The Biggest MMA Turkeys of 2015
This is a truly special time of year. It is a time when Americans gather together to give thanks for what they have and to jeer things of which they do not approve.
For MMA fans, the cornucopia runneth over.
Maybe you haven't noticed, but MMA is a pretty wacky sport. No matter how popular it gets, no matter how amazing its product in the cage, MMA's stars, power brokers and impresarios just can't seem to slouch clear of their own path of destruction for any meaningful period of time. Quickly behind every blessing, there trails a curse.
Certainly, on the whole this has been a good year for the sport. The establishment of new stars like Conor McGregor, potential stars like Sage Northcutt and one mega-mainstream-household-hypergiant star named Ronda Rousey, plus record ratings for Bellator and one of the best fights ever, all provided high-water marks and plenty of buzz.
For that, we give thanks. And yet, it would be folly to ignore the problems, especially when MMA collectively behaves like a turkey that fell asleep on the chopping block.
Hey, speaking of turkeys, here is our list of the five biggest turkeys in MMA for 2015. Each mouth-watering specimen was lovingly procured just for you by one of Bleacher Report MMA's finest marksmen: Mike Chiappetta, Chad Dundas, Craig Amos, Steven Rondina and me, Scott Harris.
They are listed in no particular order. Bon appetit.
Honorable (and Dishonorable) Mentions
Here are a few other gobblers, listed in no particular order:
- Jon Jones
- Kit Cope
- Gary Copeland
- CM Punk
- Ken Shamrock
- Rousimar Palhares
- War Machine
- Steve Mazzagatti
- United States Anti-Doping Agency
- Caio Magalhaes
- Anthony Johnson
- Thiago Silva
The Reebok-UFC Alliance
This partnership has bordered on fiasco since the beginning, when an exclusivity clause written into the deal announced the end of in-fight sponsors, and therefore, a plummeting of endorsement cash. Then, the UFC “fight kits” were unveiled to the world in June, and after publicly promising customization to each individual, the end result was nothing of the sort. Same jersey, different colors, with the UFC logo bold, front and centered, and the fighter’s name banished to the back.
Boring and identical was one thing; but then there was “Giblert,” the humorously head-scratching misspelling that came to symbolize the cavalcade of first-edition release errors. There was “Marcio” Machida, “Kevin” Swanson, “Rebecca” Rawlings and a slew of nickname gaffes, including “Ronaldo” in the nickname slot of “Jacare” Souza’s jersey. On top of it all, the shirts were a budget-busting $95.
Even if you gave them a break for their freshman foibles and depressingly low payouts, since then we’ve had the Ireland incident, the Mirko Cro Cop trademark checkerboard pattern refusal, Elizabeth Phillips' uniform malfunction, the Stitch Duran firing and more. Have all the problems been addressed? Well, some of them, but if you act quickly, you can still buy a jersey of Josh Thomson, who signed with Bellator three months ago.
Problem for the fighters? Yes, with no solution. As for the UFC prez? Well, he was recently seen rocking Nike from head to toe.
Nevada State Athletic Commission
The year began with the Nevada State Athletic Commission popping a trio of the UFC’s biggest stars—Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz—for using banned substances at UFCs 182 and 183. Unfortunately, that administrative triple whammy turned out to be the high point of 2015 for the nation’s largest and most influential state athletic commission.
Disorganized, hapless and completely tone deaf are all adjectives that come to mind for the rest of it.
The NSAC handing Diaz a five-year marijuana suspension was far enough off-base that MMA fans organized a White House petition to try to overturn it (it has 114,000 signatures and counting). The two parties eventually settled on a lesser sentence.
There were also questions about the appropriateness of Jones’ positive test for cocaine.
In addition to those gaffes, the saga of Wanderlei Silva’s lifetime ban from September 2014 still drags on and Rousimar Palhares apparently has a mind to fight the two-year suspension he was handed in October for holding submission too long on his defeated opponents.
It’s all added up to one big mess.
If the NSAC learned anything this year, perhaps it’s that it’s not a great idea to let the UFC broadcast its meetings on Fight Pass. Now that we’ve all gotten an up-close-and-personal look at the minute-to-minute goings-on in the hallowed halls of athletic justice, most of the principals have revealed themselves as straight-up turkeys.
When you've spawned your own Twitter parody, you know you've made it.
That is the rarefied air wherein resides one Edmond Tarverdyan, otherwise known as the striking coach who was unable to teach Ronda Rousey how to strike.
At least, that's the conventional wisdom. I'm calling Tarverdyan a turkey here, but it's only to bring awareness to his plight. After all, it is you, the Tarverdyan-doubting couch potato, who is the turkey.
Tarverdyan has only been training Rousey for six years. The great art of boxing can't be picked up in six years. Twenty-three years, minimum. If you're a prodigy? Maybe 21, 22 years. But now we're talking genius, like Travis Browne territory. Come on, people. You reveal your own jealousy and lack of intelligence when you say he hasn't done his job. Do you even train?
The so-called "experts," the Tim Kennedys of the world, they want to say that Rousey needs new coaches. They want to say that Rousey is succeeding in spite of Tarverdyan, not because of him. People like "Ronda Rousey's mother" want to do silly things like "run him over with a car." They say he is "eating her brain," as if such a thing is sanitary. And even if it were sanitary, it's not even legal. You can't eat people's brains. Take your ignorance elsewhere.
Speaking of legal things, the haters want to throw Tarverdyan's money problems in his face. They want to bring up the fact that last week he once again no-showed a meeting in the ongoing bankruptcy process he himself initiated in May.
Relax, guys. Grab a turkey leg and chill. All will be revealed. Did you forget who you were talking about? This is Edmond Tarverdyan, gang! The king of game-planning!
Or maybe you forgot the plan he put together for his star pupil at UFC 193. You know, the one where she couldn't mount any offense and couldn't stay clear of Holly Holm's left hand or, ultimately, left foot. The one Tarverdyan astutely defended after the fact:
I wouldn't say in the striking game she was getting the best of Ronda, you know, but I have to watch it again. But we know this was not a striking match; we know that Ronda is smart enough to take the fight where she is best at and today she did.
Game, set and match, haters. Was this a striking match? Huh? Was it? No, it was not. It was an MMA match. These are just the facts.
Excuse me, I have to go drop the mic now. But before I do, I want you to do two things. First, I want you to bow down to this great and unfairly maligned coaching guru and acknowledge yourself as the true turkey that you are. Second, I want you to take a click on the tribute video embedded herein. Enjoy the fruits of Tarverdyan's genius. Bask in them. And then ask yourself who should truly be thankful this Thanksgiving holiday.
It's been a tough year for Vitor Belfort, and through all the controversy, he has proven that he is not only a turkey...he's a full-on turducken.
The first half of 2015 saw Belfort's depleted physique take center stage. On TRT, Belfort was a physical specimen, as spry and as thickly muscled as he was back in Pride (where he tested positive for elevated testosterone...purely coincidental, I'm sure). Off TRT? Well, he looked good for a 38-year-old, I guess.
Plenty was said about the new-look Belfort. Even more was said after he got demolished by a younger, cleaner Chris Weidman. UFC commentators went to extraordinary lengths to pretend everything with Belfort was on the up-and-up. Former opponents Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping tore into him after being exposed.
That was bad all on its own, but things became much, much worse when a report surfaced saying that Belfort was twice caught abusing TRT and, more importantly, that the UFC actively covered this up to ensure Belfort could face Jon Jones at UFC 152. UFC President Dana White went radio silent after the report, leaving Belfort to take the heat. If he was expecting Belfort to handle that with grace and tact, though, he doesn't know who he's dealing with.
Belfort would chicken out of a spot on MMAFighting.com's The MMA Hour at the last minute in an effort to duck questions about the report. When Belfort finally opened up, speaking with Inside MMA, he came off as completely insane.
While his wacky defense of his TRT use has long made him one of MMA's foremost turkeys, he has stepped his poultry game up in a big way in 2015. We'll see if he can stay out of trouble now that he is returning to his natural habitat.
Fox Sports 1 UFC Broadcasts
I haven’t produced a television program since my grade-seven expose on UFOs, but that experience emboldens me to critique the inefficiency with which Fox Sports 1 broadcasts UFC events.
Take, for instance, last weekend’s Fight Night 78 event. Featuring 13 fights, including a main card of six straight decisions, it served as an arduous challenge to the patience and focus of viewers everywhere. Not because of the in-Octagon action, mind you, but because of the other stuff. The filler.
It would be one thing to see 84 promos for Aldo vs. McGregor if an event threatened to finish early. But when you get to this point:
This card is now at the six-hour, 20-minute mark and there's still a five-round main event to go. #UFCMonterrey— Rob Tatum (@RobTatumMMA)
You don’t need to show us that promo again. The same is true for throwing it over to Karyn Bryant and the gang: If it’s 11 p.m.and the main event is starting, then share your opinion. If it’s 1:30 a.m., just get to the next fight.
The self-promotion and NFL-style discussion panels derive from the UFC’s fixation on gaining mainstream acceptance, but it’s asking a lot of any fan to weather another 20 minutes of chitchat or advertisements when they’ve already waited six-plus hours for the main event.
So Fox Sports 1 is my turkey. I’ll give thanks for all the UFC they show, but this:
Dear UFC, stop having 6-fight main cards that end at 2A on Saturday. Thanks— Michael Stets (@Michael_Stets)
Now please watch this 20-minute video of Karyn Bryant interviewing Wilson Reis.