When Joe Silva first took his job as UFC matchmaker, I don’t think it occurred to him that one day he’d be turning to Twitter to help him do his job.
And yet, more and more often, that’s exactly what’s been happening. It’s getting to be so common that Dana White and the Fertittas should cut in the blue Twitter bird on the UFC payroll. Combine that with the UFC’s new policy of paying fighters to tweet, and you have a nice little double-kickback scheme going, come to think of it.
The latest example of (possible) Twitter matchmaking is the emerging B.J. Penn vs. Carlos Condit fight now being hotly discussed on MMA blogs. It started with a Twitter challenge from Condit to Penn, a sweet 127 character throwing down of the gauntlet. The always eager Penn gladly accepted (at least I think he was glad. There were exclamation marks after all), and even suggested a date: October 29, in Las Vegas.
And just like that, a welterweight super-fight was born.
Wait, hold on a second. Actually, that’s not the way it happened. That’s the way it happened for the last 10 percent of the exchange. The other 90 percent didn’t even feature Condit at all.
Instead, it featured Fitch’s latest screwing at the hands of the fight gods/callous MMA fans/cruel, cruel fate. Take your pick, really.
See, it was Fitch who originally took to Twitter to seek out a match with Penn. A rematch, actually, of their headlining fight at UFC 127 in Australia. A fight that happened to end in an ultra-rare, actually becoming pretty common, draw. A rematch had already been penciled in at UFC 132, but an injury to Fitch left the fight—and its outcome—in about as much limbo as you can get in the fight world.
Some felt Fitch was robbed by the decision that night. Others felt that it was Penn who should have been given the nod in that fight. A select few, myself included, were perfectly content with a draw, and eagerly anticipated the inevitable rematch.
After all, Penn vs. Fitch was a good fight, wasn’t it? A pretty fun fight? It was a fight where both guys surprised me—Penn for his ability to take down the collegiate wrestling standout, Fitch for his incredible comeback in the final round.
Just like Edgar vs. Maynard 2, this is exactly the kind of fight you hope ends in a draw. Exciting. Evenly matched. Inconclusive. Who doesn’t want to see more of that?
I’m guessing that was Jon’s feeling when he hoped on his computer and called Penn out, and I’m guessing it was Penn’s feeling when he jumped at it. The two started arranging the timing of their scrap, and it was almost the perfect sports moment.
No matchmakers. No managers. No agents. No hassle. Just two adults and respected veterans, ironing out the details of a fight that made too much sense not to happen. I was hoping the fight would be at UFC 138 in San Jose in November, so he could get a cheer—or at least some polite recognition—from a UFC crowd at least once in his career.
Enter Joe Silva.
Apparently, the UFC matchmaker extraordinaire informed Penn that “the fans don’t want it, and I’m not interested.” And just like that, Penn vs. Fitch 2 was killed faster then Rush Limbaugh’s presidential bid.
What, because “the fans” don’t “want it?” What fans has he been talking to? And besides, when has fans not “wanting” a fight ever been the decisive, all-important factor in your matchmaking? Fans didn’t “want” to see Edgar vs. Maynard either of the first two times they fought. To be honest, they didn’t seem to “want” Frankie to get his original title shot against B.J. Penn, either.
No one was standing up to applaud when Dan Hardy was announced as a title challenger to GSP. No one breathed a sigh of relief when the heavily hyped Brock Lesnar vs. Heath Herring super-fight was announced.
But so what? You went ahead and made those fights and made off like bandits. Most fans don’t know what they really want until after they’ve gotten it. When 2011 started, Jon Jones was a fringe top-10 LHW and a marginal celebrity at best. Now he’s being talked about as a potential Wayne Gretzky or Muhammad Ali of MMA.
The sad thing about all this is you can clearly see the anti-Fitch agenda in all of it. For some reason, the UFC is dead set against giving Jon his long-overdue rematch with Georges St-Pierre, even though their first fight was the most exciting fight St-Pierre has been in since winning the title back from Matt Serra.
Had Fitch beaten B.J. that night in Australia, his claim for a title shot would have been undeniable.
Now, the UFC can book Penn vs. Condit (itself likely a title eliminator) and send Jon Fitch back into divisional purgatory. Sure, he’ll probably put together another string of (ugly) wins. But if he ever starts clamoring for a title shot, Joe Silva/Dana White/cynical fans can just say, “Didn’t you almost lose to a guy who was chased out of a lighter weight class, and whose soul GSP devoured a few years ago?”
And that, as they say, will be that. No title shot for you! Come back in one year!
Am I excited for Penn vs. Condit? You bet your a$$ I am. Carlos Condit has never been in a boring fight that I’ve seen, and he brings just the right combination of tools to guarantee a good fight with “The Prodigy.” This one should be all standabang fireworks galore.
I’m just bummed about Jon Fitch once again getting thrown overboard. I hope he washes up on Shangri-La. I’m guessing he’ll instead get sucked into the giant, never-ending whirlpool he calls his UFC career.