Buying and selling Pictures: Untangling the middleweight title mess after Robert Whittaker’s UFC 234 withdrawal

What’s to develop into of the UFC’s middleweight division now that the champ is within the hospital and each different potential contender is making an attempt to leap into his place? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to debate on this week’s Buying and selling Pictures.

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Fowlkes: Assist me out right here, Danny. How’s it go, that phrase in regards to the best-laid plans of mice and males? As a result of I’m sitting right here the morning after UFC 234 and it positive looks as if the best-laid plans of the middleweight division might need simply turned to crap earlier than our very eyes.

It was presupposed to be so easy. Robert Whittaker would defend his UFC middleweight title in opposition to Kelvin Gastelum in the primary occasion, whereas Israel Adesanya would face Anderson Silva within the co-main occasion. Then you definately take the winner of 1 struggle and match him up in opposition to the winner of the opposite, and growth, you’ve bought a tidy little title procession going.

After all, that was earlier than the phrase “collapsed bowel” entered our lexicon.

Now you’ve bought “Bobby Knuckles” laid up within the hospital whereas Gastelum walks round with a title belt of unknown origin and Adesanya declares himself the No. 1 contender. What offers, man? And what do you make of the champ coming down with such an ailment so near struggle time? Is that this the scourge of weight-cutting, now wreaking its havoc on individuals’s bowels?

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Downes: I can’t imagine it took this lengthy for me to ponder the results of a collapsed bowel. Whereas I is probably not the medical knowledgeable that Matt Damon is, I assume it’s not a lot enjoyable.

There’s a bent guilty something that occurs this near the struggle on weight-cutting, however that looks as if an oversimplification to me. I’m positive Whittaker was in a weakened state from the minimize, however I can’t consider any motive why the minimize would immediately trigger the hernia. However this stuff occur in MMA. Tony Ferguson misplaced a title shot tripping over an extension twine. Collapsed bowel doesn’t even enter the highest 10 of strangest accidents in MMA.

As for what to do with the division, I say we keep on with the unique plan. Have Whittaker defend in opposition to Gastelum and the winner faces Israel Adesanya. Outpointing Anderson Silva shouldn’t allow you to skip the road. If Colby Covington is any instance, although, there’s no approach of telling how the UFC determines who earns a title shot.

The state of affairs is actually lower than very best, however I wouldn’t name it a catastrophe. Worst-case situation, you have got a man sit on the shelf an additional few months. The UFC likes to throw belts round, so I wouldn’t be stunned if we see an interim middleweight champ within the close to future. Would that be so dangerous? I don’t know what classes we will be taught aside from positively don’t purchase a UFC pay per view a pair days prematurely.

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Fowlkes: See, right here’s the uncommon state of affairs the place I truly assume an interim title may be an inexpensive alternative. The champ is out of motion attributable to weird well being issues that basically left him no different alternative. The division now has at the very least two credible contenders, however neither one in every of them looks as if he completely should be subsequent in line, like he’s been denied for too lengthy and it’s merely unconscionable to make him wait any longer.

You’re not going to strip the champion simply because his bowels are collapsed. And no matter goals you might need of him being able to go once more in six weeks appear … fanciful. The person was rushed into surgical procedure. His guts are all ruptured and what not. Let him have as a lot time as he wants earlier than we encourage anybody to kick him within the abdomen. So what do you do with the division within the meantime?

If the reply seems to be yanking a belt out of the availability closet and letting Gastelum and Adesanya bludgeon one another for it, I wouldn’t hate that concept. Which, truthfully, I really feel bizarre about admitting. As a result of usually I’d inform you the proliferation of meaningless interim titles was an issue. Or, truly, is it solely an issue as a result of it makes them tougher to take severely in conditions like this, the place they may actually be warranted?

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Downes: I nonetheless don’t perceive the interim title factor. Aren’t all of them basically nugatory? They’ve worth when it comes to promoting pay-per-view items or getting fighters some extra cash, however I’m speaking about them conceptually.

Ferguson is technically a former (interim) light-weight champion, however do you actually view him as a former champ? Let’s say Khabib Nurmagomedov loses his subsequent struggle. His quick reign would nonetheless really feel extra “actual” than Ferguson’s.

You’re in all probability not going to get Adesanya or Gastelum to signal on the dotted line for a no. 1 contender struggle until an interim title is up for grabs. So whereas I perceive the need of utilizing one, it nonetheless doesn’t imply a lot to me.

The extreme use of interim titles the previous couple of years has actually hastened the decline of their significance, however I feel it will have occurred ultimately any approach. An interim title is value as a lot because the duplicate belt Gastelum was strolling round with yesterday.

When you’re not going to strip Whittaker (and I don’t assume the UFC ought to), it doesn’t make sense to have a second middleweight champ strolling round. We don’t know the timetable for “Bobby Knuckle’s” return, however it doesn’t seem to be a Dominick Cruz state of affairs the place he’ll be out for a complete yr. It’s additionally not a Conor McGregor state of affairs the place the champ is holding up a division to attempt his hand at boxing.

A division’s champ needs to be be like The Highlander – there can solely be one. Proper now, that man is Whittaker. Till he loses that belt in a struggle, I’m not going to acknowledge anybody else.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has additionally written for and UFC 360. Observe them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

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