I had the pleasure of being the guest on Jordan Breen's Press Row segment. We spent just under 37 minutes discussing Saturday's Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley event with a heavy focus on discussing the main event. The segment can be listened to (and downloaded) over at Sherdog.
When Jordan asked if there is there is any way other than holding the Strikeforce title for Paul Daley to end up back in the UFC I answered:
I think the only path back for Daley would be basically to beat Diaz and beat Diaz impressively. Everyone talks about how with Dana White, he's always willing to go back on his word as far as saying a guy will never be back....but with Daley it seems to be a legitimate case of Dana White not wanting him back. [a loss to Diaz means] "The last two times he faced top ten opposition, he got beat. So it's not worth having him back with the baggage he brings."
Obviously this is something I've talked about at many points, including earlier today.
We then discussed the idea that Daley and other top 15 or top 10 talents are viewed of as so disposable by many MMA fans:
Breen: It's not even just Paul Daley. This is a pervasive attitude in mixed martial arts. There's a lot of people that seem quite serious about the UFC cutting Michael Bisping for spitting at Jorge Rivera's corner. Now, regardless of what you think about Michael Bisping, one of the ideas that seem to be embedded in these comments is "well, Michael Bisping is entirely replaceable. He hasn't turned into this kind of star that they'd hoped." And people think he's not so good that they would be losing a title challenger. So here's a top 15-ish middleweight, who doesn't have the skills to beat the top guys in the division. But he's still relatively notable. He's someone people like to root against and some people love to root for. And yet people are still incredibly indifferent to weather or not he actually fights there. And they don't care what future awaits him because he can't beat Anderson Silva.
What informs that kind of MMA attitude. It's very, very bizarre that the only human beings who matter in mixed martial arts are those who can threaten a champion and if you don't meet that criteria people seem to have no use for you.
Brookhouse: I don't know if it's that MMA is the first sport that a lot of the fans have really grasped on to. I mean, when I talk to people everyday on Bloody Elbow there are people who say that they've never liked a sport before but then they got into MMA. So maybe they don't understand the realities of something where there's a top down order to the sport and there is a lot of value in that 1-A or 2nd tier. Those are the guys who aren't elite but they're valuable as gatekeepers to the elite or well rounded tests for prospects. So it becomes a non-stop race to the championship and if you can't win the championship and you're on the main card you're taking away from some guy who may be able to eventually. And it leads to a bizarre picture of the sport for someone on the outside looking in. You see a fanbase that doesn't care about fighters that could beat a large percentage of fighters in the world.
Breen: I think it's fascinating for me for two reasons. One, I think it shows an incredible lack of empathy among the MMA fanbase. One thing that always amazes me about people in MMA is the disregard for the fact that people fight for money. We constantly hear things like "hey, why would X take this fight against Y?" as though he's not being paid for his services and that probably isn't the largest reason for why he competes. But in something like that, it seems that for all the talk there is about unions and caring about the fighters and all that. When it's an individual, people seem willing to disregard them and not display any kind of empathy for their ability to earn money. I mean, if we did banish Michael Bisping from the UFC, doesn't it somehow seem inappropriate that a guy who is making all this money is suddenly out of a job?
Even with other competitors out there, Bellator is not going to be able to provide for Michael Bisping the way the UFC could. Secondly, with a guy like Daley or Bisping, this idea that there is a midcard guy who can only subsist on being exciting. Chris Lytle is the archetype for it. Why is it that people are totally okay with Chris Lytle? And I think if Chris Lytle ever did something a bit antisocial or something that would be frowned upon I don't think people would have this drive to crucify him. It almost seems like when a guy is competitive enough that it seems like he might challenge it somehow seems more fashionable or more en vogue to ignore his ability to do so. Whereas if a guy explicitly fights in a way or is portrayed in a where where he's never going to fight for a title, it almost makes it seem more palatable. Which is bizarre. I mean, if Paul Daley suddenly recused himself from championship level competition and said "my only goal is to put on the most exciting fights humanly possible and only fight for bonuses" it seems like his mission statement would almost make people more comfortable with his existence in the UFC.
Brookhouse: I think it's also really weird to think about the way that Gilbert Yvel was welcomed to the UFC by people who were like "Awesome! Gilbert Yvel! He's going to stand up and bang! He's not going to challenge for the title...but it'll be really fun!" And basically because, exactly like you were saying, nobody expected anything from Yvel except that he'll be on the midcard and throw hands and it'll be fun.
Breen: With Nick Diaz...and this is actually true of Lee Murray too. How often do we hear "Free Lee Murray" in jest? Like that's a line we hear all the time. In fact, after John Hathaway beat Diego Sanchez him and all the London Shoot guys got in front of the camera yelling "free Lee Murray! Free Lee Murray!" There's nothing funny about "Free Lee Murray." Lee Murray is a horrible person who did something absolutely insanely not OK. There is no point, no matter how rich your drive for money, where tying up a family and kidnapping one of them to help you get money. There's nothing okay about that. And yet, I think part of it is...the stories of Lee Murray are so over the top that they cease to seem real. So I think part of it makes Lee Murray seem like Bill Brasky or some sort of mythological figure who these things that he did aren't rooted in real people. To this day there is a family of who, all of the members for the rest of their lives, will remember when people came in with heavy weaponry and terrorized their family to get money. Yet, for the rest of us it doesn't seem real and I think there's something very...Paul Daley's whole "I'm not a company guy, I wanna be me." and then sucker-punching a guy. It seems very casually anti-social behavior. The kind of thing we would punish. Nick Diaz's exploits are so bizarre. The interviews he does, the way in which he behaves. He seems almost less real in a way. It makes it seem harder to want to condemn him for the things he does. Do you think that's fair or holds weight?
Brookhouse: Diaz and Murray are both are almost cartoon characters in that nothing seems real without going into seeming fake or "pro-wrestling-y." What are Lee Murray's big claims to fame? The Tito Ortiz thing and the robbery. It's nothing to do with his MMA career. He was fairly promising, who knows what would have happened. And with Nick Diaz it's the whole "I'll smoke weed the day of a drug test and still pass" thing and that gets MMA fans going in a really bizarrely positive way. And then you have Daley being so casual in saying he won't bow to Dana White and Bisping whose big thing is carrying himself like a guy who is elite when he's not really seen as elite. And I'm not sure if it offends people when he carries himself with something outside of what they see him as.
We continue to cover the subject and try to drill down further into the MMA fan psyche. Is Daley more offensive because people have dealt with real world jerks in their day job?
I also expand into the idea that MMA fans feel so close to the fighters due to the accessibility of the athletes that they sometimes get caught up viewing every fighter through a "would I want to hang out with him?" lens where it's easy to dismiss a "jerk" like Daley or Bisping while a guy like Diaz seems like a guy that fans want to hang out and smoke weed with.
Check out the whole segment. When you get past me gassing myself by doing laps around my house while talking (a very bad habit of mine) I think a lot of very interesting ground is covered.