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Roundtable: UFC 160, retired fighters’ grievances, and Vitor Belfort

The UFC’s big heavyweight doubleheader, featuring current champion Cain Velasquez and former titleholder Junior dos Santos, is just days away. But that’s just one item in an eclectic array of subjects on our plate here at The MMA Roundtable this week. Former fighters came out of the woodwork to air their grievances, from the recently retired John Cholish, who gave his thoughts on the UFC’s pay structure, to Luke Cummo, who posted a YouTube rant against the entire sport. Oh, and we also have the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Vitor Belfort and TRT. It’s my pleasure, then, to have senior editor Luke Thomas join me for the latest edition of the Roundtable. 1. Is there any reason to believe that when the dust settles after Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva and Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt on Saturday, we won’t have a Velasquez-dos Santos trilogy fight lined up? Doyle: It’s pretty easy to look at the two top matches at UFC 160 and assume that by Sunday, the Velasquez vs. dos Santos trilogy will be etched in stone. After all, you saw the first Velasquez-Bigfoot fight, right? And you do recall that, even though we all tend to judge fighters by their last performance prior to his title loss to Velasquez, dos Santos mowed down everyone in his path over the span of five years, right? Sounds like a cut-and-dried case. But then I remember that in the week leading up to Velasquez-dos Santos II, nearly everyone picked dos Santos to win and swore Velasquez had no realistic path to victory. In fact, Mike Bohn’s pre-fight media poll on had unanimous dos Santos picks. And you all saw what happened there. Bottom line? I still think Velasquez-dos Santos III is a fairly safe bet. But we’re still talking about heavyweights here. One punch changes everything. Bigfoot unleashing his wrath is one of the sport’s scariest sights. What happens Silva avoids Velasquez’s takedown this time? Or, what is dos Santos is gun shy in his first fight back after taking a horrific beating? If either happens, all bets are off. Thomas: I suspect we will and for many of the reasons Dave lists. It is a heavyweight fight, which means it doesn’t take much for change to be affected. I’d also add that Bigfoot is a limited fighter, but one with pretty technical skills and a decent fight IQ. His poor strategy cost him against Velasquez (partly), so that’s something he can correct. And it was good strategy that helped him win the Alistair Overeem bout. The problem, though, is that strategy wasn’t the only reason Bigfoot lost to Velasquez the first time. He came up short because of his inability to get up off the bottom. Most importantly, there’s a monstrous speed differential between the two heavyweights. There’s really not much Silva can do to narrow that gap. He’s just short on that end. Given the athletic differences here and Velasquez’s superior wrestling, I’d say Silva’s road to a title here is not so obvious. 2. From John Cholish to Jacob Volkmann to Chris Weidman to Matt Riddle, there are a ton of complaints about UFC and Bellator payouts and contracts. Is there any big picture takeaway from this? Thomas: I’d say that there’s probably some element of paranoia and incorrectly-articulated information. How much? Likely a very minor share, but every actor in this play has an axe to grind. And as they say, there’s two sides to every story. I also have a bit of skepticism for accusations of sleight of hand or contractual malfeasance. What I do believe, however, is that the current climate of MMA contracts from the UFC to Bellator to even regional shows favor the promoter. The only real leverage a fighter has is there popularity or status, e.g. middleweight champion. If a fighter has little of either, then they have little of anything. There is no collective bargaining agreement or legal minimum standard or the like. It’s true in any line of work that the only thing you contractually get is what you can negotiate, but it’s also true what you can negotiate is a function of one’s own might. Most fighters have little. Until that changes, I suspect complaints about contracts and pay and similarly related items won’t be going away any time soon. Doyle: I’m with Luke here. I know it sounds cold, but it comes down to the basics of supply and demand. It’s not like anyone was going to make a decision on staying in to watch UFC on FX 8 based on whether John Cholish was on the card. I don’t mean to pick on Cholish, he just happens to be the person who spoke up in this particular situation. It could apply to anyone. If you’re an undercard fighter in the UFC making $6,000 to show and $6K to win, and you don’t like the terms of your deal, there are dozens of other fighters who will accept the opportunity and take your spot in a heartbeat. Tuesday, ESPN announced it was laying off several hundred people, despite the fact that parent corporation Disney makes money hand over fist. Is that fair? We live in an economic climate in which a…

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