Saturday night gave us UFC 150, and by it's close, the LW champion, Benson Henderson, had successfully defended his title against Frankie Edgar. The fight was as close as you could get, with many fans taking sides, and ultimately resulting in controversy. The way I saw it, it could have easily been a draw. Henderson's manager, Malki Kawa, feels that his fighter did well, and believes that had the decision gone the other way, fans would be equally upset with the outcome. In a recent interview, I spoke to Kawa about the fight, the new Nike deal he helped ink for Jon Jones, and some targeted cards for Benson's next title defense against Nate Diaz.
*At Mr. Kawa's request, we did not discuss the incident from the post fight presser. This interview is solely about his clients and their bright futures.*
Stephie Daniels: What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding Benson's win over Frankie?
Malki Kawa: Well, like in any close fight, you're going to have people that have their opinions, and I respect them all. It was a lot closer than the first fight. I thought in the first fight, Benson dominantly beat him decisively. I didn't even think that there was a need for the rematch, to be honest. I think that because Frankie has always been such a true champion and good ambassador for the sport, we had no problem giving him a rematch. He's the kind of guy other fighters should model themselves after.
In this fight, it was a really close fight. I think Frankie brought it. I think Benson brought it. Both guys had great gameplans. That's just what happens when you're in a really good fight. I'm a little disappointed with the whole robbery idea, because this wasn't a robbery. If Frankie would have won, I think the fight could have been justified that way, too. If we go off of Fight Metric, I think Benson outstruck him, and at the end of the day, I think that's what swung it his way. I agree with the decision, and I thought it was the right one, but at the same time, I understand why everyone was up in arms about it, because it was a very, very close decision.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel that fans might be a little fickle, and if this had gone in Frankie's favor, they would be complaining that Benson got robbed?
Malki Kawa: Yeah, I absolutely do. I think that's just how it goes. I think that the Frankie people came out and immediately jumped on this thing and complained and cried that he won, and I think if it had been the other way around, we would have seen all of Benson's people jump out and say the same thing. That's what happens when you get fights that are close. If you don't finish the fight, and you allow it to be close and go to a split decision, then that's just part of the game, and something that all fighters have to understand.
Stephie Daniels: Now that Nate Diaz has been announced as Benson's next opponent, do you have a timeframe in mind that you'd like that fight to happen?
Malki Kawa: I'm not really sure yet. I've had some conversations with Benson's coach and I've had a conversation with Benson about it. Ben's not the type of guy to take a long layoff, but he does need some rest right now, so we're gonna rest him up for a couple weeks, and let his bruises heal up, then he can get back to training. We'll see what the UFC wants to do. I'm thinking that the New Year's card sounds pretty cool, and there's also that Fox 5 card that they've got in December, so that could be a possibility. I'm not sure what they're thinking yet. I haven't spoken with Joe or Dana, but as soon as we do, hopefully we'll get something figured out.
Stephie Daniels: I know you've spoken about the Nike deal extensively, but for the purpose of this interview, could you give the basic details of it?
Malki Kawa: We've been working on this deal for a while. Jon has wanted it since the day I met him, and it's something that I've been working on and trying to get done for a long time. We hooked up with William Morris Entertainment, which is Ari Emanuel's group. I asked them if they could give us some assistance in any which way to get this deal, and they opened the door for us. We basically went in there with their assistance and got this deal done. We're just very happy that the deal got done. Jon is excited. We're excited. It's a landmark deal that's going to be a huge opportunity for Jon and every single fighter in the UFC.
Stephie Daniels: Will we be seeing Jon in print ads and TV commercials?
Malki Kawa: You know, that's what we're thinking, but it's going to take some time to get there. I think Nike is going to lay out a plan for him. I don't know exactly what it's going to entail, whether it's going to be print ads or commercials or the youtube commercials that they do. I'm not really sure yet, exactly what. I just know that he's going to be a part of their marketing campaign for the next couple years.
Stephie Daniels: I recently saw an interview where Alistair Overeem said he would like to fight Jon Jones. What do you think about that?
Malki Kawa: Everybody needs attention and publicity, so it is what it is. I think Alistair is a good fighter, but he's got other guys that are lined up to fight him in the heavyweight division, so I wouldn't worry about Jon Jones at this moment if I was him.
Stephie Daniels: What will we be seeing from the fighters under your management in the next year? Are there any TV or movie projects in the works, or anything outside the MMA sphere?
Malki Kawa: Absolutely. One of the good things about working with William Morris is that they're the leaders when it comes to putting people in movies and that type of stuff. That's how we actually started off this whole thing, with a possible movie career for Jon, and then it started to encompass other fighters. After Jon's fight in September, I've got some meetings with those guys out in LA, and I'll sit down and go through our roster of guys, and figure out who can do what, and see how we can get some of these other guys some other deals besides Nike and movies. We're going to work on a lot of different things. My goal next year is to get those other big time sponsors that are out there, into the sport of MMA by using the fighters that I have under contract to get that done. Hopefully I can open up some eyes and get some things done.
You can follow Malki via his Twitter account, @MalkiKawa