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Twitter Mailbag: Want to rise in the UFC rankings? Consider attacking a small bus, sabotaging an event

How do you advance in the rankings without fighting anything but inanimate objects? Is it really a “privilege” to hear the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion speak? What kind of hall of fame would we really want for MMA?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

 

Do me a favor. Go to the rankings page on the UFC’s website and look at the list of voting panelists. For one thing, you’ll notice that most of the major MMA media outlets are not represented there. For another, you’ll notice that there are only 14 total voting members.

When the rankings pool is that small it doesn’t take much to throw it out of whack, especially with something like pound-for-pound rankings.

Say most people turn in the same ballot they usually do, since there was no major movement on this list of elite fighters. But then a couple jokesters move Khabib Nurmagomedov down (for, I guess, winning dominantly but without obliterating the other guy?) while moving Conor McGregor up (for a victory over a 6,000-pound bus?), and there you go.

Also, here’s where you might ask why most major MMA media outlets don’t participate. The short answer is that there are a lot of things about the way the UFC’s rankings work that should (and did) make media members uncomfortable.

The UFC decides what fighters are eligible to be ranked. It has removed fighters from that list when it gets frustrated with them. It has simply declined to offer rankings in one other division.

The whole thing essentially boils down to the UFC asking media members to provide content that it assumes total control of, that it reserves the right to manipulate, and that it will use on broadcasts and even in contract negotiations.

Media members shouldn’t allow themselves to be used that way. Most don’t. Keep that in mind the next time you see some wacky UFC rankings that force you to ask, Who is doing this?!

 

That is the question concerning any hall of fame for this sport, and the answer depends on what kind of hall you want to have.

Want it to be a collection of awesome fighters who gave us some good times and who we’d like to remember fondly? Then I don’t see how you keep the Joe Lauzons or the Cub Swansons or the Leonard Garcias of the world out of it. Want it to be an honor reserved for the sport’s elite? Then it’s going to be a much smaller club.

Right now, though, there doesn’t seem to be a clear criteria for getting into the UFC Hall of Fame. All we can say for sure is that being on good terms with the bosses doesn’t seem to hurt.

 

Yep, same. As with many of Ronda Rousey’s public statements, I read that story and felt like she had me right up until she definitely lost me.

The stuff about never learning how to lose? About how maybe her competitive drive left some gaps in certain other parts of personality? About how she struggled to get perspective on defeat, a part of the sport that every fighter deals with and struggles with eventually? That’s compelling stuff. It also feels real and honest, like the exact sort of introspection people wanted to hear from her back when she was stonewalling any and all questions about her MMA career as if they were somehow unfair or inappropriate.

Honestly, if she’d left it there I might be inclined to say that she’d learned all the right lessons from the experience. Then came this part:

“We live in an age of trial by Twitter,” Rousey said. “What is really gained by stating opinion on anything? It whittles people down. It gets cut and pasted 10 times and it’s in (a) headline. (Famous people) keep more and more of it to themselves. Why should I talk? I believe hearing me speak is a privilege, and it’s a privilege that’s been abused, so why not revoke it from everyone? I don’t believe public criticism beating you down is the right thing to do.”

Again, even in this quote I find myself going back and forth between agreeing and cringing. The whole “trial by Twitter” thing? The way a famous person’s statements become an instant sacrifice to the gods of internet content? There’s some truth in that. That’s actually some substantive criticism.

But the minute you find yourself telling people that it is a “privilege” for them to hear you speak, stop and reevaluate. Rousey is a famous person, so anything she says has a certain value to media people, which means it also has a value to the employers looking to leverage her exposure, which means it also has a value to her. There’s a whole food chain at work.

If Rousey wants to “revoke” the privilege of allowing us to see and hear her, cool, she can do that. But signing up to be a pro wrestler on pay-per-view TV suggests you’d like to maintain the part of the cycle where you receive money for being a famous person who does stuff. You just don’t want the part where people care enough about who you are and what you say to criticize you when they think you’re wrong.

 

 

Wow, two weeks in a row in which MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz is a subject of questions. But I also found myself thinking about it this week with regards to Nick Newell.

On one hand, here’s a smart fighter who seems like a good dude, and he’s aligning himself with a manager who seems to have a pretty flexible moral code. On the other hand, for years Newell tried to get the UFC to give him a look, and he ended up getting nowhere. Now Abdelaziz is his manager, and the next thing you know he’s sitting down with the UFC President and getting an offer to fight on Dana White’s Contender Series.

(Side note: Hasn’t Newell earned more than just a UFC tryout in a warehouse? Yes, he has. That’s all.)

As a fan, it’s a tough one. How do you want good things for the fighters while feeling pretty icky about the person who helps make those good things happen? Let me know if you come up with a good answer. It’d be pretty useful in this sport.

 

My magic eight ball says yes, Nick Diaz will fight again in the UFC. Will it be because fighting is in his blood and he can no more resist the call than a werewolf can resist the full moon? Maybe. Or it could just be because he needs/wants some money, and this is the most reliable way he knows of getting it.

Stubbornly, Diaz remains a draw in this sport. That’s kind of amazing when you consider that it’s been three years since he’s fought, and nearly seven (!!) years since he’s won.

Still, the UFC is in no position to question this. If people will watch a certain fighter, it will pay that fighter. And you already know what examples I could cite to illustrate that point, which is why I don’t really need to.

 

For me, it’s right up there with “I am not impressed by your performance.” It also shows that you don’t need WWE theatrics or fake grudges to get us interested in a callout.

Dan Hooker stood there and told Paul Felder, in as gentlemanly a fashion as possible, that he would like to fight him. Felder stood there and said, seemingly sincerely, that he’d been waiting for someone to say that to him. And now we have ourselves an interesting potential matchup. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Little to none. While there are certainly times when the UFC hasn’t treated female fighters the same as men (and even more times when the MMA world at large has failed to do the same), I don’t think this had anything to do with gender. This was about the UFC wanting to get rid of a vocal union advocate, and I have no trouble imagining it going down exactly the same way if Leslie Smith were a man.

The question is, will the UFC’s unusual action in this case trigger exactly the kind of labor ruling Smith had been pushing for in the first place? That seems possible, which makes you wonder how much forethought the UFC really put into this one.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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