For those of you unfamiliar with the history of Bloody Elbow, Luke Thomas co-founded (along with our own Kid Nate) this wonderful MMA website way back in 2007. He now works over at MMA Fighting and his beard is widely considered to be in the running for "top 5 most powerful beards in the world". MMA Sentinel, led by our own Steph Daniels, conducted an interview with Thomas, who did not hold back on the issue of UFC fighter pay. Here's a sampling of his opinions:
Rampage signs with Bellator
[Regarding TMZ breaking the story] I don't hate on TMZ that much, I don't read it, I follow it on twitter but I never go there. They do break big stories; I think they were the ones who broke the Rampage monster truck story, so they've got some kind of relationship with him in that respect. It's not ideal, but it's hardly the worst thing ever; It is good for exposure.
As far as the deal itself, I think it's pretty good. A lot of people in the media say I'm far too kind to Bellator, and there's probably some truth to that - I probably do go a little bit overboard at times, but the reality is there are so many people, journalists and fans, who are just reflexively assholes to Bellator, and they don't really have a good reason.
Now, you can take issue with the Eddie Alvarez situation, there are obviously many criticisms to make of Bellator, I'm not here to say they're above reproach, but long before this situation was unfolding, people just didn't care about Bellator, and that's fine if you don't care, but this idea that everyone gives them a fair shake and the now after evaluating all the evidence they don't like Bellator is horseshit. It's complete horseshit.
People came into the situation with a preconceived idea about what Bellator is, and many, many, many have not given it a fair shake or even understand what it actually is.
So, here's what I think. I think it's super risky for Bellator to do this, I think it's super risky for Spike TV to do this, I think the pro wrestling stuff is a disaster waiting to happen, BUT, if they use him correctly, which is to say keep him out of the tournaments, it could work.
I am hopeful they just give Rampage the title shot. Does any body care if he doesn't fight in the tournament? No one gives an F. Make the best use of what you have, if they do that, it could pay dividends.
One of the expected moves by Bellator is that they'll set up Rampage against King Mo, something Luke believes Bellator must absolutely pull off:
Rampage vs. King Mo
Here's the thing, that's the fight everybody wants to see. It's on my mind, it's on the fans minds, that's the fight they have to make. If they don't make that fight, it's promotional malpractice. And I hope someone from Spike TV hears that, and I hope somebody from Viacom hears that, because that's what you have to do.
Mo is already tied up in the summer series, Jackson will start in the fall, and if Mo wins, give Rampage the next fight. It's the only thing that makes sense.
The UFC has seen the injury curse hit them hard this summer, and #1 women's bantamweight contender Cat Zingano lost her title shot and TUF 18 coaching spot after suffering a serious knee injury. Miesha Tate, who lost to Zingano and Ronda Rousey, is replacing Zingano on TUF and re-matching Rousey this winter.
Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter
Tate replacing Zingano could be a blessing If the ratings come back great and the show produces several women who can reliably fill that 135lbs roster for years to come. If the rematch between Tate and Rousey does big on Pay-per-view, or wherever they end up putting it, then I say this season of TUF will be a win, especially if Cat Zingano can hope back in as a contender again.
I do have genuine heartfelt sorrow for Zingano, because that's how you become a star; you win an important bout on television in the way she did, with a spectacular comeback in an already great fight, you get a shot against Ronda Rousey, you coach The Ultimate Fighter and you fight on the big show. I do worry that they lost out on building a star in Zingano for a retread in Tate, who maybe has a limited upside. At the same time you have to hold out hope that the show does well, and if it does then alls well that ends well, but I can't judge it ahead of time.
The biggest topic brought up in the interview was the hot button of UFC fighter pay, something ex-UFC lightweight John Cholish has been very vocal about in the last three weeks.
John Cholish and UFC fighter pay
The UFC shouldn't do a damn thing (about fighter pay). Would I like to see fighters get paid more? Sure. Do I think that defraying travel costs is a sensible policy that could really benefit somebody at the lower economic spectrum, specifically as they travel to other countries? Of Course.
Initially something John Cholish said appealed to me, because he never said ‘I earned this much money for the company and therefore I am owed this much, and I am not being given that much.' He made a claim for a form of charity - ‘it wouldn't hurt you to give, too much and it would benefit us, why not just do it?'
But then he goes, and this is when I finally figured out why I didn't like his argument, his argument is that we've gotta get the fans involved, because they may not listen to John Cholish, they may not listen to Rampage, but they will listen to the fans. Uhhhh, you are passing the responsibility off on the fans. It is your responsibility. It is the fighter's responsibility collectively, should they choose to get together.
It's very easy for me to say ‘well the fighters should get together and do something' I recognize that there are challenges, profound ones, and that it may never happen as a consequence. However, it is your fight, it is not the fans fight, these are customers. You are asking UFC customers en masse to take up interests that basically aren't their own. You cannot push that responsibility onto them.
Sure, if they all get angry about it, the UFC might change something, (but) I think we all know that's fairly unrealistic. There will always be controversy about fighter pay, but they are not going to pick up the mantle for the fighters. You cannot push the responsibility off on them. That is your interest, your future, and you have to fight for it, the fans cannot fight for you.
This was a very entertaining and informative interview, and you can listen to more of Luke Thomas' thoughts by clicking on this link.