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Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has long been an outspoken critic of referee Steve Mazzagatti.
So it was unusual, then, to hear White in an informal news conference following UFC 107 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., proposing Mazzagatti as the referee for an upcoming bout at UFC 108.
That injury-ravaged card, in which replacements are replacing replacements, now features a heavyweight matchup between highly regarded Junior dos Santos and UFC newcomer Gilbert Yvel on Jan. 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Yvel, a Dutch kickboxer, was picked to replace Gabriel Gonzaga, who had to pull out of the bout with dos Santos because of a staph infection.
In one sense, it was a risky move for the UFC because of Yvel's history of fouls and dirty moves. He was turned down for a license by the Nevada State Athletic Commission when he was with the PRIDE Fighting Championship in 2006 for that very reason.
He once punched and kicked a referee and has had numerous other issues. White, who has said Mazzagatti is the worst referee he's ever seen, jokingly made a suggestion on who should be chosen to referee the Yvel-dos Santos bout.
"I've got a ref for that one," White said, laughing loudly along with the assembled media. "That will be the first time I ever go, 'Yes, Mazzagatti is refereeing!' "
On a serious note, White said UFC officials have spoken with Yvel and his management team about the need to control his behavior. He said he expects no problems.
"It's been addressed," White said. "If he knocks out a ref or me or anybody, his ass is out of here."
There are probably a lot of people in the mixed martial arts community who might cheer Yvel on if he were to let White have it, which White, while laughing, agreed.
With that, let's delve into the mailbag and answer your questions and comments.
Potential Penn opponents
UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn is a beast. He looked great in his fights with Diego Sanchez at UFC 107 and Kenny Florian at UFC 101. To add a little excitement to the division, what about bringing up Jose Aldo, Mike Brown, or fan favorite Urijah Faber from the World Extreme Cagefighting?
I asked White about the viability of Aldo as an opponent. While he didn't dismiss it, he said it would likely be a year before Aldo, the WEC featherweight champion, is ready for the move to lightweight. Meaning no disrespect to Brown or Faber, I don't think either is at a point where they could compete with Penn right now.
I think it's unfair that B.J. has to go through so many obstacles just to get his title shot with Georges St. Pierre. The UFC started a rivalry similar to Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran and I feel that we will never have our closure. In many eyes, B.J. won the first fight between them considering St. Pierre could only take B.J. down in order to avoid the onslaught from Penn but did nothing once on the ground. In the rematch, he came in weighing as a middleweight with Vaseline all over his body. He clearly cheated. Why is the UFC working so hard to keep B.J. away from St. Pierre knowing that this is the fight the fans want? We don't want to see another Penn fight at lightweight, or St. Pierre fighting guys who are not in his category. Why can't they give us two champions who are in their prime right now?
Danilo, Danilo, Danilo. Where do we begin? First, in the rematch, St. Pierre made weight. He was required to weigh 170 at the weigh-in on Friday afternoon and he did. Once a fighter makes weight, there is no requirement for what he can weigh when the bout occurs. I'm sure Penn put on weight, too, though admittedly less than St. Pierre. Now, I don't think Penn deserves the shot now. I concede his dominance at 155, but the lightweight title was on hold for more than a year because White allowed him an exception to jump up and fight at 170. St. Pierre dominated the rematch (I did have Penn winning the first fight) and Penn hasn't done anything yet to warrant such a quick turnaround and jumping ahead of other guys. B.J. hasn't won a fight over 155 in more than four years. I think there are welterweights who have earned a shot at St. Pierre. Eventually, Penn will get another chance, but it's going to take time.
Frank Mir's newfound size and strength smacks of steroid usage. Can you enlighten us with specific details on how an athlete can gain 20 pounds of muscle in three months without the use of steroids? What do they eat, what supplements do they take, how much of the size and weight is muscle and how much is just from water retention? I would really like to know, because the last I heard, it is impossible (not difficult, but absolutely impossible) to gain that much muscle in that short of time.
Mark Philippi, of the Las Vegas-based Philippi Sports Institute, said Mir was walking around in the 260s when he met Mir in mid-August. He said Mir was very dedicated and worked out five days a week and also changed his diet. Philippi said Mir increased his walking around weight into the low-to-mid 270s and said he didn't put that much weight on. He said Mir hadn't trained much with weights previously. "He came to me after his fight with Brock (Lesnar) and I told him it was going to take a year of solid training to develop the kind of strength comparable to the other guy," Philippi said. "He doesn't need to be stronger, just comparable so he's at a point where his superior skills would be the difference. It's a year-round thing and it's not like you get to this point and stop, but so far, Frank has put the time in." Philippi said Mir is expected to return to his gym within the next couple of weeks. Mir is not the only UFC fighter training with Philippi. Stephan Bonnar and Gray Maynard are also working out there.
Mir was great
All I can say is "Wow!" about Frank Mir's performance Saturday night! He was huge at the weigh-in Friday and it wasn't fat. My question to you is, when and who will Dana put Frank Mir up against next? I have a strange feeling it will be Shane Carwin.
I agree Mir was excellent, but Carwin would be a different story. There is talk they'll meet on the March 27 card in Newark, N.J., but White said he doesn't need to make that decision yet.
"Sticking it" to boxing?
As has been the case previously, Dana White likes to stick it to boxing when possible and put UFC events up against highly publicized boxing matches. I guess there is no reason for this to change, but do you think there is any chance that Dana will let boxing have its day and not schedule anything during the potential Mayweather/Pacquiao fight?
The UFC does not intentionally go against boxing, Darren, and its schedule is made long in advance. And believe me when I tell you they're not planning to counter Mayweather-Pacquiao. They had every Saturday on May in the Bell Centre in Montreal on hold when it looked like Mayweather-Pacquiao would be May 1. They would have moved off their date to avoid the conflict. When asked Saturday about going head-to-head with Mayweather-Pacquiao, White said, "Are you crazy?" They'll hold a show on March 27 in Newark, two weeks after Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Should judges use monitors?
With all the issues regarding judging recently, I think I may have found one of the biggest problems. After watching Dana White's video blogs, it really is hard to see all the action even when the fighters are that close to you. I can see how judges may be missing action or perceiving it differently. Do you think a solution to this is to have the three judges simply watch a TV monitor like the rest of the fans do, and base their judging off that?
Rob, while I agree with you that the judge's angle definitely influences what he/she sees and doesn't see, I'm not sure I agree with putting a monitor in front of them. When looking up from the monitor to view live action, or vice versa, it is easy to miss a punch that could make the difference in how a round is scored. I prefer to see them work on clarifying the scoring criteria and develop a more consistent way to apply it. I'm open-minded and if it can be proven that providing judges with a monitor helps, great. I'm not so sure that will be the case, however.
Bolster the talent
Do you think the UFC needs to improve its roster? I think the UFC needs to get some new blood. They are doing a better job with the heavyweights, bringing guys up like Cain Velazquez and Shane Carwin but I still don't feel that's enough. All the rumors right now are about B.J. vs. GSP III, B.J. vs. Florian II, GSP vs. Jon Fitch II, Lesnar vs. Mir III and Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III. We've seen these fights already and they are getting boring. The UFC needs to fork over some cash and get some new guys. They have already missed out on fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Gegard Mousasi and Jason "Mayhem" Miller. They need to steal some lightweights and some welterweights while they are still somewhat available. I'm thinking guys like Eddie Alvarez, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Joachim Hansen in the lightweight division. At least these would be new and exciting fights.
Costa Mesa, Calif.
Justin, it's easy to say go sign guys, but it takes two to make a deal. The other MMA promoters aren't simply sitting and waiting for the UFC to sign everyone and then taking what's left. The UFC has the largest number of the world's top 100 fighters, but there are some fighters who have felt their opportunity was better with another promoter. I'm sure the UFC would love to have some of the fighters you mention, particularly Mousasi, but it's not just as easy as you make it sound to land them.