The UFC Hall of Fame induction ceremony was more interesting than planned, formal fight challenges come via text message, and another champion is getting buried by their promotion. Huh?
Finding the proper response to much of the news finding its way into our social media feeds is becoming a tougher task every day. Nothing is surprising, especially in MMA, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”.
Last week, the UFC celebrated the careers of Maurice Smith, Joe Silva, Urijah Faber, and Kazushi Sakuraba with a Hall of Fame ceremony during International Fight Week, and got some buzz thanks to Don Frye. Meanwhile, Georges St. Pierre is attempting to match-make via text message with UFC President Dana White, and the promotion’s women’s bantamweight champion is now on White’s bad side.
The reason “huh?”, in its various forms, is such a quality reply is simple. The word is as versatile as a response gets, and while it may require some explanation, “huh?” is sometimes the only way to react to the news of today. Defined by Merriam-Webster as an interjection that’s “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”, “huh” or “huh?” can mean a lot of different things.
Despite some of the follies of human evolution (see: NPR Tweeting the Declaration of Independence), the development and growth of “huh” is something we should embrace. To be the change we want to see in the world, here are a few MMA stories last week that made us go “huh?”.
Don Frye steals the show at UFC HOF induction ceremony
One of the highlights of International Fight Week is the UFC’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Featuring a few of the all-time greats, the premier promotion in MMA honoring those who helped forge a path forward for the sport is a must, and giving it shine during International Fight Week is great. Placing a modern-day spotlight on fighters, and more, from the past is a necessity given the growth and popularity of MMA and the UFC today.
So, when the promotion announced that Kazushi Sakuraba was joining the HOF this year, we were all pleased. Then, we found out 2016 UFC HOF inductee Don Frye would be presenting Sakuraba with his award. As great as it was to see the unique collection of talent in the 2017 class of UFC Hall of Famers, from Joe Silva and Urijah Faber to Maurice Smith and Sakuraba, it was Frye who stole the show. Huh?
Touching on Miesha Tate (he wishes), Wanderlei Silva, and more, it was easy to forget what exactly Frye was doing on stage. Although, he seemed as singularly focused as ever. Mostly on Tate.
Frye is special to MMA fans, and the early-UFC pioneer deserves some reverence for what he’s accomplished in the sport, and when he did it. But, this was weird. While it’s ultimately harmless, and likely that Tate has dealt with far worse when it comes to potential suitors, this wasn’t the time to steal the spotlight.
On that platform, in that moment, to take the shine away from a guy like Sakuraba and instead turn it into another weekend of Frye sound bites, is disappointing. Of course, maybe Frye is just better at marketing than the rest of us, as he once again became the talk of the UFC’s Hall of Fame ceremony.
Dana makes the fights around here! (via text)
After announcing that Michael Bisping would defend his UFC middleweight title against Georges St. Pierre earlier this year, pushing for the fight to happen in July, and then scrapping the bout altogether, promotion President Dana White is still getting annoying texts about it. Specifically, from GSP. Huh?
Since the cancellation of the dateless announced bout between Bisping and St. Pierre, both parties have been vocal about wanting to continue with the original plans. Despite the crowning of an interim middleweight champion at UFC 213, the champ and his challenger publicly went against the promotion’s current route. Meanwhile, White has moved on, and repeatedly reinforced the sentiment that St. Pierre will instead be facing the winner of the welterweight title fight at UFC 214 between Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia.
Potentially the last hope, St. Pierre texted White and Bisping, and shared that information with MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani, who in turn shared that information with all of us. Keeping it quick, St. Pierre wrote, “Michael, you should man up and fight me 11/4 in NY. I’m coming out of retirement to retire you. Dana [White], please make it happen.”
This is sad. Whatever the UFC or St. Pierre’s initial ideas were for his return, they’re out the window. The fact that GSP, one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, felt that his only hope or line of communication with White at this point was via a text message which he would publicly release, says a lot about the way the promotion operates. Handling high-profile title fights and fighters through public texts in the MMA media isn’t a good look for anyone involved.
It looks like it was all for naught though, as Bisping entered the Octagon at UFC 213 following Robert “never calling him The Reaper” Whittaker’s impressive decision victory over Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title, and challenged the Aussie to come take his “real belt”.
Yeah, it makes more sense for Whittaker and Bisping to unify the 185-pound belts, and for St. Pierre’s return to come in a fight for the 170-pound title. But, it took the UFC four months and a bunch of headaches to solve a problem of their own creation, and calling it solved may be jumping the gun at this point.
He makes the fights, but does Dana promote?
As St. Pierre and Bisping find out that White does indeed make some of the fights around here, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is getting another side of the UFC President. A side that the likes of flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, and more have had the pleasure of dealing with over the years. This side of White that, despite his status as “Promoter,” showcases his ability to bury his own product and top-tier fighters.
This time, it’s Nunes’ turn, after her main event bout for the bantamweight belt at UFC 213 was pulled due to health concerns for the Brazilian. According to a variety of reports, including TMZ, Nunes went to the hospital multiple times, both on Friday and the day of the fight. Although she was cleared by doctors in both instances, Nunes continued to not feel well and was pulled from the fight.
The situation is a crappy one, and is yet another instance of the UFC losing a huge fight the day of a major event. These things happen and will happen again. Frustration from the promotion and White are to be expected. So is acting professional. But, White once again put professionalism by the wayside, instead preferring to add to the cacophony of quotes and reports finding their way to the masses on fight day. Huh?
Told by @danawhite that "the doctor cleared her to fight…she said she doesn't feel good. It is what it is. You can't make anyone fight."
— Lance Pugmire (@latimespugmire) July 8, 2017
That’s not all, though. White would later add that Nunes, who was coming off of back-to-back pay-per-view events which surpassed one million buys with her as the main event, would not return to a main event slot in the future. She didn’t get paid, but was offered the rematch with Shevchenko again for UFC 215 in September. White also found time to juxtapose Nunes to strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who offered to step in and fight Shevchenko in a bout that would never have been sanctioned and was nowhere near happening.
White’s attitude in this situation implies that Nunes should’ve fought, despite her judgment. He uses doctors as the ultimate arbitrator, rather than Nunes or common sense, and refuses to understand her position. Instead, White paints a picture of a frightened fighter walking away from a title bout for no legitimate reason. Which seems silly, considering Nunes is on the run of her career, went through training camp and the weight cut, and was slated to fight someone she’s already defeated.
Why White continues to bury a handful of his limited supply of champions, stars, and top-tier draws, we will never know. As a promoter, putting up with the frustrations and drawbacks that come with the business is something White should be used to by now. At the very least, he should be able to keep his frustrations and relations with fighters professional, but that ship sailed long ago.
The UFC had the spotlight for International Fight Week, and delivered plenty of moments for us to “huh?” about. From Don Frye’s infatuation with Miesha Tate to Dana White’s frustration with Amanda Nunes and Georges St. Pierre, the world of MMA was once again at full-speed. Here’s hoping the fights take center-stage throughout the rest of the summer.
Huh? for the road
Gabi Garcia fight was a no contest due to illegal soccer kick pic.twitter.com/JEWo6vKU13
— Tony Fagnano (@BigToneMMA) July 7, 2017