Back Talk: Jason Burgos’ Mailbag

By Jason Burgos Jan 17, 2020


The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 246 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Hello mixed martial arts true believers, and welcome to what I hope becomes a common occurrence on this digital domain known as Sherdog. Following in the footsteps of Anthony Walker, the only man who would attempt to bring sexy back to MMA, I have been afforded the opportunity to play the resident “Dear Abby” and answer questions from the immutable Sherdog forums.

With UFC 246 days away, it’s with little surprise that the glut of inquiries are about the “Notorious” one and his “Cowboy” foe in the main event of the evening. I have talked ad-nauseam about Conor McGregor over the last year while co-hosting “The Trenches” on Sherdog’s YouTube channel. Which you should subscribe to if you haven’t yet (cheap plug). So it is only fitting that my first foray into a mailbag column includes a healthy dose of the former two-division champion. With all that introductory preamble out of the way, let’s answer some questions, shall we?

WHALEWOLF Asks: "Is anyone surprised about the number of tickets that are still available for [UFC 246]?"

In a word, yes. But then again, no. McGregor and Cerrone are without a doubt two of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s most popular athletes. They are names casual fans know, like, and will tune in to see. The pair have a combined 46 finishes in 51 victories and both have main evented a plethora of UFC events over the last five years, with the Irishman being a killer (I had to get in a film reference since it is Oscar season) at the box office, which does make what looks to be a couple of thousand available seats on sites like Stubhub and Vividseats surprising.

That said, the UFC did not do the pair any favors in terms of how the card was constructed. In the past, events headlined by big stars like Jon Jones and Max Holloway were given far more top-to-bottom love. The other notable faces on the UFC 246 card are Claudia Gadelha, Anthony Pettis and Holly Holm. Popular fighters no doubt, but competitors who are far removed from their peak periods of relevancy. Plus, those combatants weren’t booked in matchups that would attract the attention of casual fans, a segment of the fan base that is likely to come out for a McGregor fight.

Another key factor has to be ticket prices. In an era where the wealth gap in the country is only getting wider, asking fans to pay $300 or more for nosebleed seats is ludicrous. I would assume the blame for that falls partly on McGregor’s name value as well as on pay-per-view revenue no longer being the monetary source it once was now that PPV events live behind an ESPN+ pay wall.

In the end, this may be an indication that McGregor’s popularity—as boundless as it has seemed at times—isn’t impervious to inactivity and bad press. As a society, our attention spans are shorter than a heavyweight title reign. Fighting once in more than three years may have finally caught up with the notoriously likeable McGregor.

3nigma Asks: "Why does Conor hate cutting to 155?"

It boils down to the fact that cutting weight sucks. McGregor is not unique in disliking this combat sports pastime. I have talked to a bunch of fighters while covering the sport. Many of those conversations you can find over on my personal YouTube page (cheap plug No. 2). To a man, and woman, they all hate it. I have not encountered one person that had anything positive to say about the process. The cut is extremely strict and regimented. You can’t eat what you want. You feel terrible that last week, and in a way, you are purposely putting your body through trauma just to make a designated weight.

However, what does make McGregor unique in this case is that he has more stroke in the organization than most of the roster combined. When you break records and become the industry’s most popular and bankable talent, you can get away with a whole lot. Suffice to say, if his name were Tony Ferguson, Al Iaquinta or Dustin Poirier, he would be weighing in at no more than 156-pounds on Friday morning.

Liverkick-king56 Asks: "What do you think Cerrone's game plan is?"

Mr. King56, sir, I could go all pseudo-fighting expert here and try to outline what the plan should be for a man that has forgotten more fight knowledge than I’ll ever know. However, I won’t. Yet, this journalist does have a modicum of reach to ask someone who does. That being American Top Team affiliated striking coach, and author, Dr. Paul Gavoni [https://www.instagram.com/drpauliegloves/]. Who will also be in the building on fight night, cornering UFC heavyweight Alexey Oleynik in his main card scrap with Maurice Greene. Take it away “Paulie Gloves”:

“I think Cerrone can beat McGregor if he is very deliberate in his approach. He needs to be careful not to rush in too quickly, so that he can avoid that bomb McGregor counter-two. I think this might be a good time for Cerrone to capitalize on some of his good Muay Thai by looking for leg kicks, and even roughing up McGregor in the clinch. His ground game is likely superior to McGregor's, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take it there if the opportunity arose. What he has to excel at here is distance management. There is that gray area where he will be susceptible to a good counter by McGregor. If he can manage to minimize his time in that danger zone, I believe he will come away with the win.”

Sgtpepper Asks: "Will we ever see a third match between Shevchenko and Nunes?"

That’s a great question. After Nunes beat Shevchenko a second time, in a very close rematch at UFC 215, the issue seemed settled. For the most part. Yet, as these two women’s MMA monoliths and pound-for-pound talents stand far above the rest of the field, the question has to be asked. Because who else is out there that can legitimately challenge them in their respective divisions?

Now, the very talented Katlyn Chookagian will get a chance to make her case next month at UFC 247. However, with “Bullet” being a -1000 favorite on most betting sites, the expectation is that the gold will remain where it is. With a dearth of serious challengers on the horizon for both, two closely contested fights as the backstory and triple-champ possibilities for Nunes (if she can make 125 pounds like she has claimed she could) or champ-champ status for Shevchenko in play, I don’t see how this fight doesn’t happen. It may even happen later this year.

AmericanMMA Asks: "Who should Rizin Light Heavyweight Champion Jiri Prochazka Get in His UFC Debut?"

This is a fascinating predicament for the UFC bookers. Prochazka has been the light heavyweight standard-bearer in Rizin for the better part of the last five years. The 27-year-old leaves his Rizin 205-pound title behind and enters the UFC light heavyweight division with a reputation as a Czech wrecking machine who hasn’t tasted defeat since a 2015 grand prix knockout to Muhammed Lawal. A defeat he avenged three and half years later to secure the division’s championship strap.

To answer your question, I guess it all depends on how the company views their latest addition. In their eyes, is he a rising talent that has future champion potential and can be valuable with brand recognition in Eastern Europe? If so, then maybe an opponent with some name value of their own but outside of the top-15 would make sense. Sam Alvey, Ovince St. Preux and Khalil Rountree would fit the bill and would represent winnable fights to aid in establishing his brand with unfamiliar fans.

However, if he is seen as a big-ticket free agent signing with title challenger potential no later than 2021, then he will have to get a ranked opponent out of the gate. For this, Misha Cirkunov, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic stand out as strong contenders to welcome the newcomer to the Octagon. Advertisement

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