After a bit of wackiness in the first week of this year’s Contender Series, Dana White had another interesting situation in week two, with a fighter missing weight — but could he still have won a UFC contract?
Las Vegas, NV — Week two of the latest season of Dana White’s Contender Series has come and gone. In an abnormality, all five fights went to a decision. Two contracts were still handed out, however, to Miguel Baeza and Miles Johns.
Following the fights, Dana White himself was singing the praises of Baeza in particular, pointing out that he’d received “a new opponent eleven days out.”
“A new guy they don’t know and comes in,” he told media outlets including Cageside Press on Saturday. “He’s a southpaw, which is horrible. You haven’t been sparring, training for southpaws or anything like that. Then the guy shows up and he’s overweight and you still accept the fight.”
White’s respect for Baeza didn’t stop there. “Then the guy [Victor Reyna] comes in tonight, and doesn’t want to f*cking leave. He’s here to win and not quit. The kid [Baeza] couldn’t have stacked the deck any higher against himself, and he still pulls off the win, still looks good. His stand-up, his clinch work, his ground game, and his composure. How he took his time with everything. He didn’t rush and go crazy. I think that the kid has a lot of talent, and I think he’s got a bright future in the sport.”
Another fighter White was impressed with, of course, was the other contract winner, Miles Johns. “The guys’s a savage. I think that that guy seriously has a future in the sport.”
But despite another two contracts being awarded this week, White still hasn’t escaped criticism of his decision not to award Brendan Loughnane a contract in week one this year. It’s a decision White doesn’t regret, however.
“I think everybody knows what I’m looking for here. While I said that kid is talented, I also said if I’m wrong, he’s a free agent, and anybody can pick him up,” White pointed out. “If anybody thinks I’m wrong, show me.”
The crux of the issue was White’s criticism that Loughnane shot for a takedown with seconds remaining in his fight, rather than looking for a finish. Not awarding Loughnane a UFC deal, while admitting the fighter could likely make it in the big leagues, seems questionable. But White is sticking by his choice, and feels Loughnane will be fine either way.
“What better position could you be in than a kid coming off the show, he wins, and people think I made the wrong choice,” White said. “So if that’s the case, there you go. There’s a free one for you. Lock him up, and he’s all yours.”
In way of explanation, he added that “we all know what this show is about. This show isn’t about the Ultimate Fighter, and you’re going to win, you’re going to fight all these times and you win a contract. This isn’t a fight night or a PPV and stuff like that.” Instead, White is basing his selections on those he thinks can make an immediate impact in the UFC. “I have five fights, and I have to pick somebody who I think can come into the UFC, make a huge impact, break into the top five, and become a world champion.”
“There’s ten seconds left in the fight, and you’re going to shoot?” he questioned again later.
While the first episode of the Contender Series in 2019 had a fight fall off the card, week two had another hiccup. Victor Reyna missed weight by a full seven pounds. Since Baeza got the better of him, it didn’t matter, but what if Reyna had won? Cageside Press asked White if fighters who miss weight will be eligible for contracts, and it appears that, in the right circumstances, they could be.
White, for one, was impressed that Reyna got back up after a crushing body shot. “I guarantee he didn’t want to get up, but he got up.” It’s something, White feels, that anybody who has really been in fighting can understand. “There’s things like that that you look at. Everybody messes up. He had a eleven days notice. The thing that pisses the matchmakers off is, he had eleven days notice, it sounds like a great excuse, but they had three other guys that they could have picked that would have made weight. And that’s what drives everybody crazy and pisses everybody off.”
Despite that, however, “when you see a guy fight like he fought tonight – if he pulled that win off and won, it’d be hard to say no.”
Watch the full press scrum from Week 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series Season 3 above.