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The Ultimate Fighting Championship's Hall of Fame is an elite group consisting primarily of fighters from the sport's early days. TapouT's Charles "Mask" Lewis, who died tragically in an auto accident, is the only non-fighter among the seven who are in the Hall currently.
The others are Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock.
There are a number of deserving active fighters, and they'll get be inducted in due course. But one man who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame is Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs.
UFC president Dana White often speaks about how the company is "opening up" various states, Canadian provinces and other countries. But the man who is doing the work is Ratner.
He's tirelessly traveling the world spreading the word of MMA and helping it to be sanctioned everywhere.
There are very few non-fighters who deserve inclusion in such an elite group, but Ratner is clearly one of them.
With that, I want to wish everyone a happy 2009 holiday season and all the best for 2010. Let's now jump right into a very busy mailbag.
I was very impressed with the Strikeforce card on Saturday, in particular Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Gilbert Melendez. With the addition of stars such as Fedor Emelianenko and Bobby Lashley, is it too much of a stretch to say that the top guys at each division could compete with UFC's top fighters at each weight class? I know I haven't enjoyed an entire card like that in a long time.
I agree, Geoff, it was a phenomenal card. The lightweight title match between Melendez and Josh Thomson has to be considered for Fight of the Year. Strikeforce has a lot of excellent fighters who could – and have – competed successfully in the UFC. The difference is depth. UFC has far more quality fighters up and down the roster. Strikeforce tends to have quality at the top and then a major drop. As for Lashley, while I regard him as a very bright prospect, he's nowhere near a star yet. He hasn't fought anyone significant yet and he has much to accomplish before he can be regarded as a star.
I think mixed martial arts would benefit from some more showy fighters, like Anderson Silva and Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. They bring a swagger to the table that's fun and entertaining. MMA has grown past its stereotypes, so fighters should start loosening up more. I'm not saying we need more dance entrances, but I would love to see a little more showmanship during fights. As a boxing guy, I know you can appreciate this sentiment. MMA is still waiting for its Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson to emerge.
Mountain View, Calif.
I think a little color and showmanship never hurt anybody. I don't like things in poor taste – Phil Baroni's entrance at the Elite XC debut on CBS comes to mind – but I'm all in favor of flair and showmanship. Fighters who talk smack, who have flashy entrances and who make high-risk moves are all good for the sport. The bottom line, though, is that it can't turn into pro wrestling. It still has to be about the fights.
I am curious what you think about the UFC recently losing out on some free agent signings to Strikeforce.
I think competition is good for everybody and so I have no issue with that. It's good for the fighters to have some bargaining power and it's good for the consumer when there's a solid No. 2 choice pushing No. 1 to become better.
Can you tell me why Houston Alexander was cut from the UFC? Here's a guy who fought Kimbo Slice, a bigger man, and in my opinion won the fight tactically. Granted, Alexander is not a pretty fighter to watch, but he did the job and I thought he did it well. It is just strange they cut a guy like that, not to mention he's a class act. Is it that there's too much politics in the UFC?
I like Houston personally very much and think he's near the top of the list of the good guys in MMA, of which there are many. Part of Houston's problem is that he hasn't won in the UFC in a long time. He debuted in the UFC by knocking out Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara. Since then, he's lost to Thiago Silva, James Irvin, Eric Schafer and Slice in the UFC. Losing that many is a valid reason to be cut. He did win once outside the UFC, defeating Sherman Pendergarst. Specifically about the Slice fight, though, UFC president Dana White was upset that Alexander didn't engage. He was chosen specifically because he's a power puncher but he fought a very cautious, tactical fight that wasn't crowd-pleasing. That enraged White, who made the decision personally to cut him.
Since his destruction of Diego Sanchez at UFC 107, a lot of people say there are no more interesting matchups for B.J. Penn in the UFC at 155. I tend to agree, but how come no one has said anything about a Penn fight against one of the lightweight studs in the World Extreme Cagefighting, the little sister company of the UFC? A Penn-Donald Cerrone fight gets me excited, as Cerrone is exactly the type of striker with good takedown defense who would give Penn trouble. Penn vs. Benson Henderson, who in my opinion is a much better and exciting version of Gray Maynard, is intriguing. Obviously, Jamie Varner vs. Penn would garner interest as well. I know Varner has previously fought in the UFC, but would White and matchmaker Joe Silva consider this?
I don't think the WEC lightweights are anywhere near the class of Penn, honestly, and I don't expect to see any of them get a shot at the UFC title any time soon. I think guys like Maynard, Frank Edgar, Kenny Florian, Tyson Griffin, Sanchez, Jim Miller, Roger Huerta and Sherk are all better fighters and more deserving.
What does Frankie Edgar need to do to earn a title shot at B.J. Penn? Edgar toed the company line when he last fought. Now Kenny Florian is calling him out and wants to fight Frankie in New Jersey at UFC 111. Didn't Florian lose to Sean Sherk? If he fights and wins against Florian, would that be enough?
Billy J. MacNair
Edgar is improving dramatically and is a leading contender. But Maynard defeated him head-to-head and deserves the next shot.
In your last mailbag, Thomas Rothrock basically accused Frank Mir of blatant steroid use. I feel Frank should be given the benefit of the doubt in this. Everyone needs to realize that Frank is an elite athlete and before his loss to Brock Lesnar at UFC 100, was simply coasting on his natural physical abilities. He was walking around in the 230- to 240-pound range before he even touched a bar or walked into a squat rack. So I don't necessarily feel that its out of the ordinary for an athlete of Frank's caliber, motivated by an embarrassing loss, whose only job it is to wake up to train and eat, to make the gains he has. That's especially true given that his strength coach, Mark Philippi, is one of the strongest men to ever walk on U.S. soil. Frank and his family doesn't deserve the allegations. Mir is busting his butt to give us an awesome fight. I'm just happy he finally has the motivation to live up to his potential.
I agree. I don't get being so quick to accuse someone of something illegal. If Mir is ever proven to have used steroids, I'll call him on that and push for a stiff penalty. But for the first time in his career, he's become addicted to training and I think that's why he's bigger. One correction is that he used to walk around at 255-260 or so, but had a lot of body fat and trained down to the 240 range. Now, he's walking around at or slightly above 270 and training down to 265.
I was just reading your column about Dana White's impressions of referee Steve Mazzagatti. I would like to know what you think of him as a referee. I would also like to know if there are some referees that you prefer and if you have any favorites.
Salt Lake City
I don't have any favorites, Wes, but I think the best referees are Herb Dean and John McCarthy. I'd rate Mazzagatti a C-minus. He's way better than White makes him out to be, but he makes too many errors for an elite referee, in my opinion. Dana criticized him heavily on Twitter during a match between Matt Mitrione and Marcus Jones at "The Ultimate Fighter" finale in Las Vegas. He complained that Mazzagatti missed a knee to the head of a downed opponent, but the knee was to the midsection and was actually legal, so Mazzagatti was correct and White was wrong in that instance. I'd rather Nevada use McCarthy instead of Mazzagatti, because I believe the best referees should work as often as possible, but I don't see that happening any time soon.
- Dana White