Brock Lesnar was about to own media coverage heading into Thanksgiving, but then news broke that UFC President Dana White dismissed welterweight contender Jon Fitch for effectively being represented by a management team that stuck to its guns.
Fitch's release/comeback is still driving much of the discussion behind the scenes. And it's doing the same in my e-mail inbox. From the Fitch-White-Fertitta-UFC experience, to Randy Couture's future and Lesnar's potential, and even a few random items that -- take a deep breath -- involve actual fighting, here's what SI.com readers had to say.
Can you please help boil down the trouble between Dana White and Jon Fitch? And what did Lorenzo Fertitta bring to the table that made stuff turnaround in less than a day?-- Jim Ray, Oklahoma City, Okla.
To this point, we've seen skirmishes between fighters and promoters equivalent to border clashes. Each side prods and pushes, seeing how far they can go, what they can take, what they can dictate. With the way Fitch was almost immediately brought back into the UFC fold, I don't think the recent firing and re-hiring is going to qualify as anything more than another bump in the road when fighters and promoters do business.
The question is, will there come a point when enough is enough? Randy Couture cited "respect" as a major reason he made trouble last year by leaving the UFC. Fitch, too, said hesitancy to sign a deal he didn't really feel comfortable with was based largely on the UFC's approach to negotiating.
Insofar as Fertitta goes, it's my understanding the UFC co-owner got to know Fitch in the hours after the American's failed attempt at capturing Georges St. Pierre's belt. Fertitta never left Fitch's side after the fight that night, and the two seemed to find a common ground, according to a source close to Fitch. So when the fighter felt alienated by White's comments and ultimatums, Fitch went to Fertitta. What he found was a more measured explanation of the deal, and the realization that signing was the lesser of two evils.
You should get a hold of Dana and find out why he thinks bullying fighters into things is OK business. He just put a black eye on UFC because he wants to act like a kingpin. I have been a fan of UFC since it started and I like what Dana did with a no-nonsense approach, but this is just a power hungry, I own you BS move. Dana: Do not treat them like property. Cutting top talent because they don't sign something is a stupid move. Fighters will look elsewhere when an organization starts screwing its talent. Fix it and lets get the talent back.-- Michael, Tucson, Ariz.
Here's the bottom line: the UFC got what it wanted. Fitch signed, and now other fighters are keenly aware of what could happen if they don't do the same.
Effective? Apparently. Pretty? Not exactly, especially with White going after Fitch and his teammates at AKA the way he did. Can you imagine the backlash David Stern or Roger Goodell would feel for publicly cursing out a player in their respective leagues? Perhaps the nature of the fight business gives White some leeway. Boxing has long been a haven for characters, and MMA is proving to be no different.
[Is the] UFC prepared to wield its power as MMA's market leader responsibly with regard to its fighters, and [will we] see more members of the media take up the cause of fighters' rights in an environment where even top 10 fighters aren't safe?
To that end, do you think collective bargaining is on the near horizon now that fighters and their management really know what's at stake?-- Mike Ford, Brooklyn, NY
Near horizon? No. There have been whispers and hopes, but little has been accomplished -- or tried -- in bringing together a group that would speak collectively for mixed martial artists.
Instead, fighters are reliant upon their managers and agents, and with a sense that few real options are available outside the UFC at the moment, they possess little leverage in negotiations. If the UFC rids itself of competition and becomes the home for professional MMA, fighters will have to seek some sort of collective protections.
That feels a long ways off. One manager told me in the wake of this Fitch debacle that he's not sure what it'll take for fighters to push back, but whatever it is, it hasn't happened yet.
In just his fourth fight, Brock Lesnar is the UFC heavyweight champion. That means he'll fight the best of the best from here on out. Maybe he doesn't win them all, Josh, but he could be in a position by the time he's done that he's fought all the greats (maybe not Fedor Emelianenko), which means he could go down as the best of all time if he wins most of those. Do you think Brock is capable of pulling that off?-- Chuck Singletary, Minneapolis, Minn.
Well, it's way too soon to know or speculate. He has some things working in his favor, but I haven't seen nearly enough of him to make those kinds of comparisons just yet. Let him defend the belt first. Then do it again and again. Moreover, this seems to be a guy that gets bored easily. Reaching the pinnacle this fast does one of two things: it makes Lesnar feel like MMA is easy, or it motivates him to find another level. I hope he's motivated, because the sport needs dominant fighters that capture fans' imaginations. And he's certainly capable of doing that.
Finally, the "best heavyweight of all time" label would be an elusive recognition for Lesnar if he never crosses paths with the best heavyweights outside the UFC. And currently there are several.
Isn't it time for Randy Couture to retire? What's left for the guy? He's already said he doesn't want to fight at 205, and heavyweights keep getting larger. I just don't think he looked good against Lesnar, and he wouldn't have looked good against most top heavyweights.-- Bryan Rodgers, Chino, Calif.
There are fights we haven't seen yet. Whether that's enough of a reason for Couture to stick around, I'm not sure. I don't think he looked all that bad against Lesnar, and he had virtually all of the physical categories working against him.
Couture should keep fighting and finding paydays, which is fine.
Is Andrei Arlovski really a top-flight heavy? I'm admittedly a huge fan of the guy when he lets his hands go, but I don't know that I've seen many heavies worse on the ground than the "Pitbull," and you can't convince me that's not where Fedor will take this fight. Fedor ... will continue to be marginalized until he steps in the Octagon (as unfortunate as that may be). He's not getting there unless he relents on the co-promotion of his M-1 organization; He's either going to have to be content as the best of the second tier, or hold off on promotion. Thus far, it appears his organization is more important.-- Michael McManus, Montgomery, Ala.
Arlovski is a very good heavyweight. His power and athleticism alone makes for a dangerous fighter; experience seasons the package. I haven't seen much to make me think he's seriously deficient on the ground. The guy understands leg locks and poses some threat on top, but I'll give you that his guard leaves something to be desired. And you're on the money thinking Fedor would be smart to put Arlovski on his back -- though I'm not as convinced as you that he'll plan it that way.
As far as marginalizing Fedor, I don't think anyone that takes time to know MMA could do that. The words of promoters mean little here. And I expect Affliction's heavyweight pay-per-view contest (Jan 24) to receive its fair share of press. Fedor is the lone fighter of a major division to be ranked No. 1 outside the UFC. I don't think it's any coincidence that other top heavyweights decided to go off on their own and pursue him. In the end, for most fighters, it's about challenging the best.
While I feel that Thiago Alves is moving to the top of the welterweight heap, I think there are other worthy contenders he should be matched against. What about Jon Fitch? This guy is awesome, and he stood and traded with St. Pierre for five rounds. Alves-Fitch in January 2009 would be a top-tier fight. Thoughts?-- Greg, Boca Raton, Fla.
Alves deserves next crack after St. Pierre fights B.J. Penn, though I think Alves-Fitch would be tremendous. A lot will depend on what happens with Fitch and his contract. He'll have one remaining fight after meeting Akihiro Gono at UFC 94, and he could choose to test free agent waters. (Promoters showed a ton of interest in the welterweight during his less-than-a-day dismissal from the UFC.) If so, that doesn't make chances of putting him in a No. 1 contender fight all that great.