By Harv Aronson
I had recently written a column about how the UFC can never be legitimate. I still hold that contention. However, there are other Mixed Martial Arts organizations trying to keep pace with the UFC, primarily Bellator. That league has taken on the persona of consisting of fighters who have failed to have extended success in the UFC or have been put out to pasture by the UFC.
This past Saturday evening, Bellator held their latest event in Madison Square Garden, titled “Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva.” I tortured myself in watching the entire main card. It was that bad. First of all, I was already thinking that the Bellator league could never achieve what the UFC has. But the main card last weekend had some well known fighters that bolted from the Ultimate Fighting Championship to see greener grass in Bellator. So, it tweaked my interest.
Initially watching the opening fight of Bellator NYC, fighter are introduced by having their images or other visuals broadcast on a big screen as they walked to the Octagon down a long runway. My first impression was that it was kind of cool. But fight after fight seeing introductions done the same way, fighters making the walk of this runway, not of short distance to the fighting area began to have a feel of the WWE.
That’s the last thing the UFC or Bellator should want is a comparison to the WWE where everything is staged and drama is their number one asset. Putting the glitz and glamor aside, there were the fights. Prior to the main card beginning, a rematch took place for Bellator’s light heavyweight championship. A championship fight on the undercard? Go figure.
So that bout pitted Ryan Bader in a rematch against the reigning champion of Bellator, Phil Davis. Both fighters came over from the UFC. Already, I was aware that Bellator has many UFC deserters and cast outs. Thus, the “Farm League” moniker. What appeared on paper as to be a decent fight was a snoozer. Just awful in fact. Making it worse was the fact that Phil Davis seemed to outwork Bader but he lost the split decision.
Move to the main card. It began with one fighter’s professional debut. Young Aaron Pico has a stellar wrestling background so it was very curious that he lost to an awkward Zach Freeman just 24 seconds into the first round. Pico, the wrestler he is supposed to be, had no answer to the Guillotine Choke Freeman placed around his neck and he had no choice but to tap.
Then came the first of back-to-back championship fights. I ask you, why is Chael Sonnen getting the main event in not just what was a three round fight but a non-title bout between two way-past-their-prime fighters? Regardless, Brent Primus was taking on a man who I had always believed was good enough for the top dog in the sport, the UFC. Chandler was defending champion and in something I had never seen before in the MMA, Chandler in using his footwork, twists his OWN ankle and did it severely.
Unable to keep his footing, the referee led Chandler to his corner and instead of disputing a possible ending to the fight, the champion’s corner sticks a stool out and Chandler takes a seat. The Octagon doctor examines the ankle and its fight over. Primus is strapped with the belt as the new champion.
Lame I say, very lame. The referee screwed up, Chandler showed no intention of wanting to continue, and the champions’ corner added insult to injury by pulling his stool out from beneath him as Chandler took a hilarious, embarrassing tumble. To make matters worse, Michael Chandler once the fight result was announced went into a shouting tirade about how he wants a rematch and Primus better train hard, and blah, blah, blah. More WWE comparisons to the drama that show puts on.
With the next fight on the card, Bellator gets another chance to stage a good championship bout. Again, strange that this would be the third title fight of the night and not one was a main event or even a co-main event. Ok, so we get Douglas Lima, the welterweight champion defending his title against yet another UFC castoff, Lorenz Larkin. Lima claimed in the pre-fight hype that he would give fans a knockout of Larkin that would leave people talking about it.
The one thing about MMA that turns my stomach and reminds me of the WWE is the smack talk. There is simply WAY too much of it in both the UFC and Bellator. Especially when fighters fail to back it up. That is what happened to Lima last Saturday. Lima won, somehow getting a decision he didn’t seem to earn. The fight was awful and the judges worse. The decision was unanimous with scores of 48-47, but one judge had it 50-45. What fight was he watching?
By now, I was struggling to keep my television plugged into this card. From reports I saw, they say attendance at the Garden was very good for these bouts. Sitting at home, on television it looked like the crowd was sparse at best. Two fights remained at this point and the next one was once again another UFC refugee. Matt Mitrione vs. the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.
Fedor, all 40 years of age, taking on a guy who failed to get to a title fight in the UFC. As the title of this story goes, Bellator is absolutely the place where ex-UFC fighters sign with to extend what seems to be an extinguished career or where the UFC and Dana White simply did not want them around anymore.
Taking a page out of the movie “Rocky II,” in the very first round, both Mitrione and Fedor caught each other with a big punch that knocked each fighter down. The former New York Giant football player Mitrione got up first and pounced on Emelianenko finishing him at the 1:14 mark. Ridiculous fight. The best moment of the entire card came out of Mitrione’s mouth when he told the audience about his fund raising event for the late Tim Hague who had died in a boxing ring. That was the only respectable and honorable moment of the evening.
Just when I thought I had enough, on comes the main event after a replay of yet another Gracie family fighter. So instead of moving right to the main card because of the quick Mitrione stoppage, we get another fight to hold us in suspense of what was being billed as the long awaited match. You want to talk about WWE? Chael Sonnen and his big mouth would fit right in.
The fight with Wanderlei may have been the worst of the night. And, this was the MAIN event. Snoozer. Following Sonnen’s unanimous decision between the two 40 year olds, while Mitrione had the most thoughtful moments of the night speaking of the late Tim Hague, Chael Sonnen had the funniest line of the night when having a microphone placed in front of his face, his first words were, “I hate New York.”
Those comments made to an audience made up primarily of hard core New Yorkers. More WWE of course. Once the fights ended, my first reaction was never again. I refuse to watch another Bellator card because of the few I’ve watched they have all STUNK. Bellator comes off as amateurish, and the quality of fighters lacks mightily in comparison to the UFC.
Knowing that another castoff in Roy Nelson has now joined the fray makes me want to stay away as well. To prove the theory that Bellator is for fighters that can’t make it in the UFC, just take a look at some the more successful league’s former fighters now making a home in Bellator.
Diego Nunes, John Alessio, Ryan Couture, Terry Etim, Marcus Davis, Karo Parisyan, Kendall Grove, Joey Beltran, Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Cheick Kongo, and newcomer Nelson.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts. But theatrical, showboating sports, and a sport without any integrity or structure I can hardly stomach. That is the case with Bellator but perhaps even more with the UFC. There is no questioning the monetary success of the UFC thanks mostly to Dana White.
You can’t take away the promoting abilities and achievements that White has succeeded in while bringing the UFC to worldwide attention. However, White plays to the fans who don’t really care about the sport but just want to see the popular names getting involved all while ignoring that the UFC is really not legitimate.
Dana White has the title of “President” of the UFC but he does not rule his league like a President or Commissioner of a major sport should. This past weekend if you turned to your Bleacher Report app, it was littered with headlines all regarding the upcoming fight between world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC champion Conor McGregor. Some of those headlines are referring to the possibility that the Irishman might be the biggest sport star in the history of ANY sport.
Come on now, that is utterly ridiculous. Let’s get serious. McGregor won the featherweight title knocking out an obviously unprepared Jose Aldo who prior to that bout had been one of UFC’s greatest champions. The new champion never defended his title and instead took on Nate Diaz and lost by tapping out.
Never mind defending his title, McGregor demands a rematch with Diaz and this time wins the decision. Then he wants to become the first UFC fighter to win a title in two different weight classes so to lightweight he goes. He knocks out and unequipped Eddie Alvarez and instead of defending his new title as he failed to do in the featherweight division, they starts a vocal war with Floyd Mayweather that evolved into the now schedule fight.
If you really think about it and you take it very seriously and with careful thought, this is all a hype game. Dana White is a horrible President who only acts on what can make him the money. Fighters in the UFC are mostly underpaid, have no health insurance, and are simply not well taken care of. That is unless you have the “it” factor that can evolved into putting more cash into Dana White’s pockets.
This is what took place with Ronda Rousey despite the hype finally catching up to her and she being exposed for being just an average MMA fighter. McGregor would face the same fate if he was thrown into a serious challenge or even defended his belt. But Dana White is not about to allow that happen. McGregor is his cash cow. This upcoming August event will probably break all pay-per-view numbers. This with the fight actually being a joke and most experts indicating that if Mayweather takes it seriously will make Conor McGregor look like an amateur fighter in the ring. I concur on that.
The UFC is lacking legitimacy, and some big name fighters that made the sport what it is. Instead, we get mostly fighters lacking true MMA talent, or men that should not be fighting at all. Take for example Johny Hendricks. Failing to make weight for the umpteenth time this past weekend, Tim Boetsch takes him out with a head kick in round two. Hendricks should be forced to retire, or at least send him over to Bellator. All “Big Rig” does anymore is lose. And, fail to make weight.
Making it even more ridiculous at UFC Fight Night 112 was another appearance by B.J. Penn who had retired twice but insists on continuing to fight. Penn took on another fighter that should have been put out to pasture. Dennis Siver. Siver win the decision improving his poor record to 12-8 while Penn has not won a fight since 2011. Since that time he lost five of his last six fights with one draw.
Penn did manage a knockdown of Siver, the first time he’s done that to an opponent since 2010 when Matt Hughes was sent to the canvas by B.J. Penn. On that same card last Sunday night, Kevin Lee submitted Michael Chiesa using a rear naked choke, but did so without tapping. Instead, thinking the choke was impossible to break out of, referee Mario Yamasaki waved off the bout and declared Lee champion. More bad refereeing.
The next big fight in the UFC is Daniel Cormier defending against former champion John Jones. I may have to force myself to watch that one, but again, MMA is getting more and more difficult to watch and this ridiculous promotion of Conor McGregor is just way too over the top. McGregor is far from being considered one of the “great athletes” ever. That’s a joke and Muhammad Ali was in a class by himself both as an athlete and a human being, so well revered around the world. That McGregor is not.
But the ignorant fans and eyes wide shut fans will continue to buy the pay-per-views and give the UFC all the attention it needs all the while Dana White continues to run the show as he sees fit and not for the good of the sport. The UFC had proclaimed it would rival the NFL for popularity and legitimacy. It will never happen. Not as long as Dana White is President.