Happy Friday and welcome back to TGIFighting. We'll get you set for this weekend's MMA action and react to the news of the day. Let's go.
GSP-Oscar De La Hoya: The Boxing Match I Never Knew I Never Wanted to See
Honestly, what did you expect from the UFC? The last time UFC prez Dana White played ball with anyone, he was on a playground in short pants and orange slices were involved.
The real surprise is that this wacky boxing match was a thing to begin with.
If you missed it, part of me wants to let you continue living in blissful ignorance. But the other, larger part of me wants to complain about it, so here goes.
Word came out last week that arguable MMA GOAT (and personally he gets my vote) Georges St-Pierre (26-2) was planning to face former boxing champ Oscar De La Hoya (39-6) in an exhibition bout to take place on Triller—the same streaming platform that brought you instant classics like Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren.
But the UFC nixed the bout, with White going on one of his signature expletive-laden rants when he was asked about it later, saying, among other things, that Triller execs were messing with "my guys."
Although he hasn't competed since 2017, St-Pierre is still under contract with the UFC. So, White and company are within their rights here, which I think is what White was getting at beneath all the chest-puffery.
So, no, no surprises on this front. ESPN's Marc Raimondi reported that Triller had pledged $1 million for charity on top of a purse that may well have been GSP's largest to date, given the UFC's notoriously stingy athlete pay. Still, charity or no, nothing's likely to move White, who usually shares or entirely cedes his personal decision-making process to body parts other than his head.
The real tragedy here is that GSP was actually going to do this. De La Hoya is 48 years old. That means they'd be a combined 87 years of age going into the bout. I get that fading MMA stars want and need big paydays, or just to feel the rush of competition or capture the limelight one more time. Complaining about these "legends" fights is tilting at windmills.
But this one is sad even when grading on that steep curve. This one is right up there with Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3, a 2018 one-off staged by none other than De La Hoya, through his Golden Boy Promotions. Combined age in that one: 93 years.
This one's arguably worse because GSP isn't a boxer. This is one step up from St-Pierre announcing he'd opened a GNC in a Montreal-area strip mall—only for the UFC to step in and tell him he couldn't do it. The world likely doesn't need another GNC, but that's beside the point. The point is, it shouldn't have to come to this in the first place. People in the fight game—lots of people in the fight game—need to find a way to get some dignity.
Women's Flyweight Just Got a New Destroyer
Tatiana Suarez's career took a nosedive in recent years through no fault of her own. The problem? After Suarez (8-0) laid waste to five straight UFC strawweights, matchmakers calls to potential next opponents mysteriously started going straight to voicemail.
The Olympic-level wrestler and cancer survivor is as skilled and marketable as they come, and she recently made a big career decision by moving up to flyweight. Per ESPN, she was medically cleared for the move on Wednesday.
No opponent has been announced for Suarez yet, but let's not forget who currently owns this division: one Valentina Shevchenko (21-3), who runs from no one. Suarez told ESPN, "I do think I have a good skill set in terms of my wrestling [that] can give her trouble."
Make no mistake: This is big news. Suddenly the 125-pound division looks like the best weight class on the women's side of the ledger, and a Suarez-Shevchenko title fight might be the best WMMA bout the UFC can conceivably make right now. It's like adding a tiger to the cheetah enclosure. Let's just hope some flyweights answer the phone.
Ben Rothwell: The Clown Prince of the Heavyweight Division Fights to Regain His Mojo
This Saturday at UFC 188, Ben Rothwell (38-13) will fight on the undercard for the first time in his 16-fight UFC career.
It wasn't long ago that he was kicking backside and taking names. He's been one of the most entertaining fighters on the entire UFC roster, let alone the heavyweight division, both inside and outside the lines of competition.
He was the total package. A headhunter of the first order, he was always game to bite down on the mouthpiece. Later in his career he pioneered the gogo choke, a modified guillotine that serves as a counter to takedown attempts—a novelty move only until you recall that he used it to hand grappling legend Josh Barnett (35-8) his first and only submission loss of his MMA career.
And after the fights are all over, the native Wisconsinite did hilarious dances and cut elaborate post-fight promos, complete with maniacal laughter.
Then came a two-year suspension for failing a drug test, which put him out of commission until 2019. He's a not-entirely-unrespectable 2-3 since his return, which saw him get right back to that swing-for-the-fences fight style. Most recently, he banged it out with Marcin Tybura (21-6) but ultimately lost to a younger, faster opponent who used something called "defense" to weather the early Rothwell storm.
UFC Fight Night 188 may be a fork in the road for Big Ben, who turns 40 this October. When he faces late replacement Chris Barnett (21-6) Saturday in Las Vegas, it will be Rothwell's first time fighting on the undercard in his 16-fight UFC career.
Chris Barnett is a fire hydrant of a man with his own penchant for novelties and knockouts (16 career KOs to Rothwell's 28). Rothwell is a heavy -335 favorite to win (bet $335 to win $100), per DraftKings, and hopefully he takes advantage of the mic time to remind everyone who they're dealing with: one of the funniest, silliest, most entertaining fighters on the UFC roster. No one expects him to make a run to the top of the division, but it would be nice to see him back in the mix and entertaining fans on main cards again. Saturday we'll see what he still has left. Mwahaha.
The American Way: Elon Musk Helps Beneil Dariush After Televised Rant
Streaking lightweight and noted Marxism critic Beneil Dariush (21-4-1) had some serious life challenges. After his win over Tony Ferguson (25-6) last weekend at UFC 262, Dariush called out Tesla founder and eccentric billionaire Elon Musk because his wife hadn't yet received the car she ordered.
"Joe, I'm gonna call out your buddy Elon," Dariush told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "Elon Musk! Where's my car, bro? I've been waiting six months! I'm having a baby! I need a good car! I gotta protect my daughter! Let's go Elon! Get me my car!"
In a happy ending, Musk quickly saw that the Dariush brood received a free loaner Tesla for the interim waiting period. Lesson to be learned: If you want something bad enough, all you have to do is get yourself on TV and demand it. Now that's capitalism.
Stone-Cold Lead-Pipe Lock of the Week
Mayday! Mayday! We're taking on water! After jumping out to an 8-0 start we've hit a three-fight losing skid. That's not what anyone was looking for, particularly me. I'm betting on these fights too, so my damage is twofold, financial as well as reputational.
So I have to pick a winner this week. No half measures. So let us ride with our guy, Mr. Rothwell, who should get it done in a bang-it-out heavyweight bout with an opponent in Barnett, who is making his UFC debut and last competed a year-and-a-half ago in something called Square Ring Promotions. Lock it in? Sure. Here goes nothing.
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