(Disclaimer: This will be long. I write long things, if you’re clicking on something I wrote you should know this by now. These thoughts are all stuck in my head 24/7 and I subject anonymous strangers to them instead of my family. You chose to click on this, don’t blame me for your decisions.)
Hello again friends! Tis the time of year when the air gets crisper, the weather gets colder, and leaves change color. It’s all a sign that we are rounding the final corner and are about to put another year in the books. When I look back and reflect on 2023, I have to admit, it’s been a helluva good year for me. Things are going well with LadyCrete, TinyCrete is happy and healthy, I left my stressful old job, fell into what so far appears to be my dream gig, started TRT and Ozempic, lost 50lbs, got back in the gym 6 days a week, and overall feel 25 again. Yes fellas, in *that* way too. After 6 months on TRT, I can tell you that Vitor Belfort’s wife (and the multiple hip replacement surgeries she MUST have had) is the biggest victim of TRT Vitor. Shit gives you more wood than an Amazonian lumberjack.
Yet, with all those positive changes and things going so well, I find myself still not fully happy. Like a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner but no utensils to eat it with, I find that something is preventing me from truly enjoying the beautiful bounty before me. I’m not what anyone would call "emotionally intelligent" (in fact I’m anything from "emotionally stunted" to a "gaping asshole" depending on which ex-gf you’re asking) so this took me awhile to work through. But I think I have it figured out. It’s my favorite sport that is bothering me.
Now, to be fair, there have always been things about MMA that one must hold their nose at and ignore to be a fan, but I’m not talking about any of those. I’m talking about two things that are rearing their ugly heads more and more and are just driving me (more) crazy (than usual). The first is bad officiating. It’s become a disaster and there is no consistency, but more on that in a future post. This is about the second problem, the one that could potentially kill our sport. And what do I think is a more dire threat to our sport than bad officiating?
Divas. Divas have begun infecting our sport, carefully curating their careers, and jamming up promising and once-great divisions alike. It’s truly insidious and happens the same way time and again. A promising fighter joins the roster. They get a few wins and begin talking all the shit on social media. Rinse and repeat until they get a ranked fight (how long this takes invariably depends on how the fans respond to said fighter). Nothing wrong with any of that so far, that’s the fight game, the problem comes after they win their first ranked fight. The diva-ness begins. They refuse to fight down the rankings, and they just SIT there until they finally get the most favorable matchup possible to boost their ranking. They’ll often wait 8-12+ months between fights just for the absolute perfect situation, and if something happens, they almost never accept the short notice replacement unless it is COMPLETELY stilted in their favor. If they win, the process again repeats. As they rise, the whining becomes louder, the gap between fights longer, and their performance in the fights more mediocre.
If they keep winning these carefully chosen fights, eventually this jackassery is rewarded with a title shot. And if they win that, God help us and the division. It becomes a complete logjam while they try to demand more money/demand to box Jake Paul or another celebrity/demand to move up-down for another belt/demand a completely undeserving fighter for a defense/you name it. You probably have someone pictured in your head as I describe this, so we all know it’s happening. And is it not this exact type of career curation and selective fighting that turned so many of us off boxing? We see it beginning in our sport, but like a dumbass caught in quicksand, we’re just watching it crawl past our ankles, not doing anything until it’s too late.
To make things even worse, like a virus, this behavior is replicating. We have one division completely jammed and at least two to three more that are nearing "severely impacted colon" levels of blockage. Soon, everything will be completely stopped up and the only MMA we’ll get is the unfortunate colostomy bag that is Piffle. I, for one, would like to avoid the entertainment equivalent of wearing shit under my shirt, so let’s try to get ahead of this before it’s too late. And I can think of no better way to do that than to trace this epidemic to the source and start with Patient Zero of the current Diva Epidemic: Leon Edwards.
To be clear, Divas have been around as long as combat sports. But, also like a virus, they evolve over time. So, while there have been other divas throughout the UFC’s history, this current, most dangerous iteration, is the one we will be focusing on.
What makes Lenny here so dangerous you may be wondering? What separates him from the divas of the past? A few things dear reader, but to put it simply… he is a combination of traits that present a bleak and soul sucking future for our sport if widely adopted by other fighters. Specifically, he climbed the ladder to a title shot based on an overinflated and carefully curated "unbeaten streak" coupled with copious amounts of shit talking that was never backed up; and once he obtained the belt he immediately has set out to avoid any true threat to him. The fighters in the division see this, and think "why not me too?" and start doing the same thing. And hey, the strategy DOES work if one guy is doing it. But if everyone does it? You end up with a mess like the current feces-bloated carcass of the once great WW division.
Right now, some of you are going "hold on, you crazy, but newly svelte and sexy man! There is one problem with your theory. If you’re right, how come he won the belt? And if you’re right, how on Earth was he able to defend it?" Great question. Hold onto it. The answer is what ties my entire argument together. But we gotta build to it. We have to have a solid foundation before we build our house. Remember, this is my post, I said it was going to be long. You don’t like it, well, I don’t remember inviting you in the first place.
To start, let’s take a look at this much vaunted "streak" that got him the title shot in the first place. Here are the 10 opponents he fought before his title shot, in the order he fought them:
· Dominic Waters
· Albert Tumenov
· Vicente Luque
· Bryan Barberena
· Peter Sobotta
· Donald Cerrone
· Gunnar Nelson
· Rafael Dos Anjos
· Belal Muhammad
· Nate Diaz
At first blush, not bad! There are some names we recognize! But be careful, that’s one of the symptoms of this particular outbreak. They make their resume look good at first glance, when really they’re thinner than truck stop toilet paper that’s sponsored by Mary-Kate Olsen. So, let’s look deeper.
Of those 10 names, there are 5 that I would argue have some "name value" (and I’m being very generous with the term): Belal, Nate, RDA, Cowboy, and Luque. Of those 5, 3 are LWs that moved up, were at least six years older than him, and were reaching the very tail of their prime (best case) when they fought. Of the remaining two, Luque and Belal, he beat Luque five and a half years before the title shot and Belal was a no contest. This is not a strong resume for a title shot. And the renaming names really don’t beef it up much either.
Quick aside: can we just please fucking agree about who I classified as having "name value?" I’ll grant you, if you’re reading this, you probably know more names on this list than most. We’re not simply fans here, we’re called "maniacs" for a reason. I put Belal in the "name value" category, that’s my olive branch, take it. I’m not arguing about Bryan Barberena and if he is "well known" or not. For the purposes of this (and in objective reality), he is not.
Anyways, the remaining names are:
· Dominic Waters
· Albert Tumenov
· Bryan Barberena
· Peter Sobotta
· Gunnar Nelson
Who really stands out on this list as a killer or someone even near the top of the division? Barberena is fun to watch, and Nelson is good, sure, I’ll grant that. But Nelson has fought 3 times in four years and Barberena is 18-11. I’m not sure how anyone could argue these guys are anything but fringe top-25 at best. And… that’s it. That’s the resume for a championship fight apparently.
To recap, Lenny was given a title shot for:
· Beating three older, puffed up LWs that were on the last gasps of their prime
· Beating five low-to-mid tier WW’s
· Eyepoking Belal
· Beating Luque five years before his title shot
Y’all know that pizza chain Little Caesars? Where you can get an extra-large pie of grease soaked asbestos for like $5? Where their motto is "It’s ‘Hot’ and it’s ‘Ready.’" But no one ever says anything about it being ‘Good.’ That’s this winning streak. A fugazzi ball of bullshit and grease being passed off as something real.
Finally, let’s look at how he won on this streak. Of those ten fights that got him a title shot, he had… two finishes. Two (2). Seven decisions. One no-contest. That is a record of fight performance as sexy and alluring as Hank Hill twerking.
Just for comparison, after Vicente Luque lost to Leon Edwards, he ALSO went on a bit of streak…
Luque went 10-1 over a four-year period with 9 stoppages over that time. The only blemish on his record was one of the last vintage Wonderboy performances in what was a pretty exciting fight. Some of his wins include names like Niko Price, Jalin Turner, Bryan Barberena, Mike Perry, Tyron Woodley, and Michael Chiesa. Are those names not comparable to the ones on Lenny’s resume? And Luque was beating them by stoppage over a much shorter turnaround time than Leon, but… no one ever really considered Luque for a title shot.
Why? Because one person says shit like this:
and the other says shit like this:
It’s plain as day. The humble ass kicker gets shafted in the keister with a traffic cone while the colicky diva crying and spitting up on himself gets a title shot. And we’re just gonna ignore the rest of the batshit awful things Lenny says, because I don’t want to have a stroke and my family’s last memory of me to be my body slumped over my computer. But he says a lot of dumb things and they’re out there. Like Jorge Masvidal being deserving of a title shot because ‘there’s a story there.’ Or denying Belal his rightful rematch because it was ‘settled.’ Or many others. Google them if you don’t believe I’m not here to do all your research for you. You’re getting 100% of what you paid for with this post already.
Anyways, prior to that title shot being announced in late 2021, we had two (three if you count Belal, but well… who ever does?) potential guys had a reasonable argument for a title shot. One guy was 9-0-1 with 7 decisions. The other guy was 10-1 with 9 stoppages. These guys had fought each other 4+ years ago at the time. Keep in mind, part of the whole selling of Usman/Edwards 2 was on this exact premise of a rematch with both guys continuing to win. That looks like a rematch for the #1 contender to me and anyone else looking at it objectively; but that didn’t happen because Lenny went full whiny diva and the other guy was too nice to call him on his bullshit. And the rest is history. Lenny capitalized on his moment and is now the champ.
Now, those who doubt me on this are just howling "this proves the exact opposite! Luque went on to lose to Belal and Geoff Neal, while Leon beat Usman twice! This proves he was the rightful #1 contender!" To which I answer "Exactly. Leon appears to be a CLEARLY better fighter. So why was there room for any debate in the first place?" Let’s circle back to the question from waaaaay earlier about how Leon could have won the belt AND defended it against an all-time welterweight.
Please notice, none of my criticisms or complaints about Leon are about his actual skill. They’re about everything else. The man has the technical ability to win a fight with a pure striker like Wonderboy, and the takedown defense to keep someone like Usman at bay. He’s fast, powerful, slick, with great instincts, and a great ability to manage and control range. These parts of Leon’s game are undeniable.
Seriously, think about this, the man genuinely has the physical abilities to become champ while effectively half-assing it in the cage. The man is not maximizing his potential. He has the gifts to be able to dictate a fight, keep it standing, pepper up his opponents with speed and power shots, force them into mistakes, and finish them. But he DOESN’T. He is content with just controlling the range and winning on points, instead of pushing the action. I cannot tell you how nuts this drives me. It’s like having a Ferrari and only taking it to the grocery store and never doing over 25 mph. You see it, you know what it can do, you see the potential, and it never even gets out of second gear. I’m frankly a little shocked I’m the only one this has driven so crazy. I want to see him at full speed the whole time, don’t just give me a taste with your back up against the wall 24 minutes into your title shot!
And that is the essence of why he is so dangerous to our sport. The man is giving minimum effort and still is a champion! Do you understand how rare that is?! But because he decisions everyone and is about as exciting as a highball of Nyquil washing down some Xanax, now every jackass welterweight with an accent thinks that they can play the same game when they are not as good as he is. Lenny bridged the gap from divas like Conor and made it accessible to the masses. Instead of being a character AND being a pretty good fighter (say what you will about him now, the Mystic Mac days at FW are not easily replicated), fighters saw a path to the promised land through unremarkable mediocrity. And they have flocked to it. Hardly anyone notices that we haven’t even seen Lenny’s true ceiling yet, he just figures out how to do enough to win convincingly, yet safely.
Here’s a stat of Lenny’s I’ve held back: Of his 11 total decision wins: he has 1 major decision, 1 split decision, and 1 technical decision (pre-UFC). The rest are unanimous decisions. Think about the judging we see regularly. A guy getting 8 of 11 decisions unanimously says quite a lot, particularly with fuckers like Sal D'Amato running around. Lenny is not a mediocre fighter by a long shot, but he’s enabled mediocre fighters to think they can be like him. And that is causing problems! Divas are a part of sports, but they have to be rare. When that rare talent comes in the sport that has the ability to back up being a diva, they need to back it up convincingly. This demonstrates that they are the rare talent they proclaim themselves to be, and show everyone else that they are different from the masses. By pretending to be one of the mediocre, he lets the mediocre fighters think they can get to where he is by acting like him. And we all suffer from the clogged divisions as the pretenders ever so goddamn slowly get exposed.
So, what do we do? I think we have effectively traced the root of the problem that is infecting our sport, but what can we do about it? Well. We can let Leon know that we will not accept less than his absolute best. We let him know we want to see him bite down on his mouthpiece, and use those skills and gifts to utterly dominate the people in front of him. When his back was against the wall against Usman, when it was all on the line, Lenny threw caution to the wind and threw a head-kick that will be on highlight reels forever. That tells me that greatness is in there, but needs to be pulled out through adversity.
And that’s my plan. To fix Lenny, and thereby set the division right again, we must make Lenny face adversity. And I can think of no better way than to boo him. We must boo this man mercilessly at every opportunity and let him feel the disappointment of our unmet expectations! That’s why I’m so hard on Leon, I will not be satisfied until I see his best performance. I’m just showing him tough love and telling him what he needs to hear to achieve his true potential. And the more of us that do that, the better chance we have of saving our sport.
Soon, Leon will be climbing in the cage against Colby for another defense. The small, optimistic part of me will watch with growing sadness and disappointment as I see a potential all-time great jab-jab-circle his way to another unimpressive five round decision. I hope you all will join me in booing him when this happens. Through our joint efforts, we can stop Typhoid Lenny, Patient Zero of the CODIVA outbreak.