In this week’s edition of the Sunday Supplement, the biggest news of the weeks see longtime matchmaker of the UFC, Joe Silva leaving the company and the build for the upcoming debut of CM Punk at UFC 203.
LONGTIME MATCH-MAKER JOE SILVA LEAVING UFC
Following in the footsteps of the Fertitta Brothers, another influential and important figure in the UFC is leaving the company, as the transition from the Zuffa era to the WME-IMG era continues.
Longtime UFC matchmaker, Joe Silva is the next Zuffa original due to leave the company later on this year, deciding to retire from the sport after making a big profit on the UFC’s sale to WME-IMG.
This is a big loss for the UFC. Whoever takes over will have large shoes to fill. Silva has been with the UFC since Zuffa took over the company in 2001 and was the sole matchmaker of the company until 2008, when Sean Shelby was brought in to book fights for WEC focusing on the lighter weight divisions, a WEC speciality at the time. Shelby also worked as matchmaker for Strikeforce after Zuffa purchased it in 2011. Shelby would later transition in working alongside Silva in the UFC.
Going by his history, the natural replacement to be the head matchmaker for Silva would be Sean Shelby who has obviously proven himself in the role and, having worked alongside Silva for years, will know exactly what is expected in the role and as well as having learned from Silva over the years.
Of course, the new owners of the UFC could look to bring in someone new to the company. However, the job of matchmaker is a challenging one which involves not only booking good competitive fights and building strong, memorable fight cards on a regular basis, but also nurturing talent, carving the path for new stars to emerge, finding replacements for big fights on short notice, and cutting fighters who aren’t performing.
Someone like Shelby is already established within the UFC and known amongst the fighters, which means he is more likely to command respect and have influence over the fighters already rather than starting all over again and having someone new to the role coming in. Shelby taking over would probably make for the smoothest transition in the post-Silva era.
Whoever takes over has not only big shoes to fill but a big workload to meet given UFC is constantly adding more shows with every passing year, something which is likely to continue even more so since WME-IMG plans to expand and grow the UFC as much as possible after spending $4 billion to purchase it.
With a roster low on big star names at the moment, the new matchmaker has a lot to prove in that regard also. Under Silva, most of the major names in MMA history have became huge stars or bigger stars than they were pre-Zuffa.
The biggest stars of this generation are struggling. Jon Jones’s personal life has interrupted his career, Ronda Rousey is nowhere to be found since losing to Holly Holm, and Conor McGregor may have lost a little of his shine as a draw after losing to Nate Diaz in the first fight. There aren’t many standouts in the company at the moment. There are a lot of new champions, unproven draws, and older stars still relied upon in most of the divisions. A new generation of stars needs to be developed under the WME-IMG era for the UFC’s success to continue and for the new matchmaker to be a successful replacement to Joe Silva.
Next year is shaping up to be an interesting year for the UFC, the first year under new ownership, a new matchmaker, possible big returns, new challenges, and new opportunities.
C.M.PUNK DEBUT APPROACHES
After signing with the UFC in December 2014, it seemed as if C.M. Punk was never going to fight, injuries, setbacks, and more delaying his debut. However, the date for his first fight in MMA is fast approaching, as Punk finally takes on Mickey Gall at UFC 203 in Cleveland, Ohio next weekend.
This week saw Punk and his opponent doing the media rounds to promote their fight at UFC 203. As the anticipation starts to build, Gall seems to be straight ahead with his approach. He seems confident and, while he is dismissive of Punk’s skills as a fighter, is still respectful of Punk, complimenting his “Evolution of Punk” show and taking the fight seriously.
Punk, however, seems rather nonchalant about Gall, with it coming across as a fight more about him than anything else, which in a way it is. However, taking a page from his old Pro Wrestling playbook, Punk is playing up a heelish side to him, both in the way he is answering questions and his demeanor. His attitude throughout this week has seen him perhaps “embracing the hate” and selling the fight as something fans have to buy just to see him being beaten rather than wanting to see him win.
Both men stated that they plan to be in the UFC for the long haul no matter the outcome of the fight. However, this fight is likely make or break for both men. If Punk wins, then the UFC can try to squeeze as much out of him as his body and aptitude for the sport will allow. With a loss to Punk, Gall would likely be heading straight out of the UFC and back into regional fighting. Losing to a 37 year old man who has never fought before, no matter how good Punk might possibly look, would be a telling sign for his career.
If Gall wins, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t prove much. Punk is a rookie and is looked upon as such by the MMA community despite his fame from pro wrestling. That said, having the scalp of being the man to take out C.M. Punk would likely propel him up the card a bit. If he could build on that notoriety and string together some good wins, he might become a star in the future.
For Punk, it would prove what most people have been saying since he signed with the UFC – that he shouldn’t be there and doesn’t have the skills or experience to be an MMA fighter. I doubt that many people would be interested in seeing him fight again if he loses. Punk in the UFC is a mere novelty and it will only continue as long as he wins.
Gall has stated that he will easily beat Punk this week and Punk retorted with a TKO prediction. It seems that Gall has the tools necessary to trouble Punk. After seeing both men either fighting or training, it remains to be seen if Punk has he has the speed, power, or accuracy to trouble Gall via TKO.
While Punk may want to keep this fight on the feet and look for a TKO, Gall has won both of his professional fights by rear naked choke including his UFC debut against Mike Jackson at “UFC Fight Night: Hendricks vs. Thompson” back in February. Gall has an advantage and experience on the ground in actual fights Punk would probably want to avoid going to the ground at all costs in this fight unless he has something special up his sleeve from his time training BJJ. Renzo Gracie believes that Punk will win via Guillotine in the second round.
This is a huge fight for Gall. Punk, despite being a rookie, is used to the atmosphere of a big crowd and performing on a big stage. For Punk, it could be a big advantage if the occasion gets the best of Gall.
Another advantage for Gall might be that Punk is struggling with his weight, according to what he said this week. While it could be a diversion tactic, if true it could pose a problem for Punk and his performance at UFC 203 if he comes in overweight.
Punk continued his pro wrestling type approach in another interview this week when he said that him not making weight would be the best thing to happen to Gall because Gall would get more money from Punk missing weight that he will from the actual fight, another unlikeable comment for many people heading into the fight. Unlike in pro wrestling, most people won’t be rooting for the underdog. Gall is favored and could satisfy a lot of fight fans by disposing C.M. Punk at UFC 203.
No matter what the general consensus is on Punk and him belonging in the UFC, this fight has some buzz around it and people are either Punk fans from his time in wrestling and want to see their guy win or, on the other hand, people want to see Punk defeated and put in his place in their eyes. It’s a win-win for UFC 203 and adding another selling point to an already strong card.
(D.R. Webster writes “The Sunday Supplement” for MMATorch each week. He has written for Daily Record Sport, WrestleTalk TV, Sports Kings, and a variety of other combat sports sites and publications, includinv review shows and DVDs, news reporting, columns, and fantasy articles.)