It’s been a few minutes since we’ve seen Dana White hold court for a hunkered-down media looking for some answers. After last night’s TUF 28 Finale, White did just that. He was asked exactly one question about the main event in Friday night’s finale — Kamaru Usman’s impressive victory over Rafael Dos Anjos — before moving on to more pressing topics. Things like what’s up with Sage Northcutt, the abs-centric gollygee who is bolting for Asia, and the fate of the flyweight division, which seems to be undergoing a kind of everything-must-go fire sale.
Anyway, White shed some light on these issues. Some of it was pretty interesting. Some of what he said only made for more questions. Let’s go through:
Conor McGregor versus…Dustin Poirier?
The crippling caveat continues to be “we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the Nevada Athletic Commission,” but when McGregor actually comes back it’s not Donald Cerrone or Khabib Nurmagomedov or even Nate Diaz that White has in mind for his opponent. It’s Dustin Poirier. White said he thinks Tony Ferguson deserves the title fight with Nurmagomedov, and so therefore a McGregor-Poirier rematch “makes sense.” Is this a subtweet to Nate Diaz, who was supposed to fight Poirier at UFC 230 only to see Poirier pull out with a hip injury?
Oh, hell yes!
In fact, this has the feel of one of those super-sly Dana maneuvers, where he basically advances a stalemate in a fight negotiation by introducing a third player publicly. If Diaz is the ideal next fight for McGregor, the one that the UFC would most like to get done, yet is being difficult behind the scenes, White merely needs to insert Poirier’s name into the discussion for Diaz to squirm. So Poirier makes sense. He has gone 8-1-1 since losing to McGregor back in 2014, and has won a string of Fight of the Nights and Performance of the Nights. That wouldn’t be the worst fight.
Could it be for the inaugural 165-pound belt? This is what I meant by some of what Dana said only raised further questions. McGregor loves a dangling carrot. A fight with Poirier doesn’t have the kind of bling he’s used to. Yet if there’s a title attached to it? Problem solved.
Lost in all of that is that Khabib and Tony look destined to get booked again. That fight remains the best fight possible. It’s good to know Dana’s on board to try for that match-up yet again.
Joseph Benavidez plowed right through Alex Perez on Friday night, and then made a passionate plea to keep the flyweight division. Why? Because, goddamnit, Demetrious Johnson is finally gone. He’s gone! Benavidez can taste the gold on title belt. At last. He already beat Henry Cejudo, who currently holds it. He could do it again. The division COULD BE HIS!
But White isn’t so sure. He basically made it clear that the small fry don’t sell, and when the word murky was thrown out there, White turned into an Esmeralda. “It is murky. It is murky right now,” he said. “Right now we have Cejudo and Dillashaw, and we’ll just see how this thing plays out.”
White then coughed up what was really going on.
“You know, that division is a division that I battled for a very long time, and defended and said are you people crazy, how do you not like these fights, how do you not like the champ? But it never really stuck. It never really became a popular division. Even with such a dominant champion…it didn’t do it.”
He even said that guys like Benavidez could simply move up to bantamweight if the division “goes away.”
In other words, the flyweight division is as good as gone. Sorry Benavidez. No belt for you. At least you got $50,000 for Performance of the Night!
TUF here to stay?
“The Ultimate Fighter isn’t going anywhere,” White said.
“We’re going to keep going,” Dana said.
“The design of the new facility we’re building has the Ultimate Fighter in mind.”
Translation: The horse died five to seven years ago; yet we got bad ass new whips to beat it with.
Usman vs. Tyron Woodley?
I like it when Dana gets into a defiant mood. Usually he lectures the inquisitive media types about how he doesn’t make fights right after an event, but sometimes he kind of makes fights right after an event. One of those that he was attempting to make right after Usman’s dominant decision over RDA was Usman versus welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. He said he wasn’t always sold on Usman, who runs his mouth a bit. But after watching him run roughshod through Dos Anjos, making that Woodley fight became a moral imperative.
Or at least, you know, something he’d like to see get done.
What about Colby Covington, that old stick in the mud who is out there toting an interim title to places like the White House? Wasn’t he guaranteed the next crack at Woodley?
Here White shrugged his shoulders.
“Eh, nothing is guaranteed in life, man. Nothing’s guaranteed in life.”
Something’s going on. White didn’t sound overly impressed with Woodley or Covington, and he was tempted to elaborate, yet instead settled for a “don’t even get me going.”
Just when it seemed like there might be clarity in the welterweight ranks, there isn’t. There’s just lingering tension and Usman, who looked great. White said he was punching harder in the fifth round than he was in the first round, and against a stud like RDA, that’s something.
Anderson Silva really is one fight away from a title shot?
So, when Anderson Silva said he agreed to fight the surging Israel Adesanya because Dana promised him a title shot if he won, a lot of people just kind of assumed he was fibbing. How could the 43-year-old Silva, who hasn’t fought in nearly two years, get a title shot? Especially after going 0-4-1 since 2012 before the fight with Derek Brunson?
Well, to hell with it. Dana was asked about it Friday night and he said that it was all true — every word. Anderson Silva will get a title shot if he beats Israel Adesanya at UFC 234. On the surface, that’s awfully generous. Then again, the biggest word in the equation though is “if.” That “if” is a freaking monster with ten heads. It’s the kind of propositional “if” that you find in a sentence like this: “If the I get 50 million retweets, I get to be the PA announcer for a Denver Nuggets game.” In other words, it’s preposterous!
Here’s what’s going on with the Adesanya-Silva fight. Adesanya is getting a showcase fight against the original showcase himself. It is a fight to further his legend, and at the same time, to kick the ice floe that Silva is on towards that distant horizon. It’s two ships going different directions. The idea is to make Adesanya the next Anderson Silva, an air-warping masterpiece of a striker who takes the baton from the maestro himself. But if Silva somehow surprises Adesanya, and lands the shot that brings down the hype?
He gets the title shot. Or he doesn’t. As Dana said, nothing is guaranteed in life, man. Least of all this thing about Anderson Silva getting a title shot with a win over Izzy.