Pep Talk Q&A: Mousasi, Maia, and UFC Pink Slips
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Last week seemed to be hatchet week with Mark Coleman, Philippe Nover, Tim Hague, Rolles Gracie, Justin Buchholz and Frank Trigg all getting the ax after UFC 109. Are you surprised by any of the cuts and if so, why?
Talk about a bad week to be a losing fighter! I don’t ever recall that many guys getting cut after an event. Yes, Tommy, two of the cuts caught me off guard for different reasons.
The most surprising to me was the release of Mark Coleman. You’d be hard pressed to find a UFC fighter who fought in the main event of a Pay Per View who got cut right after on the basis that he couldn’t be competitive in the UFC anymore. Did Mark look good in the fight with Randy? Not at all, But there a few reasons I thought he’d survive the ax.
First, there was a very marketable fight on the table between Coleman and Tito Ortiz with plenty of legitimate bad blood between the two. Just watch their interaction during Mark’s post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. The promotion of that fight would write itself and I have to think it could serve as a legit main or co-main event on a Spike TV card. While many say it wouldn’t be competitive, I disagree. It was supposed to happen at UFC 106 and Tito just went three rounds with Forrest Griffin who has fought two close fights with Stephan Bonnar, Coleman’s victim at UFC 100. Some have questioned the choice of Coleman as Randy’s opponent in light of the release. Given that Mark’s previous fight was that Bonnar win, I think it was a legitimate matchup with a good story line of two Hall of Famers meeting for the first time. That said, the Bonnar victory was recent enough that I wouldn’t have thought that a loss to Randy, who Dana feels is a top-five light heavyweight in the world, would equal a pink slip for the Hammer.
The other one that surprised me, to a much lesser degree, was Rolles Gracie being shown the cage door. Rolles looked utterly awful in his loss to Joey “The Mexicutioner” Beltran, so much so that Renzo Gracie called the performance embarrassing. I heard at the event that Gracie suffered a huge adrenaline dump from first time UFC jitters and that he may have had some injuries coming into the fight. Whatever the case, while I was shockingly unimpressed with him at 109, I’d heard that he was going to get one more fight to prove himself and overcome his nerves. That, coupled with him being a member of the first family of MMA, left me a bit surprised when he was let go without getting one more shot.
I can’t believe that Demain Maia got the title shot against Anderson Silva instead of Chael Sonnen. What gives? Do you think it was because of Silva’s manager, Soares?
(I can’t really believe it either, Nicholas.)
No, I don’t think Ed Soares played into this decision at all. Remember that although Chael put on a dominant performance against Nate Marquardt, he did get nailed with a knee and an elbow off the bottom that left him with serious forehead and nasal lacerations. As a result, he’s on a medical suspension that prohibits him from having any contact before March 9. Would you want four weeks to spar in preparation to fight Anderson Silva? Me neither.
Demian, who has gone 6-1 in the UFC with four Submission of the Night bonuses, appeared to come out of his win over Dan Miller relatively unscathed. However, he was given a medical suspension for an eyelid laceration that runs all the way to August 6 unless cleared early by an ophthalmologist or ocular-plastics doctor. Given that the fight has been officially announced, Demian must have gotten the clearance. Maia is a great choice on late notice. He has a clear advantage on the ground while Anderson has a huge advantage striking. A classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Additionally, Abu Dahbi is famous for its prestigious grappling championships, so having the best grappler in the UFC fighting for the title in the main event of the promotion’s first card in the country is a perfect fit.
Pep, Gegard Mousasi cut his ties with M-1 Global. It seemed like it came out of nowhere. He’s still with Strikeforce but do you think we’ll see him in the UFC? How do you think he’ll do if goes there?
It does seem sudden but it may have actually been brewing for a while. There were reports last year that Gegard thought that the UFC had offered him a contract last year for 40K to show and 40K to win and had not been made aware of the offer by his management, who then encouraged him to sign with Strikeforce. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva said no offer was made and that if they did make an offer it would have been for considerably more money. (Gegard was rumored to be making 125K per fight in Affliction before they went under.) Whatever happened, the relationship seemed less than a perfect fit. When Mousasi asked for a deal that would have given him “lifetime security”, similar to that of M-1’s only other premiere fighter, Fedor Emeliaenko, the answer was no and Gegard exited stage left.
From my perspective this is welcome news for MMA fans. For now it means little as Mousasi is still under contract with Strikeforce and is rumored to be defending his Light Heavyweight title against King Mo on their April CBS card. The length of that contract seems to be a question, but whenever it expires I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see Gegard in the UFC. Dana White said at the UFC 108 post-fight press conference that he was interested in Mousasi. The only fighter that the UFC has ever wanted that they couldn’t sign was the M-1-controlled Fedor. With M-1 out of the way, it should come down to financial terms and it’s hard to see anyone outbidding the UFC for a fighter they really want. From Gegard’s perspective, the only thing stopping the ultra-talented Dutch-Armenian from superstardom and more respect on Pound for Pound lists is top flight competition and massive media exposure. The UFC can offer him both.
As for his place in the division, it’s hard to say, but I suspect that he might be a legitimate top title contender right now. The reason I’m not more definitive is that it’s always tough to gauge a fighter without seeing him tested against elites in his division. He is 28-2-1 with 26 stoppages and is currently riding a 15 fight win streak and hasn’t lost in 3½ years. He’s only 24 years old and has a seemingly unshakable demeanor (UFC jitters unlikely) and it would be very interesting to see him against the UFC’s best.