TSN.ca's MMA staff, including John Pollock - TSN Radio 1050 (@iamjohnpollock), James Lynch - TSN.ca (@lynchonsports), and Jordan Cieciwa - TSN Radio 1290 (@FitCityJordan), take a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.
1) Does Antonio (Bigfoot) Silva deserve his title shot against Cain Velasquez at UFC 160?
Lynch - I take no credit away from Silva's spectacular third round knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 156, but considering under a year ago Velasquez dismantled the Brazilian in the second round at UFC 146, I think a rematch is too soon.
I know many pundits will argue that the heavyweight division is thin on contenders; but considering Daniel Cormier is undefeated (and knocked out Silva in 2011), he should automatically earn that title shot. Obviously there are two conflicts of interest here with Cormier fighting Frank Mir in April and being a teammate of Velasquez's at AKA.
I say take the Strikeforce Tournament Winner out of the Mir match, show him the money and make this fight happen. In my opinion, it's a much more intriguing matchup than Silva vs. Velasquez II.
Pollock - The heavyweight picture got scrambled following Alistair Overeem's loss at UFC 156 and there was no clear cut number one contender in my estimation. After a five-round dominant performance by Cain Velasquez against Junior Dos Santos in December, I wasn't itching to see a rematch this soon and realistically Silva is the best option they have right now. The strength of the matchmaking is putting this on the Memorial Day weekend card with the co-feature of Overeem vs. Dos Santos and creating an unofficial four-man tournament and will certainly perform adequately in a worst case scenario.
You cannot survey the current UFC heavyweight division and argue that a guy was robbed of a title shot with this matchmaking choice with the strongest argument being made for Daniel Cormier to be most deserving and that won't be happening as long as AKA teammate Velasquez is holding the title.
JC - Silva looked better than we have ever seen him. With the ranking system what it is, you can make a case for any fighter out there fighting for the championship right now. I'd like to see Cormier have a shot at it, maybe even Werdum. If I was making the cards, Cormier and Werdum would step in the cage to decide who gets the next shot.
As Pollock pointed out, this card that has all four fighters will bring a little clarity to the situation. The big confusion is Strikeforce and how their guys fit the mix. Werdum and Cormier are very talented competitors and threw a wrench in the heavyweight picture. Anyway you cut it, Bigfoot is jumping the cue, but his knockout on Overeem has made him the talk of the town. It's not far fetched to think he only needed one more win to get his shot. Although, Silva is by passing two guys who beat him in Cormier and Werdum.
2) Does TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) have a place in MMA?
Lynch - Yes, if used properly. It's my understanding based off some of the research I've looked at, that fighters (and other full contact competitors) over the years lose their normal levels of testosterone due to hits, concussions etc. People get confused and immediately look at TRT as cheating or trying to have an edge over other competitors. I look at TRT the same way as someone getting knee surgery; essentially you're just replacing a weak (or damaged) part of the body and making it function normally. I do however think if a fighter is using this treatment it should be public and they should be tested regularly to avoid any misuse of this treatment.
Pollock - In its current incarnation and method of operation I say “no”. This is not a black and white, “right” or “wrong” answer because it boils down to your philosophical issues in regards to the spirit of sport, the aging process and what constitutes artificial enhancement as opposed to abiding by state of the art preparation for a fight.
Listen, everyone is going to see a decrease in their testosterone levels as aging occurs and the argument becomes whether athletes should be allowed to curb this natural reduction with testosterone. We are also in a sports culture where blood doping and EPO is illegal and yet hyperbaric chambers that increase your red blood cells are allowable. Is it fair to allow for laser eye surgery and giving an athlete perfect 20/20 vision?
I personally feel that the current testing methods are so beyond modern that the loophole for those using artificial testosterone is way too big. In Nevada you are allowed a T/E ratio of 6:1 (meaning there can be as much as six times the amount of testosterone in one's system to their naturally produced epitestosterone).
The current commissions only test for urine and not blood meaning that without taking blood and using the CIR (carbon isotope ratio) test you cannot detect artificial testosterone. In a nutshell, this means you can pack your body with artificial testosterone during camp, level down and still have six-times the amount in your system and pass a test with flying colors.
In conclusion, I think a couple of steps to be taken would be regular out of competition testing, all TRT recipients being tested during their camp, the addition of blood testing with the CIR test implemented and a more modest T/E ratio of 4:1, which is used in the Olympics and California among others.
JC - No. It is not an exact science, guys are getting away with elevated Test levels. It's an unfair advantage and a terrible excuse to cheat. I need a good doctor to tell me otherwise before I believe these athletes legitamately have an issue with their endocrine system. If they do, look for a new job, this one is not for you.
3) Should Bellator end their legal battle with Eddie Alvarez and let him fight in the UFC?
Lynch - Absolutely and I don't think anyone (aside from the executives at Viacom) wants to see this legal mess proceed any further. I've been a Bellator fan since the promotion made its debut back in 2009 and keeping their former champion hostage over some legal nonsense only damages Bellators credibility. I understand the promotion doesn't want to keep losing fighters to the UFC (such as Hector Lombard) and their lightweight division is thin, but it's just the nature of the business and has nothing to do with the Blackzillian member.
The 29-year old completely fulfilled his contract, was an extremely respectful champion and has every right to move on after his contract ended. I don't understand what the promotion is trying to achieve even if Alvarez comes back. The way he's been treated, a professional relationship between the two parties going forward seems almost impossible. As well, what type of fighters would want to sign with Bellator after witnessing this type of contractual disaster? President and CEO Bjory Rebney needs to do the right thing and put an end to this sooner rather than later.
Pollock - No they should not. I understand this isn't the popular opinion but Bellator is simply fighting to enforce the contract they presented to Eddie Alvarez in 2008 and that Alvarez willingly signed without a gun to his head. The contract stated that Bellator had the right to match any competing outside offer at the end of the deal and if it was a match they would retain the rights to Alvarez. It is an extremely suffocating deal if you are a Bellator fighter, but one that Alvarez signed in 2008 when the UFC was unwilling to pay the amount Bellator was offering.
The ceiling for Alvarez is much higher in the UFC because of the pay-per-view points and had Alvarez gotten onto the UFC 158 or 159 cards as a co-feature, he stood to make over $1,000,000 for that fight, but that is not for Bellator to dispute it is for a judge to agree to.
This is a business and Bellator is fighting to retain a highly valued asset rather than roll over and give the UFC one of their key fighters, so if Bellator can enforce their contract than more power to them.
JC - A contract is the basis of how we do business in the world. From a nice guy and the growth of the sport standpoint, it should get dropped. From the letter of the law, this needs to get fought all the way.
Bellator created Alvarez, gave him a venue to build a solid reputation and a name. They deserve to be able to match any deal as is stated in the contract, and keep him as their property. If Alvarez was smart, he would have figured out a way to make the Bellator deal more lucrative to himself. They have avenues, and opportunities that he isn't exploring. Randy Couture is making a lot of money with them.
Alvarez stays according to his contract, and if he is smart, sits down with Viacom to discuss how to grow his image. There is a massive machine behind Bellator, something a lot of fighters have not exploited.