I recognize this is anything but a controversial topic. Most fight fans would agree that it’s intelligent for fighters to make callouts in their post-fight interviews. And yet, it still feels like a rare occasion when a fighter makes a call out. What gives?
I’m not entirely sure why fighters are hesitant to make a callout. Many say it isn’t in their personality. Perhaps some believe it’s a sign of disrespect to call out another fighter. Others don’t seem to care who is put in front of them. I’m not writing this to figure that out. That feels like a bottomless pit as there are many different answers fighters can give to that question. I’m here to tell you why they should have a name at the ready every single time Joe Rogan, Daniel Cormier, or whoever is asking them who they want to fight next.
First, calling out a fighter is a sign of respect. How many fighters are looking to punch downward? What does one gain by fighting someone who is perceived to be a lesser fighter than they are? Nothing. The fighter doing the callout is essentially admitting fellow fighter they are calling out is seen to be a better fighter than they are and they want to take their place. Why else to people call for their division’s respective champion? The champion is considered to be the best in the business and everyone wants that status. Ask Michael Page what fighting lower competition has done for his reputation. A callout is anything but disrespectful. Fighters should recognize this.
A callout might also be the best way for a fighter to exercise control of their own destiny, regardless of their place on the roster. Obviously, someone like Conor McGregor’s ilk has a lot more say in their next opponent than someone like Adrian Yanez -- a name I’m just throwing out there -- who is just starting his UFC career. But If Mariya Agapova can be granted a callout after a single UFC appearance, why can’t someone else making their debut? Granted, Agapova came to regret calling out Shana Dobson, but her wish was nonetheless granted.
I understand many fighters aren’t aware of many of the other names on the roster. It makes sense to me. They should be spending their time looking to make themselves better as opposed to worrying about what everyone else is doing. But you mean to tell me fighters don’t have a single person in their surroundings that doesn’t pay attention to this kind of stuff? A manager? A close friend? A coach? Anyone?
There are so many reasons it’s beneficial to have someone paying attention to the rest of the division. First of all, you want a callout to be realistic. Someone fresh of DWCS has no business calling out the champions of their respective division. Sure, maybe that fighter believes they can beat the champion, but no one is getting a title shot off one fight in the organization these days except in extreme circumstances. Let’s use Jared Gooden as an example, a fighter few fans are aware of. He is making his UFC debut at UFC 255 against Alan Jouban, a respected veteran. Should Gooden win, is he getting Kamaru Usman? Of course not. But would Danny Roberts be unrealistic? Not at all. David Zawada might be another good choice. Maybe even Takashi Sato.
There are plenty of options for Gooden. What would be wise would be for his camp to figure out which combatant would be most favorable for Gooden going forward. I say his camp as Gooden has Jouban to prepare for and shouldn’t be diverting his attention. But someone in his camp, knowing full well what Gooden’s strengths and weaknesses are, would likely have an idea of who he would match up well with going forward. Thus, they maximize Gooden’s chances of success moving forward by asking for the most favorable opponent going forward. Not only is Gooden’s chances of winning maximized by having a say in his future destiny, he maximizing his chances at financial success. Remember, the UFC operates on the basis of the win bonus system. Who wouldn’t want to be paid more?
Speaking of money, what about the potential for a FOTN bonus? Even if no one in the camp is going to pay attention to what might be a favorable matchup for Gooden moving forward, they should at least have a knowledge of who tends to put on entertaining scraps. Out of the realistic names I threw out there, Roberts has two FOTN bonuses and Zawada has one, both with scrappy styles that tend to consistently leave the door open to picking up that bonus on a regular basis. If a fighter thinks they can produce an exciting contest with a particular opponent, why not call them out? A FOTN bonus pays out $50K to both the winner and loser. Who wouldn’t want that?
Callouts can also drum up more interest in a fight, can being the operable word. Robert Whittaker was given the opportunity to say he wanted a rematch with Israel Adesanya. Instead, he talked of putting up his Christmas tree with his kids. While that’s fine and well, it also looks like he’s disinterested in fighting for the title at this point. Maybe he is. But even something as mild as saying he’d like to heal up and then go back after his belt would indicate he has interest in that fight without setting a timeline. Instead, we’re left wondering who in the hell puts up their Christmas tree before Halloween, much less Thanksgiving. If Whittaker doesn’t appear interested in regaining his title, why should fans be interested in that idea? There’s plenty of time to change minds, but why dig that hole in the first place?
What about the potential downside of not calling out someone? There’s a reason no one calls out Merab Dvalishvili. Unless one can compete with his nonstop wrestling, it’s going to be an ugly contest where he takes his opponent down time and again with very little chance of getting a performance bonus. However, by not calling out someone other than Dvalishvili, every bantamweight is increasing the likelihood they do get matched with him. No disrespect to Dvalishvili, but he’s the type of guy who makes an opponent look bad, even when they get a win over him.
While I have no proof, my guess is Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard appreciate when fighters make callouts. I would think it makes their job easier and they are responsible for making a lot of fights. They call up the person who got called out, ask them if they’re alright with that contest, cross the T’s, dot the I’s, and move on to the next contest to make. While something as simple as that would be the exception rather than the rule, I would imagine it’s a good way to work into their good graces, provided the callouts are realistic. Why wouldn’t a fighter want to be in the good graces of the matchmakers? Keep in mind, fighters like Dvalishvili are out there and someone has to fight them. It would be foolish to think matchmakers don’t/wouldn’t leverage fighters into particular contests that way, especially given the stories fighters have told similar to that over the years.
Perhaps I’m beating a dead horse, but I’ve cringed over the years when a fighter is asked “What’s next?” and they have nothing to offer. It’s often the best opportunity they have to control their destiny and too often they pass on the opportunity to grab the bull by the horns. I’ve had some argue it’s difficult to remember a name after being punched in the head so many times over a short period. A good point, but is it too much to have a cornerman ready to give you the name right before the fighter is interviewed? In an industry where the margins of error are razor thin, it’s foolish not to take every advantage available. And yet, callouts still tend to be in short supply. While I doubt that will change any time soon, I hope I’m wrong.