Hot Tweets: USADA and T.J. Dillashaw’s apology

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With Dave Doyle leaving MMA Fighting, I’ve been tasked with taking over the weekly Twitter mailbag. I’m rebranding it “Hot Tweets” because I’m looking for the spiciest takes in all of MMA to discuss.

I give this a month until I’m axed.


Why is this happening?

Great question. And no. I fought Luke Thomas for the right to take over. I remain thoroughly mystified as to why this website keeps allowing me to do things but I’m not gonna complain. I’m running this show now.

Developing new stars

It’s rare that I say this, but in this case, I mostly agree with UFC president Dana White. Every time the current crop of MMA stars begins to age out, fans and media start questioning what the UFC needs to do to survive, and every time, new stars emerge to fill the void. Some of those stars are already emerging. Just look at the rise of Ben Askren and Israel Adesanya over the last year.

Now, to be clear, MMA stardom rarely has much to do with the UFC. The UFC has never excelled at creating stars. Anderson Silva and Demetrious Johnson are two of the best fighters in history, who went on extended runs of spectacular dominance, and the UFC struggled mightily to gain traction with either. For Anderson, he didn’t become a star until Chael Sonnen came around, and the UFC never could figure out how to make people care about Mighty Mouse.

Promotionally, the UFC is just a platform savvy fighters can leverage to be bigger than they might be otherwise. Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Tito Ortiz, the Diaz brothers, and every other big star in the sport made themselves into somebody people cared about and the UFC was just able to amplify that and profit. I have no doubt than when this generation of stars fade away, a new one will step up.

Walkouts

I’m not someone who is going to try and get another man fired (unless it’s Luke Thomas) so I won’t bag on the UFC’s music supervisor, especially for something he largely has little control over. If fighters want to keep walking out to the Eminem despite it being 2019, there’s not much he can do about it.

I do kinda feel you about the lack of variety though, especially because I think fighters are missing a serious opportunity to build their fan bases. Human beings are pretty simple to win over, especially when they’re in a group setting. If you play Sweet Caroline, an arena full of fans who have likely been enjoying a cocktail or two are going to sing along. And if you’re an undercard fighter who half of those people don’t know anyway, it’s gonna make them all want you to win over your equally unknown opponent. I’ve always maintained that the best walkout song would be “Twist and Shout”. It’s goofy fun, works for any submission specialist, and would get the crowd dancing.

That, or the music supervisor should go completely rogue and have all the fighters come out to the same walkout song.

USADA

Yep. But I don’t think they view it as “stuck with”. The merits of USADA’s relationship with the UFC are something to be debated at another day but most fighters seem to be in favor of the program, even if there are some things about it they might like to change. Don’t expect USADA to go away anytime soon.

Conor vs. Khabib II

Not at all. I was on the record for years before that fight was made saying it was the best fight possible in MMA, and I still believe it was. Conor and Khabib are polar opposites both in personality and in fighting style. In many ways, each man presents the biggest stylistic threat to the other. They also both happen to be charismatic, fiercely loved, and among the very best fighters in the world. Heading into that fight, you felt like it was a moment you’d remember and tell your kids about like the old classic boxing bouts – “I saw Conor and Khabib.” But the in-cage product was always going to be one-way traffic. Either Conor could stop the takedowns, or he couldn’t. That was really the only question at play. We saw, definitively that answer, and I can’t imagine Conor can change that anytime soon unless we let him bring brass knuckles into the cage.

As for the Luke question, please refer to the first answer of this column.

Mental training

MMA is definitely not just two brutes chomping down and swinging them thangs. I mean, it certainly can be that, but usually (at least in the big leagues) MMA is highly tactical and it’s getting better all the time. It’s a cliche at this point, but organized MMA is still incredibly young in the sporting world, and though it has roots dating back to the ancient world, the fact remains that, writ large, many of the individual skills used in MMA drag far behind other similar disciplines.

Along those lines, I doubt it will “change the game” but brain training probably is useful for fighters. After all, many fighters feel that they are at their worst when they are thinking too much in the cage.

In case you missed it, T.J. Dillashaw released a statement over his recent USADA suspension and the revelation that he failed for EPO, stating that he “messed up” and apologizing for bringing “a bad light” on his teammates and coaches who he said had no involvement in this.

It’s certainly possible. It’s not that difficult to imagine a world in which T.J. kept everyone in the dark about what was going on. They may have had suspicions, especially since Cody Garbrandt wasn’t shy about lobbing accusations his way, but suspicion isn’t proof and people tend to give their friends the benefit of the doubt. That being said, whether it’s probable, is something I’ll leave to you to decide.

And on the subject of T.J.’s statement, I am of the opinion it was among the worst ways to handle the situation. He didn’t really admit what happened and even though he looked like he was very emotional, it’s hard to think he’s actually sorry, assuming he did do this knowingly. Being sorry you got caught and sorry you did something are two very different things. Here are the best responses T.J. could have had, in order:

4) Remain silent. Memories are short in this sport. In a couple of months, people would have forgotten until he returned, and even then the response would’ve been pretty mute. Look at any number of USADA failures over the years. There’s just too much going on for people to stay mad.

3) Keep denying it. The truth is a very malleable thing these days. Die on that hill. No one can every really prove you’re lying. And heck, if you say something enough, people might start believing it.

2) Own it. T.J. was so close to this one but instead he showed contrition. Don’t. Most people aren’t going to believe you’re actually sorry, or else you wouldn’t have done it. Come out and say, “Yep. I did this. I don’t regret it. It’s just science making us better versions of ourselves. Is there really that big a difference between this and the cornucopia of supplements guys take, aside from the arbitrary definition that this is wrong?” You can even throw out some excuse about your injuries and said you needed it to stay on top instead of sitting out for a year with surgeries.

1) Scorched Earth. Your comeback is going to be rough. People will vilify you. So own it. Lean into the heel, like you did with the snake comment. Come out and say “I did this, and Cody’s right. I showed X,Y, and Z how to do it too.” Even if it’s not true, blow up everyone’s spot and become the most hated man in MMA. The PPVs on your return would be through the roof.


Thanks for reading! If you have any questions you want answered for the Twitter Mailbag, send them to @jedkmeshew and the best ones will make it into the column. See y’all next week.





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