Five Questions: McGregor's plans, Greg Hardy, Askren-Maia

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This week’s edition of Five Questions with Phil Chertok focuses on several stories outside of the cage beginning with Conor McGregor’s press conference this past Thursday in Moscow, Russia.

Just days after the New York Times linked McGregor to a second investigation over an alleged sexual assault. McGregor, who has yet to be charged, went forward with the press conference announcing his intention to fight on January 18th. Dana White spoke to ESPN after the news stating no deal had been signed for McGregor to fight but the date is a target.

Then, we go back to last Friday’s card in Boston where Greg Hardy’s win over Ben Sosoli was changed to a no-contest after Hardy’s use of an inhaler between rounds two and three. Hardy didn’t exit the news cycle quickly as he was immediately inserted to the November 9th card in Moscow after Junior dos Santos was removed from his fight with Alexander Volkov.

Finally, we discuss Dominick Reyes’ odds of receiving the next light heavyweight title fight and look ahead to Demain Maia vs. Ben Askren this Saturday in Singapore.

POST: What is your reaction to Conor McGregor’s announcement on Thursday regarding a fight on January 18th? Given that Dana White has openly stated the deal is not complete, is this strictly a leverage maneuver and will it pay off for McGregor?

Phil Chertok: It will pay off if he indeed returns to the octagon and more importantly if he gets a win. McGregor’s only MMA fight in the last three years was losing his comeback match to rival Khabib Nurmagomedov, which itself was over a year ago, so getting back into the octagon and getting a victory has to be a top priority. While much of McGregor’s external behavior seems thoughtless lately, he’s not one who acts in a foolish manner when it comes to business. I suspect that the return fight deal is close otherwise he wouldn’t have made the announcement if for some reason the fight falls through though, it will be another stain on McGregor, who’s already testing the limits of the fan’s patience.

Does McGregor’s fight news offset the attention he has received for the two sexual assault cases he is linked to? Without being charged yet, are you okay with the UFC going ahead and promoting a McGregor fight?

Chertok: I don’t think it offsets any of the negative attention he’s received for his conduct outside of the octagon. Even if you exclude the two sexual assault investigations McGregor has done significant harm to his reputation in the last year. With that said, I am OK with the UFC booking him despite the aforementioned cases, do I feel great about it? Not really. McGregor has not been charged and while I’m under no obligation to give him the benefit of the doubt, I do have a moral view on the presumption of innocence even if my intuition suggests the opposite. I’ll defer to the Irish investigators and if they raise charges then I’ll change my tune about the UFC. That might be an unsatisfying answer to many people due to their frustrations around a justice system that feels broken when it comes to these matters but I’m more for fixing the breaks rather than throwing it out entirely.

How has public opinion moved positively or negatively for Greg Hardy in the past week after the circumstances of his no-contest with Ben Sosoli to accepting a fight with Alexander Volkov on short-notice?

Chertok: I don’t think public opinion on Greg Hardy has changed at all, last week’s #USADAApproved Inhaler-gate incident was just another embarrassing moment in what is becoming a recurring theme in the former Dallas Cowboy’s brief and utterly bizarre UFC career. That wacky incident overshadowed the fact that Hardy did demonstrate improved skills in a bout that he would have won had he gone the Bill Clinton route and chosen not to inhale. Hardy is never going to escape his controversial past, but he’s proved despite all the negative attention, UFC fans aren’t changing the channel when he steps onto their screens. Taking on Volkov is a massive step up in competition so all the fans that are clamoring for Hardy to get KO’d will have something to tune in for.

Is a championship fight in line for Dominick Reyes after his quick win over Chris Weidman, is this fight appealing if you’re Jon Jones?

Chertok: It’s appealing to me as a fan, I want to see Jon Jones tested and Reyes looks like the toughest test Jones has faced since Daniel Cormier. For Jones though, I understand the frustration and lack of desire to take on the relatively unknown Reyes. Jones was very active in the first half of 2019, making up for the lost time after battling a USADA suspension that kept him out of competition for more than a year and a half. Prior to that layoff, Jones was looking at the potential of a massive payday against Brock Lesnar so it’s understandable that he wants to cash in now after rebuilding his brand in the cage. With that said, unless Jones steps up to heavyweight to take on someone significant, he should take the fight with Reyes and continue establishing his legacy as the best light-heavyweight ever. The money fights will materialize when the timing is right.

Finally, what stands out this weekend with two Bellator events and a card from the UFC in Singapore?

Chertok: Somebody call Coolio because tomorrow in Singapore it’s going to be a Grappler’s Paradise! When it was first announced that Ben Askren was coming to the UFC, Demian Maia was the potential opponent I got most excited about. Maia has established himself as the premier Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player in all of MMA and despite approaching 40 he remains a tough opponent for anyone in the division. Maia has always been near the top of the ranks but has failed to execute his game plan against elite collegiate wrestlers. Those wrestlers were able to prevent Maia from taking them down and kept the fight standing where they had the striking advantage. What makes this fight intriguing is that Askren has a better wrestling pedigree than any of Maia’s previous opponents, but he might be the first one that Maia can outstrike. Another intriguing aspect to this contest is that, despite his electrifying arrival in the UFC, we’ve actually seen very little of Askren in the Octagon, this should be a good opportunity to see the former two-time Hodge Trophy winner get some significant cage time.

Phil Chertok can be heard on our monthly UFC POST Shows and will be back on Saturday, November 2nd following UFC 244.

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For like half a decade I’ve been going on (to whoever may listen) about how Demian Maia would knock Ben Askren out if the stars aligned and their paths crossed one day.

Now that the day has come, I’m not quite as confident (due mostly to Maia’s age and suspect cardio), but I still maintain that if Maia comes out of the gates in K1 form, he will get a first round stoppage.

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