Ask Ant: Dec. 7

By Anthony Walker Dec 7, 2018

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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Forum Poll question: Should the UFC have booked Greg Hardy on the same card as Rachael Ostovich? And why did they?

The only answer to this question is no. The Ultimate Fighting Championship should not have booked Greg Hardy on the same card as Rachael Ostovich. There’s no other correct answer. If you can’t see what the problem is with this, I kindly invite you to play tag on the highway. Let’s remove the understandably emotional response to domestic violence and look at this from a business perspective.

Greg Hardy attracted plenty of negative attention when Dana White recruited him for Tuesday Night Contender Series and rightfully so. But in hindsight, the move was shrewd. Sign up an elite athlete to bring into a thin division that will bring eyeballs to a new product behind the UFC Fight Pass paywall. Let the smaller promotion take a bit of a public relations hit while the novice builds up his skills. By the time he’s ready for the UFC, the brunt of the backlash will have died down and his ugly past might be firmly in the rearview mirror.

I’m not here to argue whether or not he belongs in the UFC or fighting in mixed martial arts period. That’s a separate discussion that has already been thoroughly discussed by my colleagues on this site. Love it or hate it, Hardy is a part of the UFC roster and will step into the Octagon in the near future. But the company's timing in getting a fight kit on Hardy just undoes all the efforts to grant him that oft-discussed “second chance.”

The inaugural ESPN card will be a watershed moment for MMA and sports in general. With that comes a wave attention that the average fight night event in Nondescriptville, St. Elsewhere just won’t have. Ostovich insisting on remaining on the card just weeks after allegedly being brutally assaulted by her husband goes beyond the personal courage and determination necessary to work through such trauma with that backdrop. The UFC accidentally stumbled across a great opportunity to win goodwill with the female fan base that has lost much interest in the sport after Ronda Rousey’s departure, and create larger narrative based on empowerment and strength in a largely male-dominated sporting landscape. Flush that down the drain with a convicted domestic abuser getting a spot at this event. Considering the plethora of events on the 2019 schedule, there’s no shortage of spots open for Hardy to compete. Promoting him alongside such a recent victim of the same crimes of which he was found guilty is gross oversight at best and blatant disrespect at worst.

White recently spoke with TSN about the matter, saying he spoke with Ostovich ahead of the announcement and received her blessing. That’s fine. In fact, it shows even more strength from the strawweight contender in an impossible situation. But how seriously can we take that? While she did confirm the story that White told yesterday, she’s also still a member of the UFC roster and White is her boss. We’ve seen the company retaliate against fighters when they don’t do exactly what they’re told when they’re told.

Jesse Ronson was set to make his return to the UFC in a short-notice bout this weekend. When it was clear he couldn’t safely make weight in the week and a half he had to prepare, his new deal was pulled and he was once again released from the promotion. In the same interview that White shared his communications with Ostovich, he also blatantly threatened Tyron Woodley with “moving the division forward” less than 90 days removed from his last title defense and roughly 10 weeks after surgery for the hand injury he suffered in that fight at UFC 228. What that in mind, it’s not far-fetched to think that Ostovich’s blessing was at least partially coerced by the promotion’s stance toward fighters who push back against orders.

The fight game is filled with shady characters, criminals, and all-around jerks. It’s an unfortunate part of combat sports that has always been there in one way or another. This scheduling highlights an unpleasant truth that we normally willfully ignore. That aside, for business and PR’s sake this is an indefensible move.

Dawzz asks: What do you think about Dominick Cruz coming back against John Lineker at UFC 233? Do you think he should fight for the title next if he wins and how do you see a rematch with TJ going?

I really love the fight between Cruz and Lineker. It’s a stylistic clash that should tell us all we need to know about Cruz at this late stage of his career while also giving a knockout artist like Lineker another chance to force his way into the title picture after dropping a decision to once-again champion TJ Dillashaw. There’s nothing to be mad about with this booking.

As far as Cruz jumping into a title shot with a victory, I’m 50-50 on the idea. On one hand, “The Dominator” is without a doubt the greatest bantamweight the sport has ever seen. A rematch against Dillashaw would have historic implications and has the potential to be just as -- if not more -- entertaining than their first meeting almost two years ago. The fact that he ended Dillashaw’s original title reign ups the ante even more.

However, there are viable contenders who have been passed over and deserve a shot at gold, primarily Raphael Assuncao, who missed his window to fight Renan Barao due to injury which paved the way for the former Team Alpha Male representative to get the belt in the first place. A title fight would be a good way to conclude their 1-1 trilogy.

Additionally, it would be nice to see some fresh faces fighting for bantamweight supremacy. Since 2016 it’s been a steady rotation of Dillashaw, Cruz and Cody Garbrandt being matched up. I wouldn’t be mad at Assuncao or Marlon Moraes breaking that trend.

Europe1 asks: Considering the Fury-Wilder judging-travesty, at what risk do you think we are at seeing fixed decisions in MMA? (or has it already happened)

As long fighting is big business, there’s always the chance that corruption enters the picture. As I alluded to in my post fight column for Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury, this is always in the back of our minds when we don’t agree with a decision. But most likely, plain old-fashioned stupidity can explain a lot of the dubious decisions in MMA.

Let’s consider the fact that the government regulates combat sports and athletic commissions are essentially political positions. This is the same government that screws up seemingly simple tasks like salting icy roads and mailing ballots on time. Why would they get something as complex as fight regulation right?

To make matters even worse, a lot of the same judges who are clueless when watching a boxing match are scoring MMA fights. The idea that people who have shown themselves incompetent in limited combat having an important role in a sport with a broader range of techniques and an expanded ruleset is downright laughable.
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