No events last week so I’ll just hit upon a bunch of different news stories from around world of MMA.
The war of words between Conor McGregor and UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has gone nuclear. I’m sure everyone knows what went back and forth between the two recently so no need to rehash that, but it’s easy to say both went too far. I respect what both of these guys have done in the cage, but outside the cage is a different story. Full disclosure, I don’t like either one of these guys, though if I have to choose, I guess I would be Team McGregor (at least for now) because I find Nurmagomedov to be especially disgusting.
Whether it’s him calling for censorship of the play Hunting For Men when it played in Dagestan for the great crime of a female character seducing a man in her underwear. Or whether it’s him calling for the cancellation of concerts because they don’t meet his modesty rules. Or maybe when he posted a video of himself laughing at a homeless man he was paying to do pushups. Or maybe his relationship with Ziyavudin Magomedov, who’s been arrested on embezzlement and organized crime charges. Or maybe it’s his palling around with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov (though he’s sadly far from the only UFC fighter to do this), who has led gay purges and killed his detractors and political opponents and also restricted the rights of women. Maybe it’s his association with Ali Abdelaziz, who considers Kadyrov a great man. Abdelaziz is also close to one of Bahrain’s princes, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. It’s important to note that Bahrain has many human rights violations on their record.
Not that McGregor is that much better. He’s been photographed with Vladimir Putin and been accused of sexual assault. Of course, those are just allegations so it’s important to let the case play out, he might be completely innocent. There’s also a long list of things he’s done that are disgusting, though these are generally more well known. The point is, neither of these guys are good role models for how people should conduct themselves.
So, we’re left with two guys that are about as unlikable as you can get ready to break the pay-per-view buyrate record that they had previously set in their first fight. That speaks to what they’ve done inside the cage. Khabib Nurmagomedov has never lost a fight and never even really came close to losing a fight. Conor McGregor has lost a couple of high profile fights, but he avenged his loss to Nate Diaz and wants to avenge his loss to Nurmagomedov. Is that at all likely to happen? Hell no, it’s not, but it would be a great story. I’d love to see it happen. Not because of Nurmagomedov’s beliefs, repellent as they might be, but because of the unlikeliness of it. Nurmagomedov completely dominated McGregor in their first fight. If McGregor were able to pull it off, that would be one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history.
I’m talking about this fight as if it’s already made but that’s because it practically already is. There’s way too much money on the line for the UFC here. This fight alone will sell more PPVs than the rest of this year put together probably. Dana White will crawl over broken glass naked in order to get this fight done, that’s how much money is at stake here. I understand the UFC wanting to make this fight, though I do think they should donate a large sum of money to various charities in order to try to get some good karma back. Of course, I would prefer to see Tony Ferguson fight Nurmagomedov as I think that’s the best fight available and the one to make.
The question isn’t if this fight gets made, but when. And where. The comments McGregor has made in order to try to goad Nurmagomedov into this fight raise actual security concerns here. There’s a real possibility that someone tries to do something to McGregor because of those comments. The venue where the fight takes place is important. We’ll see how the UFC handles things but I’m sure McGregor will have his own security detail surrounding him at all times.
Bellator has signed Josh Barnett to a contract. Barnett is 41 and hasn’t fought in a couple of years due to some drug testing issues and appealing that and doing some pro wrestling stuff, but he does add a name and depth to Bellator’s heavyweight division. I don’t expect him to win, or even challenge for, the title but we might get to see some interesting matchups. Maybe we’ll see him fight Fedor Emelianenko again? Barnett also mentioned Matt Mitrione and Chael Sonnen by name, so maybe he fights one of those guys? Either way, this isn’t a great signing but it’s noteworthy enough to bring up.
Bellator has announced a 16 man Featherweight World Grand Prix that begins in October. The winner will receive 1 million dollars so the stakes are high. No word on who is in the tournament yet, but I imagine we’ll find out over the next few months. I personally love tournaments, though I do prefer them to take place over as short a time period as possible.
I just love all the talk of what could be potential second-round matchups (or third, fourth, finals, etc.) as it gives kind of an NCAA March Madness type of feel to things. In fact, I would love for Bellator to lean into that and produce a bracket unveiling show, where they discuss the seeding and matchups, as well as possible matchups to come. I think that’d be really cool and different.
Bellator has also announced that Bellator Middleweight Champion Gegard Mousasi will defend his title against Rafael Lovato Jr. on June 22 in London, England. I’m excited about this fight as I’m expecting fireworks, especially when they go to the ground. I’m leaning towards the champ to retain, but Lovato is dangerous and could pull it off.
A fight between Lyoto Machida and Chael Sonnen is set to headline a Bellator event on June 14 from New York City. I’m not expecting much from this fight, especially early. However, I do think Machida finishes Sonnen by TKO in the second round.
Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank