Scott Coker calls move away from weekly Bellator shows a 'no brainer'
SAN DIEGO -- Bellator President Scott Coker spoke to MMA Fighting about the plan for the organization in 2015, why it was a 'no brainer' to move away from the previous weekly format of shows, the truth behind the Stephan Bonnar-Tito Ortiz in-cage incident, how his life has been since joining the company, working with Viacom and Spike TV and more.
No Cain Velasquez at UFC 180 means more fancy footwork
Talk about your bunk luck.
Cain Velasquez was the UFC’s first class ticket to Mexico. Dana White said time and again that the Octagon wouldn’t go to Mexico without its heavyweight champion. Velasquez, an unflinching Mexican-American go-machine with a prominent Brown Pride tattoo and a lot of reach, was the lever controlling the Mexican floodgates. He was perfect centerpiece to display in a long coveted market. In fact, he was the only centerpiece.
"Was" because on Tuesday the whole idea of that became past tense.
Velasquez hurt his knee in training and won’t be staking his belt against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180 on Nov. 15 in Mexico City. And that truly sucks. If there was ever a situation where a fighter couldn’t afford to get hurt and plucked from the card, this was the one. Despite the UFC’s careful planning to tailor the event around Velasquez, the match and the fuse just couldn't come together. Now the UFC will have to head south of the border without Cain Velasquez after all.
And it’s a bummer for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is this: Mexico, with its rich history in combat sports, just became a neutral site for an interim title between New Zealander Mark Hunt and the Brazilian Werdum.
As great as Hunt-Werdum is -- and it is a damn good substitute, especially with that placeholder gold in play -- it’s no longer about the blood of Mexico. Velasquez and Mexico, especially after the groundwork laid down with The Ultimate Fighter Latin America, were the stars of UFC 180. Velasquez and Mexico were intertwined, in the same way that Conor McGregor and Ireland are, and Georges St-Pierre and Canada. For a card meant to rev a national spirit -- especially one as exploratory as Mexico’s -- the news of Velasquez’s withdrawal comes across as an extra-strength kind of buzzkill.
For fans and the UFC alike.
It’s made worse because Erik "Goyito" Perez, the UFC’s first Mexican born fighter who embodied the luchador, had to pull out of the card with an injury, too. That leaves Ricardo Lamas, a Mexican-American from Chicago, Kelvin Gastelum (at least we get "Mini Cain!") and Diego Sanchez, who fights Joe Lauzon. It was Sanchez that got left doing the heavy-lifting when the UFC catered an event to Quinton Jackson at UFC 107 in his native Memphis, you might remember, only to have "Rampage" sneak off and take the role of "B.A." Baracus in The A-Team movie. Sanchez lost to B.J. Penn, and Jackson finally fought Rashad Evans at UFC 114 five months later on the neutral grounds in Vegas.
In other words, the UFC has seen its share of fight card blueprints get lost in the fire over the last few years.
It’s a harsh reality that never sucks any less despite the frequency in which it happens.
This case is a little like the time Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson suffered a cut above his eye a week before a fight card in Stockholm, and his fellow countryman Ilir Latifi was asked to stand in against Gegard Mousasi on four day’s notice. Only, there aren’t any Mexican Latifi's lying around; there are just Super Samoan’s like Hunt who, to his credit, can dish out siestas with the best of them.
And this time it’s a pay-per-view, which have been hit particularly hard this year.
The more you watch the UFC, the more you have to admire the company’s resiliency to disaster. Velasquez is the last in a long line of suddenly nullified high hopes. Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier turned the MGM Grand lobby into a scene from Road House, making it the most anticipated fight of the year…only to be postponed a week later when Jones hurt his leg. T.J. Dillashaw was supposed to rematch Renan Barao, and instead got Joe Soto in UFC 177’s main event. UFC 175 was supposed to get some version of the Chael Sonnen-Vitor Belfort-Wanderlei Silva triptych, instead it got high-flying red flags. Ditto UFC 173, which was also supposed to get Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort (who turned into Lyoto Machida), but Weidman hurt his knee. Even at the beginning of the year, UFC 169 was meant to be the return of Dominick Cruz. It wasn’t. Cruz tore his groin and in stepped Urijah Faber.
On and on.
It’s to the point that matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are constantly dancing while a pistol is being fired at their feet. It’s a game of revision. When matches are made, what the fighters are agreeing to is an intention. In many cases, even the best intentions -- like rolling out Cain Velasquez like a red carpet in Mexico -- just don’t pan out as planned.
Everybody knows that by now. But it still sort of sucks.
Veteran Paulo Thiago cut from UFC roster after third straight loss
Veteran welterweight Paulo Thiago has been cut from the UFC after a five-year run.
MMAFighting.com has confirmed the news, which was first reported Wednesday by Brazil's Combate.
Thiago (15-8) got off to a memorable start in the UFC, when he scored a first-round knockout of Josh Koscheck at UFC 95 and was awarded a KO of the Night bonus.
He went on to win three of his first four UFC bouts, culminating in a D'Arce choke win over Mike Swick at UFC 109, which earned Thiago another postfight bonus.
But things turned south from there for the 33-year old Brazilian. Thiago dropped seven of his past nine fights, including his past three bouts. The most recent loss came on Sept. 13, when he dropped a decision to Sean Spencer in Thiago's hometown of Brasilia.
King Mo Lawal sees hypocrisy in different reactions to Jones-Cormier and Bellator brawls
SAN DIEGO - After Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier got into their infamous Las Vegas hotel lobby brawl in August, general consensus was that while such incidents probably shouldn't happen too often, in this specific case, the legitimate animosity would help build the fight as big as any the sport of mixed martial arts could make.
"King Mo" Lawal may as well have shot that notion The Rock's raised eyebrow in contempt.
The Bellator light heavyweight contender can't help but see what he views as a double standard in the public's reaction to intramural MMA altercations. If it happens in the UFC, says Lawal, they're looked upon with favor. If they happen outside, they're viewed as kitsch.
"You see Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier get into just a little tussle - no punches thrown, just wrestling a little bit - and everyone was like 'oh yeah, that's what the sport needs,'" said Lawal, who meets Tom DeBlass on Nov. 15 at Bellator 131. "And I'm like ‘wait a minute, so you're okay with guys grabbing each other and are falling down, but you don't care when guys are throwing hands and security coming in to break the s-- up?' It's happened in Bellator and Strikeforce too."
Indeed, fans and pundits have turned thumbs down on several altercations which occurred outside the UFC, including the notorious 2010 Strikeforce brawl in Nashville between Jason "Mayhem" Miller and the Skrap Pack, and, more recently, last month's confrontation between Stephan Bonnar and Tito Ortiz, who meet in the main event of the Nov. 15 card at the Valley View Casino Center.
"It happened in Strikeforce with Jason Miller, and he got jumped. That s-- was as real as it gets. Everyone's like ‘that's staged.' I'm like ‘you can't stage that. You don't stage s- with the Diaz brothers. Really? You think the Diaz brothers jumping someone is staged?' But if that happened in the UFC, everyone would have been like ... ‘yeah, I can't wait to see that fight! It's going to be amazing.' If everything with Tito and Bonnar happened in the UFC everyone would be ‘I can't wait for Bonnar to rip Tito's head off.'"
Lawal has his own experience with such episodes: He had an in-cage interview segment with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun go awry and devolve into a pull-apart, one he maintains he wasn't cued in on beforehand.
"I didn't know it was going to happen," Lawal said. "Everyone says they set me up. They just brought me in to talk, I was on the mic, [announcer] Jimmy Smith had the mic, and then Rampage got hot and said ‘this is my time' and things just happened from there."
So why was the Jones-DC brawl embraced, while the rest were panned? Lawal has his theory.
"Every sport, the most popular people in the sport played the sport at one time. Look at [boxer Manny] Pacquiao. Could you imagine if Bob Arum was a bigger deal than Manny Pacquiao?" In MMA, the most popular person in the sport is Dana White. If Dana said ‘that was a great fight,' but the fight sucked, people on Twitter will still be all ‘yeah, yeah, Dana, that was a great fight.' They don't think for themselves. In MMA, people didn't grow up fighting. We grew up playing basketball, playing football, but they didn't grow up training to fight in a cage. So they'll be like "you know what, I need someone to listen to,' so they'll believe whoever is popular."
Mark Hunt on UFC 180 interim title fight: 'Only challenge is making weight'
Mark Hunt got the call he's been waiting for on Tuesday morning -- the call to ask if he'd like to fight for the UFC heavyweight title.
By now you know the details: A knee injury forced Cain Velasquez out of UFC 180, leading to a UFC interim heavyweight title fight between Fabricio Werdum and Hunt getting booked for Nov. 15 in Mexico City.
Hunt told MMAFighting.com he didn't think twice when he got the call, despite the fact that he'll only get a little over three weeks to prepare for the biggest fight of his MMA career.
"Don't think I [hestitated]," he said. "Only challenge is making weight."
Hunt weighed 137 kg (302 pounds) when he was officially offered the fight on Tuesday, meaning he'll need to lose 37 pounds before the weigh-in on Nov. 14.
Hunt, who weighed 264 pounds prior to his Sept. 20 win over Roy Nelson in Japan, said he had a bit of trouble making weight prior to the fight but doesn't seem concerned about hitting the 265-pound mark come next month in Mexico City. After that, he'll be just about 24 hours away from completing one of the greatest career turnarounds in MMA history.