Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: February 13 Edition

We live in confusing and uncertain times. In an era where nothing seems surprising, we find ourselves reacting with “huh?” when it comes to all kinds of news, MMA included.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is complicated, much less when it functions as a legal sport run by promotions around the world. There’s a lot of moving parts, and awkward moments are bound to happen. Sometimes, the only proper response is “huh?”

Huh is an interjection, defined by Merriam-Webster as “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”. Huh would properly describe many reactions to the news populating our feeds in 2017.

In MMA, there have been more than a few confusing and surprising moments and quotes over the years. Recent memory has provided plenty, and each week there seems to be more than the last. Following the $4 billion sale of the UFC to WME-IMG last year, we’re saying “huh” more than ever. But the UFC isn’t alone, and there isn’t an end in sight.

Last week, these moments in MMA made us go “huh?”

YOEL ROMERO SETS UP A GOFUNDME FOR MICHAEL BISPING

Since Michael Bisping took the middleweight title from Luke Rockhold last summer at UFC 199, a few of the top 185-pound contenders have been vying for their shot at the belt. Leading the way has been Yoel Romero. Currently the inarguable number-one contender at middleweight, Romero is now turning up the trash-talk in order to get his fight with Bisping.

Bisping has seemed less than enthused about a matchup with Romero, signaling his interest in potential big-money fights with the likes of Georges St. Pierre. Competing with the likes of GSP as a draw is difficult for any UFC fighter, but Romero is doing his best to create some conflict with Bisping.

Following his entertaining call-out of Bisping at UFC 205, Romero has upped-the-ante and created a GoFundMe, in order to help “Mike” raise funds for the medical expenses (and retirement party) he’ll have after he and Romero meet in the Octagon. Huh?

The move is hilarious, and in a world where every UFC fighter is trying out their best Enzo Amore impressions, the creativity from Romero is appreciated.

But Bisping is no stranger to trash-talk, and quickly responded to Romero by saying he’s in control of the next title shot at middleweight. The Englishman also took the time to high-road Romero regarding the GoFundMe, citing his personal campaign on the site for a child who’s been battling cancer the majority of his life. Huh.

That got real real quick, and kind of ends up making Bisping look good. But, GoFundMe campaigns don’t matter in the Octagon. If a little trash-talk from Romero and Bisping results in more interest for a fight, and some press for a child and family who could use some help, then it’s a win-win.

DANA WHITE: IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME

UFC President Dana White was out-and-about leading up to UFC 208 in Brooklyn, breaking news and announcing fights on a variety of news outlets. One such interview with TSN revealed some interesting information and insight into the promotion’s thoughts on creating the women’s featherweight division.

After re-hashing the credentials of Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie, White stated that “things are looking very up” for Cris “Cyborg” Justino’s return to the UFC. He then pointed to the winner of the UFC 208 main event defending the 145-pound belt against Cyborg next. Should that be the case, the inaugural women’s featherweight title in the promotion would finally be fought for by the person the division was created for.

But, what about after that?

Championship fights do not make a division, and after Cyborg, de Randamie, and Holm, the UFC doesn’t have many (any) options. In the TSN interview, White cites the way the promotion created the strawweight division: buying the Invicta FC group and putting them on The Ultimate Fighter in order to crown a champion.

That’s not what the UFC is doing now with the women’s 145-pound weight class. Instead, the promotion is using a strategy that is a bit confusing. Describing the division as a “field of dreams,” Dana White sees the women’s featherweight division as a place women’s MMA fighters will flock to once things get going. Huh?

The excitement for the creation of the women’s featherweight belt has been lacking since they announced it. Adding Cyborg, the uncrowned champion, will undoubtedly help. But building an entire division on the shoulders of a fighter who has battled USADA, weight cuts, and more throughout her career, makes little sense.

“We know we have Cyborg, and we’ll go from there.” – Dana White

It makes even less sense when female fighters struggling with the weight cut to 115-pounds are calling for a women’s flyweight division on a regular basis. Bec Rawlings was the latest after missing weight at UFC Houston, and she’s not alone in wondering aloud why the UFC doesn’t have a women’s 125-pound division in their immediate plans.

There are plenty of fighters in the UFC, Invicta, and more who would populate a women’s flyweight division in the promotion. Instead, the UFC will push forward with no real featherweight division, and hopes for a Cyborg-led revolution.

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UFC SAYS NO THANKS TO MISHA CIRKUNOV (FOR NOW)

Maybe depth in divisions is something the UFC is doing away with. In the same interview with TSN, UFC President Dana White also answered some questions about light heavyweight contender Misha Cirkunov.

Following White’s announcement last week that the UFC wouldn’t be re-signing fee agent and promotion-veteran Ryan Bader, some questions were being asked about the UFC’s mindset toward the light heavyweight division. Currently a three-horse race, Bader was one of a few fighters in the division having consistent success outside of the current title-challengers. That said, a run at the title was likely a long-shot for Bader, and a move to Bellator makes sense on a lot of levels.

So, when White told TSN last week that he met with Cirkunov, and that the UFC is now “done” negotiating with the contender, we had one reaction: HUH?

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In a light heavyweight division as stagnant as any in the promotion, letting a fighter with the resume’ and abilities of Cirkunov go is laughable. Much less on the heels of letting Bader go as well. Without those two, the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, and Jimi Manuwa are the next tier of fighters at 205, challenging the trio of title contenders.

When it comes down to it, the simple truth is this: Cirkunov was one the few hopes for the future of the light heavyweight division. Nobody else in the top-10 poses a credible immediate threat to Cormier, Jones, or Johnson. Watching that trio sort themselves out in 2017 will be great. But what about after that?

Cirkunov is 29-years-old, with a 13-2 professional record. He’s gone 4-0 in the UFC since joining the promotion in August of 2015, most recently submitting top-10 light heavyweight Nikita Krylov in the first round at UFC 206.

The weight class is full of talent, but nobody brings the combination of youth, skills, and freshness to the division of Cirkunov. He’s the perfect boost to a division stagnated by age and a lack of growth, and now he may be heading to Bellator MMA.

All of this talk may be early, though. According to Chamatkar Sandhu, the UFC still has exclusive rights to negotiate with Cirkunov. Here’s hoping the latest news regarding Cirkunov and the UFC isn’t the last, and both parties can figure out a way to get the 205-pound weight class the jumpstart it needs.

Last week in MMA was a bit more confusing than most. Filled with GoFundMe campaigns and capped with a lackluster and overall odd card at UFC 208 in Brooklyn, 2017 is proving to be a different animal than 2016. We’ve got a new UFC champion, and a new division, but not the one that makes the most sense. We don’t have much top-tier depth at light heavyweight in the UFC, and that could be Bellator’s gain soon enough. Huh?

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