Back Talk: Jason Burgos’ Mailbag

By Jason Burgos Mar 22, 2020

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Hello again, fight fans. I come to you with a “Back Talk” dispatch from New York. Our state has now joined California as a temporary shell of its former self under a stay-at-home order for all non-essential workers. This is scary stuff, and it makes me thankful for this sport, the mixed martial arts community and the inter-webs for at least keeping the MMA journalism aspect of my life unchanged for the time being. For those in other parts of the country in the struggle, thank you for letting me into your home and perusing my thoughts, as we all miss those often taken-for-granted luxuries like sports. However, we can still converse about them in the hope that they will be back in our lives soon enough.

DougieJones Asks: “Would you like to see Michael Chandler finally test himself on the highest stage, even if he may be out of his prime?”
Burgos: I lean more towards no. At just 33 years old, he still has quite a few worthwhile fights in him. Do I feel he could contend for a UFC title, like he might have three years ago? Probably not, but Chandler vs. Paul Felder, Chandler vs. Kevin Lee, Chandler vs. Donald Cerrone and Chandler vs. Al Iaquinta would be all kinds of fun. However, does Chandler going to the UFC really make the promotion any better at this juncture? I’d have to say no. The lightweight division is pretty strong right now, and since he is not likely to pose a serious threat to the likes of Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s not worth it to see Bellator MMA lose one of its cornerstone talents. That’s what is at issue here. On an industry level, it does little to strengthen one promotion while seriously debilitating another. While Chandler may be a worthy player in the UFC for two or three years, he could be an influential force now and as a name builder for five more years in Bellator. In that case, I would rather see Chandler stay put and continue to carry the Bellator flag—a job that makes him one of the most important fighters in organizational history.

Joec87 Asks: “Would you be willing to pay $20 if the UFC only put Nurmagomedov-Ferguson on a pay-per-view card?”
Burgos: Yes, and that’s coming from a man that was credentialed to be at UFC 249 in Brooklyn, New York, and was immensely excited to get to see that scrap in person. My birthday is in August, and it would have come early on April 18. I was sports fan crestfallen with the realization that this moment was not going to happen. Even though bitter and unbiased journalist shouldn’t be mixed, I had good reason to be irrationally disappointed and not want to watch the show all together, because on paper, this fight is unbelievable. It has the makings to be MMA’s version of Leonard-Hearns or Leonard-Hagler. The fight could be tactical and technical insanity anywhere it goes. I would view a one fight pay-per-view between the two like buying that rare worthwhile boxing event. Were many fight fans closely watching the undercard of either Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury card? Probably not, and we paid a lot more to wait and just see those fights. In my mind, $20 to watch Ferguson and Nurmagomedov go toe-to-toe is a bargain.

Pcbh167 Asks: “Who’s the best female striker in the UFC?”
Burgos: This really has been a phenomenal growth spurt for women’s MMA. We have gotten to the point where quite a few female athletes are in the discussion as some of the best fighters on the planet, no matter the gender. Many of them are recognized as some of the filthiest strikers in the business. Pugilists like Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas, Weili Zhang and Amanda Nunes are top-shelf talents in the UFC. However, if we are just talking pure strikers in the organization, in my very subjective opinion, it is Valentina Shevchenko—all day, every day and two times on Sunday. Now, you may be saying, “Wait here, Mr. Burgos. ‘Bullet’ has fewer knockouts than she has submission wins and lost to Nunes twice.” Those are fair points, but striking talent is not solely about knockouts. For me, it’s about the technical acumen, along with not taking damage from opponents. Shevchenko pulls from a striking toolbox that’s second to none, and for a fighter who averages over 16 minutes of cage time per fight, she is hit with fewer significant strikes per round than Nunes, Jon Jones and Dominick Cruz. Plus, she has taken the skills that earned her a 56-2 record in kickboxing and transitioned them beautifully into becoming the best female flyweight the sport has ever seen, the No. 3-ranked pound-for-pound female fighter in the promotion and the only women to take Nunes to the brink of defeat in the last six years. Some experts feel she won one—if not both—of her fights with the “Lioness.” Obviously, this is just one man’s opinion, but for me, Shevchenko is the best female striker in the UFC.

xMaxPower Asks: “Why is UFC President Dana White so adamant in putting on fights instead of cancelling them?”
Burgos: Why? For the same reason any other business or corporation would like to soldier on during this worldwide pandemic: money. In a capitalist society like ours, just having a good year and trying to match it is never enough. It is always about aiming for bigger profits. The promotion pushes to do more events and to break into new markets every year. Missing out on three events and the revenue generated from tickets sales and subscriptions for the promotions broadcasts partners is a notable loss on those all-important quarterly earnings reports. I would love to say it is all about the fighters and the company’s other employees. On some small level it is, but it is not an influence that is guiding decision making like this. In the end, the UFC can just do what it did today—something many businesses around the country are doing—and release 14 fighters from its roster. It was a classic cost-cutting move for a promotion that will be able to navigate the rough economic waters ahead. Simply put, the UFC’s stubbornness in the face of the coronavirus is all about the green.

D1 Wrestler Asks: “States are forcing gyms to close. How will this impact the UFC?”
Burgos: This question is fitting right now because of the new series of video interviews I have coming to Sherdog: The Coronavirus Chronicles. In it, I will talk to fighters, coaches and promoters about the effects of the government’s COVID-19 curbing techniques on the industry, which include the closing of businesses in many states around the country. This will have a major impact on some of the better-known MMA gyms, like Factory X, Team Tiger Schulmann, Roufusport and so on. The coaches who train some of the best fighters on the planet will be tested as business owners in the next few weeks, and their pupils, from children up to UFC veterans, will not have their training home available to them. When speaking with UFC bantamweight Cody Stamann, he told me of plans to put together a makeshift gym at home to keep in shape because he believes he could be placed in a new booking quickly after losing his bout on the postponed UFC on ESPN 8 card. Gyms closing will be difficult on the coaches and athletes throughout the sport. However, it will have little to no impact on the UFC. When the promotion’s booking shackles are removed by various state sanctioning bodies, it will get back to business as usual rapidly in an attempt to quickly set up events and make up the revenue lost from the trifecta of “postponed” cards. That will put fighters in a bad spot, as they are pushed back into the Octagon without having been in the midst of their fight-camp training routines. However, none of them will complain one bit since many will desperately need the money. Advertisement
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