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It had to sting for Kenny Florian to wake up Sunday, hours after the most disappointing loss of his career, to hear that his boss believed he choked. At the post-fight news conference at UFC 118 on Saturday in Boston after Florian's loss to Gray Maynard in a lightweight bout, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White called Florian a choker.
"I think Kenny is just one of those guys who chokes in big fights," White said. "I'm not bad-mouthing him or trying to disrespect him; I'm just being honest."
White had announced that the winner of the Florian-Maynard bout would receive a shot at the UFC's lightweight title. Twice, earlier in his career, Florian lost lightweight championship bouts as well as the title fight in "The Ultimate Fighter 1" middleweight division.
Most athletes regard being called a choker as the worst thing that could be said about them. But that's White, who is almost never politically correct. Florian has done much for the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts over the years and one might have thought White would have stepped a bit softly.
That kind of approach, however, is a significant reason for the UFC's success. White demands excellence of all of his employees, including the fighters. He fosters an atmosphere among the fighters that encourages them to go for the knockout or the submission and to avoid a safety-first, play-to-win-but-not-excite style.
Professional sports is entertainment and the large majority of fans who want to see a fight like to see the fighters go for a finish. It's what Chael Sonnen did in his middleweight title fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva, even though he was so far ahead that had he just avoided Silva the final round, he would have won the belt. Sonnen, though, went for the finish and wound up getting submitted as a result.
It had to be tough for Florian to hear of White's words, but Florian is also making so much more money because the atmosphere White has created has led to the UFC's skyrocketing popularity.
With that, let's delve into the mixed martial arts mailbag, as I answer your questions and comments about UFC 118 and its aftermath.
B.J. failed to show up again
There is no question Frankie Edgar deserved the win Saturday over B.J. Penn in the main event of UFC 118. That being said, why isn't the right question being asked? Where was B.J. Penn? That didn't look like the B.J. Penn we are used to seeing. He stood motionless pre-fight, he didn't attack, and his corner offered no advice between rounds. They just told him how great he is. Did Edgar really see the best Penn in their two fights?
It's hard to know what to make of Penn. Sometimes, as he did at UFC 107 against Diego Sanchez, he looks unbeatable. And at other times, he looks disinterested. Part of it is that Penn rarely has an easy fight. He's 5-5-1 in title fights and that doesn't include his fights outside of the UFC with Lyoto Machida and Takanori Gomi. I don't think it's fair to denigrate Edgar, because he has beaten Penn in two consecutive fights and has won the last six rounds decisively (the fifth in Abu Dhabi and all five Saturday). The truth with Penn, I believe, is that he is not as great as many (including myself) have believed. And he's not as bad as many are saying now.
Where does Penn go from here?
I think Frankie Edgar erased any doubt that his first victory was a fluke. Clearly, he is a legitimate champion. He dominated perhaps the greatest lightweight champion for five rounds. I was just curious as to your thoughts on what is next for B.J. Penn. He now has two consecutive losses and clearly won't have a title opportunity in the short run with fellow contenders Gray Maynard and George Sotiropoulos deserving opportunities at the title. I think it would be incredibly interesting to see him fight World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Jose Aldo, or even someone such as Urijah Faber if Faber would be willing to go up in weight. There's always a rematch with Kenny Florian, though I just don't see UFC president Dana White or matchmaker Joe Silva seeing much interest in it.
He's definitely not going to fight Aldo any time soon, as Aldo isn't ready to jump to lightweight and, if anything, Penn may go up. If he doesn't fight at lightweight in his next outing, it will be at welterweight, not featherweight. There even less chance he'll fight Faber. I think the next fight for Penn ought to be Gomi, if Penn stays at lightweight. If he moves to welterweight, I'd like to see him against the winner of the Jake Shields-Martin Kampmann fight.
Edgar can't compare to the 'Spider'
I think you are getting old. There is no way you can compare Edgar to Anderson Silva, or Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, for that matter. Edgar must have hit Penn 50 times, but when all was said and done, there was not a single scratch on Penn's face. Why? Because Edgar does not have any power. Edgar wins by decision. Out of 14 fights he has eight decisions. Anderson Silva, on the other hand, has knockout victories, submission victories and has not lost to any UFC fighters. Out of 31 fights, Silva has gone to a decision just seven times. Do your homework and stop comparing Edgar to UFC legends. I'm embarrassed for you.
I am old, Jared. I'll be 51 in a little more than a month, but you don't need to be embarrassed for me. I'm fine. Edgar has a different style than Silva, but he's just as effective.
How would Edgar adjust in a Maynard rematch?
Barring injury, why would Edgar-Gray Maynard II be any different than their first match, when Maynard won a unanimous decision in 2008? Gray's wrestling covers up his weaknesses.
I think the fight would be very different and I don't think Maynard would be able to toss Edgar around the ring the way he did in their first meeting. Edgar has improved tremendously and his boxing is far better than it was at that point. Plus, he's added size and is much bigger and stronger than he was when he met Maynard in 2008.
Toney didn't need the money
I just don't understand it. Clearly, James Toney doesn't need the money. He was wearing almost $400,000 worth of jewelry last week. Given that, why fight? Perhaps he wanted to make a statement, but clearly the statement was made by Randy Couture. Boxers need to stick with what they know best – boxing – because clearly, MMA is far more demanding.
I believe James did need the money, Miguel, and that was the primary reason he fought, because he couldn't get a fight that would pay him any significant money in boxing. Clearly, though, he didn't get himself in the kind of condition an MMA fighter needs to be in.
Couture-Toney fight a farce
What is next in Dana White's bag of tricks, women's bikini oil wrestling? This is MMA and he's trying to make it a joke. Anyone with half a brain knows a boxer who isn't trained in MMA can't beat an MMA fighter. What did that fight prove? James Toney didn't even try to get into shape and along with White, pulled off a huge con on the public.
I don't want to hear White criticize Strikeforce for using ex-football player Herschel Walker after he put on this farce. I never was a fan of the fight from the moment it was made and didn't understand what it was intended to prove. If they had boxed, Toney would have won easily, just as Couture did in an MMA fight. Boxing and MMA are different sports and I guess Saturday's fiasco at least proved that. That said, I don't think White pulled off a con. The card didn't turn out to be great, but there were several fights that on paper seemed would be very good: Edgar-Penn, Kenny Florian-Maynard and Nathan Diaz-Marcus Davis.
Potential nightmare: Fitch, Maynard as UFC champions
Can you imagine Jon Fitch and Gray Maynard as UFC welterweight and lightweight champions at the same time? What would Dana White do? Neither is marketable, as their styles are boring, but effective. The Oakland crowd booed Fitch's dominating but action-less fight against Thiago Alves at UFC 117. Maynard has the same controlling wrestling style and there's a reason that classic wrestling isn't a pro sport. Instead the public gets Vince McMahon entertainment fake wrestling. Fitch and Maynard are due title shots, and they've earned it, but what would happen if they won? Neither could headline a PPV card on their own. Either as titleholders would cause fits for Dana White.
Neither guy has done anything to this point to suggest he'll become the Arturo Gatti of MMA, that's for sure. Somehow, though, I don't think White is losing any sleep over it.
Boxing, MMA fans should ignore each other
Can MMA fans and boxing fans now go back to ignoring one another? I seriously hope so because the less I hear from MMA fans (or should I say "UFC fans?") about how a "near 50-year-old" beat a heavyweight boxing champion, the better. And the less I hear from boxing fans about how "MMA is two dudes rubbing uncomfortably close to one another" and "James Toney is a big fat loudmouth who talked his way into this fight, who owns a paper IBA belt," the better. It seems like knowledgeable fans at least respect the other sport, where as casual fans of either sport give a bad reputation to both.
The vast majority of the fans understand the difference between the sports, I believe, Luke. The thing is, Toney hadn't won a significant boxing match in at least seven years, so it was not like he was coming in as this red hot boxer defending the honor of his sport. Most boxing fans understood that. And I think most MMA fans understood that matching an out-of-shape 42-year-old boxer with limited mobility and only a few months of MMA training against an elite MMA wrestler wasn't going to be a big challenge.
Randy in the light heavyweight mix
Will the UFC give Randy Couture a top opponent and let him make a run at the light heavyweight belt or will he only fight mid-level/sideshow fights until retirement?
Couture is in the title hunt at light heavyweight and I believe he'll fight a top five guy in his next outing. I think a good fight for Couture would be the winner of the Ryan Bader-Antonio Rogerio Nogueira fight at UFC 119.