Brock Lesnar Probably In, Jon Jones Probably Out, And The State of UFC Headliners

Sherdog…During a hearing on Tuesday, the California State Athletic Commission revoked Jones’ license in the state and fined him 40 percent of his purse — $205,000 – from UFC 214. The revocation comes with a one-year period of ineligibility, meaning that Jones will not be able to reapply for a license until August at the earliest….“Let USADA give their discipline, when that’s completed, I’ll be inclined to support Jones in getting his license back,” CSAC Executive Officer Andy Foster said. “”I do not believe we should end Mr. Jones’ career today, but I do believe he should sit out for a while.”

sky sports – Lesnar is currently the WWE Universal champion but did not attend Raw this week…He was also absent from Sunday night’s Sky Sports Box Office event, Elimination Chamber, although he was not scheduled to appear, and was photographed in the host city Las Vegas with White…..That led to speculation that Lesnar will return to UFC after WrestleMania, and when asked on Sirius XM radio what the odds of that happening were, White said: “Very, very, very good.”

ExpressConor McGregor is reportedly in talks with the UFC to fight twice this year. That’s according to MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer, who last week revealed that negotiations between the UFC and their poster boy are going swimmingly. “The word is that negotiations with Conor McGregor are going well,” he wrote in his subscription-only newsletter.

It is surely a very odd time to be a UFC fan right now. It seems like the injury bug is biting everyone, including those at the top, and what seems to be compounding everything is that the few folks that could be counted on to carry a PPV simply aren’t around. In Brock Lesnar’s case, he hasn’t been for awhile, save a cameo at UFC 200. Jon Jones actually hasn’t been around much either, fighting once a year since 2014 and prefering weed, coke, hitting and running, and steroids to fighting, or so it seems. We’ll get to the man with the red panties later. What that makes for is this sort of holding period for the leader in MMA while they build up new superstars with peculiarly-placed headlining and co-headling bouts while biding their time with fan friendly duels between veterans and solid title fights that move divisions along the best they can.

There is a reason, after all, That previously barely-knowns Darren Till and Josh Emmett were both recently given quick turnaround, high profile fights (Till vs. Cowboy Cerrone, a success, Emmett vs. Jeremy Stepehens, not) after a noted highlight-reel knock out. The UFC is desperate to quickly build up names and star power, hoping to get one or more of the next generation of revenue generators into the title picture while they await Jones and Lesnar to cycle off and for Conor McGregor to stop slinging whiskey and shoes and get back in the gym.

This is the same reason behind Brian Ortega stepping in against Frankie Edgar in this weekend’s UFC 222 co-main event. Frankie Edgar has been a longtime top-10 pound for pound talent and has been breathing down the belt’s neck for awhile now, save for an admittedly lackluster performance against Jose Aldo at UFC 200. He could have either dropped from the card and waited for his title shot or faced a better known opponent, as it is rumored McGregor himself offered to step in to some capacity. However, Edgar has also proven to be willing and able to provide his services as the gatekeeper to the 145 top -3ish as well, e.g when he took on the highly-touted Yair Rodriguez last May. “The Answer” demolished Rodriguez, who was clearly not ready for what he had bitten off, and sent the prospect back home to catch up to the 36 year old veteran. Enter Ortega – coming off a convincing, if not a little sloppy, guillotine finish over perennial top-10 145er Cub Swanson. If Ortega is able to beat Frankie Edgar, it sets up a HUGE Featherweight Title fight between two of the best young fighters to come along in a who knows how long: Ortega and 145lb Champion Max Holloway. If he loses, it only cements Edgar’s claim to his title shot and his place among the featherweight elite. Either way, it clears the way for a big PPV headlining fight for the UFC; one less that they have to worry about.

Besides Till and Ortega, there are a few other guys you can be sure the UFC will try and build quickly over the next few months. At 170lbs with Till there is Santiago Ponzinibbio (Dana White doesn’t seem too pleased with the pace of a lot of Kamaru Usman’s fights and Colby Covington’s behavior is too erratic for the UFC to trust him yet; see Jones, Jonathan Dwight). At Middleweight, champion Robert Whitaker should be a household name soon if he can stay healthy, with stud Kelvin Gastelum, a 170-185lb tweener, always on the verge of stardom. There’s a bit of dearth in the heavier weight classes, but I could see Volkan Oezdemir sticking in the title picture and gaining popularity at 205. I could also see Aussie Tyson Pedro making the jump at some point, should he string together some wins. Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic should already be a star and the UFC is foolish to not have capitalized on his bankable skills and personality already. Up-and-comer Curtis Blaydes has star potential and pedigree and returning legend Cain Velsaquez has one more run in him should he stay healthy. In the lower weight classes, the Dillashaw-Garbrandt feud should be around awhile and a money maker. Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes are also breathing down their necks at 135 lbs. 155lb is ready to blow up with Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and maybe some day Nate Diaz gunning for a part in the enjoyable feud between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, with McGregor soon returning to join the fracas.

That paragraph, if you stuck around for it, was probably a long, boring read of a list of potential superstars who you probably don’t care about yet. But it illustrates my point that the lack of RIGHT NOW star power is not so much of a problem for the UFC if they can capitalize on what they have on their AAA team. With Lesnar possibly coming back to fill in a space and McGregor supposedly fighting twice this year, the UFC may only need a Fox card and a high-PPV spot for a couple of these guys to be pushed into contention and headliner status. If you are as much of an MMA nerd as I am, you’re also excited to see how it plays out.

 

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About Joey Ballgame

I'd like to take this chance to apologize to absolutely nobody. Views from the 617. Primarily MMA and pop culture takes from down in the rabbit hole. Sports straight out of left field.
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