been multiple times where I have thought to myself, “Man, Colby, why did you have to go there?”
Yup, he went there. Repeatedly. And in doing so, turned into one of the most hated fighters ever. I mean, when people celebrate the fact that you broke your jaw in a fight, that’s pretty much a clear indication that the world is against you. Usually, when a fighter breaks their jaw, especially after the kind of fight Covington fought on Saturday, they earn some sympathy from the public. You know, because breaking your jaw is not fun. And fighting with a broken jaw is next-level tough.
But Covington simply isn’t a person who engenders much sympathy. He doesn’t want to be, either. He made a calculated decision two years ago to become as hated as possible. By any means necessary. Feelings be damned.
And guess what? It worked. He succeeded.
And so I don’t feel bad that he lost. That’s the game. Kamaru Usman, in the end, fought a great fight and prevailed. He deserves all the credit in the world.
I don’t even feel bad that people are kicking Covington while he’s down (though, I do think fans are not giving him his due because they hate him so much, but that’s par for the course). He asked for that vitriol.
I felt bad because as we drove off into the Las Vegas night, I couldn’t help but think about the road to UFC 245. You remember the failed negotiations for the Madison Square Garden card, right? The one the president decided to attend in support of Covington. You remember how the UFC tried to give Jorge Masvidal the Usman fight when talks stalled with Covington, only to have talks stall with Usman, too. The UFC was ready to move on from Covington. Covington was holding out for more money. But in the end, he caved.
In the end, Covington agreed to a $500,000 fight purse with no win bonus and no pay-per-view points. The biggest point of contention, according to sources, was that he wanted a cut of the pay-per-view because he felt like he was promoting the card more than anyone. If Usman is being honest with himself, he’ll admit that the public’s disdain for Covington drove this show. People’s hatred for Covington turned Usman into a hero. Usman, who got pay-per-view points, benefitted from Covington’s gimmick more than anyone.
On Saturday night, while Usman celebrated a hard-fought victory, Covington was at a local hospital getting his broken jaw checked out. No belt. No pay-per-view points. No leverage. No assurance that he’ll be fighting for a belt any time soon.
He rolled the dice and lost. He had big plans to shake things up had he won, but now those plans are no more.
And guess what? Considering Covington’s frosty relationship with the brass, his road back to the belt is going to be long and hard. It’s no secret that if the UFC likes doing business with you, you’re more likely to get bigger opportunities.
Just ask Tyron Woodley. Woodley was welterweight champion for 32 months. When he lost the belt to Usman in March, no one was talking immediate rematch. Meanwhile, Max Holloway was featherweight champion for 30 months. He loses on Saturday and immediately the talk is about a rematch.
I don’t have a problem with Holloway getting an immediate rematch against Alexander Volkanovski. There are a bunch of really good fighters at 145 pounds (Chan Sung Jung and Zabit Magomedsharipov come to mind), but no one has really emerged as a clear-cut No. 1 contender yet.
Truth is, both Woodley and Holloway deserved that type of consideration. But the difference is one was much easier to work with, as champion, than the other.
I’ve seen people say, well, that’s it for Colby. There’s no way he’ll come back from that. Ludicrous. If you think that way, you haven’t paid attention to history.
My partner Chael Sonnen was the master of talking a big game, losing and then spinning things forward. Covington will no doubt do the same. Heck, he started to do so moments after the loss on social media. He’ll continue to blame referee Marc Goddard for the stoppage. He’ll blame Usman for faking a low blow. He’ll blame the UFC for the lack of pay. Trust me, if you thought he was insufferable before, I suspect he’ll be even more so in the future. He isn’t going anywhere.
And if the UFC does in fact book Usman vs. Leon Edwards next, that’ll leave his original foe, Woodley, without a dance partner.
Tell me you wouldn’t want to see that fight?
Next for Usman?
I don’t believe Usman and his team really have no interest in fighting Masvidal next. I think they are just playing hard to get. But I don’t believe Masvidal will make a decision about his future until after Conor McGregor fights Donald Cerrone on Jan. 18. If McGregor wins, I suspect Masvidal will hold out for that fight, which would open the door for Edwards to finally get his title shot. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
No mas, Triple C
Can we please stop with the idea of Jose Aldo fighting Henry Cejudo next? I thought Aldo beat Moraes on Saturday night, but it was very close. Still, the record books say he lost. In fact, he has now lost two in a row and doesn’t have a single win at bantamweight on his resume. How does he deserve a title shot over the likes of Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling or Cory Sandhagen?
R.I.L Vinny Boy
As I watched the postfight press conference Saturday night, I noticed Holloway was wearing a headband with the message “R.I.L. Vinny Boy” on it. No one asked him about that headband, so I reached out to his team afterward, and they told me that was in honor (R.I.L. meaning Rest In Love) of Holloway’s cousin, Vincent J. Kapoi Jr., who was killed by a gunman while he was working at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii on Dec. 4, which just so happens to be Holloway’s birthday. Kapoi was one of two people killed that day. The other was a man named Roldan Agustin.
According to his team, Holloway grew up with Kapoi. They were very close. He was obviously devastated. But he didn’t tell the public about the tragedy because he didn’t want to make any excuses before or after the fight. That’s just the kind of person Holloway is. Kapoi’s funeral was on Sunday. Holloway couldn’t attend. His mother, who is usually a fixture at his fights, didn’t go to UFC 245 so she could go to the funeral. Still, despite undoubtedly fighting with a heavy heart and losing his belt, Holloway was his usual jovial and classy self after the fight. It is always a pleasure to watch him work in and out of the cage.
The final countdown
The final UFC event of the decade is upon us this Saturday in Busan, South Korea. I told you last week why I didn’t love the decision to replace the injured Brian Ortega by putting Frankie Edgar against Chan Sung Jung, but I do like the rest of the card. Volkan Oezdemir vs. Aleksandar Rakic is an important light heavyweight fight. Dooho Choi vs. Charles Jourdain should be great, and I’m looking forward to seeing one of the breakthrough fighters of 2019, Ciryl Gane, back in action against Tanner Boser.
In addition to that card, Bellator is back in Hawaii for two shows: a “Salute to the Troops” card on Friday, featuring the promotional debut of Josh Barnett, and Bellator 236, featuring the return of Hawaii’s Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and A.J. McKee. Looking forward to seeing two of Bellator’s best in action on that card.
Enjoy the fights.