Fight Club Weekly 4.27.2018.JPG

In a way, Tito Ortiz started it, borrowing the schmaltzy showmanship of American Pro Wrestlers like Rick Flair into the no-hands-barred world of mixed martial arts. Back then it was a low-cash scenario, with fighters putting in on the line for little or no pay. Add some colorful shit-talk to formidable wrestling skills and you get Tito Ortiz.


Chael Sonnen refined the style a bit, made it a little more outrageous and charismatic. One of my favorite Sonnen riff:


“You're looking at the reflection of perfection. You're looking at the man who gets all your attention. You're looking at the man with the biggest arm. At the man, with the greatest charm, the man in Chicago who will do harm to the guy three doors down. Whatcha gonna do, when you know who? How ya gonna deal, with the man of steel? How ya gonna react to Sonnen's attack?”


He was the guy that you love to hate. He was smug, outrageously confident and was able to string together some decent wins. You wanted to see him love, but he managed to beat some tough guys such as Michael Bisping, Brian Stann, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt. It’s unclear that he had put together the right type or wins to garner a title shot, but significantly, he demonstrated that a smooth talking PR campaign can pay off. He was able to talk his way into two title shots at the then-unstoppable Anderson Silva in addition to a title fight against Jon Jones, where he was grossly outgunned. But with Chael, there was always this tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink aspect to his trip.


Conor McGregor, especially with his more recent exploits heralded in this new era of the heel.  You weren’t sure where he was coming from; he was saying outrage things, polarizing and inspiring fans at the same time. Though the argument can be made that the UFC scripted his rise, selected opponents to showcase his talents, bringing him along slowly, deliberately. The one fact that is cast in stone is that Conor McGregor stepped into the octagon and knocked Jose Aldo out in 13 seconds. At that point, the debates begin, I certainly think the fight would end like that.


Enter Colby Covington. Boasting a 13-1 record, he finds himself I the interesting position of fighting for the welterweight interim title. The validity of the title is debatable. Current champ Tyron Woodley last fought in July of 2017 and it took the UFC two years to strip Lightweight champ Conor McGregor of his title.


Covington has been “active” when it comes to shit-talking and has courted a ton of controversy. After defeating Demian Maia, he insulted the entire country of Brazil by calling the country a dump and the Brazilian people “filthy animals,” before going on to call out Tyron Woodley. In retaliation, former heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum attacked Covington with a boomerang, he received a $600 fine for his trouble, but Hell, it was probably worth paying the fine.


So, it’s clear that you can talk you way into fights these days. Covington’s record, under closer scrutiny, hardly justifies a title shot, even for an interim title. Sure, he defeated Demian Maia who fought for the title, but was on a two-fight losing streak and could be said to be in his twilight years. It’s not a fight that should catapult one into a title fight.  Other than Maia, his highest profile win was possibly Dong Hyun Kim, who is also perceived as being on his way out.


If we look at Rafael Dos Anjos, we see a different kind of fighter all together, former lightweight champ with wins over high level competitors such as Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettit, Benson Henderson and former welterweight champ Robbie Lawler.


I guess we’ll find out what happens on June, 9 in Chicago.


michael hill