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411 MMA Fact or Fiction: Does the UFC Still Need Conor McGregor?

April 8, 2019 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez
Conor McGregor Conor McGregor's

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is my pleasure to bring you another round of back and forth fact or fiction action. Don’t forget to leave your comments below and vote for this edition’s winner. This week, the undefeated Dino Zee returns to challenge the hard-hitting, Alex Rella. They will lock horns over TJ Dillashaw’s plight, Conor McGregor’s grip on the UFC, Justin Gaethje possibly fighting for a UFC title, and much more! Grab some grub and sit back because it’s time for another round of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA!

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Alex “Little Mac” Rella
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone

VS

BLUE CORNER
Dino “Salad Bar” Zee
Contributor, 411 Wrestling Zone


Seemingly a win or two away from a potential title shot . . . is a phrase you did not expect to be saying about Justin Gaethje.

Alex Rella: FICTION I understand a lot of people may not have watched WSOF (now PFL) years ago, but it was clear back then that Justin Gaethje had the potential to become an top fighter. At a young age, Gaethje was beating veteran fighters like JZ Cavalcante, Melvin Guillard, and Brian Foster. Not elite names, but proven vets that all had about 20-30 more fights than him at the time and he was dominant. Then he proved he wasn’t a big fish in a small pond with his awesome win over Michael Johnson. He did lose two in a row to Alvarez and Poirier, but they didn’t hurt his stock too much as those were two epic and amazingly violent fights. He has now rebounded with two highlight-reel knockouts in a row and I am not shocked at all. Lightweight is jammed up right now with Khabib’s suspension and the interim title fight, but he is more than deserving of being in a number one contender fight at this point.

Dino Zee: FICTION I watched World Series of Fighting for its entire duration, and I knew immediately that Justin Gaethje was someone to watch. His style was something that, while a bit reckless, always led him to victory. I knew once he got to the UFC, he was going to surprise people. I knew he’d beat Michael Johnson, and I picked him to beat both Alvarez and Poirier. While I was wrong on those two, my point is that I’ve always had his back as a fan, and I am absolutely not surprised that he’s managed to get himself back into title contention talks of any type. His style is a crowd pleaser, he’s a Bonus machine, and he finishes people. These are three things that make it a lot easier to climb that ladder, especially when coupled with actual wins.

The wins over Vick and especially Barboza show that this is a dangerous man and one who isn’t just beating up cans. The Poirier loss is going to be the wrench in the plans, but that kinda falls to the side if Holloway beats Dustin. If that happens, then Gaethje’s got to be one of your top contenders, especially if Ferguson’s out for a while as well. Yeah, easy Fiction for me. Gaethje rules.


At 33 and with two straight losses, we can assume Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s run at the top of the strawweight division is over.

Alex Rella: FICTION I think Kowalkiewicz will be a top 10 strawweight for years to come. Despite the two losses in a row, she’s a talented a fighter and it isn’t the most stacked division. She also has a win over current champ Rose Namajunas. So let’s say hypothetically that Rose wins the next couple fights against Jessica Andrade and whoever the next number one contenders are, it might only take a two-fight winning streak for Kowalkiewicz to get a rematch. The UFC loves booking rematches, even when they’re logically a bit of a stretch. Because Kowalkiewicz is still a good fighter and the state of the division, I think she’s still a top 10 strawweight for the next couple years.

Dino Zee: FACT I think it’s fair to assume, which is the only reason I’m saying Fact. Being honest, I’m hesitant to take that stance completely, because I do believe that she’s still a top competitor in a division that still isn’t exactly the deepest in the company. However, her four losses (Joanna, Gadelha, Andrade, Waterson) are all to top contenders (with Joanna, of course, being champion at the time they fought), which makes me wonder if she has become the top level gatekeeper in the division.

Like I said, I’m not totally convinced that this is the case, but as the question is asked, yes, I think it’s fair to make that assumption based off her recent body of work. Can she turn it around, though? Absolutely.


Michael Bisping is on to something . . . TJ Dillashaw relinquishing his bantamweight title is just about an admission of guilt.

Alex Rella: FACT It was smart on his part because people are more likely to forget as he’s relinquished it fairly quietly, but it is pretty much an admission of guilt. I just don’t see him just giving up the title if he believed he was innocent. Especially as the UFC is always bending the rules and looking for loopholes when their top stars fail drug tests. No, this was damage control.

Dino Zee: FACT Is this… is this one of those questions that answering it will make everyone mad, like the “do you think X should hang ’em up?” type of questions? I’d like to make this quick because I don’t want to say anything that can be considered any kind of accusation or whatever. But I will say that I was rather surprised to see myself agreeing with Michael Bisping recently.


SWITCH!

The recent Tony Ferguson situation indicates that Ferguson should probably never fight professionally again.

Dino Zee: FICTION Okay, THIS is definitely one of those questions that makes people angry when asked, right? The recent news on Ferguson has not been good to put it lightly. However, this is MMA. We’ve seen others come back from worse. I have no problem believing that Ferguson can put in the work to confront his issues and turn this all around. I have no reason to believe that he’s incapable of growing or healing and becoming a better person.

Sure, maybe it’s just the hopeful wishes of a fan that absolutely loves to watch the man fight, but I’m not willing to write him off completely, either. That said, if never fighting again is what’s in his best interests, then I’d be fine if he made that decision as well.

Alex Rella: FICTION It’s easy to just say, “Oh, Tony Ferguson’s current issues are because he’s been hit in the head too many times,” but that is not necessarily the reason for it. There are multitudes of reasons that may be causing Ferguson’s recent behavior. If his social media posts are accurate, then Ferguson is seeking help and treatment, which is great. We don’t know what is going on with him and it honestly isn’t any of our business either. Of course, he shouldn’t fight until he is 100% back to normal, but there is the possibility that they find out what’s wrong and he gets better. If his current situation isn’t related to brain trauma caused from fighting and he returns to normal, I don’t see why he can’t fight again.


After the Thiago Santos fight, should he win, the only foreseeable challenges for Jon Jones in the next year will be at heavyweight; hence, we will see Jon Jones at heavyweight by the year’s end.

Dino Zee: FICTION This is a really tricky one – part one of the question is a definite fact to me. Part two, however, is not. Jones could easily stick around at 205 for the rest of his career, and I believe he’s more than satisfied with his Best Light Heavyweight / Best of All Time status amongst many fans. I’m also not trying to say that he won’t go to heavyweight – we already saw him tease the Stipe fight, and there’s the Cormier fight that, while I don’t think Jones needs, I could see him taking just for the money. But maybe Johnny Walker gets fast-tracked to a fight he’s not quite ready for? Or maybe Dominick Reyes is ready to challenge Jones? I guess I can just see this easily going either way, so saying that we will see Jones, definitively, at heavyweight by the end of the year seems a little off to me. Jones taking another fight or two at 205 after Santos would take him into 2020 just like that.

Alex Rella: FACT The only real challenges left for Jones are at heavyweight. There are no real legitimate contenders at light heavyweight for the foreseeable future. Sure there are guys you could give a title shot to because of scarcity and modest winning streaks, but nobody really wants to watch Jon Jones fight Corey Anderson or Dominick Reyes. They just aren’t true threats to him. I do think Johnny Walker has some real potential, but he is a couple of years away from reaching that echelon. The only real challenge is for Jones to move up to heavyweight and take on the bigger and more dangerous heavyweights. Plus they’ll just be way more intriguing and exciting match-ups to watch. I fully expect him to move up by the end of the year.


It’s nonsense to say and believe the UFC doesn’t need Conor McGregor anymore as much as they did a year ago due to their PPV deal with ESPN.

Dino Zee: FACT I’m not the business mark, so I’ll do my best here. I think it’s nonsense to say that a company doesn’t need its biggest star, for any reason, pretty much ever. I’ll ignore all moral judgments on the man and just focus on the money he brings in. He’s their hottest commodity, and even without the PPV market anymore, they’re still going to want to use him to get people to attend live events or press conferences or to purchase apps to watch their shows on a streaming service, right? Yeah, that just seems silly to me. But again, I’m just a guy that likes to watch fights without really concerning myself with how much money the company is or isn’t making.

Alex Rella: FICTION Conor McGregor will always draw strong numbers, but his stock has dropped considerably. He hasn’t won a fight since 2016; he’s currently involved in several legal issues, to say the least; and he has attacked Khabib’s wife and religion. I personally won’t pay to see him fight again and I know many others that feel the same. He keeps declining in a lot of people’s eyes. It would be silly to not think the UFC is financially better with McGregor headlining pay per views, but they’ve been doing great without him. The current ESPN deal is proof that they will be successful even if he never fights again. So no, I don’t think they need him as much as they did in the past.


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And that’s it for today but, as always, we’ll be back next week with another contest! And please, be sure to vote!

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