Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: Nov. 13 Edition

Conor McGregor UFC
Conor McGregor. Credit: Mike Sloan/

The afterglow from UFC 217 quickly wore-off thanks to several major injuries last week, Bellator MMA will be crowning a heavyweight champion with an 8-man grand prix tournament, and Conor McGregor may have finally crossed the line. 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, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”.

Last week, major fights lost from UFC 218, UFC 219, and beyond helped bring fans back down-to-earth following one of the best events in the promotion’s history. Meanwhile, Bellator MMA is planning on having a heavyweight champion in 2018 thanks to an interesting tournament, which will hopefully feature less interference from Conor McGregor than their event held last weekend.

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: Roy Moore), 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?”.

4. The MMA Gods giveth and the MMA Gods taketh away

Just as soon as we were starting to think we were on the good side of the MMA Gods during UFC 217, we were proven very, very wrong. Huh?

First, the bad news. Which there’s a good amount of. The UFC faced injuries from featherweight title-contender Frankie Edgar (ugh) and former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (uuugghh) ahead of their high-profile fights at UFC 218 and UFC 219 respectively. Huh?

As if that wasn’t enough, the “confirmed” fight between Stephen Thompson and Darren Till was axed by Wonderboy’s camp before we even had the chance to get excited about it. HUH?

Oh, and Anderson Silva was flagged by USADA two weeks out of his main event bout against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Shanghai. HUH?!?

As great as UFC 217 was, getting some of our favorite bouts of the final weeks of the year ruined is the perfect way for MMA fans to remember the volatility of the sport we love to follow. But, it’s not all bad news.

Filling-in for Frankie Edgar will be Jose Aldo, who gets his immediate rematch with 145-pound champ Max Holloway at UFC 218. While the promotion continues to look for an opponent for Jimmie Rivera for UFC 219 (and a main event), middleweight Kelvin Gastelum quickly found out who’d be replacing Silva for their Chinese main event: Michael Freaking Bisping. Huh.

Fresh off of losing his title to Georges St. Pierre at Madison Square Garden, Bisping is apparently ready to go for the November 25th bout on the other side of the planet. While fighter safety seems to be at odds with this move, if there’s anyone that could step up in a situation like this, it’s Bisping. It also, probably, offers a tougher match-up for Gastelum, who continues to look for a marquee victory at 185-pounds.

The end of the year schedule for the UFC is now very different than the initial plans laid out by the promotion, but all things considered, we still have some intriguing match-ups featuring top-tier talent. So, thanks MMA Gods. We’re sure we’ll hear from you again shortly.

3. Bellator will crown a heavyweight champion in 2018 via Grand Prix

Utilizing the grand prix tournament format, which seems to be catching on yet again in MMA, Bellator MMA will have themselves a heavyweight champion in 2018. Huh.

It’s not exactly who you’d expect in a heavyweight tournament resulting in a new champion in 2018, but it’s an undeniably interesting group of fighters: Fedor Emelianenko, Rampage Jackson, Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, Matt Mitrione, Muhammed Lawal, Ryan Bader, and Roy Nelson. Huh.

Featuring several former UFC fighters, ranging from middleweights to heavyweights, how the seeding shakes-out will be just as interesting as the initial group announcement. One first-round bout is already being reported between Emelianenko and Mir, two of the best heavyweights in MMA history. What that means for the rest of the seedings remains to be seen, but count us in the group of those excited for what Bellator’s heavyweight division has to offer in 2018.

According to MMA Fighting, the plan is for the tournament to start on Januray 20th, and end sometime before the end of 2018.

The Bellator heavyweight grand prix comes in a time of a sort of renaissance for the tournament format, with other promotions like Combate Americas, Rizin FF, and Road FC holding tournaments in late 2017 and early 2018. We could use another tournament for all the welterweights in various promotions, but it’s hard to envision the UFC getting into the grand prix game.

2. Conor McGregor crosses yet another line, but will he be punished?

Conor McGregor did another Conor McGregor thing. But this time, he may actually get in trouble. Huh?

This isn’t the first time McGregor has crossed some sort of line, as the Face of the UFC has a well-known recent history of doing stupid things. Whether relating to homophobia, racism, or other out-of-the ring antics, the Irishman’s track-record isn’t a secret at this point.

The latest outburst from the UFC lightweight champion may have finally crossed a line even MMA fans can’t reconcile. Bursting into a bout that hasn’t finished yet, in a promotion he doesn’t work for, and endangering the safety of other fighters while assaulting and harassing officials, is beyond stupid and incredibly dangerous. Yet, that’s exactly what McGregor did at Bellator 187 last weekend.

McGregor must be punished. Exactly how that should, can, or will happen remains to be seen. It’s a unique situation with unique individuals involved, but something has to be done. The UFC has punished fighters for touching referees in the past (see: Jason High and Roy Nelson) featuring releases, suspensions, and fines, but McGregor is a different animal entirely.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, McGregor can’t get away with more of this kind of behavior. What the right punishment is for this situation isn’t quite as easy to figure out, but there must be something. As long as the UFC lightweight champion continues to get away with being an idiot, he’ll keep doing idiotic things.

A strong message needs to be sent, or the MMA world will continue to deal with ridiculous circumstances like this. Officials like Marc Goddard, and those just trying to do their jobs at Bellator MMA and beyond, deserve to be treated better, and the promotions and commissions must strongly support them in these kinds of situations.

The best way to do that? A hefty punishment for McGregor. Whether by fines or suspension or whatever they feel necessary, there must be something of note, and it must send the message to McGregor that he can’t get away with acting this way, and half-hearted apologies don’t cut it. The proper people have been notified, and now we wait for what happens next.

UFC 217 was amazing, but the MMA Gods are making sure we’re thankful for the entertaining event by messing with the rest of the promotion’s schedule in 2017. Those same gods will likely have some fun with the Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix taking place next year, featuring an interesting group of mostly heavyweights. If they can handle their potential issues as well as the UFC has with their recent moves, we’ll be just fine. What’s not fine are the antics of Conor McGregor, which need to be addressed by the major players in MMA ASAP.

1. Huh? for the road