I'm not going to defend Matt Riddle, who seems intent on messing up a good thing after being popped a second time for pot in three fights.
The massive welterweight will likely lose another hard-earned win to marijuana, meaning rather than riding a four-fight win streak and a record of 9-3 into the upper echelon of the division, the 27-year-old is 7-3 (2 NC) and a free agent after having his contract terminated by the UFC.
We can argue all day whether or not testing for weed and classifying it a performance enhancer (or a Schedule 1 drug alongside the likes of heroin) makes sense. But forget that for now. Bottom line is Riddle, a self-described medical marijuana user who hasn't fought outside the Octagon as a pro, couldn't stay clean based on UFC's testing in London.
As a result, he fell prey to bad timing (with all of these cuts) and UFC's inconsistency in matters such as these. The timing issue, well, that's life. Arbitrary lines in the sand from UFC? Well, I guess that's life, too. But at least that's something that can be improved upon, and based on a statement the promotion put out Wednesday, it may have already.
"The UFC organization is exercising its right to terminate Riddle for breach of his obligations under his Promotional Agreement as well as the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy," according to a statement published on the UFC web site. "The UFC organization has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance-enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents."
I have long advocated for something similar when it comes to steroid users in the Octagon. Hey, even if a cut is sure to happen after two steroid-related episodes, it would send an urgently needed message: Use this stuff anywhere but here. Instead, UFC has selected who to stick by and who to dump, which basically makes it impossible for fighters to draw any conclusions.
Maybe that day is done. Maybe the takeaway from Zuffa's response to Riddle is that screw-ups, even screw-ups that might win -- dare I say screw-ups who are also great fighters -- don't have much room to operate in the UFC right now.
We'll see how the next one is handled. But heads up to Dave Herman (twice popped for pot offenses in the UFC), Nick Diaz (pot and press conferences), Jon Jones (the DWI), Chris Leben (steroids and drugs and DUIs), Jeremy Stephens (alleged to have participated in the beating of a man in a parking lot) and the rest.
Maybe your time has come.
Injury bug attacks flyweights, too
If you were under the impression that flyweights were immune to the injury bug, it's best to just forget that.
Demetrious Johnson won't fight John Moraga at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale after it was learned the UFC 125-pound champ, Johnson, had been injured. With no reason to keep Moraga on the card, UFC churned out an interesting bantamweight contest that should pique some interest.
"[Two] buds punching each other!" chimed in Faber on Twitter.
"Crazy, I wouldn't be fighting if he [hadn't] talked me into [it] in college!" tweeted Jorgensen.
With the recent roster trimming, the ability for friends and training partners to avoid fighting one another is likely to dwindle. It will be interesting to see how things play out if guys like Faber and Jorgensen aren't willing to step in the cage. More will be, but not all. Those that refuse could pay a heavy price.
As for the fight, give me Faber, but it won't be easy. Also, beating Jorgensen wouldn't be enough, I don't think, for fans to demand "The California Kid" receives yet another title shot. Though it would move him down that path.
Shamhalaev deserving of Bellator title shot
Injuries, obviously, aren't restricted to the UFC. On Tuesday, Bellator lost its next featherweight title fight when it was revealed Daniel Straus injured a hand while training to fight 145-pound champion Pat Curran.
The tournament format that delivered Straus also produced Shahbulat Shamhalaev after the 29-year-old Russian knocked out Rad Martinez in the second round last Thursday. Shamhalaev appears to be a legit contender to Curran's title and I'm glad Bellator slotted him into the fight, which they did Wednesday.
Shamhalaev wrapped an especially grueling tournament thanks to two postponements. There was some concern he wouldn't have time to put in a proper camp, which he obviously deserves after bowling through last season's 145 field. But the heavy-handed featherweight agreed to take the bout. That's good news because another option for Bellator was a rematch between Curran and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire. While their five-round fight on Jan. 17 was good, it wasn't memorable enough for fans to clamor for an immediate rematch. Not from what I've seen, anyhow.
Curran-Shamhalaev should make for a high-paced, well-contested title contest, which despite Curran's ability, could result in another Russian staking his turf in Bellator. I wouldn't put it past Shamhalaev as featherweight ranks among Bellator's best weight classes.
If there's a debate to be had about that, the light heavyweight division would not find many supporters. Thursday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Christian M'Pumbu defends his light heavyweight belt against Atilla Vegh.
More interesting, perhaps, is the next leg of the 155-pound tournament, which includes top prospect Will Brooks. Saad Awad will try to rip his head off. Also, David Rickels appears to have gained an advantage on the field by fighting alternate Jason Fischer, whom "The Caveman" out-pointed in November.
Brooks is the guy to beat, especially after Alexander Sarnavskiy was injured.