It's Monday, time for another edition of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, which airs live starting at 1 p.m. ET on Twitter and YouTube. Following the show, the entirety can be heard via the ESPN podcast center.
Boy, that was some kinda weekend in MMA. From UFC to Bellator to KSW to Cage Warriors, among many others, a lot happened over the past few days.
The train doesn't slow down this weekend, with the UFC's return to Ottawa, plus Invicta's one-night strawweight tournament, Bellator back in Europe, ONE Championship, LFA and much more. If you're into a lot of fighting all day, every day, you must be in heaven.
Here are some random thoughts on the week that was, and the week to come, in MMA:
1. I can't stop thinking about Rory MacDonald's postfight interview after his majority draw against Jon Fitch on Saturday night. I have a lot of mixed emotions after watching it a few times. On the one hand, I saw this coming. You should have, too.
If you recall his last appearance on the show, he talked about not feeling like himself before and during his eventual loss to Gegard Mousasi last year. He talked about not being able to pull the trigger when he wanted to. But to hear him speak the way he did in the cage just moments after the loss made me both happy and a bit sad. Happy because MacDonald is one of the most authentic fighters in the game. He tells it like it is. He is never fake, consequences be damned. So for him to open up like that, in front of a paying audience and his promoters, took a lot of chutzpah.
"It's hard to pull the trigger. I don't have that killer instinct. It's hard to explain. ... It takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain, and I don't know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore."
- Rory MacDonald after tonight's majority draw.
- Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 28, 2019
Bellator couldn't have been happy hearing him say what he did, especially when it recently signed him to a lucrative deal and is expecting him to turn around in six weeks to fight Neiman Gracie in the second round of the welterweight Grand Prix at Madison Square Garden. But that's MacDonald. He's incredibly introspective and thoughtful, two qualities that are quite rare in sports these days, especially in a postgame or postfight interview.
I didn't know it was possible, but my respect for MacDonald grew even more after watching that. It also made me sad because here's one of the best fighters in the world essentially telling us he doesn't really feel like hurting another man anymore. That's an incredible admission coming from a 15-year veteran of the sport. For those that don't know, MacDonald has been fighting professionally since he was 16. Yes, 16 years old.
It's been a long journey for the Canadian. So to see the competitive flame slowly die inside of him is a bit sad, because I do believe he is the second-greatest Canadian fighter ever, behind his mentor and friend Georges St-Pierre. Of course, you wonder about CTE, about the Robbie Lawler brawl, about the broken noses ... you wonder what toll those 15 years took on a very smart young man. I won't lie, it also makes me wonder what we're all doing watching and covering this crazy sport. It's hard to hear that kind of honesty, sometimes. We are watching human beings hurt each other in a cage, after all. But mostly, it makes me happy because MacDonald told it like it is, the same way he always has.
2. I asked MacDonald to come on the show today, but he politely declined. I totally get it. Hope to speak to him someday soon, though.
3. All that being said, I hope Bellator decides against booking MacDonald versus Gracie on June 14. Why rush it? If Gracie must fight on that card, just have him fight Fitch and let MacDonald face the winner of the whole tournament, which is what I always thought should have happened to begin with. But if Bellator really wants that fight, and I have no problem with MacDonald advancing despite the draw because he didn't lose the belt, then just push it back a couple of months.
4. By the way, I really dislike it when UFC and Bellator hold events on the same night, at the same time. I like focusing on one at a time. Call me old-fashioned like that.
5. Jack Hermansson's win over Jacare Souza also brought a mix of emotions. On the one hand, hot damn, that was an inspiring win by The Joker. Remember, he last fought four short weeks ago and now here he is in his first UFC main event thoroughly beating one of the best middleweights ever. It was incredible to watch, especially considering that hardly anyone seemed to favor him before the fighht. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder if this was it for the 39-year-old Souza. He told me last month that if he didn't get a title shot after this fight he'd retire. Well, he isn't getting a title shot after this fight, and now he is in danger of becoming one of the best to never fight for a UFC title.
6. Class move by Bellator women's flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane to say she will give Veta Arteaga an immediate rematch after their fight ended via doctor stoppage due to a gruesome cut on Saturday. Despite the win, that fight ended up being a lot tougher than most suspected for Macfarlane.
7. Show me a person who says they don't enjoy Mike Perry and I'll show you a liar. He's just so darn fun. From that dance-off before the fight with Alex Oliveira to his actual performance in the fight itself, it was just stellar stuff all around from Platinum Mike. Also, that was by far his best performance since 2017. Great rebound fight for Perry.
8. I'm sorry, but Dana White's whole "I don't know where we found that Dmitrii Smoliakov guy" routine after Greg Hardy annihilated the Russian in half a round doesn't pass the smell test for me. White is heavily invested in Hardy because he's a product of his Contender Series show and comes along with a whole lot of baggage. He has to be, and that's OK. So I don't believe for a second that he also isn't fully up to speed with whom he is fighting before each and every UFC bout. Now, I don't believe White is handpicking these guys -- that's matchmaker Mick Maynard's job -- but White is no doubt aware of their résumés. And what's wrong with that? What's wrong with saying, 'Yeah, we gave him a tuneup fight after his debut didn't go so well.' I'd appreciate that candor much more.
9. Nothing annoys me more than when a crowd boos a fighter who has just won a really fun, hard-fought bout. I know that was a pro-Brazilian crowd, but Cory Sandhagen actually deserved to win that fight, and he certainly didn't deserve to get showered with boos afterward. I felt bad for him because you could tell the boos bugged him, as they should have. Please be better, fans.
10. The UFC's return to Abu Dhabi is now official, but if you're a fan in Sacramento, San Antonio, Uruguay and SoCal, you may be getting some good news in the near future. Stay tuned.
11. Speaking of the already-reported Sacramento event on July 13, which was first mentioned by Brazilian outlet Combate, I wonder if that would be too soon for the return of Sacramento's favorite son, Urijah Faber?
12. Noticed Darren Till deleted his Twitter and Instagram accounts. I reached out to him to see how he is doing but didn't get a reply. I hope he's able to get things back on track because it's been a rough few months for him.
13. If you're looking for Yoel Romero on Tuesday, he'll be in a New Jersey courtroom because he is suing Goldstar Performance Products for products liability, negligence and fraud, per his manager Abraham Kawa. This stems from his 2016 USADA suspension for testing positive for the banned substance Ibutamoren, which was found in a contaminated supplement he ingested and purchased from Goldstar. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
14. As of last week, the UFC still wanted to attempt to book Romero versus Paulo Costa one more time later this summer. Feels like the 65th attempt to book this fight (or the third).
15. I have no idea who or what to believe in the Costa/USADA/NYSAC story, but I'm just happy the saga is over. This went on way too long. There needs to be a quicker way. Also, everyone who accused Romero of speaking out of turn when he said on the show recently that Costa failed a drug test owes him an apology. Did Costa get caught using steroids like many suspected? No. But he did violate the anti-doping policy twice for his use of IVs.
16. That scene where Jim Miller's young family was rooting him on during his record-setting 32nd UFC fight was simply amazing. Miller is a pro's pro, and it's great seeing him still thriving in the UFC after all these years and his recent bout with Lyme disease.
"My dad is tougher than your dad."
- ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 27, 2019
17. I'm really enjoying what Cage Warriors and KSW, in particular, are doing these days. They are both developing solid talent and putting together fun shows. Here's to more from the European promotions.
18. Tito Ortiz is kind of the perfect signing for Combate Americas, considering Ortiz's name and Mexican roots. Not sure whom he'll fight (please don't say Alberto Del Rio), but I don't hate the signing.
19. By now you've likely heard that Tony Ferguson has parted ways with Paradigm Sports Management and signed with Ballengee Group. Paradigm is without a doubt one of the best management teams in MMA, but it has long felt like a conflict of interest for it to represent Ferguson and fellow lightweight Conor McGregor. Managers can represent multiple title contenders, but considering the tension between the two and the fact that the fight never seemed to be considered, it felt like it was time. If McGregor still wants to return later this year, and if Ferguson is healthy enough to return, too, that would be the one to make, in my opinion. Lots there.
20. What a bizarre run it has been for Nicco Montano. I do hope she can fight and win again in the UFC.
22. UFC is back in my nation's capital, Ottawa, this weekend. And what a main event, eh? I love Iaquinta vs. Cerrone and expect it to be a really fun fight.
Today's lineup + times
1:05 p.m. - Cory Sandhagen
Sandhagen will look back at his win over John Lineker on Saturday night.
1:25 - Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
The Bellator women's flyweight champion will discuss her bloody victory over Veta Arteaga on Saturday.
1:45 - Mike Perry
Perry will recap his win over Alex Oliveira and discuss what's next for him.
2:05 - Sean O'Malley
O'Malley will preview his return to the Octagon at UFC 239 on July 6.
2:25 - Al Iaquinta
Raging Al will preview his UFC Ottawa main event against Donald Cerrone this weekend.
2:45 - Firas Zahabi
Zahabi will discuss Rory MacDonald's future after his majority draw against Jon Fitch this weekend.
3:05 - Molly McCann
McCann will update us on her broken orbital bone and preview her return to action on June 22 against Ariane Lipski.
3:25 - Lilian Garcia
The former WWE ring announcer will stop by.
3:45 - Jack Hermansson
The Joker will recap his massive win over Jacare Souza this past weekend.