More fight business, Gimmicks and sport

Another week has gone by and the business of fighting has taken over the sport of fighting. There has never been a time where the act of fighting your way up the ladder to the title has been less important.

The sport of MMA is still ruled by the man from Crumlin who talks everyone into their seats, and following that up with being an elite fighter. But would Conor have all of the success if he wasn’t as good of a fighter?

For me, if it is a real sport. As in you win to progress or lose to drop down the pecking order. Then he is a top 4 fighter in 3 divisions. Champ at 145 and a top contender in 155 and 170. But he might not necessarily be the top dog in each division, the business aspect takes over and keeps him at the top.

McGregor took Dublin over to the UFC, there are parts of pro wrestling in there, part of the greatest characters in pro boxing there as well as the Dublin charm that we all have, but don’t expose on such a high level. The Americans have eaten it up. The rest of us have applauded (for the most part) that one of our own has taken our ‘way’ over to the biggest fight organisation in the world and become one of the biggest sports starts in the world right now.

The reason this has happened is mostly business. Conor and his team understood how to get someone to get off their couch and attend the fight, or to order the fight for far too much money. It is the marmite principle. People either love him or hate him. This is pure pro wrestling. That is how you draw money in that field. Obviously I am not comparing both as sports, just as businesses. The reason why wrestling is not at its highest in terms of popularity is because no one does what conor does. They are too scared to let their audience make a decisions. The UFC are happy to put Conor (and Chael before him) out and let the audience make their mind up.

Conor lays it on thick and the difference he is bringing is that there are people turning on him, but what they don’t understand is that this was part of the plan. The gimmick he plays is so good that people who should know better are caught by it. His team understand that people will turn against him eventually, and let’s face it, we Irish always turn on our sportspeople who do well. The only one we haven’t turned on is Katie Taylor, and that might be because she didn’t turn pro and stayed an amateur. If she was signed by golden boy promotions and moved away to train, we would turn on her too.

So back to my initial point, the business plan is more important that the wins and losses. Case in point. If the McGregor v Diaz was a pure sporting occasion, then Diaz fights Dos Anjos (the fight that McGregor was supposed to have). That fight is minimal in terms of interest in the casual fan base. And I am sorry to burst your bubble but the UFC already have our money, it’s the casual money they want. So that money is in a rematch. There are a lot of excuses as to why the fight went the way it did, a lot of them are fully justified, but if Diaz beat anyone else that way, there would be no clamour for a rematch. The reason is money and business.

I don’t know how I feel about this. For me sport should be sport and the best fighters are the ones who beat the best and have the most interest from the fans. But it looks like it’s only the second part of that that means anything.

The rematch is on. I hope it is at 155, but the rumour is that it is 170. Diaz with a full training camp and the knowledge that the cheque for winning the second time around is multiples of the one he got for the first fight makes him tough to bet against. But the heart stays with McGregor. Imagine what happens if / when he gets the win in the second fight.

It would be a massive comeback story, and nothing makes more money than a comeback!

@nkeegan for the usual debate and punditry

Until next time…

Business, Sport and UFC 196 Aftermath

Another week and another big fight on the near to mid horizon.

But let’s look at the aftermath of UFC 196.

Not talking about the backlash against anyone, end of the day, he went up 25lb to fight a serious fighter at that weight. Won the first but wasn’t used to the weight and was beaten. End of….let’s move on…

So what now? Will there be rematches after the big 2 main events? Will the UFC find new matches for each?
Well I would firstly, thank all of the gods that the 2 main events happened. The women where always going to show, no doubt. The fellas when they see their names opposite Conor withdraw quicker than I did……….but that’s another blog for another site. So for Diaz, as the victor he should get the title shot right? That’s the money match. He was hammered by Dos Anjos (well a much bigger Dos Anjos hint hint) the last time they fought.

He might be a bit too small to fight Robbie Lawler, although you can never count a Diaz out of any fight. So what happens? Well how about this, how about Nate Diaz v Georges St Pierre!??? To me that is all kinds of fun. St Pierre will be the professional, saying the right things and trying to make us think Nate hasn’t gotten into his head.
And Nate will be the Diaz we all love. It will be a fairly even fight. In his prime Georges steamrolls Diaz. But he hasn’t fought in years, the allure of UFC 200 and millions of ppv buys in his pocket may be just the thing to tempt him back. The pre-fight will be worth the money alone. I think Diaz wins it.

And what for Conor McGregor? Should he stay up at 170? Go back to 145 or go after the 155 title? It is completely up to him, because even after the loss, he drew 1.5 million buys. And as much as I would love this to be a sport where wins and losses count, it is a business first and McGregor is still the golden Crumlin Goose. He can make 145 and fight there, but I would rather see him eating the odd steak in between the salad and get the fight with Dos Anjos at 155. Aldo shouldn’t be entertained; he is talking all sorts of smack, but was put out in 13 seconds. Even on my worst day I have never done anything for that little amount of time. He is another fighter who has looked smaller since the testing has come in. I am not saying he was on anything, but……

So for me it is 155 v Dos Anjos 5 round war! Shut up another Brazilian and take home another belt.
As for the women it is a bit more difficult. I am delighted for Tate to have won. Gutted for Holly and annoyed that Ronda is back on the scene. Ronda is a beast, elite and unreal athlete. But she has appeared to be a bully lately and is only in training because Tate won and she thinks she can beat her. That is the only reason. If Holm had won Ronda would not have replied with the ‘its time I got back to work’ text to Dana.

But this being business, Ronda gets the shot against Tate, another massive fight for a company rolling in so much money that it is unreal. Not to mention Jon Jones and Cormier in April. I really want Cormier to win, but you can never bet against Jones. If he cannot get arrested or do something stupid, he will resume at the top of the division and be unbeaten until his next arrest.
Cause as Rick James said, “cocaine is one helluva drug…..

UFC 196, McGregor, The bandwagon and working the gimmick.

After an internet ordered few weeks of silence I am back. And what a time to come back.

The dust is still settling on UFC 196 and people are rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Some are rubbing their hands in glee, but that is another story.

Going into the event there where 2 main events. Holly Holm against Meisha Tate and Conor McGregor v Rafael Dos Anjos. As with life, the women where more dependable and was never in doubt. Maybe they train better or maybe women are stronger than men, I don’t know which but they were never a doubt to make the walk.

The main issue was always going to be the Brazilian. The best joke I have heard is ‘why do Brazilians never need contraception? because they always pull out’. Now that might be a bit risqué for MMA Micks but you see where the worry was coming from. And with the last kick of the last sparring session before going into the last week of media, Dos Anjos breaks his foot and is out. Immediately I wanted Diaz. Firstly because he is a stronger test at the higher weight and (more selfishly) I wanted to see then both on the mic. They were epic at the press conference, with Diaz being a little bit more subdued than usual, his mind games started early.

Fight week came and I became more and more worried about Diaz and his calmness. What did he know? McGregor was his usual self which is always fantastic. You never are on the fence with him. You either love him or hate him. And that is the point (more on that later)

Then at 4:30am on Sunday morning, my alarm went off and my ninjas skills where in full affect. I clicked on the UFC app and watch Ilir Latifi v Gian Villante. Latifi is becoming my favourite fighter. He is just a Volkswagen of a fella. Complete beast. He did look a bit lighter and less conditioned than usual, but he got the decision. On balance I think it was the right call, but by no means was it easy. More work needed but he is a contender.

Then came the women. (Not a sentence a man says very often). Both looked ready for war. We could see the game plan and we knew it coming in. Holly is an elite striker. She was going to try and knock Tate’s head off. Meisha, on the other hand, is a jack (or jackeen) of all trades. She was going to try and get Holm on the ground and grind her out. This was a smart plan, knowing that we haven’t seen Holm on her back before and it was the one spot she had an advantage.

The first round was fairly even, the usual feeling out process. Then the second round came. Tate got a take down and was milliseconds from winning the fight. The first chink in the champions armour was established. Tate now knew that if she could get Holm down she could win. And the champ new that too. Holm was aggressive yet cautious for the next couple of rounds. I think coming into r5 she was up 3rounds to 1, but the second round was a 10-8 for Tate and judges aren’t the easiest to understand. It was going along with Tate looking for the takedown and not getting it. And then, she got it! It was a Paul O’Connell take down. Just grab the opponent and drop to the ground dragging the opponent with you. Holm could escape and she knew it. Tate locked in the rear naked choke and Holm tried to flip. Tate hung on, sunk it in and Holm went to sleep.

The bravery from Holm to not tap was applauded from my bed. Unreal warrior performance from both. As soon as Tate won, Rousey got brave and said she wanted to fight again. Showing that she’s just another bully. If Holm had won, Dana Whites phone would not have rung. So its Tate v Rousey next and I hope Tate wins, by arm bar.

Then out came the second main event. Diaz looked ready to go as did McGregor. They had words before the bell and before we knew it the fight was on. Both fighters looked loose and both connected. McGregor landed a few hard shots and then a few more with Diaz returning with the Stockton slap. Diaz was cut open and McGregor looked frustrated. Some of those shots where big and Diaz didn’t take a backwards step. I think the realisation of the higher weight class hit Conor at the end of the first round. Diaz was a mess but not moving. The Diaz brothers need to be killed to be beaten and Conor was only hurting Nate. More punches where needed.

But the gas was the issue. 25 extra pounds on his frame cost him. The slap right followed by hard straight left from Diaz where finding a home on McGregor’s face. These where hurting him and he just didn’t have the gas to react. There where 2 shifts in momentum in round 2. Diaz on top then McGregor then Diaz again. Only when Diaz got back on top we knew it was nearing the end. And I think, so did the fighters. The finish was about as sexy as jiu jitsu gets. Conor goes for a take down, Diaz gets the neck, Conor rolls and then Diaz snaps on the rear naked choke.

Conor tapped and that was it. No shame in tapping. Diaz fought an amazing fight, took a lot of punishment and deserved his victory.

Now it looks like Conor goes back to 145 and Diaz fights Dos Anjos. As much as I pray at the altar of the Notorious one I would like him to take a break and enjoy spending a lot of his money without worrying about camps, fights or weights. Go to an island with the missus and drink cocktails in the sun for a while because he has kept the game going for the last 2 years. I don’t think that will happen though, I think its UFC 200 against Edgar or Aldo. After Aldo putting up that message on twitter, I want Edgar. It’s so easy to kick someone when they are down, especially after they put you down in 13 seconds!

To close, I am going to talk about the reaction to the McGregor loss. People are laying it on very thick about the loss. These people don’t realise that they fell, hook line and sinker, for the gimmick. The flash the cash McGregor. You never changed the channel when he was on. Either you wanted him to be the best ever or to be beaten. And that is where he had you! Ewan McKenna who mainly writes about football spoke about McGregor as if he knew anything about the subject. McGregor is so good at his job that he makes sports journalists into fan boys. It was amazing to see.

For me, if you haven’t trained, been in similar positions in terms of having a company on your back or put the work in, your opinion on the topic is useless. It is very easy to talk from the couch. It is very easy to talk from the bar, but you have nothing to back it up. No experience at all. So for all of you who revelled in the defeat of someone who put their body on the line in the cage, go to your local mma club and do 3 sessions. You won’t get hurt; they will take care of and respect you, but go train. I promise you won’t survive the first one and a tiny number of you will return for more.

As usual, you can find me @nkeegan . Maybe you’ll come training with me?