After decades of debate, New York finally legalized mixed martial arts competitions last year, and the UFC made its debut at Madison Square Garden in November 2016. Since then, the UFC has returned to the state three times and on Saturday makes a trip to another mecca in the state: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"It's funny because Matt Serra was telling me, you know, 'For us, the Coliseum is MSG. I wish I was still fighting, so I could fight on this card,'" UFC president Dana White told the media in Brooklyn for the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor press conference.
That might seem like hyperbole considering that Madison Square Garden is often referred to as the Mecca.
“For me, being a Long Islander, it’s bigger for me to be fighting at Nassau Coliseum than Madison Square Garden,” former middleweight champion Chris Weidman told SI.com.
If anyone could compare the two, it’s Weidman, who fought at MSG on the UFC 205 card.
“Fighting at Madison Square Garden was amazing as well, especially being a New Yorker and the first event ever. It’s such a historic building. But as far as what my true home arena is, it’s Nassau Coliseum,” Weidman said. “It means more to be able to put on a show here in Long Island than anywhere else.
It’s the UFC’s first trip to Long Island, if you don’t count UFC 208 Brooklyn, and the UFC has embraced it by stacking the card with local fighters like Weidman, Dennis Bermudez, Gian Villante, Ryan LaFlare, Brian Kelleher and Chris Wade.
“Home field advantage” is not common in MMA and the Long Island card will create a unique experience.
“I think if anything it’s motivating to have all my friends and family there,” Bermudez told SI.com.
That family extends to the Long Island-based fighters, a brotherhood as Weidman called it.
“Let’s say Chris Weidman, or Aljamain Sterling, or Al Iaquinta is fighting, I’m tuning in and I’m rooting for them. I want them to win and I think it’s the same way the other way around,” Bermudez said.
But with it comes pressure, especially for Weidman, who is on a three-fight losing streak including two losses in the state of New York. In MMA, the home field advantage can be a bad thing, with friends and family asking for tickets and other distractions to deal with.
“He has a lot of internal pressure to deal with,” Weidman’s opponent Kelvin Gastelum said. “He’s in his backyard, in front of his friends in front of his family in his hometown. He has all the pressure coming into this fight. I’m coming in under the radar.”
Weidman needs the win, and is open about the pressure he is putting on himself. Getting the win in his hometown is the remedy he needs for his woes.
Other tidbits from UFC Long Island
• Chris Weidman wanted a rematch with Gegard Mousasi after the controversial end to UFC 210.
• Weidman mentioned that it was “a little” frustrating and said he has to move on and added that it’s “hard to not focus on Mousasi.”
• Weidman believes Serra could still fight if he wanted to, it’d just be a matter of which weight class.
• Kelvin Gastelum once said middleweights like Weidman were too big, he doesn’t feel that way anymore: “That was when I was fighting at 170.”
• Weidman isn’t relying on his size: “He’s fought now at 185 twice, and beat two really good guys. So he’s proven himself in the weight class. I’m taking it as if he is one of the best 185-ers there is.”
• Gastelum still thinks Weidman is feared in the division, despite the losing streak: “He was winning all those fights until he got knocked out or the weird thing with Mousasi happened.”
• Gastelum on the middleweight title picture: “With a big statement on Saturday I feel I could be next in line. Mousasi is gone. Rockhold is MIA. Romero is coming off a loss. I could very well be next in line.”
• Dennis Bermudez is loving the new weigh-ins and thinks anyone who has issues with the new procedures is at fault.
• Bermudez is energized by Max Holloway’s title reign, knowing he has a win over the champion
Ronda Rousey’s future in the WWE?
Since Ronda Rousey’s second consecutive loss, at UFC 207, fans have speculated on the former champion’s future. Will she return? Will she retire? Or will she go to the WWE?
The latter choice picked up steam after Rousey appeared at two WWE tapings for the Mae Young Classic to support former MMA fighter and friend Shayna Baszler. Her presence began a storyline of two clashing groups of women, both using the Four Horsewomen moniker.
The Four Horsewomen is a play on the legendary Four Horseman stable, which included Ric Flair. The WWE used the Four Horsewomen name for Charlotte Flair, Ric’s daughter, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Baszler used it for herself, Rousey, former UFC fighter currently with Invicta Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, another Invicta fighter.
If Rousey is interested, the opportunity is there and it’d be a tremendous marriage. She is a fan of wrestling; her nickname “Rowdy” is from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. She received a huge response for her participation at WrestleMania 31, when she paired up with The Rock to confront Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. She could play a character similar to Brock Lesnar, dominant but on the shows sparingly, making it an event whenever she does walk onto the stage.
The WWE would welcome her with open arms.
And if she wants a tag team partner outside her group of friends, there is no shortage of women interested. For example, Brooke Hogan, daughter of WWE legend Hulk Hogan.
Yoel Romero and Michael Bisping heat is too late
Middleweight champion Michael Bisping sat cageside as Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker fought for the interim belt at UFC 213. Throughout the fight he did his best to taunt Romero, at one point even ripping a Cuban flag.
All of this is promotional gold for the UFC, but it’s a fight that isn’t happening in the near future. Romero lost to Whittaker and Whittaker would presumably get the next shot at Bisping as interim champion, unless Georges St-Pierre gets inserted in the mix. Bisping has embraced the response, but issued a stark reminder that Romero isn’t on his radar.
“It’s awesome. I love it. I love it. He’s going around getting people dancing on British flags, he’s burning pictures of me, he’s stepping off the plane, he’s doing videos when he gets off the plane, he’s got loads of Cubans all standing there saluting and talking s--t and chanting, he’s in cars talking s--t - he’s gone off the deep end,” Bisping said Tuesday on his Believe You Me podcast.
“Yoel is out of his god damn mind. I’ve got to say, I love it because unlike some of those videos, it’s awesome. . . Yoel, get over it bud. You just lost the No. 1 contender fight. It’s as simple as that. And you know what, it’s just so typical of Yoel Romero. He can’t man up. He can’t accept it. He’s gotta cheat. He’s got no honor. He’s gotta take steroids.”
• Conor McGregor has dropped to less than a 4-1 underdog against Floyd Mayweather.
• Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson backpedals on his feud with UFC president Dana White and called it a “misunderstanding.”
• Rumors circulated that Brock Lesnar is interested in returning to the UFC, but this is nothing more than a rumor at this point.
This week Kailin Curran, Aljamain Sterling and Andre Fili all called into the show to talk about their upcoming fights at UFC 214.
Five questions withOscar Willis ofThe Mac Life
1. Is Kelvin Gastelum a risky opponent for Chris Weidman, and puts him in a no-win situation?
I think Kelvin's certainly a risky opponent, there's no question about that. But as far as there being a no-win outcome, I'm not so sure. Gastelum's wins at 185-pounds have been fairly spectacular, and the very fact he's the favourite going into the contest means Weidman has something to gain. Clearly, the fans believe Gastelum at middleweight to be something special, or else there wouldn't be such confusion as to why Weidman accepted the fight in his current situation.
It's probably fair to say Weidman would have been served best by facing an 'easier' match-up than Gastelum. But, should he manage to beat the youngster, it'll immediately put him back on the map as a contender and for that reason, there's definitely something to gain for the former champion.
2. Was the Mayweather-McGregor press conference good or bad for the fighters, and the fight?
The McGregor -Mayweather conferences might be being greeted with a mixed bag by hardcore fans and members of the MMA media—but the whole affair seems to have captured praise from the mainstream just fine. Were there situations or phrases used that left a sour taste in the mouth? Definitely. But often in life we tend to look back at things through a more cheerful tint, and I suspect when fans think back at the string of four events, it'll be moments like McGregor's performance in Toronto that'll outshine Mayweather's homophobic slur in London. Whether the entire thing will make that much difference to pay-per-view sales is yet to be seen, but as a whole, the aura and (as has so often been referenced) the spectacle made it must watch.
3. Did either fighter go too far with their verbal barbs?
Well, Mayweather's use of a homophobic slur during the last event was completely inappropriate and absolutely crossed the line. There shouldn't be much of a debate on that matter. If we remove that issue, then the waters get slightly less clear. Much has been made of McGregor's racially insensitive remarks, but for me it seemed as if media and fans alike were waiting for an opportunity to bring that discussion to the front. Would I have rather avoided McGregor saying his 'black from the belly button down' comment? Absolutely, but I think the Irishman has done well to explain himself in the aftermath, and I'm not really willing to drag him over the coals for what he said.
Outside of those two issues, there wasn't really much in it for me that stood out as anything other than exceptional trash talk, so as a whole I don't think they went too far. Besides, most people fork out money more willingly if there is legitimate heat between athletes, so it seems odd to criticise fighters for issuing heated statements.
4. Gunnar Nelson seemed to be the victim of some questionable eye pokes? Accidental or not?
If we take a look at the worst offense, which for my money was the last poke, then it's undeniable that it probably affected Nelson's performance. On the other hand, Nelson had been rocked fairly cleanly and looked to be retreating dazed, so whether or not that final eye poke sufficiently messed with his vision and clarity enough to allow Santiago Ponzinibbio to land the finishing blow is unknown.
Really, I'd just like to cite the 'de Randamie' rule. Once is easy enough to forgive. After that -- particularly in what the replay shows to be a nasty fashion, and things get a little suspect.
5. Anderson Silva called for a rematch with Nick Diaz, is this a fight fans want again?
They shouldn't. The first fight was—after Diaz had finished his best Kate Winslet impression—a fairly drab affair. There was drama to be found in Silva's left leg, and whether or not it would hold up through another professional fight, but outside of that and there wasn't too much action to look back on. It's been said enough times by better analysts than myself, but it bears repeating; Silva is a counterstriker. When his opponents (as Diaz himself did) refuse to lead and allow the Brazilian to work his magic, then things can end up stalling slightly.
There are better and more interesting fights for both men right now. Let's not throw them in there against each other again just because both have a name value.