<
>

Five Rounds: Contracts, Cyborg and if the UFC should give Alvarez the fight he wants

Each week, Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts. He's joined this week by UFC lightweight Jorge Masvidal.


1. Cris 'Cyborg' Justino will make her second UFC appearance at 140 pounds this weekend. Should she be fighting at this weight, which is difficult for her to make?

Jorge Masvidal: I definitely disagree with it. I used to see her back in Strikeforce when I was at 155 pounds, she was just as lean and big as me and I was like, 'Wow, how does she make 145?' To the casual fan who doesn't cut weight and doesn't know, it's crazy to even lose one pound. When I was making 155, that was it. I couldn't have made 153 or 154. It wouldn't have mattered how much money was on the line. I was so depleted. When I got to 160, it was like every pound after that was a fight for my life. Book her to a 145-pound fight in the UFC. People will come up to that weight. They'll say, 'Man, I don't have to cut at all anymore.' It's only going to lead to more fighters at that weight.

Okamoto: The whole idea of having her fight at 140 pounds in the first place was to gauge whether she could ever make 135. She made 140 when she fought Leslie Smith, and has since said she won't ever go to 135. I think at this point, you take her word for it. I don't necessarily blame the UFC for some of its previous stances regarding Justino's weight and wanting her to at least attempt a cut to 135, but we've hit a spot here where I think the company needs to promote her for what she is: A 145-pound champion. Let her defend her Invicta featherweight title in the UFC. If she continues to finish opponents in the first round, her star power will only rise and with that will come options. There will be UFC bantamweights who see her as an opportunity that makes sense for them. And if at that point, the three sides need to discuss the possibility of a 140-pound catchweight, then discuss it -- but for a super fight. For a random fight like this weekend? What's the point?


2. UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta has turned down an offer to fight in New York due to a contract holdout. What are your thoughts on Iaquinta's decision?

Masvidal: Obviously, I've got a sore subject with him (Iaquinta defeated Masvidal via split decision last year) and I don't know all the details, but from what I heard it's pretty crazy. Not giving him any more fight night bonuses, that's f---ing nuts. I commend him. He's got balls to do something like that. Doesn't matter if you like or dislike a person, we're all fighters. We should all want the best for each other. I get happy when I hear somebody has made five million, six million, 10 million. I want to keep hearing that. That's what we deserve. We risk our lives to put on a show and train year-round. We should be getting paid to where we don't feel like we need a second job. I don't know his contract, but he's standing his ground.

Okamoto: We're seeing more and more of these. Former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold just did something similar regarding his next fight. Nate Diaz demanded specific negotiations for his rematch against Conor McGregor. Whether this turns into a full-blown trend or not, Iaquinta can't be viewed as an isolated incident and you can bet plenty of UFC fighters will be paying attention to how this turns out. Personally, I'm not necessarily in favor of every single fighter feeling he or she needs to renegotiate between every fight -- but read Iaquinta's statements on why he no longer feels beholden to that contract. He doesn't believe he negotiated that deal in a fair environment. He's not the only athlete under UFC contract to feel this way. There is a big picture aspect to this to keep an eye on.


3. Was UFC lightweight Michael Johnson out of line in his postfight celebration over Dustin Poirier last weekend in Hidalgo, Texas?

Masvidal: I don't know. I've done some things too when a round is over. My opponent is down and I'll stand over him. We play a lot of mental games in this sport. But if the dude's already knocked out, you're not really trying to get in his head anymore because he's already done. I don't know. It was a little overboard. Maybe I feel that way because Dustin is a friend and a teammate, but it's fighting, you know? We're always trying to get in each other's heads. It's not like [Johnson] is a bad person. It's just, we get in there, this s--- happens. But I did think it was a little overboard.

Okamoto: He apologized to Poirier afterwards, which is pretty much the end of it to me. If Johnson had a history of these kinds of celebrations, it'd be a different story, but this was his first appearance of 2016 due to a shoulder surgery and his first victory in three fights. Emotions ran high. It looked like Poirier accepted his apology immediately after. There was a lot of energy in this fight -- before it, during it, after it. I'll never advocate against that. Johnson standing over Poirier and shouting at him wasn't a good move in the moment, but I think we're safe to move on from it.


4. UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez has repeatedly stated he wants to fight Conor McGregor, while president Dana White recently stated Khabib Nurmagomedov is the No. 1 contender. Should Alvarez be allowed to pick his opponent?

Masvidal: I don't want to be in trouble for giving an answer, but I think if you're the champion -- a fight like this, first time in New York, Conor McGregor is at your weight and the biggest name? Why not?

Okamoto: In general, a champion needs to take on all opponents. I wouldn't advocate for a champion to call out a midtier guy and snub a very obvious title challenger. This combat sport thrives because the best typically fight the best. You don't see a world champion superstar padding his or her record. In this scenario though, I don't see why the UFC would stand in the way of Alvarez's request to fight McGregor. McGregor was already supposed to fight for the lightweight title earlier this year. The promotion gave him that opportunity against Rafael dos Anjos, but the fight fell through when dos Anjos was injured. As great as Khabib Nurmagomedov is, he has just one win in the past two years and that was over an unranked opponent. He's worthy of a title shot, but he's not the only option that makes sense. You can make a case for McGregor as a No. 1 contender, so if that's who the champion wants -- like Masvidal said, why not?


5. Is Chael Sonnen the biggest signing in Bellator MMA history? Why or why not?

Masvidal: Yeah, they've gotten guys like [former UFC lightweight champion] Benson Henderson before who have won a world title, but nobody who is a needle over like Chael. Chael's been in all kinds of controversy since he started his ride, got that Nate Marquardt fight [in 2010], started talking up a storm and really since then he's been one of the most recognizable dudes in the sport. So, it's definitely their biggest signing. I would love to hear the numbers on his contract and Chael said there's more to him leaving the UFC, so I would like to know what happened. I don't know, but Bellator is paying out big bucks to a lot of fighters.

Okamoto: Yes, Sonnen is Bellator's biggest acquisition to date. Some day, hopefully, we'll look back and say that's false. We'll say the promotion's ability to sign potential phenoms like Aaron Pico, Ed Ruth, Tyrell Fortune, Jarod Trice, etc. I still think it's crucial Bellator proves at some point it can sign and build its own talent (and draws), rather than relying on paying for established ones. But of course, considering what Masvidal said, Sonnen is one of the most absolutely recognizable fighters in the world today. This signing is huge for Bellator.