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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Most MMA Event of the Year

“Event of the year it was not, but by the end of 2017, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a card more MMA than UFC 210 on Saturday in Buffalo, New York.

Let’s take a minute to unpack that idea first, since saying that an MMA event was “so MMA” — and the fact that almost everyone immediately knows what that means — is telling. It hints at the bizarre, sometimes horrible and often frustrating things we expect from this sport. It’s a particular feeling in the MMA community, somewhere between victimhood and resignation, over-salted with well-earned cynicism. When hyped fights fall through last-minute due to freak injury, a United States Anti-Doping Agency flag for “dick pills” or someone slipping in the bathtub during weigh-ins, or when impossibly bad scorecards turn up after a fight, the most accurate, most succinct way to describe that feeling is to say it’s “peak MMA.” Fighting is a weird and crazy sport, so we expect weird and crazy things to happen.

Though co-main eventer Gegard Mousasi made some fight-week ripples by vocalizing unapologetic opinions about his paystubs — a point of interest compounded by the fact that the top-5 middleweight’s bout against Chris Weidman was the last on his contract — the real ridiculousness started at the weigh-ins. Strawweight Pearl Gonzalez was reportedly removed from her fight after hitting weight but not because of a failed drug test or any of the other usual suspects; she has breast implants, which are barred by the New York State Athletic Commission in boxing. She was never officially pulled from the fight and everything ended up getting squared with the commission, but the episode was a portent of just how MMA this card would turn out…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Kelvin Gastelum’s View from the Fence

“Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie, aka The Notorious B.I.G., aka one of the most era-defining artists of hip-hop ever. His style continues to be emulated and imitated, and his lyrics are among the most commonly referenced by other MCs to date.

Among the more frequent homages to his work is citing one of his biggest hits “Mo Money Mo Problems,” a track about the proportional relationship between having a lot of money and having a lot of problems. At the time it was recorded, platinum-selling Biggie — along with labelmate Ma$e and hitmaker extraordinaire Puff Daddy, who were also on the track — knew the ills of fame and money all too well. Celebrity makes it hard to live a normal life, compromising everyday luxuries like being able to walk freely in public. Wealth breeds mistrust. It can turn longtime friends and relatives into sycophantic barnacles who cling to their famous acquaintances and wait to catch the financial scraps that fall from the table. Affluence is its own brand of chaos.

To most of us, though, the idea that being rich is problematic is a bit silly. For those of us who have had to grind through multiple jobs at the same time, who have had to sweat through conversations with landlords for an extra week to pay the rent, who can hardly remember the last time we were able to go on vacation, we would gladly trade our problems for being too rich to go to the mall without personal security.

Indeed, some problems are better than others. For Kelvin Gastelum, a 25-year-old on a three-fight winning streak that includes two consecutive TKOs, his problems are pretty ideal for the MMA world. Yet they are still problems nonetheless…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Black Beast: A Meditation on Ethics in MMA

“A philosophical dilemma arose shortly after “The Black Beast” announced he needed to take a dump.

By the time Brian Stann was interviewing Derrick Lewis in the cage after UFC Fight Night 105 on Sunday in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there was subdued outcry at the fact that referee Mario Yamasaki was late to stop the fight, allowing Lewis to land a few additional strikes on an already unconscious Travis Browne. Lewis did nothing wrong; the strikes weren’t malicious, just unnecessary, which is an expected occurrence in this line of work. It’s just that Lewis hits harder than a 10-foot wave breaking onshore, which makes those extra shots a bit more serious than if it were, say, Jared Rosholt delivering them. Alas, Yamasaki was a little late to intervene, and “The Black Beast” crashed on the eroded shoreline of Browne’s consciousness.

In other circumstances, that may have manufactured some outrage, at least for a few hours until people got bored. Not this time. Browne has become one of the more reviled fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in certain circles. His association with perpetual punchline Edmond Tarverdyan and his relationship with Ronda Rousey are both part of it, but Lewis made sure to remind people why they shouldn’t feel too bad for Browne: “He calls himself a man, but he likes to put his hands on women, so forget that guy.”

If there was any lingering resentment about the late stoppage, it evaporated quickly at that line…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Champion of Interims

“History didn’t last very long.

Two weeks after Conor McGregor became the third person to win Ultimate Fighting Championship titles in two different weight classes — and the first to do so simultaneously — the biggest star in the sport no longer holds that distinction. Instead, the man he knocked out with a single punch has now been upgraded from the interim featherweight champion to the “undisputed” featherweight champion. Meanwhile, Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis will fight for the now vacant interim featherweight championship at UFC 206.

If you’re scratching your head at all this, you’re not alone. Interim belts are strange in and of themselves, but they do serve a purpose. Being the champion denotes being the best fighter in the division. When there is ample reason to doubt that, the champion, in theory, defends his or her strap against the top contender. When champions are unable to defend their spot, an interim championship makes sense. It’s a glorified number one contender belt, but it also adds to the storyline of the division. It gives credibility to the notion that the injured champ may no longer be the best, and it rewards the fighter who is willing and able to stay active…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Bellator and the Role of Competition

“The word “monopoly” evokes a number of reactions. For some, it means the death of competition and the rise of bully businesses that can jack up prices at their sinister whims. For others, it means family squabbles and slammed game boards from landing on Boardwalk — again — after your little brother put a hotel on it. Either way, rarely does a positive reaction follow discussion of monopolies. Even monopolistic entities themselves try to avoid the term, lest they incur greater scrutiny from the angry masses who are still recovering from the previous night’s board game defeat.

Monopolies are tricky, though. In many instances, they’re better for both consumers and employees than competitive markets. A company that is constantly trying to outmaneuver competitors will likely have little ability or desire to truly take care of its workers. Rather, said workers become more replaceable and interchangeable in a state of perfect competition, since their salaries would be quick to put on the chopping block in the race to cut costs and increase profits. On the other hand, a business that has no real outside threats has the resources and ability to take care of its workers more comprehensively. It’s why Google — which dominates search engine competitors like Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing to the extent they can hardly be considered competitors — is renowned for how well it treats its employees…”

 

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