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 (1:01 PM)
Cool story ... I flew to St. Louis this weekend to see a college friend, but I chose the dates because the Colorado Rockies were at Busch Stadium on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Great seats for Friday's game, right on third baseline. Leadoff single by Rockies in first ... then 27 straight outs. It was okay though, because I was going again on Saturday. Wainwright took a no-hitter into the 8th. Didn't go Sunday, Rockies won 8-2. Two years ago I planned a similar trip to Miami, based it around a Rockies series ... Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the ninth. I'm cursed. Cursed! Let's get to MMA.
Paolo Thiago needs a win bad. What do you think his chances are?
Brett Okamoto (1:04 PM)
He certainly does. It actually doesn't even feel THAT long ago when he knocked out Koscheck, had a small setback against Fitch but then won his next two and was in title contention. Main cards, the whole bit. His losses have come to good opposition, you can say that. I don't know a ton about his opponent this weekend, although looking at his record I've learned there is apparently another Anderson Silva martial artist! And he's 0-2. Prazeres looks like a submission guy, so I give Thiago a better shot against him than if he were a big knockout artist.
Buy or Sell: Eddie Alvarez fights once in 2013.
Brett Okamoto (1:06 PM)
It's not looking real great. We're only in May, but any time you read Eddie Tweets that are referring to boxes of evidence, emails, correspondence, etc., it doesn't exactly make you feel like the case is about to be wrapped up. Really too bad because I see where Eddie is coming from when he says this is a fight between two promoters and he's just a pawn in the middle. I'd probably feel that way, too.
Cameron (Auckland )
So is Tyson Fury serious about Cain or is he just seeking publicity?
Brett Okamoto (1:06 PM)
Marc Iveson (UK)
Hello Brett my man! Random one this week. If you had to put together a team of coaches who would you have? Im having Duke Roufus as my striking coach, Vinny Magalhaes as my Jits coach, Mark Munoz on wrestling duty and thats all being headed up by the West Linn Gansta Chael P Sonnen!
Brett Okamoto (1:08 PM)
Admirable team. Truly admirable. I have a ton of striking coaches in mind, but I'd go Jason Parillo. On and off boxing coach to BJ Penn, Tito Ortiz and Michael Bisping. He's always one of my favorites to listen to in the corner on the telecasts. Grappling, gotta go Nog brothers. Strategist? Of course Greg Jackson is out there ... gotta like what Matt Hume has done with Demetrious Johnson, too.
Cameron (Auckland (NZ) )
Hey Bro, So are Zuffa serious about having Roy Nelson fight JDS if Mark Hunt doesnt make it? Although JDS / Big Country 1 was entertaining, mainly for the shots that BC was taking, the result was never in doubt. Couldnt see a rematch ending differentl.y
Brett Okamoto (1:10 PM)
It's not ideal but if Hunt can't make it, they need a co-main. JDS is going to want a fight, you can count on that. Roy lives right here in the area, he fought recently and came out healthy. I hope it doesn't come to this but the UFC needs a backup plan at this point with the fight approaching.
What do you think of the Thiago Alves vs. Matt Brown fight? Seems like it could be violent!
Brett Okamoto (1:11 PM)
Big fan. If Alves weren't coming off a huge injury layoff, I'd strongly favor him. And you guys know I like Matt Brown, I just think he wouldn't be able to swarm Alves and make it ugly like he has with some of these other guys. Not sure what to expect from Alves after this layoff, though.
Brett Okamoto (1:11 PM)
Great, great fight for free TV though.
Mike (Nowhere, AL)
Rockhold...he will go the way of Jake Shields! As odd as it is, I want to see Rockhold vs Sonnen. Thoughts?
Brett Okamoto (1:13 PM)
What do you mean, the way of Jake Shields? Just lose in general? I like Luke Rockhold a lot in the middleweight division but I think he drew a hell of an assignment for his debut. Red Ink for this weekend is up on ESPN. I'm the only member of our staff who picked Vitor to win, which is weird because I've made it a point to say how good I think Rockhold is. I just think he drops his hands a bit, his standup isn't quite on the level of Belfort's and not to beat a dead horse, but I think the TRT situation and the fight being in Brazil is significant.
Tim (Brighton, MA)
Hey Brett,Cannot wait for the UFC to come back to the Bean, it's been too long. I've seen Lauzon has a fight scheduled, as well as Matt Brown/Tiago Alves. Any idea/rumors on a main event for that card? I've heard the Wanderlei Sonnen fight could be put there but I still have a hard time believing that would have the impact of a main event. Anything?
Brett Okamoto (1:15 PM)
Yeah, you never know. Dana White's exact words were that he was putting on a PPV-worthy event. That the UFC would take a PPV hit because he'd put together such a good card. I still have a hard time believing that means a premiere title fight ... so Sonnen/Wanderlei would make sense. Fox loves Sonnen. He's good for ratings. You have the longtime MMA crowd tuning in to see Silva (who's next fight could be his last fight at any point, really). It could happen. I spoke to Wanderlei in person yesterday and he told me he has received no phone call from the UFC at all.
Nick (Melbourne (Australia) )
Hi Brett, I assume that Jim Miller will now get a NC next to his name and keep his FOTN bonus. Who would you have him fighting next and how far is he away from a contender bout?
Brett Okamoto (1:17 PM)
I'm not sure on opponent ... lightweight is so full of talent they'll find someone. I doubt it will be much of a name, though. He'll get a fight where the odds on him winning will be something like -550, ya know? In terms of a title fight ... the guy couldn't get a title fight when he had won 7 straight. Now he's 3-3 in his last six. He's a long ways from a title fight.
Domnick va. [via mobile]
Brett, seen you at wand,s gym, ever workout with wand or floyd?
Brett Okamoto (1:18 PM)
Yeah, I tweeted yesterday that every time I go to Wand's gym he asks me right away if I'm working out ... even if I'm wearing jeans and a button-down. Lot of people on Twitter hit me back with, "Why don't you do it?! You should do it!" I've "rolled" with Wanderlei one time. It was at a media function, he drilled the Anaconda choke with me. Good times. When I go there now though it's to interview him, not really to spar.
Who should Gilbert Melendez be matched up with next? Perhaps the loser of Grey Maynard & T.J. Grant?
Brett Okamoto (1:21 PM)
To completely contradict what I just said about Jim Miller getting a small name, Melendez/Miller would actually be a fight a lot of hardcore MMA fans would be interested in. I think it's a style matchup that would heavily favor Melendez, but it'd be a fun fight. There are a ton of fun fights for Melendez. Having him fight Cerrone would have been fun. I think we should freak him out and start Melendez/Josh Thomson rumors.
Smokey (couch) [via mobile]
If a mma event took place in Colorado or Washington would the fighters be allowed to test positive for marijuana?
Brett Okamoto (1:22 PM)
Not if it's still on the banned substance list by the commission, which I'm 99% sure it is in both those states.
When Lauzon makes Johnson tap in August, Johnson is cut right?
Brett Okamoto (1:23 PM)
That would be a sad day. I really pegged MJ as a possible contender in that division before the losses started. Maybe he should stretch his wings and get out of his comfort zone a little. Train somewhere else for a camp. He could beat Joe Lauzon ... I haven't given up on him quite yet.
Why does Tyson Fury actually have people's attention? Is there that little to talk about? How can you dismiss Sonnen's challenge completely and entertain a mouth from an entirely different sport?
Brett Okamoto (1:25 PM)
Good question and I'm not. If you're referring to the Hot Button piece, I took the side of basically, "everybody stop talking about this." The guy is fun to listen to, I'll give him that. And Dana actually fueled it by responding. I don't know ... it's dumb.
If Jacare and Rockhold both win, do you see them getting matched up next?
Brett Okamoto (1:27 PM)
Nah, I doubt it. Rankings-wise it would make sense but they fought already and any interest in them fighting again in Strikeforce was mostly due to the lack of contenders over there when Rockhold took the belt. Depending on what happens in Silva/Weidman, I think Rockhold could get a title shot right away if he beats Vitor ... Jacare is expected to roll through Camozzi, so they'll give him another big name fight on a main card.
As long as Vitor is within the range/proper level for his testosterone, why does the topic have to come up so much? Others are on it too, hopefully not exceeding the right levels.......
Brett Okamoto (1:29 PM)
Because there is a strong possibility he wouldn't receive a use exemption in Nevada, so it looks bad allowing him to fight in jurisdictions that are more lax. Also, do we know his levels are proper? I spoke to UFC's Marc Ratner and he said the newly founded Brazil athletic commission is handling the random testing and fight night testing. That to me does not sound at all like Dana White's promise about "testing the hell" out of these guys.
BRETTT..IS THE UFC EVER GOING TO COME TO THE MIDDLE EAST? I KNOW IT CAME TO ABU DHABI OR DUBAI OR WHATEVER BUT WHAT ABOUT LEBANON?
Brett Okamoto (1:30 PM)
The UFC wants to be everywhere at some point, but I think as far as Middle East is concerned, Abu Dhabi is the only option at this point.
Mr. De La Rosa (303)
You should have stuck around for Sunday (or maybe I'm glad you didn't). I had a no-no rolling myself for a while there.
Brett Okamoto (1:31 PM)
So I heard. I wanted to go to the Sunday game but the wife didn't let me. I was at the zoo, getting updates on De La's no-no and Tulo's third inning bomb. Definitely pouted about it.
Jose R (Orlando, FL)
Any news on The Reem? ( I saw him at a nightclub last Thursday and he seemed in good health lifting bottles and models Bruce Buffer style )
Brett Okamoto (1:32 PM)
The strong rumor is UFC 164 in late August, although his management has said nothing is official/signed.
I know Dana said he wants GSP to fight in Vegas, but 164 in Toronto seems like good timing for a Hendricks/GSP fight.
Brett Okamoto (1:33 PM)
Yeah ... I'd love to see GSP taken out of the comfort of Canada for that fight but you're right. Seems like a foregone conclusion.
I'm not really familiar with how MMA contracts are set up, but hypothetically speaking, couldn't Alvarez just signed a 1 fight deal with UFC that, if matched by Bellator, would lead him to be a free agent after his one contracted fight?
Brett Okamoto (1:35 PM)
I suppose he could have ... just to get around the whole matching period thing. If he had been put in a title fight against Michael Chandler and won, I would imagine Bellator would have some sort of champions clause written in their contracts. I'm trying to remember if that ever came up with Hector Lombard and they just waived it ... either way, signing a one-fight deal at this stage for Eddie might be risky, too. You get one fight in either organization, you lose, you may lose leverage in negotiating what would then become your longterm deal afterwards.
Chris (Elizabeth NJ)
MMA Combine, good or bad idea?
Brett Okamoto (1:36 PM)
It just wouldn't accomplish anything.
What's next for Travis Browne? With only one loss on a bum leg to the guy who's fighting for the title, seems like he should get a decent name, no? Maybe the Werdum-Big Nog winner?
Brett Okamoto (1:37 PM)
Maybe he gets Reem in Milwaukee. Stylistically, I've been saying for a few weeks a Browne/Todd Duffee fight would be sweet.
Jim Bob (the Counter)
Ready to make some coin this weekend Brett?
Brett Okamoto (1:38 PM)
Who you taking? I think Belfort at +110 is the way to go.
does the fact that ufc 165 being scheduled in canada mean that gsp will fight hendricks there and that anderson did in fact ask for jon jones?
Brett Okamoto (1:39 PM)
I mean, Toronto is a good market for the UFC. They were there last September, it was probably on the schedule regardless of what was going on with GSP, Anderson, Jon or any other fighter. All that said, looking at the schedule, it would appear it's a great home for GSP/Hendricks.
Marc (Brooklyn, NY)
Hey Brett! What's your assessment on a possible matchup with Chandler and either Henderson/Melendez? Barn burners for sure!
Brett Okamoto (1:40 PM)
Yeah, I think Michael Chandler is legitimate Top 10 despite fighting outside the UFC. I think he'd hold his own with those guys but you're talking the elite of the elite at lightweight. I would favor Henderson and Melendez over Chandler.
Pat Healy made one of the worst decisions I have seen in a while. Where does he go from here? Does Miller get to keep his half of FOTN?
Brett Okamoto (1:41 PM)
It's terribly disappointing, don't get me wrong. But the UFC is going to treat Pat Healy as if he won that fight anyway. It's not like the guy was next in line for a title shot. It will go down as an unofficial win in the promotion's eyes, just like we all think of Jon Jones as undefeated even though he technically lost to Matt Hamill. You know what I mean? Financially, it really sucks for Healy but he's going to get the same fight next he would have had it never happened.
Jose R (Orlando, FL)
How do you feel about Weidman and his antics ( calm compared to Chaels ) towards Silva. I have seen him talk about destrying him, making fun of his voice and other dumb remarks. Confidence is one thing but he does realize Silva is the P4P best fighter and has one strike KO power? Silva via Forrest Griffin type stoppage!
Brett Okamoto (1:42 PM)
He knows. Read the column I wrote last week about Weidman and his confidence. He has maybe said some things while on camera, but I spent a good two hours with him last week in Vegas and I was real impressed with the attitude he's taking into the Silva fight.
Fact of the day: apparently Wanderlei Silva is a vampire.
Brett Okamoto (1:44 PM)
"I want to suck his blood." What? Honestly, I think some of that was because it's "UFC Tonight" and they're generating interest for the fight. Because when I talked to Wanderlei yesterday about Chael, he was confident, thinks he'll win and even flexed his biceps for me a little to show how big they were but he was laughing. Not talking about blood sucking.
Is Dana trying to kick your boy Michael Johnson out the door? Lauzon in Boston? He has no shot!
Brett Okamoto (1:46 PM)
No shot! So quick to get down on my boy. Lauzon isn't a far better striker in that fight. Johnson is the better athlete. Possible Lauzon submits him in 2 minutes in front of his hometown? Absolutely. But Johnson knows what's coming and the knock on Lauzon has always been, "starts strong but didn't finish strong." That could be a problem against a big lightweight like MJ.
After Myles Jury beat your beloved MJ I asked if he should get a step up in competition. After knocking out Nijem, isn't it warranted? The guy's 12-0. Do you think Dana gives him a Top 10 guy next (maybe Miller or Diaz)?
Brett Okamoto (1:47 PM)
I still think Miller or Diaz is too big a step up. And both those guys just lost. UFC likes winner vs. winner. Something like the winner of Sam Stout and Issac Vallie-Flagg ... that level of opponent ... makes sense for Jury.
As a point of curiosity, does Sonnen have a use exemption for TRT in Nevada?
Brett Okamoto (1:48 PM)
Yes he does.
Does Silva fight the winner of Rockhold/Belfort if(when) he beats Wiedman? or maybe a super fight with GSP or Jon Jones? A super fight superbowl weekend in NYC(MSG) would be ridiculous....
Brett Okamoto (1:49 PM)
Don't think NY is gonna happen this year. The morale on that particular subject is way down. Silva/Jones? That's the fight that has the buzz right now ... it will likely depend on Silva. That's going to be the first question he receives that week and the last. Everybody wants to know about Jones. Hopefully if he beats Weidman, he embraces it and talks about it instead of doing the, "Oh I just fought, let me think about it" routine.
John (Austin, TX)
I know this more MMA related than being right on point, but what's your take on the supporters of wrestling stating they want to incorporate more MMA (doing away with singlets, walk out music, production values, etc) into their sport to broaden their appeal?
Brett Okamoto (1:51 PM)
Just my personal opinion, I think it sort of takes away from the tradition of the sport and I actually don't think it will help that much. I understand why Dana would say things like, "I can help wrestling, I can teach them how to generate interest." I think that's true to an extent but the bottom line is that most people find wrestling boring. Even in an MMA fight, as soon as there's a lot of wrestling going on, it's immediate boos. I think there's a fairly low limit on how much it's even possible to broaden the general appeal of wrestling.
Josh (Akron, OH)
Different weight classes aside, which could change with no problem of course, but who would you take in an Edgar/Melendez bout?
Brett Okamoto (1:53 PM)
I feel the same way I did about a lot of Frankie Edgar fights at 155 ... the size difference would be tough. But he beat Ben Henderson in Denver, man. That happened. The judges got it wrong. I would probably take Edgar but that's a close fight.
Brett Okamoto (1:53 PM)
Edgar would matchup fairly well with Melendez though. Melendez strength is his boxing ... that's Edgar's strength as well. I don't think Melendez could really get him down. Edgar would probably outpoint him.
Brent (St. Paul)
Thoughts on Busch Stadium? I really like the stadium, but was disappointed by the food.
Brett Okamoto (1:54 PM)
Dude. My thoughts EXACTLY. Weird. Food was terrible.
What do you think of guys like Alves and Koscheck who are coming off losses (both were finished in their last fight) fighting guys who are currently tearing through the division like Brown and Maia. Wouldn't a fight between Brown and Maia make more sense? Is the UFC possibly thinking they'll drop someone like Alves or Koscheck if they lose?
Brett Okamoto (1:55 PM)
No, I think it's more about not sacrificing one prospect for another. Right now you have two guys tearing through the division, it's fun. Why make them fight one another too soon and then you only have one guy tearing through the division. I see the point you're making but having multiple guys on win streaks in the division is a good thing, builds towards something like a No. 1 contender fight. By the way, I don't think Koscheck is getting enough love in that Maia fight. When it happened, I got a lot of Tweets basically saying, well Koscheck is out of the UFC. I don't know man. Fighting a Josh Koscheck who has his back against the wall is not an opponent I'd take lightly.
Why the Hendricks love over GSP for so many people. Didn't Hendricks almost lose to Josh?
Brett Okamoto (1:56 PM)
Just his style. He's the bully of 170. He's hard to take down and he has the best knockout power in the division. If he catches GSP once with the left, that might be all it takes.
Why is Hendricks seen as a big threat to GSP? He barely beat Koschek. Yes he's on a winning streak, but GSP is one of the greatest ever.
Brett Okamoto (1:57 PM)
Sort of strange I had two people ask the exact same question.
Rich (San Francisco)
Hey Brett - which fight are you most excited for this weekend? I'm pumped to see dos Anjos v Dunham.
Brett Okamoto (1:58 PM)
Belfort/Rockhold all the way. It's obvious to say the main event but this is a great main event. This is one I've actually looked forward to for awhile. Under the radar fight is the flyweight bout between Chris Cariaso and Jussier Formiga.
Brett, sometimes I seriously wonder if Evan Dunham is a title contender. I bet if her reels off 3 or 4 wins in a row they'll give him a shot. thoughts?
Brett Okamoto (2:00 PM)
Not easy in the division. Dunham is solid, but he lacks that awesome athletic ability that guys like Cerrone, Henderson, Melendez, Pettis have. If you have holes, he'll make you look awful but against the best athletes, he looks slow.
NightsWatch (The Wall)
What are your thoughs on the up coming Thiago Silva/Feijao?
Brett Okamoto (2:01 PM)
That I'm surprised by how little I care about Thiago Silva fights at this point. That sounds bad but this guy sort of feels like wasted talent at this point, right? And some of that is due to injury but it just doesn't feel like he's lived up to his potential. Could be a fun fight between those two, though.
Brett after wasting my morning researching and watching Weidman and Rockhold fights and interviews, what is it with both believing that their BJJ is better than Silva and Vitor when the latter has trained in that dicipline longer than both have been fighting and actually earned black belts under credible teachers. And to make this question super long can you do an interesting piece on 5 up and comers please...the past two weeks have been awful for ESPN writing
Brett Okamoto (2:04 PM)
I think the feeling is it doesn't matter if they have black belts because not all black belts are really the same, ya know? And you go by what you see in the cage more than what you see on paper. Silva and Belfort really don't use their grappling a lot. Belfort armbarred Jones, I know, but you don't see him doing that on a regular basis. Silva got Sonnen but you don't think of his grappling as his greatest strength. I think what those guys are saying is that they feel very comfortable on the ground with these guys, not necessarily they believe they'll submit them immediately.
Why does the UFC have Glover Teixeira ranked number 4in the LHW division when he hasn't even fought a top 10 guy.I am not doubing that he is a real tough guy but come on now
Brett Okamoto (2:05 PM)
Because it seems like everybody at 205 is losing. Shogun is losing. Rashad Evans is losing. Dan Henderson lost. Guys are dropping like flies in that division.
you going to the winnipeg card? my friend has tickets, and it'll be my first ufc event! stoked.
Brett Okamoto (2:05 PM)
Literally just found out this morning I'll be going to that card. Pretty solid lineup that night.
After Cain swarms Bigfoot, who's next? Seems kinda soon to blow out Cain/JDS 3, plus JDS has another fight coming up. Is Werdum available in the appropriate time frame? What about Over(rated)eem?
Brett Okamoto (2:06 PM)
I could actually see them going with Overeem. People are interested in that guy, if he looks awesome in his next fight, I think the UFC would go ahead and book it. I agree with you, too soon to do the JDS/Cain trilogy fight. I want that to be as epic as possible.
Who should Bisping get now??
Brett Okamoto (2:08 PM)
When(if) GSP beats Hendricks, who is left besides Rory(assuming he beats Ellenberger)? Will these 2 actually fight? Or will GSP fight Silva before Rory?...
does it surprise you most the fighters using TRT have had or were suspected of using steroids? coincidence or reality?
Brett Okamoto (2:10 PM)
Rory MacDonald vs. GSP is the No. 1 fight I would personally like to see right now. Something about student vs. master type deal I think would be truly awesome. I don't think it happens though. GSP would avoid it worse than an Anderson Silva fight and Rory doesn't want to alienate himself from Tristar.
Brett Okamoto (2:10 PM)
And no, it doesn't surprise me at all that some of the TRT users have been linked to steroids in the past. It shouldn't surprise any of us. It's science.
Donnie ( buffalo Ny)
After Jon Jones who in light heavy do you suspect may be the next Perennial title holder?
Brett Okamoto (2:11 PM)
I don't think there is one. If he left the division today, Machida would the favorite to hold the belt with Gustafsson a close second.
What's your opinion of Rustam Khabilov, the guy has mad Sambo skills, and after winning his last bout by doctor interference, do you think he plans to make a statement with his next fight?
Brett Okamoto (2:12 PM)
I like the guy so far, for sure. That thumb injury was a little fluky, but then again, you pick people up five feet in the air and slam them, broken bones happen. Every fighter wants to make a statement in their fights, Khabilov seems like he has the style to consistently do it.
Jon (Jersey City)
Haven't heard any news on Chris Leben in a while. Although his stock has plummeted, what's your take? Wasted talent?
Brett Okamoto (2:15 PM)
Nah. Chris Leben actually put together a really nice career despite never really being an elite, elite athlete. He had one indispensable thing going for him -- his chin. But other than that, he was more of an average guy who became well-rounded enough and tough enough to string together wins. I think he's had a good career, I'm just not sure if he has any fire left. He's going against Andrew Craig in Vegas at UFC 162.
Cyborg is making noise about Rousey again, now that Rousey is safely booked for about half a year. Who do you think would win if they really ever fight? You pick the weight they fight at.
Brett Okamoto (2:17 PM)
Whew, good question. I lean Rousey but it is no fluke she's given up her back now in two of three fights. Judo players have a weakness when it comes to exposing their back. If she gets into scrambles with a strong, explosive female like Cyborg ... I could see her losing out on the position battle. But she's improving, she takes herself out of her comfort zone, she wouldn't be afraid of Cyborg. I pick Rousey but it's close.
Hey Brett. Can we get some undercard picks for this weekend?
Brett Okamoto (2:17 PM)
Yeah let's do it, let me bring up the card.
Brett Okamoto (2:19 PM)
Okay, I got ... Martins, Cariaso, Lineker, Maldonado, Alcantara, Thiago, Tibau, Trinaldo, Lentz, Natal, Dos Anjos, Souza, Belfort.
Brett Okamoto (2:20 PM)
Think that's a good place to wrap up. Enjoy the card this weekend. Great main event with heavy impact on the middleweight division. If I missed you, contact me on Twitter @bokamotoESPN and I'll see ya again next week.