Thiago Silva Returns to Fighting… Despite Reports, It Won’t Be in The Octagon

I'm pretty sure Silva won't be returning to the Octagon.

I’m pretty sure Silva won’t be returning to the Octagon.

If there was any real question about how the “mainstream” views MMA, this should tell you a great deal.

The video, which you can see here, flat out states that Silva will be fighting in the Octagon.

Thiago Silva was arrested in February and charged with aggravated assault and battery that came on the heels of an alleged confrontation with his estranged wife.  You can read more about his arrest and the fallout here.

As far as the claim that Silva will be fighting in the Octagon, yes, it’s lazy reporting.  Yes, all it would take is an extra step or two to call the UFC and figure out that Thiago Silva is not a part of its organization and will not be stepping into the “Octagon”.  Yes, it’s sensationalistic and misleading to use the UFC’s name and trademark in the story when he doesn’t have ties to the UFC anymore.  Yahoo, should know better.  Hell, they could go and ask Kevin Iole.  More than that, though, it demonstrates how the UFC brand name can cut both ways.

In the end, I suppose it could have been worse.  The news outlet and Yahoo could have used a picture of this Thiago Silva in the report:

photo via WikiCommons

Thiago Silva; photo via WikiCommons

Musical Chairs: Injury Forces Aldo Out of UFC 176; Could Rousey Take Over Main Event Duties?

Ronda Rousey & fan; photo via Pedro Gaytan

Ronda Rousey & fan; photo via Pedro Gaytan

Word late yesterday was that UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo was pulling out of his main event fight with Chad Mendes due to an injury sustained in training.  This puts the UFC in a bit of a bucket of syrup as it already has four events scheduled for August with two of them PPV events, UFC 176 and UFC 177.

Now, the speculation machine is running at full tilt with who can be booked on such short notice. During the media scrum on Thursday for UFC 175, Ronda Rousey spoke to a glut of reporters when Fox Sports reporter Marc Raimondi dropped this little nugget:

It wouldn’t be the first time Rousey has come to the UFC’s rescue. However this assumes two things.  One, she will beat Alexis Davis Saturday night. Two, the UFC has a potential opponent lined up.

With the odds on a Rousey win being as lopsided as they are, and with her history of finishing opponents, and for the sake of argument, assume she does win. It still leaves her without a legit opponent.  Cat Zingano, the former contender, has just started to return to training, but Dana White believes she needs a warm-up fight before she cashes in the ticket to a title fight she earned by TKOing Miesha Tate last year.  Despite White’s reluctance to allow Zingano an immediate shot considering the rough year she has had, there may be few options left.

Unless of course you look to the outliers.

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Surely you haven’t forgotten about the circus that took place when Dana White and Ronda Rousey took their two-person promotional act on the road and floated the idea of Gina Carano coming in to the UFC challenge Rousey after 5 years of being out of the sport?  That speculation of course was deaded when it was casually announced over Twitter on a Friday night (during a Bellator broadcast) that Rousey would be taking on Davis, despite weeks of teasing the media and MMA fans that Gina Carano was UFC-bound.

With Rousey going on record that she would gladly step in and fight on a month’s notice, a showdown with Carano might be exactly the kind of silver-lining the UFC needs to save the August 2nd card, even if the fight itself makes absolutely zero sense from a competitive aspect. Unfortunately for the UFC, just because Rousey is willing and ready to fight at a moment’s notice doesn’t mean Carano is ready.  In fact, according to Bloody Elbow, negotiations between Carano and the UFC have come to an impasse.  However, if Carano’s management team isn’t using Aldo’s injury as an opportunity to get what they want from the UFC, she needs better representation.

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Consider then the other outlier opponent in Holly Holm. If the rumored negotiations between Holm and the UFC are going as swimmingly as Dana White would like for everyone to believe, Rousey could have a legit threat on her hands, or a very real challenge at the very least.  Holm, who last fought in April and suffered a broken arm, may not even be ready for primetime let alone a PPV, but she remains an intriguing out for Rousey.  Holm is an accomplished stand-up fighter who would likely give Rousey fits on the feet.  However, even if her contract negotiations are progressing positively, it remains unknown whether or not her arm is healed enough for her to begin training.

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Then, there is Cyborg, but I have a feeling that Rousey might want to take more than a month to prep for Cristiane Santos. Also Santos would need to drop to 135, and I doubt she has been working to that lately.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility to see Rousey headlining the August 2nd card. Who is standing across from her in the cage remains to be seen, but I’m willing to bet if the tumblers fall into place, Cat Zingano will finally get her chance at the title.

Then again, if Eddie Alvarez can get out of his Bellator deal now that Bjorn Rebney is out, where there is smoke, there could be fire.

Foot-In-Mouth Award: World Series of Fighting’s Ali Abdel-Aziz

With the news of Bjorn Rebney’s de-throning from atop the Bellator chair and the call-up of Scott Coker to take the reins of the promotion, the response from the MMA community has been fairly positive (both in wishing Rebney well and in praise of his replacement in Coker).

For some, however, Rebney’s departure is a call for celebration.  One such fit of joy comes from Ali Abdel-Aziz, matchmaker of the World Series of Fighting and general off-the-cuff speaker.

Abdel-Aziz is no stranger to letting loose his feelings on Twitter. He got into a heated back and forth with Vinny Magalhaes earlier this year, a fighter not even under the WSOF roster.   He took a very passive aggressive dig at Rousimar Palhares when Palhares had to drop out of a fight with Jon Fitch due to Palhares’ mother’s failing health.

So, it should come as no surprise that Abdel-Aziz had an opinion about Bellator’s changing of the guard.  Unfortunately, Abdel-Aziz continues to talk first and think second.  In an interview with MMA Junkie late yesterday, Abdel-Aziz said of Bjorn Rebney’s ousting:

Today is victory for all of MMA – for me, for you, for all the fighters. Today should be (named) MMA Independence Day. Freedom from slavery, freedom from abuse, freedom from shadiness—this guy left. I don’t want to say his name—just MMA fans should be happy, and I’m very sure a lot of people are.

I’m certain Abdel-Aziz isn’t insensitive enough to actually believe that a fighter being paid to fight on a national stage is akin to someone treated as property to be bought and sold and worked without compensation.  It’s a bad metaphor. Unfortunately, his hyperbolic comparison is also ill-timed considering it was issued on the on eve of Juneteenth.

Obviously, the coincidence and timing couldn’t be worse. Luckily for Abdel-Aziz, the World Cup is on, and MMA isn’t covered in nearly the all-encompassing manner as other major league sports, so all he has to worry about is getting a dumb, fake award for putting his foot in his mouth.

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Game of Thrones – Bjorn Rebney Out As Bellator CEO

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The scuttlebutt around the MMA landscape for the last few months was that Viacom was unhappy with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney.  Today, it becomes official.  Rebney is out as CEO of Bellator.  Rebney, Bellator’s founder and CEO, helped to make the Bellator the number 2 MMA promotion in the states in a deal with Viacom in 2011, but after a tumultuous three year period under his watch, he is out.

In a press release, Rebney said:

“This has been a wonderful eight plus years of creation, development and success. I will miss the courageous, strong and dedicated fighters I have had the pleasure of promoting, and equally, I will miss the incredibly hard working, remarkable team that has become a family for me over the years. Viacom and Tim and I differed in our views of the right strategic direction for Bellator, but Tim and I both wish them well.”

Don’t expect anything other than this kind of PR boilerplate language.  Viacom is likely sending Rebney on his way with a plum severance deal, which in addition to having a non-compete clause likely contains language that prevents him from lambasting the company on the way out.  At least, don’t expect him to get vocal until the terms of that deal have expired.   After all, Rebney isn’t shy about the airing of grievances.

Bellator certainly isn’t underperforming, but it also isn’t firing on all cylinders either.  And nothing gets corporations nervy like a plateauing product.  So what or who could be to blame?  Rebney’s public comments about former welterweight champion Ben Askren, his feud and litigious conflict with lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, and his perceived bias toward Rampage Jackson did him few favors in the court of public perception. Further, he did himself no favors from the fans and fighters alike by altering the tournament “win to get in” format and allowing Pat Curran to avoid the tournament route and challenge Daniel Straus for the featherweight title instead of tournament winner Patricio Pitbull Freire.  It may have been a culmination of these things.  It could have been that the heir apparent Scott Coker was finally available after riding out his own Zuffa-imposed non-compete clause.  It’s all speculative.  And since I’m no journalist, let’s continue to speculate.

Every time an MMA promotion tried to take the UFC on directly, it folded because it couldn’t keep up pace.  Or Zuffa simply bought them out.  The Zuffa mountain is a tough one to scale.  Bellator distinguished itself from the UFC brand with its tournament approach to title fights and a crop of blue chip MMA prospects like Ben Askren, Eddie Alvarez, Daniel Straus, Joe Warren, the brothers Pitbull, and Michael Chandler. They were even able to hang their hats on some quality matches including the first two Alvarez/Chandler matches.  The company was carving out a niche and finding an audience.

Two things continued to hamstring Bellator though. The first was the injury bug.  The injury bug forced them to scrap their first foray into PPV, which featured a main event of former UFC champions Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson.  From a tactical standpoint, having two known names headline the company’s first PPV may have seemed like a no-brainer, but from a strategic standpoint, how you could throw all of your marketing budget behind a man notorious for injuries is baffling. Sure enough, when Tito pulled out, the PPV had to be postponed.   When Alvarez/Chandler III was booked for the second swing at a first PPV event, an injured Eddie Alvarez almost caused a second delay as well.  Ultimately, the inaugural Bellator PPV went down as a success, but not before it showed some significant cracks behind the scenes, and the majority of those fissures sprung from promoter Bjorn Rebney. In fact, King Mo Lawal, clearly unhappy with the way Rebney promoted the main event for the PPV, vented as much during the actual PPV broadcast when he called Rebney a “d*ck rider” for Lawal’s perceived bias that Rebney had toward Rampage Jackson.

In short, Rebeny couldn’t get out of the way.  Much in the way other MMA promotions tried to go head-to-head with Zuffa with aping the company’s efforts, Rebney did his best at every turn to emulate the most well-known MMA promoter on the planet, Dana White, right down to the blustering bravado and bald head.

Rebney would deride his champions, as he did with Bellator’s unstoppable welterweight champion Ben Askren, offering a backhanded compliment regarding Askren’s style of fighting and his release from Bellator when he said, “I’ve said it many times, Ben’s a completely one-dimensional fighter who is utterly dominant in that dimension… he presents a weird conundrum from the MMA promoter’s perspective.  I hope he makes a fortune wrestling people to death.”

Rebney would also constantly reference the UFC in an attempt to deride Zuffa’s efforts, as he did when Dana White and the UFC responded to Georges St-Pierre’s sabbatical from the cage. Rebney just had to chime in saying, “The UFC has set the bar pretty high in terms of tasteless comments. The recent comments on Georges St-Pierre are some of the most tasteless comments they’ve made in some time.”

And much like the man he desperately tried to imitate, Rebney would trip over his own hypocrisy.  As recently as May of 2014, Rebney went on record with MMA Junkie saying, “I used to watch the UFC years ago, and I used to buy pay-per-views when they were significant and every pay-per-view had big fights on it, but that’s not the case anymore…  They do one every three weeks, and some of them, I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t watch that if it was on (FOX Sports 1).’” Of course that stands in contrast to when in April of 2014, Rebney was quick to vocalize his displeasure at the UFC’s marketing of Ronda Rousey as the biggest star in MMA. “…to characterize [Rousey] as the biggest star is a bit disingenuous. I think there are a lot of huge stars in MMA.”  Could it be that in the end, Rebney was answering more questions about the UFC than he was his own product?  Was he was talking more about the competition than he was his own stable of fighters?

I don’t know Bjorn Rebney from a ham sandwich, and from the outpouring of goodwill and tidings of comfort and joy tweeted by the fighters in Bellator, he seems to have done right by many of them, which is what makes the news of his ousting challenging (though rumor of a Scott Coker takeover comes as a most welcome salve given Coker’s reputation and history with MMA) for Bellator’s future.

In the end, perhaps Rebney should have taken his own advice; advice he issued in an interview to in February of this year. Said Rebney at the time, “The fighters are the ones fueling pay-per-view buys or fueling cable television ratings. You’re not fueling ratings by promoting Bjorn or Bellator. Promoting the fighters should be first and foremost.”

And that is how Bjorn Rebney should be judged.  Did any of his bombast of rival promotions or needling of fighters in the public result in a wider public knowledge of the names Ben Askren, Eddie Alvarez, Daniel Straus, Joe Warren, the brothers Pitbull, and Michael Chandler? If so, then, he should ride off into the sunset with the knowledge that he left the company better than when he found it. If not, I’m uncertain whether it will keep him up at night, but he’ll, at the very least, be left shaking his head.

Mike KKKogan – MMA’s Worst Manager

MMA manager Mike Kogan, who represents a fair number of UFC fighters, is at it again. Earlier today, he lambasted UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo for Aldo’s remarks regarding fighter’s pay.  Only, he decided to take things up a notch, by referring to the champ as “n***a”.

After all, Mike Kogan keeps it real.

And apparently, the black fighters he represents give him a pass since he’s “coo”. They, of course, speak on behalf of everyone who is and is not black, so it must be okay.

Mookie Alexander has a nice piece to sum up why Mike Kogan is a moron which you can read here.

In the past, I’ve written about the ridiculousness that is Mike Kogan and how his mismanagement in representing Nate Diaz led to Diaz trying to negotiate a new UFC contract through Twitter.

However, it’s better if Mike Kogan takes the last word regarding his own talents and abilities as a manager.

…I suck as a manager. Lol Thank you, Mike

Most of the MMA world already knew him to be an inept manager, but now the world knows him to be a bonafide idiot.  I certainly hope the fighters under his tutelage are as aware.