Ask Ant: The Chubby Champs and Fat Stacks Edition

By Anthony Walker Jun 7, 2019

Poll Question: Do you believe the claim that Khabib Nurmagomedov is the new highest paid fighter in the sport? *53%* Yes, the UFC broke out its checkbook for him. *47%* No, it's just Ali saying things.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this claim were true. But that’s only a portion of the story. Khabib Nurmagomedov may be the highest paid fighter in the sport right now. That would only be true simply because of the timing of his contract extension with the UFC.

ESPN and the UFC made their surprise announcement about the pay-per-view structure not even three months ago and many of the promotion’s biggest stars haven’t fought yet under the new deal. Conor McGregor has yet to iron out the details of his return. It’s pretty safe to say that he’ll be renegotiating terms to compensate for the lost in pay-per-view. Brock Lesnar reached a stalemate as he was denied the upfront money he demanded to return for the long awaited/dreaded Daniel Cormier fight.

Jon Jones must’ve reached an agreement for his revised contract considering his UFC 239 title defense against Thiago Santos was officially announced less than two weeks after the ESPN news broke. As a headliner and defending champion coming off of the biggest pay-per-view buy rate in MMA history at UFC 229, Nurmagomedov certainly came to the table with more leverage than most other notable names on the roster. Add in the literal world tour that followed “The Eagle” tapping out McGregor where he was mobbed by fans and meet with world leaders and dignitaries, and we have a full-fledged superstar. Even if fans in the U.S. aren’t as gung-ho over Nurmagomedov, a huge portion of the world is. Main eventing a card in Abu Dhabi is no coincidence.

However, when McGregor’s next fight is booked, if the trilogy match between Jones and Cormier happens, or George St. Pierre unretires, expect for Nurmagomedov to no longer hold that distinction. Speaking of Georges St. Pierre unretiring...

Robbie asks: Does the “GSP clause” in Khabib’s contract mean GSP is more likely to unretire? Does it mean anything at all?

The GSP clause doesn’t mean anything at all as far the likelihood we see the Canadian superstar back in the Octagon. This is merely a plan established just in case he does. Can you imagine the behind-the-scenes tussle as the reigning lightweight champion and global star seeks to up his price as the organization’s tried and true cash cow makes a return under the new pay per view system?

Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, should be commended for preempting those tense back and forths with the UFC. If and when it comes to fruition, “The Eagle” will be very well compensated for a GSP fight. This is more of a case of good work from management rather than a sign that St. Pierre will be making a return.

Yojimbo asks: On a scale of 1 to Buster Douglas, just how big of an upset was Ruiz beating Joshua?

On a scale of 1 to Buster Douglas, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocking the world and handing Anthony Joshua his first loss as a professional is actually almost directly in the middle. Most oddsmakers picked Ruiz somewhere around a 20-1 underdog. Douglas was a 42-1 underdog when he defeated Mike Tyson.

This was certainly a historic upset and quite the coup for the business of boxing beyond any gambling-centric mathematical equations. Joshua was making his debut in the United States at the “Mecca of boxing,” Madison Square Garden, which always carries an air of importance. Also, considering the disappointing reported number of US viewers via Dazn for the Alexander Povetkin fight and the recent success of Canelo Alvarez on the platform, it was also imperative that this make a bigger splash. And of course, the elusive Joshua showdown with Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury has been hyped, delayed, and passed over with the intent on building up a mega-event that would cross into the collective consciousness of those who normally don’t find themselves watching people punching each other for large sums of money.

While we’re still basking in the glow of the dad bod revolution, I think that history will be less damning toward Joshua in long term. Ruiz was a late notice replacement, as Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller’s PED collection disqualified him, but his boxing skills were greatly overlooked. A former Olympian coached by Freddie Roach with great fundamentals and shocking hand speed should never be taken lightly. Additionally, smaller fighters have shown themselves consistently able to put leather on “AJ,” as Carlos Takam and Povetkin can attest to. In hindsight the writing was on the wall and once this is firmly in the rearview mirror, this will probably feel more like Holly Holm sleeping Ronda Rousey than Douglas-Tyson.

I say that because looking at the style match up, it almost feels logical that Ruiz would be the one to do the unthinkable. Holm’s world class striking and ability to counter mixed with Rousey’s deficiencies on the feet and unfiltered aggression to author a memorable moment. Combine the known weakness in Joshua’s game with the skill set of his opponent, the pressure of the moment and the expectation of total dominance, and you have a recipe for disaster for the status quo.

Saturday night did feel like an earth-shattering moment for heavyweight boxing and the hot takes have been leaving grill marks all over our timelines. However, the rematch clause has been exercised and I firmly expect to Joshua to make good on the do over. Pretty soon all will be well and we can only hope that the promoters will learn their lesson and stop delaying the big fights fans want to see to the same extent assuming that the payday will always be there.
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