After a week spent celebrating the past, the mixed martial arts world inches ever forward.
We're 11 days away from the next major Ultimate Fighting Championship event—that being the TUF 18 Finale here in Las Vegas, on November 30—but there's no shortage of things to talk about coming off UFC 167.
And so, without any further ado, let's get started on this week's Buzz List, which includes the four most buzz-worthy topics in the MMA world.
GSP Speculation Continues
Even though he was awarded a win over Johny Hendricks, last Saturday night represented the worst imaginable outcome for Georges St-Pierre.
For St-Pierre, the ideal scenario would see him winning a dominant (and perhaps exciting fight) battle over Hendricks, then announcing that he'd accomplished everything he wanted to in mixed martial arts and that he was hanging up his gloves. Nobody would fault St-Pierre for that attitude, and he would've retired as one of the greats, with a UFC Hall of Fame induction surely to follow in the summer of 2014.
But St-Pierre didn't get the dominant win he needed. In the eyes of many, he was gifted a controversial split decision—and we'll talk about that in more detail a little bit later—and then muddled things up even further with a vague and rambling post-fight interview that left myself and others deeply concerned for his mental health and well-being.
A St-Pierre appearance at the post-fight press conference did little but stoke the flames. What was St-Pierre's personal problem? Why did he consider it such a big deal that he felt he needed to take time away from the sport? And why did Dana White downplay the significance of whatever it is that St-Pierre is going through?
TMZ reported that St-Pierre's father was dying and that he'd gotten a girl pregnant. Both of these reports were flatly denied by everyone involved with St-Pierre, including St-Pierre's sister, who noted that their father is in perfect health and is not dying. This served as a lesson to anyone who takes TMZ at their word when it comes to reporting any kind of mixed martial arts news; it's a lesson that apparently was not learned after the Kimo fiasco from a few years ago.
Still, speculation continues. One such rumor involves St-Pierre's old manager, Shari Spencer, suing her former client for millions of dollars. Spencer quickly squashed that one with a contender for Tweet of the Week:
We may never learn what's troubling St-Pierre, and that should be okay with us. TMZ played a big part in creating a culture of people who feel it's their God-given right to share in every aspect of the lives of those in the public spotlight, and they foster that mindset by reporting rumors and gossip that are somehow taken as gospel. This is not the first time, and it will not be the last.
Still, part of me hopes that we'll eventually stop caring about such things. If St-Pierre wanted the world to know what he's going through, he would tell us. Until he decides to share what he's going through, we should all stop paying attention to gossip-mongers and turn our gaze elsewhere.
Ben Askren Really Wants To Fight in the UFC
Even if you aren't a fan of his fighting style, you have to admire Ben Askren for his single-minded determination to be the best welterweight in the world.
Askren ran through the best welterweights Bellator has to offer with ease. He is not the most crowd-pleasing fighter. But in an age where being a well-rounded fighter is celebrated, there is something nostalgic about a man who is supremely good at one thing and uses it to repeatedly beat his foes.
Of course, that was not enough for Bjørn Rebney to see any kind of value in Askren, or at least not enough value to keep him around. Instead, Rebney effusively praised Askren for being one of the best welterweights in the world while also taking cheap, veiled shots at Askren's one-dimensional style. This shouldn't surprise you; after all, this is the man who famously said he would never sign UFC castoffs and then proceeded to sign every single UFC castoff he could get his hands on.
But, no matter. Askren wants to go to the UFC, and he's willing to forego a potential payday to make it happen, telling Ariel Helwani that he'd like to debut against a fighter who just lost at UFC 167:
Rory MacDonald is another guy that...he really just bugs me and he irks me. It was really nice to see him get knocked off his pedestal on Saturday night, but, if Dana White were willing, if I lost to him (Rory), I would fight for free and retire from the sport of MMA because that's how confident I am that I will beat Rory MacDonald. I am not completely financially motivated. I obviously want to make a living, but, at the same time, I want to beat up the best guys in the world.
Multiple sources in the UFC have told me that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva does not want to sign Askren, but he'll likely end up signing with the promotion because people higher up than Silva in the chain of command want to bring the former Olympian into the fold.
Does that mean Dana White was playing some sort of tactical game when he told the media last week that he's not interested in signing Askren? It seems likely at this point. And really, would it surprise you in the least if it turns out to be the case?
Count me among those who are intrigued by the idea of Askren competing against the likes of MacDonald, Condit, Hendricks and St-Pierre. Yes, Askren is a one-dimensional fighter, but he's very good at that one aspect. His opponents know what he's going to do before they ever step in the cage, and they still haven't been able to stop him. I'd like to see if any of the UFC's top welterweights have the ability to do so.
Bellator Scores Fantastic Rating
Perhaps it's a good thing Bjørn Rebney is completely ignoring the promise he made not to sign UFC castoffs, because those UFC castoffs are helping put Bellator in the brightest spotlight they've ever experienced.
Last Friday's bout between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Joey Beltran—who are 3-6-1 in their last 10 combined fights—pulled in an average of 793,000 viewers for the full broadcast. Jackson vs. Beltran drew in 1.2 million viewers, which falls short of the Bellator ratings record set by the rematch between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler a few weeks ago.
But make no mistake about it: that's a fantastic number for Bellator. It's higher than anything the UFC has pulled on Fox Sports 1 since the inaugural Fight Night event that featured Chael Sonnen, Shogun Rua and Alistair Overeem in featured roles. And it blows anything the UFC is doing on Fox Sports 2 away.
Bellator is still a distance second when it comes to the promotional race, but they're gaining ground. Their long-term success, however, relies on creating their own stars that connect with the public, not relying on fighters who longer cut it in the UFC. But for right now, in this moment, everyone at Bellator and Spike can be proud of what they have accomplished in recent months.
The President and the Commissioner
Dana White and Keith Kizer are not friends. This was confirmed after White, veins bulging in his neck, put Kizer on blast and insinuated that the chairman of the Nevada commission consistently assigned poor judges and officials (a laughable accusation, by the way) at the UFC 167 press conference.
Kizer, as he is known to do, took White's comments with a shrug of his shoulders, saying that the UFC president can say whatever he wants at press conference:
The last four rounds were scored unanimously. The first could have gone either way, as most people thought it could have gone either way, regardless of how they scored it. It’s more about Dana’s comments than anything else, not about the scoring.
Kizer makes a great point. Nobody at the MGM Grand Garden Arena thought St-Pierre's split decision win was an outright robbery. Well, nobody except White, that is. He alone awarded four rounds to Johny Hendricks; the rest of us gave Hendricks the win while also pointing out that it was a very close fight and likely hinged on how you viewed the first round.
If you scored the first round for St-Pierre, you likely viewed him as the winner of the fight. If you gave it to Hendricks, then he won the fight.
I've watched it four times since Saturday night, and my initial opinion holds: Hendricks won a very close fight with a score of 48-47.
There are plenty of times when judging should be verbally demolished, but this is not one of them. And this certainly will not be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Perhaps White should choose his battles more carefully and be more selective about when he goes on one of his trademark ragers.
If he doesn't, he'll risk becoming the boy who cried wolf. After all, when you scream and rant and rave about everything being the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the world on the planet, sooner or later people are going to stop listening to what you have to say.