Chat with Brett Okamoto
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com mixed martial arts writer Brett Okamoto stops by to chat about the news from the octagon.
Okamoto joined ESPN.com in December 2010. Previously, he was the boxing/MMA writer for the Las Vegas Sun newspaper and has also worked with Sports Illustrated magazine and CNN.com.
Send your questions now and join Okamoto Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Brett Okamoto (1:00 PM)
The UFC is back this weekend after a three-week hiatus and its brought the sensational Ilir Latifi with it!! How excited are we? Actually, the Latifi story could be kind of cool. He felt overlooked when he didn't get the Octagon invite the last time the UFC visited Sweden. He's an accomplished wrestler, which can be an outstanding foundation for an upset. I'm a little worried about his weight, frankly ... there's a chance we see a pretty terrible fight on Saturday just because the guy is out of shape, but maybe he'll rally for the home crowd. Either way, at least Gustafsson learned to wear headgear through all of this. Let's get to your questions.
Marc (Chicago, IL)
How many more fights do you think GSP has left? I would still love to see him fight Hendricks, Rory, Ellenberger, and Maia at least.
Brett Okamoto (1:02 PM)
I think he could have that many left. He's only 31. But I tend to believe the rumors about only wanting a couple more fights and especially if he faces Anderson Silva, depending on how the fight goes, I agree with Firas Zahabi that would be a fight where you'd go, okay, where do we go from here? Combat athletes have a tendency of not walking away but Georges has always been a little different. So professional in every decision he makes. I could see him sticking with the two-fight plant then walking away. Really depends on what happens in those two fights. If he loses, all bets are off. That might relight a fire in him that's been going out.
What does it imply if Moussasi loses? And does Silva vs GSP happen after Silva is done with Weidman?
Brett Okamoto (1:05 PM)
If Mousasi loses, it's not good. It's pretty terrible. He's in a tough spot going from a high-profile opponent to a guy with nothing to lose, but he needs to get it done here. As far as Silva, GSP or any super fight really, I still think it comes down to timing, how each of them look in their respective fights, does the UFC get into NY ... outside factors have a play in these super fights. I am leaning towards we will see one by the end of the year, though.
Firas has said minimum 6 months for GSP, which is Sept 16 (from 158) Toronto is rumoured to host Sept 21, with Dana saying GSP likely for vegas, do we see a delay for a late Oct / Halloween card?
Brett Okamoto (1:07 PM)
Tough to say. I know Dana said Vegas but if the timing is clearly pointing to a Canadian date, I doubt the UFC would say, "Absolutely no way. We don't want to have a Canadian star who generates tons of Canadian money fight in Canada." I believe Dana when he says he wants GSP in Vegas and I think that will probably end up happening, but would it shock me if we saw GSP in Toronto? No.
chris ceres ca [via mobile]
Just finished watching TUF and i must say im scared of urijah hall. Do you,think,he wins this season? Also do you ever see him becoming a champion as mr chael sonnen suggested?
Brett Okamoto (1:09 PM)
Even with all the overhauls TUF did this season, Uriah Hall has made that show. He's the reason you want to watch. I don't know what the ratings fluctuations have been, I don't follow them week to week but I'm sure you could look it up, but I for one am like, "Uriah is fighting on this episode? Then I'm definitely watching." It's tough to project him longterm from basically three short fights on a TUF season though. I think he has all the potential in the world, but jumping into the cage along the likes of a Jacare Souza or a Chris Weidman or even a Mark Munoz type ... I'd be interested to see how those matchups played out with dynamic grapplers.
Nate (Pittsburgh, PA)
Was definitely looking forward to the Gus/Mous fight. Granted injuries happen but this definitely kills the event in my eyes. What are your predictions for the fight now with Gus out and what do you think should be the new fight on the card we as fight fans hone in?
Brett Okamoto (1:12 PM)
Prediction on the main event is Mousasi should get through it. I know I said this already but I really am somewhat skeptical Latifi is in any kind of shape. He didn't want to talk about weight during his interviews yesterday and even though he's being referred to as a "Gustafsson teammate" he said himself he wasn't there for Gus's whole training camp. He sounds like a fringe, occasional sparring partner basically. Other fights on the card? I like Diego Brandao vs. Pablo Garza. I'm not much into Pickett/Easton honestly. I think Pickett wins that. And you all should know by now I'm a Michael Johnson fan in general.
David (Fullerton) [via mobile]
Hey Brett how's your bracket doing? Do you think if (when) Uriah Hall wins this season of TUF the UFC will push him fast to contender status? This guy is ready for some high caliber opponents.
Brett Okamoto (1:14 PM)
I do think if Hall wins the Finale, they won't screw around with him too much. They'll give him a pretty high profile fight. There's hype building around him and he does seem like the real deal, so I'd be surprised if you saw him buried on a Facebook Prelim against some low-tier former TUF castoff. My bracket looked good until the last round. Had Duke and Florida advancing.
Did Wanderlei's April Fool's Joke rub you the wrong way? I know some of the other MMA journalists weren't amused.
Brett Okamoto (1:15 PM)
I didn't care. It's his personal Twitter account. I've never really been into April Fools jokes ... they're mostly kinda ... lame usually. But if Wandy wants to have a little fun, I say let him. Mousasi making a big deal about it is like, okay, I get your frustrated, but it's not like you went to the gym and started preparing for Wand the second you saw that post. You're just upset in general, don't take it out on the Axe Murderer.
Brett Okamoto (1:16 PM)
And yes, I misused your (you're) there. Apologies.
Hey Brett. If you Chael upsets Jones later this month and Silva defeats Weildman in Jukly, can we possibly see Sonnen vs Silva 3 Champion vs Champion later this year?
Brett Okamoto (1:17 PM)
My initial reaction is no, but if Chael can beat Jones, then I would say just about anything is possible.
JVegan (Knoxville TN) [via mobile]
It may not be fireworks but I believe Maia would be GSP's toughest fight at WW ever. I hope we get to see it before any unneeded "super" fights. Agree?
Brett Okamoto (1:18 PM)
I agree with the part about seeing it before super fights. Mostly because I'd love the matchup and I'd rather see Silva fight Jon Jones anyway, as opposed to GSP. I don't agree though it'd be his toughest matchup. I think his toughest matchup is Johny Hendricks. Maia's standup is still too bad to hang with GSP on the feet and I don't think Maia would be able to do what he did to Fitch in a five-round fight with the champ.
Brett what are your thoughts on TUF semifinalists? (More specifically what do you think of the match ups and what types of careers do you see them having after TUF)
Brett Okamoto (1:21 PM)
I would say, and I think everyone agrees, Hall is the only real contender on the show. In terms of the matchups I have to admit, I've already been told how they go. So, in the spirit of not ruining next week's episode for you all, I won't comment on them. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bubba McDaniel still get in the UFC at some point, either.
Im SOOOO over nick diaz and his whining ways...i mean geez this guy is so overrated and now says he is retired unless he gets a GSP rematch or AS fight....what in the heck has he done to remotely deserve either of those fights....rematches dont exactly pop up after 50-45s....god he is so annoying...he is not top 5...probably not top 10 either...go away Diaz...ur just not that good...(end rant)
Brett Okamoto (1:23 PM)
Not going to argue with any of this. I don't really have a problem with him bringing up this entire UFC 158 weigh-in fiasco. At the very least, it shed some light on the pitiful job the Montreal commission does. But, your entire argument loses credibility when you start to add the "rematch" rally into it. Now you just seem self-serving, like you don't really care the commission did what they did you're just trying to jump to the front of the line again.
Can't help but think that Bubba McDaniel took some sort of dive vs. Urijah Hall last nigh on TUF. He was acting scared all episode, then "injured", and that finishing shot didn't look very devastating. I'm not doubting McDaniel's heart, of Urijah's power, but that looked very scripted. Just me?
Brett Okamoto (1:25 PM)
Watching the show, I've gotten the sense that just about everyone in the house is afraid of Uriah. As far as the dive ... I can't go that far. It's hard to tell sometimes the effect of a punch, but Daniel's arms looked limp to me when he went down. I thought he looked out.
Bob (the Counter)
Michigan -2 over Syracuse, who do you like?
Brett Okamoto (1:26 PM)
Tough call. I gotta say Michigan though. They've got the shooters and seems like they have more momentum than Cuse.
Thoughts on Nick Diaz retirement? I think it's crazy, he is still young and there is a a ton of money to be made for him. Not to mention he is one of the top 5 WW's in the world still. Would love to see him and Martin Kampmann go at it, very winnable fight for Nick.
Brett Okamoto (1:28 PM)
I don't think it will stick. I knew there was no way he was retiring after the Condit fight. This time, I thought, eh, I believe him slightly more than the first time, but I still don't believe him. I agree with you on the matchup. I said on Josh Gross's podcast the Monday after the fight basically what you just said. Martin Kampmann seems like a good fight and a fight you'd expect Diaz to look pretty good in.
Gil Rodriguez (San Antonio Texas)
Now that Gustafsson is out of his fight with Mousasi, Do you feel it only makes sense now to make a #1 contender's bout with him and Machida, given The Dragon's last performance wasn't his best.
Brett Okamoto (1:30 PM)
Yeah, I really do. I love that idea. If you guys have heard me speak on Gustafsson before (and I even wrote a blog on this that will now never see the light of day because of the injury) but I think he's got all the potential in the world but he hasn't put it together yet. He's still raw. He got tagged way too much by a slow, (let's just say it) old-looking Mauricio Rua in his last fight. When he puts it all together, which I think he's close to doing, he can beat anybody. I think Machida would be an awesome test for him right now, better than Mousasi.
Brett Okamoto (1:33 PM)
Lots of questions about Uriah Hall and who he should fight when he gets into the division. Yeah, I'd like to see him against a grappler right off the bat. Maybe the UFC goes that route, maybe not. They're not short on middleweight contenders right now, so they might give Hall a shot to look good before throwing him in a tough matchup but I'd love to see a Souza fight. That'd probably be my first pick.
Slow Roller (Toledo)
You are trying to tell me the ultimate "just in case" guy waiting in crygenic freezation -- Rich Franklin -- wasn't available at the last minute to fly to Sweden? Please Brett. Please.
Brett Okamoto (1:35 PM)
Haha good point. So true. Can't you see him in his living room on the computer, some Jim Carrey movie playing in the background, eating Cheerios, sees the news and calls to the wife in the kitchen, "Hon, I can't make dinner with your folks next week. I'm going to Sweden." This definitely happened.
Doug (Chicago, IL)
Any news on Eddie Alvarez's case with Bellator? Or are we going to have to wait a year for him fight again?
Brett Okamoto (1:36 PM)
Never know when this stuff has to go through the legal process. I haven't heard if there's been another court date set for Eddie. He basically tried to get a reprieve to compete in the UFC while the process was still ongoing, but the court ruled he didn't have sufficient evidence that his case would hold up in court. That wasn't a good sign.
Fat Sal (New York)
Is there a gambling line out for Moussasi Latifi yet?
Brett Okamoto (1:37 PM)
I saw Mousasi at -1350, with a +650 on Latifi.
I stopped watching a while ago...are the TUF fights not live anymore?
Brett Okamoto (1:37 PM)
No. One season of that was enough, although Dana has hinted he's still not finished with that idea.
steve [via mobile]
Maia has great takedowns once his hands are on you, but he isn't an explosive takedown guy. I don't think he gets inside gsp's jab to be able to get.him down. I see it as boring but dominant. Hendricks and ellenberger are much more likely to create an exciting fight with gsp.
Brett Okamoto (1:38 PM)
I agree. I think the guy who beats GSP has to be able to hurt him on the feet and Maia doesn't fit that.
Remind us your thoughts on elbows to grounded opponents... I'm starting to think it's for the best if they go away. Thoughts?
Brett Okamoto (1:39 PM)
I'm for them.
Is it time for the UFC to cut back on the cards? After the Gustafson cut and with them lopping off 100 fighers, seems they need to scale down on the cards.
Brett Okamoto (1:41 PM)
It's interesting that you would bring that up this week, since we haven't had a UFC card since mid March. We've talked about this topic before and in this situation, this has nothing to do with the number of cards. It's an international event that lost its main event days before. Plus, they're cutting fighters because they don't have enough events to give them all an opportunity to fight. You want them to downgrade even more?
Jose R (Orlando, FL)
Dana White at the moment is the face and attitude of the UFC. When he decides to step down do you see that helping the UFC or hurting the UFC.
Brett Okamoto (1:42 PM)
I think the UFC has reached a point where it will continue to grow regardless of who the president is but one thing about Dana is you can not question his level of passion for the job. It will hurt more than help to answer you, but either way the promotion will be successful.
Yo B! What's up with Cormier saying he's taking all 15 minutes to punish Frank Mir? I'd think he'd want to finish him as quickly as possible so the Slick one can't grab an arm or a leg. Seriously though, what kind of chance are you giving Mir here?
Brett Okamoto (1:45 PM)
Where'd he say that? Twitter? Cormier seems to me like a guy who just can't wait to get in the Octagon and he's crazy confident that he's going to beat Mir. I'm sure he'll take an early finish if it's there. That kind of talk is more to hype the fight and maybe get in Mir's head a little. Chances on Mir? I just think Father Time has taken a toll on Frank. You add up the miles he's put on his body plus the motorcycle accident, this guy doesn't move all that well anymore. I think technically speaking, he's a tough matchup for Cormier but he's past his prime.
Looking back at it, how crazy is it that 2 other guys were chosen on TUF before Uriah?
Brett Okamoto (1:45 PM)
I was actually going to ask, if Jon Jones skipping Uriah Hall with the first pick the worst "team-picking" oversight in TUF history?
Do you think winner of Belfort/Rockhold will get a title shot or would they probably fight again before then?
Brett Okamoto (1:47 PM)
As always, the superfight drama will have a big say in that, but I would guess no. Dana White doesn't seem interested in a Belfort/Silva rematch and I'm a big supporter of Rockhold I think the ceiling on him is high, but I don't think the UFC is ready to give him a title shot and frankly I think he can benefit from another fight in the Octagon anyway.
Do you think the UFC needs to create a "minor league" system, or some other league where up and coming fighters, or fighters on losing streaks, can go to build themselves back up. Not sure about you, but I'm tired of the financial pinch of watered-down PPV's twice a month. Free events with up-and-coming fighters on FOX/FX/FuelTV, pay events with title fights... Your opinion?
Brett Okamoto (1:48 PM)
I mean, that's kind of like what they do with the prelims anyway isn't it? You get free fights with guys who are either building their name or trying to turn around losing streaks. And if you want to go beyond that, you have outside organizations. When Jon Fitch fights for the WSOF title, that's free. So, this kind of thing exists and the UFC isn't going to drain money into opening another organization for perceived non-elite talent.
Smelly Pete (Oregon)
Is there a vegas line on the Latifi fight?
Brett Okamoto (1:49 PM)
As of this morning, no. At least I haven't seen one.
This Latifi dude looks pretty big. Any idea if he's making weight for this fight?
Brett Okamoto (1:50 PM)
Yeah ... see? That's what I'm saying. I only saw photos of the workouts but he looks like a guy who didn't want to take his shirt off yet. We'll see if he makes weight. If he's going to miss, I'm assuming everyone at the UFC and Mousasi's camp already knows.
You mentioned needing to see Uriah vs Weidman, but they've fought already with Weidman winning via 1st round TKO...impressive when added to his UFC run leading up to his fight with Anderson.
Brett Okamoto (1:52 PM)
Very true, and that was only in 2011.
Crystal at lunch in VA [via mobile]
Who do you see being the next big female star in the UFC?
Brett Okamoto (1:53 PM)
Miesha Tate needs to beat Cat Zingano and get on TUF, then her stock will rise dramatically coaching against Ronda. She's comfortable with media, she's charismatic and she's one of maybe two or three girls I can see beating Ronda.
The UFC Tonight show on FUEL has just become silly at this point. The problem is that fighters or ex-fighters are the hosts and have too many connections or relationship with the current fighters to give real insite or analysis. Is ESPN considering doing an MMA show like in the past?
Brett Okamoto (1:53 PM)
I'd love to see it happen. I know it's on ESPN's radar to bring MMA Live back on TV but nothing officially in the works yet. I'll keep you guys posted.
Alex peer (des Moines IA) [via mobile]
Any word on macdonald is he still getting condit or will he get Mia ?
Brett Okamoto (1:57 PM)
I would still think Condit is an option, but my guess is he moves on to another opponent. Possibly Maia. With Condit, I don't think he's in any danger of being cut at all, but he's on a two-fight losing streak. You typically don't see a fighter on a streak like MacDonald facing a guy who is 0-2 in his last two fights. And even though I said they won't cut Condit, you're probably not crazy about wanting to put him in a position of fighting MacDonald in Canada and going to 0-3.
Any idea what fights might be on the Boston card?
Brett Okamoto (1:59 PM)
"Sick card" is how Dana put it. It's the debut of FS1, so you'd think they'll want to roll out a solid lineup. That said, there are certain champs you figure are only PPV material. Ben Henderson title defenses seem to be a go-to.
Have they decided the venue for the Aldo/Pettis fight......
Brett Okamoto (2:00 PM)
Rio. I'm hoping that's my first trip to Brazil. Pettis/Aldo in Brazil? You gotta be there for that, right?
Is BJ coming back, or is he done? Do you WANT to see him back (at LW obviously).
Brett Okamoto (2:01 PM)
There's an issue with his eye that he's dealing with. I really expect him to be back and yes, I am 100 percent fine with BJ returning. I don't think he's necessarily "done." He was just fighting welterweights. And the way this sport has evolved, it's very tough to fight up a weight class like that. I'd still love to see BJ compete at 155.
When does Barao become "champ" instead on "intern champ"? I don't see Cruz coming back anytime soon.
Brett Okamoto (2:02 PM)
I'd pay attention to that as his fight with Eddie Wineland comes closer. Obviously that will be a big topic that month and I think there will be pressure on the UFC to go ahead and strip Cruz of his title if he still doesn't have a relatively concrete return date.
Brett Okamoto (2:03 PM)
I could see a situation where the UFC makes that announcement just prior to that interim title defense.
timothy davis (hollywood)
do you have any concerns about the next season's mixed-gender TUF? i'm in full support of women's MMA but given the erratic in-house behavior from previous episodes, is there cause for concern about how the social dynamic will play out?
Brett Okamoto (2:04 PM)
Nah, I don't think so. What concern would you have, really? Like, hookups or derogatory comments from the males, or what? The house-life has tamed considerably in recent years, plus you have to remember, there is a full TV crew and producer on-hand at all times. It feels like it's just the fighters when you watch, but there's a professional TV producer on-set so they still have some element of control as to what's going on.
Gil Rodriguez (San Antonio Texas)
I know a little off topic here, but how about the Rios vs Alvarado bout over the weekend?
Brett Okamoto (2:05 PM)
Pretty sweet. Fair disregard for technique at times, but plenty of guts. If any of you guys missed that I'd catch a replay. Especially the first three or four rounds.
Brett Okamoto (2:07 PM)
Alright guys, I'm gonna wrap it up for the week. We lost a little steam because of the Gustafsson injury, but still a good card overall in my opinion this weekend and you've got what should be a strong main event in Bellator tomorrow. Check those out, hit me on Twitter if I missed your question today @bokamotoESPN and I'll see you next week.