Interim titles, Junior dos Santos among MMA mailbag topics
This was the beginning of an e-mail sent to me by a reader, Mike from Chino Hills, Calif. And while it seemed to be a rhetorical question rather than one I was expected to answer, it got me to thinking. Which is always dangerous.
My initial inclination was to simply agree with Mike, who went on to say the UFC should force Condit to put his interim welterweight belt on the line against Johny Hendricks or Martin Kampmann. Yes, yes, I thought. That's what needs to happen.
But as I pondered the matter some more, I realized that my discontent runs deeper. Sure, I want to see Condit fight Hendricks or Kampmann or Rory MacDonald or, at some point, GSP, but I want that because I enjoy big fights, not because Carlos would be putting on the line some championship that isn't really a championship. So I've decided to strip away the first part of Mike's question and boil it down to what I see as its essence: Why even have an interim champion?
An interim championship is meaningless. What constitutes an interim, anyway? Isn't every championship interim, in the sense that it's yours for the interim between when you win the belt and when someone else takes it away?
I understand that the UFC utilizes the concept of an interim belt as a marketing tool. With St-Pierre having been on the shelf for 13 months and counting, the fight organization was down to only six fighters it could sell as champions. Then Condit takes a decision from Nick Diaz and --
You're either a champion or you're not. Imagine if your wife twisted her ankle and couldn't join you for that week in the Caribbean you've been planning. Do you take an "interim wife"? (Dream on.) There's only one champ. No one looks at Carlos Condit and thinks "champion" -- maybe "future champion," but until he steps in with Georges St-Pierre and has his hand raised, that belt he wears is worthless.
Unless Carlos' pants are too loose in the waist.
Hey Mike in Chino Hills, you had no idea what you were stirring up, did you? Let's see what other readers have to say:
Invincibility seems so definitive, Herb, until it isn't. I remember a time when a lot of us who watch MMA thought Chuck Liddell was unbeatable. B.J. Penn. Matt Hughes. Royce Gracie. Dos Santos might hold onto his heavyweight belt for a long time, but history suggests otherwise. One more successful defense, in fact, and he'll have as many as any heavyweight in UFC history. Junior will lose someday, and so will Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, GSP and everyone else we view as unconquerable.
As for Cormier specifically as a challenger, if anyone is capable of doing what has not yet been done -- putting dos Santos on his back -- this two-time Olympic wrestler would seem most qualified. I'd enjoy watching him try.
You're a troublemaker, Patrick, trying to pit American Kickboxing Academy teammates against each other. The thing is, I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to that. In the Velasquez-Dos Santos and Cormier-Carwin daily double, I'd put my two dollars on the AKA guys. And then? A pair of training partners would have to make a decision about what's most important to them.
Speaking of Cain ...
Kevin: The referee did what he was supposed to do. When it appeared that the facial cut might be inhibiting Silva's vision, he halted the bout and called on the cageside doctor. And the doc, after what seemed to be at best a perfunctory exam, gave his OK for the fight to continue. If anyone did not fully do his job, it was the M.D., not the ref. Even my untrained eyes -- not a minute spent in med school -- were capable of seeing that "Bigfoot" could not use his.
Vincent: Young kids aren't usually up when a UFC event is on, although I think I might have seen Shrek at cageside a time or two. Or was that Brock? Anyway, children's interests aside, there are plenty of squeamish grown-ups out there, so I get your point. The UFC professes to not be concerned about this, but I don't believe that. With fights potentially being seen not just by the diehards who plunk down $55 but by anyone with a clicker and basic cable, all it takes is one center-of-the-octagon crime scene to unfold. Then, out of the woodwork, come people like this:
I assume, Geoff, that you don't care for that sport played in your town by a team wearing starred silver helmets, either. Who but the most bloodthirsty among us would follow the concussion ward known as the NFL, where bounties are being placed on players' heads? The head injury bugaboo would also mean hockey is out as well, right? No basketball, either, unless you're OK with seeing a guy brutally knocked into the third row when he drives to the hoop in the playoffs. And forget baseball, where they throw hardballs at each other. No NASCAR. No boxing. No ...
Look, MMA can be brutal. It also can be a dazzling display of skill and technique. It can be poetic in its flow of movement, inspiring in its resiliency and drama. But clearly all you're capable of seeing, Geoff, is the first part. So why waste your time watching "this Neanderthal activity" or writing to complain about it?
Now, some who aren't MMA fans are at least capable of making a coherent argument about the sport's limitations. Such as this reader, who took exception to the analogy I used to make a case for Dos Santos being the baddest man on the planet. I had said I'd like Junior's chances if he and Cain Velasquez were walking in a dark alley and had an unpleasant encounter with heavyweight boxing champs Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.
A couple of months to learn takedown defense? Ask James Toney how that worked out for him. It kept the three-time world champion boxer on his feet for all of 18 seconds against Randy Couture a couple of summers ago. After that "Lights Out" was defenseless, as the only thing his boxing training had taught him to do if he ended up on his back was to get up before the count of 10. But there was no getting up while blanketed by an elite wrestler. And that's the way I believe it would go down for Wladimir or Vitali ... unless, of course, Dos Santos decided to test his boxing skills. That'd be a losing strategy for a guy with so many other tools in his toolbox.
Scott: I preferred the live format as much as you and Dana. Alas, the show is returning to tape in the fall. What does FX know that we don't?
Jared: Interesting selling point. But I'd prefer to just watch the fighters compete for the "six-figure UFC contract" and leave the vengeful stuff to "Mayhem" Miller and his MTV show,
Lastly, it would not be an MMA mailbag if we didn't include some discussion of -- that is, complaint over -- the monthly fighter rankings:
My list isn't wrong, Bobby. It accurately conveys one man's opinion about the sport's pecking order, which is all the list claims to do. You're the one who's wrong. Not in your contrary opinion that Silva is No. 1 -- you're entitled to that opinion, which many share -- but in stating that "It's a fact." Even on your planet, opinions are not facts.