The first edition of the Bloody Inbox went great, with debate stirred in the comments and a new flood of questions to the inbox. As promised, here's part 2 of our special double edition for the inaugural week of the feature. I'll also be using some questions to do special Bloody Elbow staff roundtables in the future. So if you think you submitted a great question but it isn't answered here, keep your eyes peeled.
Remember, you can submit your questions to: BloodyElbowMailbag@Gmail.com
Question from Zachary Kater: Simple question... what are your thoughts on fighters using TRT with a medical exemption through the commission? I personally feel like people are gaining advantages that aren't natural due to being allowed to take the treatment, as it's perfectly normal for testosterone to decrease in an aging human. Is it worth it to allow fighters to have more extended careers, or should we try to keep talent and natural abilities pure from anything such as this that may give an unnatural advantage?
Nothing like saying "simple question" and then asking for thoughts on one of the biggest controversies going.
I think one of the keys for all of this is for the commissions to set a benchmark for what they consider abnormally low testosterone levels. If someone requests a usage exemption and can provide proof through samples (given on different dates at least 1-2 weeks apart) that their testosterone level is significantly low for their age then they are allowed the exemption.
But it should be treated like a license where it must be renewed once a year, and is subject to random testing. The commission issuing the exemption should have the right to phone up and request a test be taken at any point during the year. The levels returned should be within a defined range or disciplinary action taken.
Of course, there are guys using now who are staying within the "normal range" without an exemption so that doesn't really get to the heart of the "is it fair?" debate. But this is at least a way to try and make sure that TRT is not being abused at any point. And this isn't even mentioning the difficulties in executing such a plan when all state commissions operate independently. So that part would have to be done at the promotion level. Which, if they're as serious about PEDs as they say they are with testing prior to signing..etc, should not be a problem.
But back to the question of fairness. I'd say the only fair use of TRT is when your levels are significantly below normal for your age. Not just because you're starting to feel old.
Question for Dallas Winston from wonderfulspam: When you posted your visualised scoring graph for Simpson vs Tavares, one of the main points of contention was your willingness to score 10-10s in every round where neither fighter clearly has an edge. Would you agree that rounds that leave you thinking "extremely close round, could be 10-9 either way" should more often than not be 10-10s? Draws could be settled by sudden death rounds or the judges picking a winner.
Dallas: Thanks for the question -- I'm honored.
One of the most difficult aspects with MMA judging is scrutinizing hypothetical versus actual scenarios. The graph was designed for actual scenarios to provide a visual value to many facets of judging that are difficult to quantify, especially in conversation (10-10 vs. 10-9 vs. 10-8 rounds, the impact of significant offense, who is/was winning the round and by how much).
So, under the context that the suggested scenario in your question is hypothetical, and my answer will be too -- yes. I do feel that a round interpreted as "could be 10-9 either way" is what a 10-10 should be. I'm eternally baffled at the reluctance to score a 10-10 round, which is described as "when both contestants appear to be fighting evenly and neither contestant shows dominance in a round." I mean, it's not uncommon to witness that scenario, yet the 10-10 score is entirely uncommon.
Even when I've posed a hypothetical question about scoring a round with no clear winner, many have insisted that they would still refrain from a 10-10 and prefer to force a winner based on some tiny shred of evidence. The idea that two evenly matched, high-level fighters cannot possibly stalemate in a five-minute window is ludicrous but, even beyond that, the result is distorting the window or value for a 10-9 score. In this case, it's stretching it wider by awarding one fighter one-third of the fight for the smallest detail, and typically a detail that's insignificant to the fight when the rules are based significant achievements.
That mentality fosters an even bigger problem when the other rounds are won by a clear but not dominant margin, i.e. a standard 10-9 round, because they're awarded with the same value as the "forced winner" round that was decided by some miniscule activity.
Finally, the 10-10 round is constantly associated with the fear of draws, yet the majority of recent draws we've seen were caused by 10-8 rounds, which is something almost everyone agrees we need to see more of. The conclusion should be that we can't control excitement or outcome through objective scoring. The job of a judge is to assess each five-minute frame to the best of his ability with no preconceived bias or concerns for "what might happen" because of it.
Question for KJ Gould from Robert V-U: How meaningful are world-class wrestling credentials for a fighter? For instance, Jon Fitch, GSP and Rashad Evans have some of the most effective grappling in the sport, but none of them are particularly heralded as coming into the sport with good wrestling credentials. (I realize this part of the question is mostly speculation because it is all relative, but: are world-class wrestling credentials more or less valuable than legitimate K-1 striking credentials for a mixed martial artist?)
What aspects of Olympic wrestling transition best to the sport? (I.e. what is it about Bubba Jenkins' wrestling that makes him more successful than Mark Ellis in MMA). Also, what is GSP's wrestling like? Is he similar to past wrestlers? Or, is his style unique to this sport?
KJ:There's this general belief that if you're a Freestyle wrestler that's competed at the World or Olympic level, you must be awesome in all areas. This really isn't the case as there are usually individual styles among wrestlers who tailor their skill sets for success in the competition environment they take part in. Not all Olympic Wrestlers will have amazing takedowns; some depend on countering their opponent to score points with reversals. Similarly the converse is true, where some wrestlers' best defense is having a really strong offense by pursuing a takedown or throw until they get it.
Just as in sport Jiu Jitsu or Submission Grappling, the skill types and abilities of a Roger Gracie, Marcelo Garcia and Pablo Popovitch differ wildly, but all can make it work for them at the highest levels.
As it relates to MMA, certain skill sets and attributes from wrestling fit better than others. Bubba Jenkins is strong, and pulls of athletic moves like Super Ducks which require a combination of footwork, speed and agility. He also has the right mentality, embracing a chance to compete in MMA rather than showing any hesitation about it, so the mental game of a champion wrestler can also help with the transition.
GSP's training in wrestling from day one has been tailored for the MMA environment. Sports specificity is key when it comes to training at the highest level, and GSP knows how to combine striking with wrestling so he can both avoid being hit, and force an error from an opponent that over-commits with their own striking, putting them off balance enough for GSP to seize an opening and follow through with a double leg or single leg takedown. The best attributes for wrestling for MMA are the same basic fundamentals of wrestling, but tailored for the MMA environment: Stance / position, motion, level change, penetration, lifting, back-stepping and a back arch.
Question for KJ Gould from Paul G: What do you think will happen after the ESPN UK deal runs out? Will ESPN renew the deal despite the issues in recent times (UFC on Fox 1), or do you think Sky could come into the picture?
KJ: I fully expect this to be the last year we'll see the UFC on ESPN as it pertains to live shows and new content. ESPN UK has said they hope to continue coverage if the right deal can be reached, but according to some brief tweets by Lorenzo Fertitta in February, it seems clear he's not happy with ESPN generally.
That might in part be to do with the Outside The Lines feature on the UFC, in which Fertitta famously had his own video recording taken at the same time, but there's more to it than that. I think the UFC have realised the limitations ESPN have in helping grow the UFC in the UK, when ESPN themselves are having to play catch up to Sky Sports who have had a 20 year advantage in customer reach and service.
I still maintain the key component in this is Fox Sports Chairman David Hill, who helped build Sky Sports originally in the UK. Sky Television and Fox Television are both partly owned by Rupert Murdoch and the News Corp group, and with rumblings of Fox wanting to create their own 24/7 sports channel I wouldn't be surprised to see a working relationship between Sky and Fox for content to continue to blossom. We already have FX in the UK, which hosted the Bisping vs Mayhem season of The Ultimate Fighter on a less than 24 hour tape delay. Sky Sports is already setup for live, international programming as they do with the WWE RAW series on Monday nights. Sky Sports have also shown a greater interest in MMA programming, with long running UK promotion Cage Warriors inking a deal with them not long ago, and having previously worked with the Cage Rage and Ultimate Challenge promotions.
UFC may have had problems working with Sky in the past, dating back to the poor Box Office PPV numbers of UFC 38 10 years ago, but a lot has changed on both sides and with the current Fox deal, now would seem to be the right time to take the UFC in the UK to the next level with a new Sky partnership.