Chat with Brett Okamoto
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com mixed martial arts writer Brett Okamoto stops by to chat about the news from the octagon.
Okamoto joined ESPN.com in December 2010. Previously, he was the boxing/MMA writer for the Las Vegas Sun newspaper and has also worked with Sports Illustrated magazine and CNN.com.
Send your questions now and join Okamoto Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Brett Okamoto (1:04 PM)
So, I consider myself mostly a Colorado kid but I actually lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio from the time I was a little kid to age 15. And I always loved baseball season back then, loved to pitch, but that area gets a lot of rain and I remember one time where I had like the fourth game in a row rained out and being the dramatic kid I was, I took the baseball schedule off the fridge and ripped it up and was like, 'Doesn't matter! All these games are gonna get canceled anyway!' That's the feeling I'm starting to have with the UFC. I was in LA last month and I filmed a bunch of sitdown stuff for the UFC Countdown shows and as it sits right now, only one or two of the fights is actually still happening ... and we talked about like 10 of them! What a year for the UFC, especially when you add in suspensions to guys like Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem, Chris Leben. Brutal. Just brutal. Alright there's my intro for the day, let's get to you.
Man, besides UFC on Fox in december, Frankie v Aldo was the card to see. Pleeeeeeease Brett, dont let anything happen to the Fox card. I dont ask for much.
Brett Okamoto (1:05 PM)
I'd like to tell you everything is going to be okay but ...
How does UFC save UFC 153? Does Anderson need to step in?
Tim (North Olmsted)
So who's Lyoto fighting at 153?
Brett Okamoto (1:07 PM)
Lyoto seems like the obvious choice to step in. He was willing to fight Jones on that date and (I've been out of the country for awhile so forgive me if I'm hazy on the details here ) but I believe Dana has come out and said he's not getting a title shot now anyway so he'll have to fight somebody else. Teixeira doesn't want him though, they know each other well. As of last night, I had been told the UFC had not figured out the answer yet and haven't heard anything concrete so far today so ... still waiting.
LarrySandersJoe (Nottingham, UK)
Welcome back, Brett. Injury rates have soared in the near-year-and-a-half since the UFC announced announced a new insurance policy for fighters under the Zuffa banner - coincidence, or just me being cynical?
Brett Okamoto (1:09 PM)
I tend to not put any weight on that. These guys want paychecks. They want to fight. I hear all the time about minor injuries these guys are dealing with leading into a fight. I haven't had A TON of conversations with fighters about it, but the ones I have don't put any weight on that idea either. Of course, they want the insurance so they're not going to put it in a negative light, but personally I don't think it's the insurance that's ruining these cards.
So who do you think gets the next shot at Aldo when he'd ready - Edgar or Koch?
Brett Okamoto (1:11 PM)
I would think Edgar 100 percent, but we have to see what happens ... if he stays on the card ... how he looks ... etc. It's too bad Korean Zombie is unavailable right now due to injury, I had heard a rumor prior to him deciding on surgery that was a fight the UFC was very interested in. I'd like to see it.
Territo (New Jersey)
I don't want fighters penalized, but I think it?s the only realistic way to minimize these drastic card changes. I believe these fighters need stipulations in their contract that if they pull out of a fight, they pay a fine or have their next purse cut by a percentage.It may sound selfish, but I can see next year being even worse for the UFC if fans can?t get excited for a card until the fighters are actually in the octagon.
Brett Okamoto (1:12 PM)
All along I've had the glass half-full, saying it's just a bad stretch, these things happen, it can't last forever. But the rate of these injuries to big time fights is crazy. Pretty much every champion has spent considerable time on the sidelines over the past 18 months. Fining them is not the answer and that will never happen, but I'm switching my stance on this isn't a huge deal. It really has plagued the organization this year.
Mark (Santa Cruz)
What does it take for someone like Rockhold to move up from Strikeforce? He's running out of competition and needs to get to the UFC!
Brett Okamoto (1:13 PM)
Strikeforce folding, basically. Unless something changes, from what I've been told the Strikeforce champions are staying put and additionally, more UFC guys going over to challenge them is not going to happen. They're stuck.
With all the recent injuries affecting the UFC and it's fighters, is it time to stop announcing big fights months ahead of time?
Brett Okamoto (1:14 PM)
Can't really do much about that ... it takes that amount of time to properly promote a fight and these guys are obviously going to know about it because they have to start training for the opponent.
Brett glad to have you back! Was wondering what your prediction/insight is on the upcoming flyweight championship fight? I like Mighty Mouse but just see Benavidez as way too powerful and quick enough to score a fairly easy KO/TKO late 1 or early 2.
Brett Okamoto (1:15 PM)
I agree with you that I'm high on Demetrious Johnson but I think Joe will win. I don't agree it will happen in 1 or 2. I see the fight going into championship rounds. Not sure if we'll see a finish or not, but I don't see a controversial decision. I think Joe will win it convincingly.
Stephan Bonnar (GA)
I see people saying I should step in to face Texeira at 153, but Texeira doesn't have enough Twitter followers - so no thanks
Brett Okamoto (1:15 PM)
Don't need to see that one.
Congrats on the marriage, sir!
Brett Okamoto (1:16 PM)
Thank you for that. Great day. Great two weeks, really.
This last batch of injuries is pretty ridiculous and has really put a great card at risk. But we can fix it! What do you think of this:Anderson Silva v Rashad Machida vs Glover
Brett Okamoto (1:17 PM)
I'm not following ... three man mini tournament all in the same night? I will say that Rashad Evans does not seem like a possibility in that amount of time. I talked to his manager before I left town for the wedding and he said Rashad is a bit ... heavy. He wants to fight in either late December or early 2013.
UFC on Fox is pretty much going to get taken apart right? Gustaffson fills in and takes on Glover? Doesnt that make sense?
Brett Okamoto (1:18 PM)
Matchup-wise yeah, but I think the UFC would be very hesitant to break apart that card. You can tell they're trying to blow it out with all the names on it, so they'll look elsewhere before they resort to that. I'd expect it to stay completely intact.
Keoki (Columbus, OH)
You ever see Jon Anik anymore? or do you shun him because he went to the UFC LeBron James style?
Brett Okamoto (1:19 PM)
Of course I see him around at the events but the Insider show keeps him real busy. Great dude though, always a JA fan.
Brett, isnt this just a result of the immense success the UFC has had over the past 3-5 years? Fighters see tremendous earning potential from not only fights, but sponsors and cannot risk a loss while fighting hurt.
Brett Okamoto (1:21 PM)
Yeah that plays into it. It's not any one thing if you ask me. Of course, these guys are pushing their bodies further than ever before. The workouts are crazy, the sparring is intense and with other high level guys. That coupled with what you brought up, many of them are much more business savvy then before. I hesitate to say it's just a brutal sport and there's no real way around it, but I think that's probably the biggest aspect. You're fighting for a living. You're trying to get better at fighting every single day. People get hurt in fights.
Can they scrap the Mir fight and bring Cormier over as a replacement at 205?
Brett Okamoto (1:23 PM)
What kind of world do we live in today where Vitor Belfort, a middleweight, is getting pulled into a 205 pound title fight against Jon Jones and there are actually suggestions of bringing a Strikeforce heavyweight into the UFC, having him drop a weight class to save a card in Rio? These are depressing times right now. And to answer your question better, no. Strikeforce guys aren't moving and Cormier will likely never cut to 205 because he had health issues with weight cutting during his wrestling career.
Dana White (Las Vegas)
I blame the injuries on Jon Jones! Wahhh!
Edgar The_Oceans (SoCal)
How much does UFC 153 being in Rio limit the options for replacement fights/fighters for the main & co-main? If Frankie Edgar is still in the main event, does the UFC need to find a Brazilian to fight him (whether at 145 or 155)? Is Glover Teixeira worthy to be bumped up to a PPV main event?
Brett Okamoto (1:24 PM)
I don't think the venue hurts them on options, no. What hurts them is a lack of depth right now. And that doesn't mean the UFC lacks good fighters, it just means there are a lot of cards still coming up this year, lots of these guys are booked. The ones that aren't booked, are hurt, and the ones that aren't booked or hurt seem to be suspended right now. That's where the lack of options is coming from.
Congrats on the wedding Ninja. Awesome fight flying under the radar Cub swanson vs Charles Oliveria. Who you got? Ill take Da Bronx by 2nd round sub
Brett Okamoto (1:25 PM)
Thank you and of course, all Cub Swanson fights fly under the radar if you ask me. That guy is in my top 10 maybe top 5 of guys I would pay money to see. Always exciting. I'm taking Cub, I just think he's got a lot of momentum on his side right now but can't fault you at all for taking Oliveira. Dude's a stud.
Craig (So Cal)
Isn't Mark overlooking Rockhold's next fight against Lorenz Larkin? That isnt an easy fight. Larkin can hit hard.
Brett Okamoto (1:26 PM)
Eh, I'm not into that fight to be honest. Larkin is still pretty raw. I think Rockhold is going to make it look easy on him. Rockhold/Jacare II isn't very marketable so I understand them passing on that one, but that's the fight I would have wanted to see Rockhold in.
Chael would fight Glover in a heartbeat, and with a win, would be ready to take on Jones next. ( if he beats Vitor )
Brett Okamoto (1:29 PM)
Chael is turning into the go-to guy to headline a broken card these days. Gotta be honest, somewhat surprised more UFC fighters haven't just started saying crazy stuff just to see if it sticks and has the same effect as Chael. It can be anything, just start calling yourself the greatest fighter ever and compliment it with a variety of insane comments. I'm sure it's harder than Chael makes it look though.
Here's my thoughts on replacement fights for 153. Shogun vs Lil Nog II and Machida vs Sonnen. That should make the Brazilians happy and seems practical.
Brett Okamoto (1:30 PM)
Good suggestions. Who you guys taking in a Sonnen/Machida fight? I think Chael would have a good shot in that one actually.
Roy Nelson's Gut (Burger King)
What chance do I have of not being knocked unconscious vs. Carwin?
Brett Okamoto (1:31 PM)
If Carwin is back to form I give Roy almost no shot in the fight. Hate to put it that bluntly but if this fight happens three years ago? The lines would be something like 3-to-1 in Carwin's favor. The problem is we have no idea what to expect from SC right now.
Boxing seems to be making a bit of a comeback lately with some good fights, any concern in the MMA world that boxing may overtake MMA in popularity once again?
Brett Okamoto (1:33 PM)
The two sports compete with one another but somewhat indirectly. You're right, boxing is closing out the year with a few good fights (I'm actually going to one of them on Saturday in Vegas) but to answer your question I'm around the MMA world all day every day and no, that conversation really hasn't been brought up.
Congrats Brett. These injuries are out of control. Time to shuffle the deck a bit and the headline has to be Glover vs. (Another Brazilian) enter Thiago Silva? Also, should'nt we keep Edgar on the card to face maybe another feaherweight...enter Faber?
Brett Okamoto (1:35 PM)
Glover vs. Thaigo Silva would be a fun fight. Not sure what's going to happen with Frankie. Faber is the clear choice because of the name recognition. It's not a fight I'm crazy for, but it's the best selling option if you're committed to keeping Frankie on the card. Either way, Glover's name is nowhere near strong enough to headline a PPV. I'd be real surprised if that was the final outcome.
Urijah Faber (Cali)
I smell a title shot out there w/ Aldo hurt again. Me vs Edgar for Interim title, as I just have to win one of these title shots eventually.
Brett Okamoto (1:36 PM)
Think we all just threw up in our mouths a bit.
Does the recent maiming of UFC153 bolster the PPV #'s for 152?Some say the main event is a mismatch, but there are some good fights besides.
Brett Okamoto (1:37 PM)
I've seen some predicting terrible numbers for 152 but I don't think it will suffer too much. The fallout with Jones was all over sports publications and Belfort (although hardcore fans know it's a weird fight) is a halfway big name. I think the card is going to sell relatively well.
Chris Weidman vs Tim Boetsch doesn't do much for me. I think Weidman runs through him quickly. Your thoughts on the fight?
Brett Okamoto (1:39 PM)
Don't completely disagree but it had become fairly clear to me he wasn't getting Anderson so who then? Bisping would have been a good choice, but in terms of just another solid test for Weidman to pass ... Boetsch is a good matchup. We keep forgetting that Weidman is still growing as a fighter because he's been so good so early. I have no problem with seeing him get matchups that help him progress at this stage in his career if he's not getting a title shot anyway.
Zah (Orange County)
Why not Forest Griffin or Shogun to replace Rampage?
Brett Okamoto (1:42 PM)
Like I mentioned with Gustafsson, I think the UFC will be very hesitant to rip apart the Fox card that everyone is looking forward to so much. Forrest ... man. He'd be a name to help the card and help Teixeira's career, but to ask him to fight in Brazil again (he hates travel) against a power puncher like Teixeira? Tough. Not a good look for Forrest.
Zah (Orange County)
you can easily have a monster fight for Edgar -- if you let him fight LW. plenty of top fighters with big names to choose from... why not Anthony Pettis or Clay Guida?
Brett Okamoto (1:43 PM)
We just spent a year trying to talk Edgar down to 145, now you want him to have a monster fight and get back into title contention at 155? What are you thinking Zah??
After reading your opening post, I was just wondering what Cleveland suburb, if you don't mind sharing? I'm from Strongsville if you know where that is. Also you should grease the wheels to get a card here in Ohio. UFC not Strikeforce please!
Brett Okamoto (1:44 PM)
Freshman year of high school was in Avon, then headed to Colorado. Would love to see a UFC card hit that area so I can get a free trip back. I'll mention it to Dana for ya ;)
I'd favor Machida vs Sonnen, but do think Sonnen's in your face style could cause lots of problems for Machida - who likes to keep that distance control.
Chael would have a good shot against Lyoto, but Lyoto might do to him what he did to another good wrestler in Rashad and knock him out.
Chael would probably wrestle to a win if it was 3 rds. 5 rds gives Machida more of a chance for Chael to do something stupid and get caught.
Brett Okamoto (1:45 PM)
I do think Chael's style would cause a lot of problems for Lyoto and the thing about Lyoto, he doesn't really make a lot of adjustments midfight. He basically sticks with what he's doing regardless of the situation. So, you'd like to say even if he gets taken down in the first few rounds he'd start to figure thing out in later rounds but I'm not sure. Lyoto is Lyoto, regardless of the score of the fight or the round for the most part.
Eric (Oak Ridge, NJ)
Gustafson moves up to fight Teixeria and Rashard can fight Shogun on Fox?
Brett Okamoto (1:46 PM)
Not a bad idea. Gives Rashad a big fight in the timeframe he wanted. I like it.
Any word on what Rampage's injury was?I know Aldo's was the foot from a motorcycle accident
Brett Okamoto (1:48 PM)
Elbow injury for Rampage. Aldo has an infection from the motorcycle accident. Manager told ESPN.com it's mostly affecting his ankle.
Any mid-tier Lt-Hwt that Anderson could face at 153?
Brett Okamoto (1:49 PM)
I'm sure we could find one, but this isn't like 151 where we have 8 days notice and the original headliner isn't willing to fight a replacement. They'll work this thing out without risking a flukey loss on Anderson's record to some guy not even in his weightclass.
Why is everyone still talking Sonnen? He's the poster-child for gatekeepers in the UFC. He'd get smoked against the top 5 LHW and clearly will never get it done at MW.
Brett Okamoto (1:52 PM)
I agree I don't see him making much of a run at 205. He might get to a title shot just because he draws so much interest, but he won't be a guy who strings together 4-5 wins in that division. At middleweight, he'd basically be the champ if AS didn't exist, so don't knock him too hard. He's talented, just can't beat the best fighter in the world.
if Cowboy and Pettis fight it needs to be 5 rounds. FX or fuel main event?
Brett Okamoto (1:53 PM)
Yeah, that's what I'm anticipating. I think we'll see it in January.
Captain Howdy (Georgetown)
Wait, Zombie is injured? What happened? I was wondering when he'd fight again; dude is an absolute must-see. I think he should co-headline a card in a featherweight contender elimination match.
Brett Okamoto (1:54 PM)
Yeah, Zombie reportedly had minor surgery to fix a lingering shoulder issue. Seriously too bad he's not available because I think that's the fight we'd see for Frankie if he was.
Tim Boetsch (Maine)
If I shock everyone again vs Weidman, I'm fighter of the year w/ wins over Okami, Lombard, and Weidman. Dare to disagree?
Brett Okamoto (1:55 PM)
It'd be real hard to argue. But really Tim, you strike me as a dude who doesn't care AT ALL about winning something like Fighter of the Year.
I don't see Stann fairing well against Bisping, as besides landing a big One shot KO punch - Bisping has got him covered everywhere. Agree?
Brett Okamoto (1:56 PM)
Yep, pretty much. Bisping is always underrated because fans don't like him, but he's the better fighter in that matchup hands down.
Brett I know this usually comes up every so often but now that we have champions fighting once every 2 years other than a few, who is next to lose their belt if you were to bet on it?
Brett Okamoto (1:57 PM)
Yeah that's a popular question but I don't think we've seen it lately so I'll tackle it. I think GSP has a real shot at losing to Condit, a year layoff and knee surgery is no joke. In general though, I'd probably say JDS. Heavyweight is the toughest division to hold onto your belt and Cain and Alistair are both tough fights.
Brett, do you Greg Jackson is overrating his role. Bones has a style matchup advtange and would have been facing a guy without one-punch power. But Jackson veto because of lack of specific prep. So is he saying there is no one Bones would take on short notice? Would they have rejected Frankie Edgar at 205?
Brett Okamoto (2:00 PM)
Greg Jackson is doing what he thinks is best for his fighter and in the end he's probably right longterm if you think about it. Why risk the loss, as unlikely as it seems. One year from now we won't really be talking about 151 anymore so the risk isn't worth the reward really. If he had beat Chael, well Chael was on short notice and basically a middleweight so who cares. Now ... all that said ... I think Jones had an opportunity to step up and say yeah, Greg doesn't think I should take this fight but I'm a fighter, this is what I do, Chael has been running his mouth, etc. and make that statement as a fighter. He would have gained some fans from it, but he played it conservative and in the end I can't blame him entirely for it.
I just wanted to comment on the injury cancellations real quick. It's my understanding from when it was first introduced that the UFC insurance actually covers a lot of the training costs for a fight that is cancelled. It's much more than just health/medical insurance. I think that since fighters are able to recoup the costs of training for a fight that fighters are much more wary to fight injured and risk their momentum and position in the division.Honestly, I think that the fighter insurance is largely to blame for the higher level of cancellations. And of course the fighters would never admit as much. They realize that most fans just wouldn't understand. Fans expect the warrior mentality to reign. Look at how much fans complain after a fighter loses and then says that it was because he was injured... Fans don't want to hear about injuries before *or* after fights. They just want the fights.
Brett Okamoto (2:03 PM)
I can understand your points but the UFC brass are no dummies. When these fighters claim they are injured, the UFC has them checked out and know exactly what is wrong with them. If they're consistently trying to pull out of a fight because of some charlie horse they got at practice, the UFC would know and call them on it. These fights falling apart is terrible but I still don't blame the insurance. These guys are legitimately hurt and it was a great day for the sport when the UFC announced it would cover the medical costs when these things happen. So, insurance is still a good thing.
Seen any good movies lately?
Brett Okamoto (2:04 PM)
I watched Hunger Games on the flight back from the Caribbean and thought it was awful. So, not really.
Marc T (the PHX)
Does anyone really care that Rampage is out? I certainly dont and think a lot of the other options thrown out there are better. Can Rampage go away already? He's got nothing left for us....he's mediocre at this stage & his poor attitude
Brett Okamoto (2:05 PM)
The only reason I wouldn't agree with you is that I don't want to see Rampage go out on his last fight. Missing weight, obviously not caring, losing a boring fight to Ryan Bader? Let him go out and bang one more time. Give him the right matchup then say a fond farewell.
Kevin (Mile High)
The UFC really needs an influx of talent at the bigger weight classes, time to fold Strike Force. Also, they need to add the 135 womens division.
Brett Okamoto (2:07 PM)
I agree that I'd love to see some SF fighters in the UFC but there isn't much help coming at the bigger weight classes. The biggest additions are at 155, 170, 185. As far as addition of women's division, it just isn't there yet. We complain about depth at some of these other divisions, it'd be 10 times worse with the women's division. Just not enough contenders.
Brett, you give in depth responses, how does Rafael get away with one sentence or less on the boxing chat? You trying to Big League him?
Brett Okamoto (2:07 PM)
I think I just type faster than Dan.
I just want to quickly respond to Kevin from LAs comment re: Greg Jackson situation with Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. He's right that Chael Sonnen does not have the punching power and on paper, does not have a lot of the tools that one would need to beat Jon Jones. But at the same time, Greg Jackson was also the coach for GSP when GSP fought Matt Serra. Matt Serra had never shown any punching power prior to the GSP KO, so just to say that we haven't seen it, doesn't mean that Chael doesn't have it. Also, to this day, people bring up GSP's loss to Matt Serra. If Jones lost to Sonnen because of something like not being fully prepared due to the fight being on short notice, it would have been on Jackson.
Brett Okamoto (2:09 PM)
Fair points. At the end of the day, Greg Jackson is entitled to his opinion whether you like it or not. The decision to fight or not falls on Jon Jones. He runs his own career. I think it would have been cool to have him come out and say, I don't care if my team doesn't think this is the right decision, I know Chael has nothing on me so I guess I'll go ahead and knock him out for your viewing pleasure. That would have been a big moment and statement in his career. But oh well.
My point wasn't that the fighters weren't legitimately hurt. It was that before the insurance, they would have fought injured, whereas with the insurance, they will not take the risk.
Brett Okamoto (2:10 PM)
Okay, but is that a bad thing? If these guys are injured they shouldn't be fighting anyway.
brett how bout this take prado off the card have glover fight phill davis edgar vs faber and move sonen vs griffin problem solved right?
Brett Okamoto (2:12 PM)
The Edgar/Faber move is a promoter's move. You can still sell a card on Edgar/Faber, although it's not going to be a home run by any means, just a way to get through. I like Glover/Davis, actually after going through this chat, I think there are plenty of options if you want to keep Glover on the card, that's not the problem. Sonnen/Griffin? If you have Edgar/Faber, that's the headliner. You don't need Sonnen/Griffin at that point and like I said, asking Griffin to go back to Brazil would be a headache and not even worth it at that point because the card would be strong enough to get you to the next one.
Royce Gracie (Brazil)
Why do these sissies need to find opponents in their weight classes? If you need a big fight, put together two great fighters. I used to do it several times in one night.
Brett Okamoto (2:13 PM)
The times have changed Royce. You used to do it at a time when an opponent might know how to throw a good jab but didn't even know what jiu-jitsu was.
Paul B (Ny, NY)
Great to have you back and congrats on the nuptials. I know this is not a boxing chat but who you got for Martinez-JCC Jr?
Brett Okamoto (2:14 PM)
I've got Martinez but could see Jr. pulling it off. Too bad they had to run Canelo/Lopez out on the same night. That's where I'll be, Dan Rafael will be at Thomas & Mack.
Peace out Brett, Thanks for the chat and congrats on the Marriage.
Brett Okamoto (2:16 PM)
Thanks to Pappa and all the rest of you for the wedding comments. Let's throw a wrap on this thing and we'll see you next week. I'll be in Toronto for 152, going to be rolling out a lot of videos and of course the gambling preview which I write before every card. Make sure to stop by the MMA page at ESPN and check it out. And of course, hit me on Twitter any time @bokamotoESPN. We'll pass on info on this 153 mess as soon as it's available. Later guys.
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