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In a perfect world, Jay Hieron would be fighting for the Strikeforce welterweight title on Jan. 30 in Sunrise, Fla.
But Hieron knows as well as anyone that things aren't perfect. He's not fighting for the title, he has dealt with it and he's excited about his fight on a Showtime-televised card with Joe Riggs.
The problem is, the media wants to ask him about a fight last year with Nick Diaz that never occurred and a potential bout with Marius Zaromskis that was never made.
Hieron was supposed to fight Diaz last year, but that bout didn't occur when Diaz had a dispute with the California State Athletic Commission about medical marijuana usage. He was hopeful he'd get a crack again, but Strikeforce instead paired him with Riggs.
He's excited by the match, because he believes it can lift him closer to his ultimate goal of winning a championship. He's just not too keen on talking about either Diaz or Zaromskis at this stage.
"This is still a good fight for me," Hieron said. "Riggs has a great name and he's fought on all the big shows. At this point, all I want to do is fight big-name guys. Riggs qualifies as that. This fight is very important for me and I'm not going to worry about Diaz or the title or anyone else until after this fight is over."
Hieron, who trains at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, is 18-4 and has fought many big names, including current Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Georges St. Pierre.
Despite the glittering record, things haven't always been easy for Hieron, who credits UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture for helping him develop the mental side of his game.
"There have been no shortcuts for me and it hasn't been an easy road and I haven't had a lot of lucky breaks," he said. "I've had to take the hard road and work my way to this point. There have been a lot of obstacles in my way, but overcoming those obstacles helped me to become who I am.
"Randy has one of the great mental games in sports. I've picked up a lot from him and the one thing I know for sure I have to do is concentrate completely on what is in front of me. Right now, that's Joe Riggs. If you want to talk to me about title shots or anything else, do it after [my fight with] Riggs. I'm in great shape and in a great frame of mind and I'm 100 percent ready for Joe Riggs and I have no concern about anything else."
With that, let's delve into your questions and comments in the mixed martial arts mailbag.
Thoughts on dos Santos
Hey Kevin, I haven't seen your mailbag in two weeks now. I'm going through withdrawal here! My question for you is, what are your thoughts on the next fight for Junior dos Santos if he gets by Gabriel Gonzaga on March 21? I would love to see him strike with Cheick Kongo. Also, what's the word on Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic? I haven't heard anything about him in a while now.
Sorry about the mailbag, Ben. I was on vacation after UFC 108, though I was sick most of the time. The mailbag is back on the regular schedule. I really like dos Santos as a fighter. If he beats Gonzaga, I think he, along with the Cain Velasquez-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira winner, is in prime position for a title shot. I'd say the Velasquez-Nogueira winner should be on deck, with dos Santos in that situation in the hole.
Strikeforce loaded at 185
Strikeforce's middleweight division is very deep, with great fighters like Gegard Mousasi, Dan Henderson, Jake Shields, Cung Le, Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler (that's the order I rank them). They even have average guys there like Scott Smith, Matt Lindland and Nick Diaz (I rank Diaz much higher at 170 pounds) who are pretty damn good.
Santa Monica, Calif.
I like their middleweights, too, Phil, and think it's a very interesting and competitive division, but it's not as deep as you think. Mousasi, who I think is a fantastic fighter, is competing exclusively at light heavyweight now. Le is winding down his career and won't be active very much and I think Henderson will fight more at light heavyweight than at middleweight. Plus, Diaz will fight primarily at welterweight. But the bigger point is that Strikeforce's overall depth of talent is dramatically improved over this time a year ago.
Why Faber instead of Brown?
During the most recent World Extreme Cagefighting card on Versus, it was made apparent that Urijah Faber would be the next challenger for the featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. I am hoping you can clarify why this makes sense? Is it all about the marketability/popularity of Faber? Mike Brown is at least as deserving, especially considering he beat Faber twice. To me, at the very least a third fight between Faber and Brown to decide who faces the champion would be fair. But to just let Faber step ahead of Brown and into the cage for the belt just seems a bit wrong to me.
There are more factors considered than just simple worthiness, particularly since the WEC is planning to show the card on pay-per-view. Marketing/popularity must play in it at that point. Faber is deserving of the shot on merit. Is he more deserving than Brown? Well, based on his two losses, maybe not. But Brown just had a shot and didn't fare well. Plus, Faber is clearly a bigger draw. It's not unreasonable to give Faber the chance (which he earned by defeating Raphael Assuncao) and have Brown available to fight the winner.
UFC sale is big news
The sale of 10 percent of Zuffa, the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to Flash Entertainment of Abu Dhabi is huge news in the world of MMA. Take a look at the bigger picture and in the next five to 10 years, MMA will be bigger than any sport in the world, by far.
San Antonio, Texas
I think it's big news, too, for the access Flash will be able to help the UFC gain in countries like China and India. While I tend to agree that MMA is going to be significantly bigger in the next five to 10 years, I'm not ready to agree that it's anywhere near close to passing soccer in global popularity.
UFC 109 not worth the price
UFC 109, which is scheduled for Feb. 6 in Las Vegas, is not what I call worthy of spending pay-per-view money. The main event features two past-their-prime fighters in Randy Couture and Mark Coleman who should stop fighting. Randy can still fight but Mark Coleman? Seriously? Unless they put anyone worth watching in a pay-per-view, I won't be watching for a long time.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
One of the beauties of pay-per-view, Mr. Jones, is that it is the ultimate democracy. You can vote with your wallet. It's not the deepest card, and I'm not crazy about the Couture-Coleman main event, either. I don't see what Coleman has done to land a main event. That said, there are a lot of good matches on the card. No one forces you to buy and if many folks feel the same way, a loud statement will be made to UFC management. Remember, though, that this is one of the last cards negatively affected by the UFC's unreal skein of injuries and illnesses.
Not that impressed with UFC 108
If UFC 108 delivered, then please tell me where can I get the secret good feed u got, because the one I saw wasn't very good. It had a main event winner (Rashad Evans) who scored no good punches and who had takedowns with no follow-up ground-and-pound or submission attempts. I want your secret insider pay-per-view view feed to see the good stuff. Hook a brother up.
Randy Salmon Jr.
I thought top to bottom the card was superb. The main event, as I wrote that night in my post-fight column, wasn't the best fight on the card at all. But if you like knockouts, submissions and plenty of action, that was a good card. To each his own, though.
Dunham under the radar
I was shocked when none of the hardcore fans on the message board I read picked Evan Dunham to defeat Efrain Escudero at Ultimate Fight Night 20 on Jan. 11. Dunham is one of my favorite up-and-coming fighters. He has a solid ground game, because he started with Team Quest, and I knew he had solid striking because of his fight with Per Eklund. He also proved in his win over Marcus Aurelio he has the stamina to go three hard rounds. Am I missing something or is Dunham's lack of an electric personality keeping him and other fighters from advancing?
I think it's simply that Escudero had a lot more exposure being on "The Ultimate Fighter" and Dunham hadn't had much exposure. I think Dunham made many big fans with that performance, coming back the way he did from the point of being stopped to winning so dominantly.