20 July 2007

UFC 73 postscript

A few things have come to light since the ‘publication’ of my UFC 73 post, so herein are those aforementioned things.

First off is the detail that I blanked on (and an ever-present issue when a writer gets cocky enough to work off fighter records in his memory as opposed to, you know, actual factual stuff you might get on FC Fighter’s database. Yes, Mirko Filipovic started in the UFC with a win over Eddie Sanchez on the same show Rampage Jackson debuted and not, as I erroneously stated, with the loss that came next against Gabriel Gonzaga in Manchester. And rather than try any ‘whatevz’ face saving, I will cop to that being an embarrassing error, especially as I saw the fight at the time. Mirko entered to the boss Pride FC theme tune and everything. Both thanks and no thanks, then, to my man Dave Walsh.

Of more import to the actual world of MMA is the recent revelation that both participants in the recent lightweight title fight, champion Sean Sherk and challenger Hermes Franca, tested positive for steroids. Given that the show ran in California (off the top of my head!), and they are very strict in their jurisdiction over the state’s recently regulated sport, this was hyper foolish. It should be assumed that, if one is fighting a title bout, one will be subjected to the wee-wee test, so I have no sympathy for either man. No, not even for the hyper-sympathetic Franca, who at least came clean in advance, so kudos for that.

Sherk is apparently going to challenge the finding. Good luck with that.

As the California State Athletic Commission rules dictate, both fighters are subject to a ban of a year and $2500. While this doesn’t really affect a fighter like Royce Gracie, who also tested positive recently and is hella rich and, by his own admission, only fights once a year anyway, this has big repercussions for the fighters and the UFC as a whole. Someone like Franca, who fights regularly and, one imagines, for low five figures if that (more mid four figures), is in a lot of trouble because of this. Unless he gets a lot of sponsor support, he’s getting a day job.

The Sherk issue is another tough one. He gets paid more than Franca and is (was?) one of UFC President Dana White’s golden boys. One would hope this strips him of the belt: if not for the Nandrolone positive, it stands to reason that the not-fighting-for-a-year deal would get him stripped. Then again, he was recently injured for the best part of a year and retained the belt for the duration so Jebus only knows. A year of inactivity is enough for me to remove someone from my personal fighter rankings so, if it’s good enough for me, it should surely be good enough for company owners Zuffa.

So what now for the division? Well, it’s safe to say the lightweights in UFC haven’t had the best of it as a division, what with Jens Pulver walking on a pay dispute, high profile matches ending in draws and the division not even existing for the longest time; I warned in my earlier post that Sherk’s reign could spell another death of the division, but I didn’t realise that would manifest in such a heinous manner.

Obviously it would be poor form for UFC to ditch the division again, especially as the last Ultimate Fighter series was all-lightweight, they are pushing Roger Huerta as far as he can go, and the commentators bang incessantly on about how exciting these fighters are. So what now?

I think, without wanting to delve too far into the murky depths of fantasy booking, a mini-tournament would be the best idea: have maybe four first round fights on one show, with semis and final on later shows. That way, whomever wins would have had decent exposure, and would be more qualified than Sherk was when he won the title, with his one fight in the division. The silver lining would be Sherk not being the champ any more. I know, I’m horrible.

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