The Biggest MMA Turkeys of 2020
Is it too much for me to hope that, this year, the turkey-pardoning jokes will make themselves?
The answer is no. No, it's not too much to hope. So let us now jump right into the list of the biggest MMA turkeys of this fine, fine year 2020.
It's been a strange year, to put it incredibly mildly, and the fight world followed suit. If you're new to it, I hope you're sitting down, because I'm going to let you in on a little shocker: fighters and fight people do strange things. And sometimes they do dumb things. And this is where we highlight those who really stood out from the pack.
Here, the Bleacher Report combat sports team—Kelsey McCarson, Tom Taylor, Lyle Fitzsimmons, and I—put its collective head together to find the biggest turkeys on the MMAscape this year.
Gobblers on your marks. Get set…
It's one thing to fail an assignment. We've all been there, and it's easily enough excused.
It's another thing to fail an assignment and be proud of it.
That sort of approach gets you included in a collection like this one.
Cult favorite Mike Perry strayed into the latter category at UFC 255 in Las Vegas when he not only missed weight by more than four pounds but called attention to it with a childish dab at the scales.
Some will suggest it's merely part of the caustic, envelope-pushing persona the 29-year-old Michigander has created for himself over the years—with his girlfriend as his literal corner-person—but he was just being a turkey.
Though I won't trot out the high horse that some immediately mount when a fighter is "unprofessional" enough to miss weight, I do think Perry went above and beyond the call of juvenile when he skulked to the scale and told the attending official "Oh baby, we not even close."
Plenty of fighters have been there. They've taken their embarrassing medicine. They've forfeited cash from their purse. And they've moved on with their fights without making themselves a spectacle.
Perry, though, wanted to have his waist-expanding cake and devour it, too.
Judging by the bloody remodeling job done on Perry's face a day later by victorious underdog Tim Means, it seems Platinum Mike might be regretting is lack of preparation.
No serious MMA fan, much less Paige VanZant, would argue too vociferously with the idea that Paige VanZant long ago abandoned hardcore MMA training for the lures of Instagram lucre. Instagram is a social media website where you post pictures of yourself, which sounds a little easier than MMA. So hey, can you blame her? (Especially when, as she has rightly pointed out, the UFC's pay structure is so embarrassingly low.)
The problem with social media stardom is that you still have to stay relevant in some larger way, at least ideally. VanZant got huge from Dancing With the Stars, but then that ended. So she lost that, then lost three of five after her return. The UFC released her in August.
And now, she has signed with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. If you're not familiar, it's exactly what you think it is. Does this feel like a far fall from the Octagon? Or, what does this feel like? She was maybe the most recognizable face in the UFC just five years ago. Why not PFL, Invicta or Bellator? Why Bareknuckle? Does it require less training? It abandons any pretense of athletic spirit for the quickest-hitting sugar-rush attention-grab it could possibly be.
It just feels a little silly that this is the fuel she chose to make her Instagram keep chugging. Seems like it might just cause engine damage if it continues on without an upgrade.
Henry Cejudo is one of the greatest fighters of this era, but man, he's a turkey.
I'll start with his repeated assertions that he "saved" the long-struggling UFC flyweight division, the latest of which occurred this very week—in late 2020, almost two years after his last flyweight fight!
I don't know who saved the flyweight division, or if it can even be saved, but it sure wasn't Cejudo. He won the division's title, defended it once, then took off to the bantamweight division and never returned.
Can you imagine if renowned primatologist Jane Goodall ventured into the rugged wilds of Tanzania, killed the alpha male in a struggling community of chimpanzees, promptly left the country, then took credit for saving its chimp population? That's effectively what Cejudo did in the flyweight division.
Then there's his retirement announcement, which occurred after he defended the bantamweight title with a TKO win over the legendary Dominick Cruz earlier this year. We tend to criticize Conor McGregor for his repeated and unconvincing retirement announcements, but has there ever been a flimsier retirement than Cejudo's?
Within a month of hanging up the gloves earlier this year, he was already fishing for a featherweight title shot against Alexander Volkanovski and a boxing match with Ryan Garcia. Since then, he's teased a comeback nearly every time there's been a big fight at either flyweight or bantamweight. At this point, it's just sad, like listening to an old guy in a dimly lit bar talk about how great he was at football before he blew out his knee.
It's over, Henry—but only because you ended it yourself.
If you don't want it to be over, then don't retire. It's that simple.
"What a turkey this guy is."
That, or something similar, is probably what you were thinking back in June when Conor McGregor retired. Again.
The reason for that, of course, is that you knew upon seeing it that McGregor wasn't really retiring.
Sure, the Irishman seemed super fed up with how he was being treated by UFC president Dana White, but not anyone in the world actually believed his retirement announcement was legit.
Heck, the UFC didn't even bother removing him from their rankings.
Why would they? This was the third time in the last four years McGregor retired. Everyone knew it would be the third time in the last four years that he unretired, too.
McGregor gets to be my MMA turkey this year for the simple fact that he's way too creative a human being to keep coming up with the same move over and over and over again. Instead of announcing his retirement the next time he doesn't get his way, I think we should demand more from McGregor.
McGregor is the biggest superstar in MMA. He could do so much more damage to the news cycle than these simple fake retirements achieve.
Here are some examples.
He could announce he's flying himself to the moon by flapping his arms.
He could renounce his citizenship in Ireland to establish his own country and name it "Proper Twelve."
He could challenge women's boxing champ, Katie Taylor, to a hot dog eating contest.
As you can see, the opportunities are literally endless.
So while I feel grateful that fighters as accomplished and popular as McGregor help keep me gainfully employed because of the tremendous interest they generate in just about every single thing they do, I guess I've sort of started to expect more from him at this point.