If you follow even one UFC or Strikeforce fighter on Twitter, you are no doubt aware that MMA’s elite are spending the early part of this week being by turns educated and bored out of their minds at the company’s annual fighter summit in Las Vegas.
The UFC sponsors the event each year to edify its employees on any number of topics, including how to manage their money, the virtues of social media and the dangers of performance enhancing drugs. Obviously this is the first year that Strikeforce has been involved, making this (I’m quite certain) the biggest and “best” fighters summit yet. Reports from nearly everyone involved have been coming fast and furious.
Those reports – along with some other odds and ends – dominate the trending topics reported in this week’s MMA Hot List. Let’s get to it, shall we?
1. UFC’s got you covered, fighters: When the UFC announced its groundbreaking accident insurance for fighters this week, the move was met with unilateral approval from fighters and media types. A comprehensive, company-provided health package for its fighters (which includes training injuries) is frankly long overdue. Still, some fans worry this will cause great upheaval, with fighters now able to drop out of scheduled fights willy-nilly. To these people, I say: Chill. Anything that makes the dangerous and difficult job of fighting inside a cage for the enjoyment of others easier and/or safer deserves to be celebrated.
2. Other Fighter summit notes: This week’s annual fighter summits yielded a bevy of interesting sights and sounds. Among my favorites: Josh Barnett posing for a grip-and-grin photo with longtime rival Dana White, former Strikeforce champ Gegard Mousasi doodling his way through some of the seminars and a bunch of Japanese fighters (understandably) falling asleep during a lengthy lecture (in English) about the American tax code.
3. Edgar vs. Maynard postponed, but not forgotten: Frankie Edgar now says it was his back, not his ribs that really forced him out of his UFC 130 title rematch with Gray Maynard. The third meeting between these two was shaping up as one of my most-anticipated fights of 2011’s first quarter. Oh, well. Here’s hoping we still see this bout go down in the fall.
4. Can Rampage vs. Hamill shoulder the load? Doubt it. Even before it got shuffled into the top spot of the UFC 130 card, Quinton Jackson’s bout with Matt Hamill took a blow when “Rampage” essentially admitted in an interview this week that he’s only continuing to participate in MMA until his movie career heats up. While I’m not sure I would hold my breath on that one, it’s also not exactly a slam-bang promotional strategy for one of the participants in a pay-per-view main event to admit he’d rather be somewhere else. That sound you’re hearing? The shrinking buy rate.
5. Sonnen re-re-suspended: We thought Chael Sonnen’s long public nightmare was reaching its end, but the California State Athletic Commission announced this week that it has once again suspended the UFC middleweight (this time indefinitely) pending another hearing on May 18. Executive Director George Dodd says this latest suspension is “based off two things. One, his pleading guilty to his felony conviction up in Oregon, as well as possibly providing false testimony during his hearing back in December.” It appears when Sonnen’s lies finally came home to roost, they roosted with a vengeance.
6. Diaz to boxing? Or back to the Octagon? Former boxing champion Jeff Lacy and his people are acting like his fight with Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz is a done deal. Meanwhile, Diaz manager Cesar Gracie says Diaz will only fight Lacy if an MMA bout with UFC titlist Georges St. Pierre doesn’t materialize soon. Plus, there are reports White will soon be on his way out of California to try to make peace with Diaz. Either way, it looks like the Stockton Bad Boy will be in for a change of scenery.
7. Del Rosario hit by drunk driver: Some unhappy news to pass along this week, as reports say Strikeforce heavyweight prospect Shane Del Rosario may never fight again after being hit by a drunk driver. Del Rosario’s scheduled bout against Daniel Cormier has obviously been canceled and trainer Colin Oyama says it will be some time before Del Rosario’s future is clear. “He's planning on (fighting again), but the injuries are serious enough to where it's kind of in question whether he can or not,” Oyama said. “We're hoping that he can. We'll know more in six months.”
8. Falcao released by the UFC: Legal issues stemming from a 2002 assault charge in his native Brazil continue to plague middleweight Maiquel Falcao. Though he is currently 1-0 in the Octagon (26-3 overall), Falcao’s management said on Tuesday that the UFC cut ties with the fighter and has quashed his upcoming bout with Tom Lawlor at UFC 134. Falcao’s people say they hope to have his problems sorted out some time later this year.
9. Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson booked on Versus: Fresh off his first official UFC win over Mark Bocek at UFC 129, former WEC lightweight champ Ben Henderson gets an even stiffer test in his second outing. The company has revealed that Henderson will meet title contender Jim Miller at UFC Live 5 on the Versus Network on Aug. 14. Miller is riding a seven-fight win steak and his only two previous losses have come against Edgar and Maynard.
10. Wait, they did WHAT with Mask’s ashes? The gossip hounds at TMZ report that the sister of deceased Tapout founder Charles “Mask” Lewis has filed a lawsuit in California alleging that his partners in the MMA apparel company stole Lewis’ cremated remains and illegally distributed them to attendees at his 2009 memorial service. The woman further charges that Tapout co-founders Dan “Punkass” Caldwell and Tim “SkySkrape” Katz (who remain active in the company after selling it to Authentic Brands Group last year) still have the urn containing Lewis’ ashes and refuse to give it back. She is seeking unspecified damages, citing “overwhelming and severe emotional distress.” Please, say it ain’t so, Tapout.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
Can anyone top the big three of Silva, Jones, and GSP as the best pound-for-pounder fighter?