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Sunday, Sep 30, 2012

Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” Pushing Fighters to Fight at the Last Minute is Bad For the Sport

UFC's Matt Mitrione (pictured) is the latest fighter to be scorned by the promotion's President Dana White for not accepting a fight with minimal notice.

By Joshua Molina

Daniel Cormier and Dave Bautista don’t have a lot in common.

Cormier is a 5 foot 11 inch world class, Olympic-level wrestler and a rising star in mixed martial arts. He’s the Strikeforce Grand Prix champion and an all-around likable guy.

Bautista is a 6 foot 6 inch former WWE champion, with huge muscles, a great fashion sense and from most accounts from his wrestling days, a bit of a snot backstage.

They are both wrestlers, of sorts, trying to make it big in MMA. Their situations illustrate much of what’s wrong with the state of mixed martial arts.

Both of these fighters need opponents for their upcoming fights on Oct. 6 for Bautista and Nov. 3 for Cormier. But neither one of these guys should be fighting in these cards, for entirely different reasons.

Increasingly, fighters are being treated like pieces of meat. The sport has been so hot and popular in recent years that promoters have looked to put on big fights quickly.

The undefeated Cormier has looked impressive in his 10 victories. He won the Strikeforce Grand Prix Championship and now is headed for the UFC – since the UFC gutted the Strikeforce division.

Cormier’s opponent for his Nov. 3 show was supposed to be former UFC champ Frank Mir. But Mir got injured leaving Cormier with no opponent.

Cormier and the UFC both want to a quick fight to complete the terms of his Showtime contract. Cormier must fight one more time on the network before the UFC can pull him over. So now that Mir is out, the UFC – since it fired or took the rest of the heavyweight fighters after it bought Strikeforce – is searching for an opponent for Cormier.

UFC fighter Matt Mitrione apparently rejected an offer to fight Cormier. UFC boss Dana White then blasted Mitrone for “not wanting opportunities,” saying that his decision made him sick.

White is always talking about how he has legitimized MMA and brought it to the masses, yet he still acts like fighters should take any fight, under any circumstances, regardless of whether they have had enough time to train for that fight.

White should know better than anyone that this isn’t backyard brawling. Look what happened to Jon Jones after he fought Vitor Belfort on about a month’s notice. He nearly got his arm broken and now fighters everywhere believe they know how to beat Jones.

Cormier shouldn’t be forced to fight anybody the UFC lines up either. If he’s lucky he will get a month’s notice. That’s not enough time to prepare. Cormier has an incentive to fight and move to the UFC where he can make more money, but if the UFC puts the wrong guy in front of him, on a month’s notice of training time, the Rise of Daniel Cormier could quickly turn into the Rise and Fall of Daniel Cormier.

Unfortunately, with Zuffa owning both the UFC and Strikeforce, the sport is spread too thin and there just aren’t enough fighters readily available to jump into camp to fight Cormier.

In a perfect world, the fight would get canceled, and Cormier would fight at the beginning of the year, so that UFC and Strikeforce could adequately find a fighter and promote the card. Finding a last-minute substitute helps no one, certainly not the fighters.

Why can’t Cormier just sit out the card and fight again in a couple of months against a skilled, qualified fighter?

It’s because Strikeforce would have to cancel the entire show without Cormier on it. But Zuffa only has itself to blame by gutting the heavyweight division and building cards with little depth behind them.

In the case of Bautista, the desperation is taken to the extreme. Bautista was scheduled to make his debut this Saturday.

As of now, the show is still scheduled, but Bautista doesn’t have an opponent.

This fight should be canceled. Bautista doesn’t belong inside the cage period, much less fighting someone on less than a week’s notice.

That kind of situation just hurts the reputation of the sport. These are supposed to be big-time legitimate athletes. The idea that you could pull some guy out of nowhere and fight him against Bautista is pretty insane.

Nobody even knows if Bautista, making his MMA debut, can fight. He’s 43, slow and injury prone. Maybe he will turn out to be spectacular inside the cage, but the odds are against him.

This fight should be canceled too. But Bautista isn’t getting any younger. The company putting on the show, Classic Sports & Entertainment, badly wants to make a pay day off of Bautista. The fight will be available for a fee on the internet and in a small number of homes on Pay Per View.

Bautista was a huge name in wrestling, but that popularity will never translate into MMA, unless he signed with the UFC, where at least then it could be seen as a spectacle. And that is probably never going to happen. Bautista is risking his health, his image and his future as a pro wrestler by stepping into the cage against a nobody – literally in this case – and for what and why?

For a pay day for someone. Forcing these fights to happen is good for promoters, but bad for the sport in the long run.

posted by JoshuaM @ 7:12 pm
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