This weekend the best promotion in fight sports returns. That’s right, CamSoda is back with Fight Circus 2: Circus Harder. Things promise to be even weirder than the first outing but before we get to all that, there are other things to discuss, namely, UFC 255 and Dana White’s steadfast insistence that Khabib Nurmagomedov is lying to everyone about his retirement.
There doesn’t seem to be much buzz for this PPV, despite Valentina Shevchenko’s dominance, an exciting champion in Deiveson Figueiredo, and entertaining flyweight fights as of late. Why such little enthusiasm and can the UFC do anything else to inject life into flyweight?
— Shakiel Mahjouri (@FightShakFight) November 18, 2020
So in case you didn’t know, and you may not have given the utter lack of promotion, UFC 255 takes place this evening, headlined by a pair of flyweight title fights, and I think there are a couple of reasons we can point to for why this card is flying so far under the radar.
For one, it’s the flyweights. The UFC’s relationship with the 125-pound division lives somewhere between indifferent and outright hostile towards it and you can see that in just about every facet of the promotion. Despite having a dynamite-fisted champion, who is also a legitimately fascinating person, the UFC just doesn’t care much about promoting the flyweight division because the division doesn’t sell.
That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy though because if the promoters don’t sell it, then no one will buy it. This isn’t Field of Dreams. Building a division doesn’t mean people will come and, in the case of men’s 125, the UFC isn’t even building the division, it is actively eroding at the foundations of it. Demetrious Johnson – one of the greatest champions in MMA history – was traded for a guy who went 1-2 and then retired. Wilson Reis and Jussier Formiga, two staples of the top-10 in the division were let go. And this weekend, the top-ranked flyweight contender is fighting on the prelims instead of the main card. The UFC makes it clear that they don’t care about their own division, so why should fans?
It also should be noted that this isn’t purely an issue with the division, it’s also an issue with the people who populate that division. The UFC has a very clear idea of who they think are stars (remember when they tried to make Sage Northcutt a thing?), and Dana White especially tends to fixate on particular fighters, to the exclusion of everyone else. Currently, Dana doesn’t care about anyone at 125 and so, he’s mentally checked out. Now, had Cody Garbrandt not gotten hurt and forced off the card, I think we can all agree UFC 255 would be getting a much bigger promotional push.
The last factor at play here is simply fatigue. The UFC has been holding events every single weekend since July. That’s an exhausting pace and it’s tough to stay engaged. They are coming off UFC 254 – one of their biggest events of the year – and heading into their final PPV of 2020 – something they usually try to blow it out for. This weekend is the inevitable down PPV before they make a big end of year push.
As far as injecting life into the flyweight division, all they have to do is care about it. The simple fact is, flyweight will never be the most popular division in the sport by virtue of inherent biases in the fanbase. But the fighters there are really good and the fights are often thrilling. There is talent to work with and a division that can be built to be a good supplemental title division, if only the UFC will do their jobs and promote it. And, you know, stop actively letting staples of the weight class walk away.
While khabib keeps saying he’s retired and ali and Dana saying opposite do you think this is way to not give Conor title shot ? Ali as doesn’t like him and wants one of his fighters to fight for it and Dana he wins he doesn’t hold it ransom again and chases boxing with manny
— GC (@samillidge) November 20, 2020
I believe Dana continues to say Khabib isn’t retired for two reasons. Firstly, he doesn’t want it to be so, and secondly, because officially, as far as that goes, Khabib isn’t.
On the first matter, Dana often likes to inhabit a world I find myself in rather a lot: the world where if you just say something enough, it becomes true. For me, I like to just continue to claim I’m a ruggedly handsome genius whom everybody adores. For Dana, he likes to pretend Khabib is going to fight again. The problem is, neither of us are right.
Khabib Nurmagomedov will never fight again and it’s pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to what matters instead of the extraneous things. Nobody else speaks for Khabib. If there is a person alive more capable of speaking for himself than Khabib, that’s a rare individual indeed. And when asked the question, Khabib has never once wavered in his answer to being done with the sport. Moreover, just look at UFC 254. His post-fight speech was not that of a man making a rash or emotional decision. It was very clearly someone who was emotional because of the moment, but knew exactly what he wanted and had been preparing for this for a long time. Or to put it even more plainly, Abdulmanap was everything to Khabib. Why would he possibly want to fight again without him?
The second reason Dana continues to assert that Khabib will fight again is because, technically, Khabib is not retired. In the UFC, there is no official way to “retire” from the sport. They don’t have some forms you fill out to start collecting your 401K. You just, stop fighting. The only official action that signals an end to a career, at least for the time being, is removing yourself from the USADA testing pool. Because leaving the pool means you are no longer eligible to fight in the UFC, this has become a sort of de facto signal of retirement, and thus far, Khabib has not yet left the pool.
Now, that doesn’t mean Khabib is plotting a comeback. He could just have been too lazy to exit it yet. Or, he could just be putting the ball in the UFC’s court, making them take the title from him. Or, perhaps he is staying in the pool in case he does want to have the flexibility to return should some unforeseen circumstance make it appealing to him. After all, Urijah Faber is semi-retired from the sport but remains in the pool for the sake of convenience. However, I think you struck on perhaps the most likely reason for Khabib: by staying in the pool, Khabib retains at least the illusion of coming back, making it a more difficult decision for the UFC to make with regard to giving Conor McGregor a title shot.
Khabib hates Conor as does Ali Abdelaziz and the rest of Khabib’s team. The bad blood there will likely never settle. And if Khabib can inconvenience Conor even in the smallest way, I wouldn’t be shocked if he took the privilege, just a a small eff you for all that has transpired between them.
In the end though, this will all sort itself out fairly quickly. Khabib is not returning. The UFC has nothing to offer him but money, and frankly, he can make more of that outside the UFC than inside of it at this point. Eventually Dana will give up the game and the lightweight division will crown a new champion. Which leads us to our next question . . .
Jed back at it!
Alright, I have couple of questions!
Who do you think fit perfectly for the upcoming TUF coaches?
McGregor v Poirier just got announced, what’s next for both of them if they win (Conor or Poirier)
— MaanTariq (@MuhammadOsmon) November 19, 2020
For the sake of being thorough: the next TUF coaches should be Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya. Not setting up a fight between them, just letting two people who hate each other do so in a manner that does, eventually, build up a fight between them.
Now, onto the real question: what’s next for the winner of McGregor-Poirier 2? The lightweight title, of course!
Earlier this week, Dana White came out and said that McGregor-Poirier 2 would NOT be for the lightweight title. Dana White also said that Brock Lesnar wasn’t coming back, Pride would continue on, and that Conor would never box Floyd Mayweather. Call me a skeptic, but I’m gonna go ahead and say Dana’s public declaration might not be the final word on the matter. I suspect, that after another six weeks of Khabib still showing no interest in fighting again, the UFC will at least go ahead and make McGregor-Poirier 2 for the interim lightweight belt, meaning the winner would be getting a title shot, one way or another.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s say Dana is telling the truth and that McGregor-Poirier 2 really isn’t for a title. Well, the winner will still be getting a title shot next. Poirier is currently the second-ranked lightweight (which is stupid since he has a win over Gaethje, who is No. 1) and McGregor is fourth. Both rebounded from getting waxed by Khabib with impressive wins over ranked guys. Another win over a top-ranked opponent basically guarantees them a shot at the vacant (or soon to be vacant) title.
What moment/fight was Anderson Silva at his peak? I still think it was the Forrest Griffin fight
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 20, 2020
Bingo. Shortly after the Forrest fight is when Silva started to fade very slightly. The Spider was certainly never better than his battle with Griffin.
Hey Jed! Who do you think is the greatest UFC Heavyweight ever (Stipe/Cain/Randy/JDS… someone else?) – and how would they have faired against a prime Fedor?
— SteveHulk (@hulk_steve) November 19, 2020
Stipe is obviously the greatest UFC heavyweight ever and I suspect he’d have done very well against prime Fedor. The thing is human endeavors tend to improve over time. I would argue strongly that Fedor was much further ahead of his contemporaries than Stipe is, but in a direct comparison, he’s probably behind Stipe because Stipe got to learn from the groundwork laid by guys like Fedor, the same as will happen to Stipe. Now, to be clear, I don’t think Stipe works Fedor or anything, but my general belief is that every current champion would beat all of the former champions because most things don’t get worse.
Do you think we see Nate Diaz fight in 2021 and if so who would you like to see him against? All gone quiet since rumours of bmf2. Personally I think a fight with wonderboy could be fun.
— Connor Winks (@ConnorWinks) November 18, 2020
Probably. Nate tends to be good for a fight once every few years. There’s no way he fights Wonderboy though. I suspect we finally get Diaz-McGregor 3 next year or MAYBE a Tyron Woodley fight. But honestly, I’m good with whatever. Nate is a fun fighter but the hype for his bouts always seems to exceed the outcome so I’ll be happy to watch but I’m not waiting on tenterhooks.
Why doesn’t Charles Oliveira get any attention? Is he overrated or underrated?
— TuaTino (@TheTino) November 18, 2020
Because lightweight is a friggin’ shark tank and it requires something incredible to get noticed there. Oliveira is right outside the upper echelon of the division and though he’s good, I don’t consider him a serious threat to take the belt.
With so much MMA action this week, where do you rank Fight Circus Vol. 2? 3-1 match, spinning stuff only fight, Indian leg wrestling and more. How excited are you?
— Mike Heck (@MikeHeck_JR) November 19, 2020
I am so excited, thank you for asking, Mike!
If you’re a longtime reader of this column, you know I have a deep and abiding love for CamSoda’s forays into the MMA space. CamSoda Legends is in my top-five events of all time and Fight Circus 1 is undoubtedly one of my favorite events of this year. Partnering up with FullMetalDojo to run it back for Circus Harder is *chef’s kiss*.
If you’re new to this column and haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about, I encourage you to read this to get up to speed on CamSodaLegends and this to read up on Fight Circus 1. Or, you can just check out their lineup for tonight, here. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
. . .
Why yes, that is a 3-on-1 fight. And yes, they are bringing back the kicking only “human cockfighting” bout concept. And yes, they are having a spinning strikes only bout, and an Indian leg wrestling world championship bout, and a tag-team Battle of the Bands. Those are things that are all actually going to happen tomorrow night, along with the return of Bank and No Money, our triumphant battlers of the 2-on-1 match at Fight Circus 1. This time the brothers are taking on another Fight Circus legend, The King of Kebab! But that only happens after Bank takes on some guy in a leg kick version of roshambo against a guy who they literally only have a picture of him in a regular-ass blue button down like he works at friggin’ Kinkos! And then there’s Tang Mo, looking to avenge himself from his previous loss to a bantamweight Muay Thai fighter by taking on a different one!
If I had to rank them based on things I’m most excited about, I suppose my top-10 would look like this
- Spinning attacks only – no way this isn’t awesome.
- The return of the “human cockfighting” and the Kyokushin Kid.
- Whatever absurd secret bouts they drop on us.
- The “I Quit” leg kick match.
- The King of Kebab taking on the B-Boy brothers.
- The potential redemption of Tang Mo.
- The big homie, Jon Nutt on the mic.
- Panda Banks – not so much him fighting 3 dudes, just the name itself.
- The Battle of the Bands
- Seeing whatever awesome prizes Fight Circus gives out this time.
Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: while fighting often is serious, even critically so, that doesn’t mean it has to take itself that way. Fighting should be fun, and there is not an organization alive who has more fun with promotion and matchmaking than the team at CamSoda and FullMetalDojo. Moreover, the people who are competing this weekend clearly share that same sense of whimsy and adventure. One of the great things about youth is you get to do impossibly silly and/or stupid things for no real reason beyond than it being fun and that’s what Fight Circus brings to the table: dumb, brilliant fun.
So I encourage everyone on Saturday, while you’re watching the greatest fighter on the planet (Valentina Shevchenko, in case you hadn’t figured that out) show you the very upper bounds of what is possible in a cage by blending athleticism, grace, and technical mastery into one incredibly violent cocktail, pull up Fight Circus and watch the other side of that coin. See what can be done with nothing more than a sense of wonder and a willingness to try, and just have some damn fun. You’ve earned it.
Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tangentially related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.