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Saturday’s UFC 244 delivered just about everything that is great about mixed martial arts, but certain ideas and people came out ahead while others didn’t fare so well. Below are the winners and losers of UFC 244, as I see them.
UFC 244 winners
The veteran has finally begun to get the attention he deserves and, after three straight huge wins, is one of the biggest stars in combat sports. Masvidal is finishing fights, respecting opponents who deserve it, stamping down those who act without class, and doing it all with a charismatic flair that is winning over fans.
Let’s not forget that Nate Diaz called Masvidal out, interested in attaching himself to another Underground King. Masvidal welcomed the challenge and pretty much dominated Diaz before the cageside physician called a stop to the fight.
Masvidal said he didn’t want to win by cut stoppage, but he has nothing to feel less than satisfied about. The Floridian dropped Diaz to the canvas twice in three rounds and bloodied him with wide and deep cuts from the get-go.
Sadists may have wanted to see Diaz withstand more punishment for another round or two, and perhaps the two should rematch in the future, but there’s no doubt who bested the other on Saturday night.
Trainer Mike Brown
The quiet former WEC featherweight world champion turned coach doesn’t call much attention to himself with his words, but his results as a trainer speak volumes. Brown coaches some of the best fighters in the world out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, and has helped almost all of them reach new heights under his tutelage.
He’s a hands-on coach who still moves around with his charges, who include Masvidal, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and scores more. Brown is one of the most technical teachers in the sport and he’s been touting Masvidal’s abilities for years.
The pair hit another milestone this past weekend together, but Brown will soon be onto his next city and next big fight as he’s one of the most active elite coaches in the sport. As athlete after athlete of Brown’s continues to impress, the fight world is starting to recognize that he’s a special coach.
The idea that fighters can become stars without UFC pushing them
UFC 244 certainly came with all the corny corporate touches the UFC could muster, including a belt with a swear word on it and a movie star hamming it up on stage with real fighters. Still, Diaz vs. Masvidal became the year’s biggest fight because of the work Diaz and Masvidal have done on their own, outside of the UFC’s marketing push, in and out of the cage for years.
Diaz and Masvidal have forced their way into big fights and grabbed their own attention through their own channels and mediums despite the UFC often going out of their way to dampen the spotlight on these two anti-heroes. In fact, most of the UFC’s biggest stars in recent years got big before and without the promotion.
Ronda Rousey and Cris “Cyborg” Justino, for example, were international phenomena long before UFC president Dana White and the organization ended its sexist ban on women. Brock Lesnar got his shine from performing in the WWE, and Diaz has had the UFC throw just about every impediment his way from White bashing his marketability even as the Stockton warrior broke television ratings, to dropping Diaz from their dubious “official” rankings while negotiating with him for a new contract.
Still, Diaz and Masvidal spoke and fought their current superstar positions into existence. Now, the UFC is trying to catch up and stay on the train these two are conducting.
We’ve already discussed how this mega-fight came into existence because of Diaz. That’s a big feather in the cap for him.
Beyond that, though Diaz lost, he likely didn’t lose any supporters. Yes, Masvidal got the jump on him and controlled the action, but Diaz showed his usual courage and resilience by standing up to every blow.
Afterward, Diaz didn’t sound like a man who’d just lost, and he praised Masvidal while still successfully calling for him to accept a rematch. Diaz’s star shines no less bright after UFC 244 than before.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
Thompson is one of the most spectacularly exciting fighters in the UFC. The 36-year-old has ridden his incredible skill to two world title shots at welterweight.
Yet, he entered UFC 244 an aging soldier coming off of consecutive losses. To make matters seemingly more perilous, Thompson’s opponent this weekend was Vicente Luque, a red-hot contender who had won six straight and is a decade younger than “Wonderboy.”
In the end, it was all Luque could do to survive until the final horn as Thompson battered him with precise and powerful shots from a distance for three rounds. Thompson looked quick, sharp, strong, and conditioned, and showed that he’s still a top welterweight championship contender.
UFC 244 losers
For all the reasons mentioned earlier, and more, Diaz is anything but an actual “loser.” Still, plenty did not go his way last week.
The fact that a doctor stopped the fight due to cuts when Diaz didn’t want the fight to be stopped is the least of those things. Much more important is the fact that Diaz clearly sustained more brain trauma.
After 15 years of war in training camps and pro fights, it’s damage that Diaz does not need any more of. The way Diaz got back up to his feet every time Masvidal dropped him Saturday was inspiring.
The way he slumped over slowly after absorbing a kick to the head in the first round, however, was terrifying. The shots that didn’t drop him were often nearly as rough to watch, as Masvidal connected with repeated hard lefts to the temple, jaw and ear of Diaz that the living legend stood up to, but that doubtless still rattled his brain.
Diaz moves a bit more slowly on the feet these days, and his speech gets more slurred with each passing year. Last week, he told ESPN that he would never retire, because this is what he does.
These two things in combination with one another are bad.
From a business perspective, it is noteworthy that Diaz was able to come up with and self-market the whole “Baddest Mother[expletive]” title concept. It’s almost as tragic as the physical toll the fight game has taken on him that the UFC was able to lift his intellectual property, and take control of that concept, including its valuable licensing and royalties.
Diaz came up with the BMF concept and he’s the one that sold it, along with Masvidal. Neither one of them are the ones who control its usage and profits, however.
That’s a travesty.
Same deal, y’all. Now that Jorge Masvidal is the BMF title-holder, he won’t have control of the belt, the title’s usage and he won’t profit from it the way he deserves. The UFC will, just as they control all their belts, titles, and marketing and royalties from fighters’ names and likenesses and their titles.
As is the case with all UFC titles, the promotion controls the BMF title. The promotion self-sanctions their championships and titles, which is illegal in boxing under the Ali Act.
Fighters don’t get a collective seat at the bargaining table to negotiate the royalties they received from the corporate sponsors they’re required to promote on fight weeks, and many fighters have spoken out publicly and privately about how they’ve never received royalty checks from the UFC despite having their names and likenesses used in video games, action figures and on apparel.
Masvidal is at the top of the heap, but in mixed martial arts, not even the baddest dudes in the room have much control over their own fates.
For the second time in about a week, the U.S. President was soundly booed at a big sporting event. First came the boos directed at the accused rapist in his adopted home of Washington D.C. at the World Series.
Saturday the president was booed as he entered Madison Square Garden to watch the UFC with his friend and UFC president Dana White, in the city he grew up in. His being booed may or may not be satisfying for critics of the KKK-endorsed politician, but as always, the most important ways in which Trump is a loser this and every week has to do with his bigoted rhetoric and cruel policies, contributing to his just 42.2% national approval rating.
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