Each week, ESPN.com writer and MMA Live Extra analyst Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, Okamoto squares off with UFC middleweight contender Mickey Gall to debate the latest news including the recent sale of the UFC, UFC 200, the Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor rematch and more. Gall (2-0), returns to the Octagon at UFC 203 on Sept. 10 against CM Punk, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
1. Will the sale of the UFC to WME-IMG ultimately be a good or bad thing for the sport?
Gall: I don't know man. I don't know what implications this has. It still has (president) Dana White at the head, which is great. He's a fight fan, he knows fights -- I think he's a big reason why (the UFC is) as big as it is, why the $2 million purchase eventually turned into a $4 billion sale. I think it could be a good thing. You don't buy it to just keep it the same. I'm sure they have some improvements they want to make. It's a little weird. I hope it's all good. It's hard to know right now. I'm not sure what the implications of them buying it are. I know that $4 billion is a lot of money. It's hard for me to quantify. It shows the worth of the sport, the entertainment value. It also shows the worth of the fighters. We're worth something. I don't know though, I don't know what changes will be made.
Okamoto: I think it will be good. An entertainment empire like WME-IMG, with an investment group backing it as it has, does not purchase the UFC for $4 billion unless they see a very strong path to a return on that investment. It's a good time to be in the "live sports" business, when it comes to negotiating television contracts with networks. WME-IMG certainly is a good candidate to understand how to monetize the sport from that aspect, and more money is good for everyone, athletes included. It's up to the athletes to make sure they are given an appropriate piece of that pie. UFC has gone full corporate, in a sense, and these new owners are here to print money. Athletes need to be aware of that and speak up if they want their fair share of it.
2. Did UFC 200 live up to the hype?
Gall: For me it did. Obviously, I was extremely disappointed with the Jon Jones thing. We knew that going in there. If that Jones-Daniel Cormier fight happened, it would have been over the top. I still really enjoyed UFC 200. I said that on Twitter, that it didn't disappoint. And I immediately got, "You're a shill, you're blind," all of that. But (teammate) Jim Miller got the win, that always makes my night and puts me in a good mood. I loved the Brock Lesnar fight. He really impressed me. I'd say it lived up to it, it did.
Okamoto: If we make this a yes or no question, then my answer has to be no. If you're looking at it from a basic perspective: Did UFC 200, a landmark event that was on all of our radar's for a very long time, live up to the hype? No, it did not. The main event was a fight between Miesha Tate and a relatively unknown Amanda Nunes. It was a great highlight win for Nunes, but it didn't feel like this big piece of history. An event like UFC 200 needs historical relevance. Lesnar vs. Hunt? Doesn't provide that. Cormier vs. Silva? Not really. It wasn't a bad night of fights but it wasn't a spectacular one, either. But, there's an asterisk in all of this and that is Jon Jones was pulled three days before the card. That threw an obvious wrench into the entire thing. So, relatively speaking, given the circumstances, UFC 200 "delivered" in that it felt like a big night with big names. The overall product was slightly disappointing, however.
3. Should fans have booed Daniel Cormier for his wrestling-heavy strategy against Anderson Silva at UFC 200?
Gall: I'd say it's within their right to do that and I can see where they're coming from. I think it's a shame, though. DC gets booed a lot, which is surprising to me because he seems like a role model type. Seems like a very good guy. Doesn't cause any problems really. When it's that style, man, it's not very appealing to a lot of the fans -- that lay and pray kind of thing. I think it's within the fans right to boo but I feel bad for DC. He was fighting a safe fight, didn't want to lose. I understand both sides of that, the fans and him. Fans want to see people taking chances, doing stuff. Everyone knows DC can take down Anderson, so I can see why they would want him to mix it up, but it would be unintelligent for DC to stand up with Anderson.
Okamoto: Absolutely not. And I'm not getting on any high horse here -- whatever. Fans can boo whoever they want, I'm not losing sleep over it. I'm not yelling at anyone. But this was ridiculous. If fans want to cheer Silva for coming in on two days' notice, two months removed from surgery, that's great. They should cheer him for that. But to boo Cormier? Who lost out on the biggest payday of his career and a chance to beat the best fighter of his generation (because that guy failed a drug test)? After the emotional roller coaster Cormier went through, fans want him to turn around and fight a dumb game plan (in a sport you can get seriously injured in), simply for their entertainment? I swear this is true, when the arena was chanting "Stand them up" during the Cormier-Silva fight, that's the closest thing I've ever felt to, "This is ancient Rome, man -- people just wanting to see blood and death out there." Again, I'm not trying to stand on any soapbox about this, but that thought went through my head, and it was a little unsettling.
4. Will Brock Lesnar fight in the UFC again?
Gall: Man, I hope so. I really hope so. He looked great. He fought a monster in Mark Hunt. He fought his fight. When Brock Lesnar drags people to the ground and throws those big meat fists in their face, he does that, anyone's in trouble. He can do that to anybody. So, I hope he fights again. I heard he made $2.5 million at UFC 200. That's nice money to take and run with. I didn't watch the post-fight press conference but I read some of the reports of him saying he's Top 10. I agree with him. That guy's a specimen. He's one of those guys, if he had gotten into mixed martial arts young and didn't pro wrestle, he would have been even better. Maybe even on a Fedor (Emelianenko) level.
Okamoto: I'm split right down the middle on this. On one hand, yes. Lesnar is saying he's a top-10 heavyweight, his comments after the fight made it seem like he's more likely to fight again than not. Certainly, you have to think the UFC would love to have him. He's not going to be fighting for the title again. Heaven forbid he took out the UFC's heavyweight champion but then contractually was still with the WWE. Obviously, that ain't happening. But would the UFC book Lesnar to another 'fun' kind of fight, at an event like UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden, against an opponent with a relatively weak wrestling background, which would give Lesnar a shot? Absolutely. But on the other hand, if I'm Lesnar, maybe I do stop while I'm ahead. I just went into a locked Octagon with Mark Hunt and exited with all my senses. I made a lot of money to do so. I probably made myself more marketable within the WWE in the process. Do I really need to place myself in the line of fire again? To me, it's 50-50 we ever see Lesnar again.
Gall: Yeah, it showed that he's still that same Aldo who won almost 20 fights in a row, was undefeated for 10 years. He's still that guy. It kind of shows that -- I don't want to say it was a lucky punch -- but if Aldo fought McGregor 100 more times, I'm sure there's not going to be another 13-second knockout. I'd be really excited to see a rematch. I hope Conor doesn't get locked up in a trilogy with Nate Diaz. I know Dana White said Conor will go back to Aldo after UFC 202, but I also heard McGregor talking about a trilogy with Nate. So, I hope he does go back and fights Aldo at his proper weight class. In hindsight, I definitely think Conor got in Aldo's head and had him fighting too aggressively. That first punch he landed was a result of all that talk. You saw how Aldo was fighting Frankie, it was different. Aldo went into that Conor fight hot and that was it.
Okamoto: Didn't necessarily change my feelings on it. What it did was say, "Hey, Conor, if you're coming back to 145 pounds, this is the fight." Before Saturday, there were two fights: Aldo and Edgar. Now, no more questions about what opponent it should be challenging McGregor's title. If he wants to defend it, obviously it's Aldo. As far as changing my view of what a rematch would look like, not really. If McGregor fights Aldo a second time, I will pick McGregor to win. I won't be picking him to win in 13 seconds and I wouldn't expect it to be an easy fight, but I picked McGregor in their first meeting because I thought he had the right style and athletic makeup to beat him, plus I thought he was in his head. I still think all three of those things. Aldo is one of the greatest fighters I've ever had the pleasure of covering, but what he did to Edgar on Saturday doesn't change my pick in an Aldo, McGregor rematch.