Thursday, April 26, 2012
Quick hits: Silva, Reem, Lombard, more
By Josh Gross
Hey, remember when Jon Jones beat Rashad Evans?
In case the mega-fight slipped your mind already, which isn't altogether implausible thanks to mixed martial arts' wacky news cycle, that happened Saturday.
For instance: On Tuesday, three major pieces of information were revealed.
Anderson Silva would not defend his UFC middleweight belt in his home country of Brazil against Chael Sonnen. Instead, it was announced, the pound-for-pound king will return to sweltering Las Vegas for a mid-summer bout against the self-proclaimed king.
Heavyweight Alistair Overeem was denied licensure to fight in the state of Nevada, meaning he's yet another casualty on MMA's growing PED hit list.
And Bellator champion Hector Lombard is relinquishing that title for a chance to compete in the UFC and shut up his doubters.
Here are some quick thoughts on what went down.
Silva-Sonnen 2 heads to Las Vegas
Rather than promoting one of the most intriguing stadium shows in combat sports history, UFC president Dana White confirmed in Rio on Tuesday morning that it was going to be impossible to promote the bout as promised.
A suitable venue couldn't be locked down, even if the promoter openingly salivated not long about the possibility of his middleweights fighting in front of 80,000 fans. Hotel space was a real issue as well, with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, a massive undertaking, was taking place at the same time.
Good news: we still get to see the fight.
Some winners and losers in all of this:
That's right. Even though they failed to deliver on the promise of a mega UFC championship fight in Brazil, the promotion comes out ahead since it won't have to cope with the logistic nightmare of competing with the Rio+20 conference. More important, a stateside Silva-Sonnen 2 fight will garner heavier media attention and potentially boost pay-per-view numbers for a card that's already stacked.
Las Vegas needed major fights, and they just landed a marlin. UFC 148 was already stacking up as a solid offering and the addition of Silva and Sonnen to an event that featured Dominick Cruz defending his title against Urijah Faber and Tito Ortiz in a retirement bout against Forrest Griffin guarantees fans will flock to the sun-scorched city.
How could he not be? The challenger goes from needing to negotiate treacherous waters to remaining in the U.S., away from hostile Brazilian fans. The only stumbling block could be Sonnen's attempt to gain a therapeutic use exemption for his testosterone replacement therapy, but Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer is already on record saying he doesn't believe there will be any hiccups to the licensing process.
This was setting up to be a mega-event for Silva's countrymen, many of whom are now understandably upset. How could they not be? They lost the chance to watch arguably the best mixed martial artist of all time fight in a packed soccer stadium against the closest thing he has to an arch rival. By extension: Any MMA fan wanted to witness this spectacle.
It won't impact his performance in the fight, but, presuming he wins, moving the bout from Rio to Vegas certainly does dampen Silva's burgeoning stardom in Brazil. This was an unprecedented opportunity to shine in front of a nation that will soon host the Olympics and World Cup.
Nevada denies Overeem
The layers run thick but it boils down to this:
Alistair Overeem visited a doctor he claimed to know nothing about, allowed himself to be injected with something he claimed ignorance of, and subsequently tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
There is no one to blame but himself. Go ahead and point fingers at Dallas-based Dr. Hector Oscar Molina if you want. He is not above reproach here, obviously, but he also didn't force himself on Overeem.
For losing out on a UFC title fight against Junior dos Santos next month. For seeking treatment from Dallas-based Dr. Molina, who admitted to mixing a water-based testosterone cocktail for the Greek statue of a heavyweight he claimed was designed to treat a rib injury. For taking one injection. And then another. For such willful ignorance, especially when he owed Nevada two tests at a time and place of their choosing.
In a way, don't you hope Overeem attempted to cheat the system? I mean, at this stage of the game, it's basically expected and would at least provide an explanation for this mess. Otherwise, the alternative is to believe Overeem is oblivious and stupid.
Lombard leaves, Bellator show's hand
Put up or shut up time for Hector Lombard.
After Bjorn Rebney and his partners decided against matching an offer sheet from the UFC for the Cuban's services, the now-former Bellator middleweight champion will get every chance he deserves to prove he's the world's best middleweight.
I have my doubts he'll make much of a dent against the type of competition he's soon to face. Is Lombard (31-2-1) better than Rousimar Palhares or Alan Belcher, who fight May 5 on FOX? I don't think so. But this is the great part: We don't have to "think" about it anymore; let the speculation end.
Bellator's choice is worth dissecting because it says something about the way they're conducting business, and could foretell Eddie Alvarez's chances of remaining with the promotion four months from now.
Bellator essentially would have been forced into the pay-per-view business had they matched the UFC's offer for Lombard. That's a huge advantage Zuffa owns over its potential competitors, because no one other than the Las Vegas-based juggernaut can seemingly compel consumers to buy a fight. Bellator hasn't even tried, though they may at some point.
If not, Zuffa will just poach away fighters they want, like Alvarez, and there's not much Rebney will be able to do about it.