HYDEN’S TAKE: Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum’s comments

BY FRANK HYDEN, MMATorch Columnist

Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt (photo credit Joe Camporeale © USA Today Sports)

No events to go over this week so I’ll just hit upon a few news stories. Let’s get to it.

Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem has been booked for UFC 218 in December. This is an exciting matchup and is essentially a #1 contender’s fight. No one else in the heavyweight division will have a better case for a title shot than the winner of this fight. Overeem has won two in a row and six of his last seven fights, the sole loss being to UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic while Ngannou has won nine fights in a row. The winner here certainly has to be considered the most likely next title contender. This should be a really good fight and it’s one I’m looking forward to. I think it’ll bring a little bit of clarity to the division.

Another fight coming up in the heavyweight division is Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis on October 7th. Werdum has lost two of his last three fights, but he is a former champion and had a good win streak until he fell off a bit. Lewis had won six in a row before getting stopped by Mark Hunt, so both men will be looking to rebound here. Obviously the winner isn’t in position to get a title shot, but they would be in position, in a shallow heavyweight division, to get one if they get another big win. That’s assuming it’s a good win here, though. A dud win by plodding decision does nothing for the winner, but a big stoppage would put them in prime position.

It pretty much becomes a question of who else would get the shot. Cain Velasquez? That dude hasn’t fought in over a year and has only fought twice in four years. Also, he’s not expected back until 2018 and who knows how long into that year he’ll return. Junior Dos Santos? He’s alternated wins and losses in his last eight fights, and is currently in hot water over an USADA violation. Ben Rothwell was on a four fight win streak before losing to JDS, and then failed a drug test before a fight against Werdum. Mark Hunt beat Derrick Lewis in his last fight, but he lost to Overeem before that. I guess he’s the next man up if Werdum-Lewis is a dud. Of course, this could all be for nothing because the heavyweight division is probably the most fluid division out there.

Speaking of Fabricio Werdum, he got himself into some trouble recently with some comments he made while in a verbal confrontation with Tony Ferguson. They were doing some promo work and got into an argument because Ferguson yelled at Werdum for talking over him. Werdum said a homophobic slur a few times while yelling at Ferguson in Spanish. There’s no doubt that Werdum was wrong for saying that, you can’t defend anybody saying that. It was just wrong. What you hope for is that Werdum realizes that and tries to not say it again.

A lot of times people say things in private that they wouldn’t dare say in public. Insults, put-downs, slurs, and more are often thrown about among a group of friends, even by people who find those words offensive. Sometimes you call your friends names, you say things to them that you wouldn’t say to others. You do it because you’re trying to be funny and you know that it’s not meant the way it might sound. Whether you think that’s right or wrong, it happens. That may be why Werdum said what he did. Maybe he got so used to saying that slur that it came out without him even realizing it. That doesn’t justify Werdum saying it, not at all, but it might serve to explain it.

Now, there are other things Werdum has done or said in the past that might make you think that he’s a homophobe, namely his association with Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov. When you associate yourself with pieces of trash like that guy (which guys like Chris Weidman, Frank Mir, and Khabib Nurmagomedov have also done), it’s not hard to think you share some of the same beliefs. I would hope not, but you never know. Ultimately though, you want to give Werdum a chance to show that he’s sorry for what he said and doesn’t have those beliefs. Give him time to show who he really is. Some advice I would give to Werdum is to not say that stuff to your friends. Don’t get in the habit of saying certain things, because when you do, you’ll accidentally say that stuff when you don’t mean to. When you’re in the heat of the moment, things come out. It might be funny among your friends, but it’s not funny when you’re branded a homophobe. You have to be smarter than that, especially since he’s a public figure.


Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at hydenfrank@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank

NOW CHECK OUT HYDEN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from UFC Fight Night 117 and Bellator 183

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