Anthony Johnson probably had no chance to save his UFC job after he missed the 186-pound middleweight limit for non-title fights at the UFC 142 weigh-in on Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by a whopping 11 pounds.
Whatever sliver of a chance he had might have had, though, evaporated when Johnson, who was released from his UFC contract Sunday, went to Facebook and blasted fans who were blasting him.
Johnson's manager, Glenn Robinson, began the damage control Friday afternoon, calling reporters to explain that Johnson got ill during the weight cut and drank an excessive amount of fluids at doctor's orders.
That at least somewhat explained missing weight by an almost incomprehensible 11 pounds. Given that Johnson was not a first-time offender, his job was clearly in jeopardy, but a great performance against Vitor Belfort in the co-main event the next night could have gone a long way toward making UFC president Dana White forget the mistake.
Then, Johnson took to social media after Robinson had seemingly stabilized things and, essentially, dug his own grave.
On Facebook, Johnson wrote, "I'm already laughing at what ppl are saying. Yeah it was for medical reason and I did what the UFC Dr Told me to do. Believe it or don't I give a [expletive] cuz the ppl close to me were freaking out but I'm still alive and something like this has never happen before. Say what you want I'm still gonna do my thang. You try not having feeling in your legs and can't move then and see how you look at life after that."
That post, which has subsequently been deleted, raised a number of significant issues: First, if he was so ill so close to the fight, why was he allowed to fight? Because there was no commission in Brazil, the UFC self-regulated and UFC vice president Marc Ratner, the one-time executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, was in charge.
Ratner said he was told that Johnson had been dehydrated and had been given Pedialyte and Gatorade. He said Johnson did not appear in danger and that he had no qualms about allowing Johnson to fight.
Second, though, was the wisdom of Johnson making his post to Facebook. Was missing weight by 11 pounds really something to laugh at? It was a serious breach of professionalism and put a fight that the UFC had invested significant amounts of money in at risk. Many of the fans in Brazil bought tickets for the show specifically to see Belfort, a native who hadn't fought in his homeland since 1998.
Social media is a tricky tool. It is a great way for athletes to promote themselves, but it's dangerous when misused. People are exceptionally cruel when they're anonymous and they tortured Johnson with hateful comments on his Twitter feed and Facebook page. But that should have been no surprise to a veteran like Johnson, who joined the UFC in 2007.
Robinson made the right moves in the wake of Johnson's epic failures. If Johnson had simply shut up, he may have been able to keep his job. By going onto Facebook and making a nasty, thoughtless post, Johnson undid Robinson's troubleshooting and guaranteed he'd be out of work on Sunday morning.
• I don't blame ESPN for investigating the UFC fighter salaries on its "Outside the Lines" series if it thought the public would be interested. What I do blame it for was going with a story very weak on evidence. Using anonymous sources and guys with axes to grind (Ken Shamrock and Ricco Rodriguez) against the UFC destroyed the piece's credibility. If there are a large number of fighters who are legitimately concerned about their pay, ESPN should have kept reporting on the issue until it could put together a story supported with facts and on-the-record comments, not rumor, innuendo and off-the-record attribution.
• Rodriguez said during the segment he was blackballed from the UFC because he was aware of its finances. Rodriguez has been in and out of drug rehabilitation centers, but he was dropped from the UFC for wearing an unauthorized tattoo touting an online casino during a 2003 fight at Mohegan Sun against Randy Couture. Tribal leaders, furious that Rodriguez had the tattoo on his back for a competing casino which couldn't be washed off, threatened to pull the show. White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta were able to convince them to allow the show to go on. That, and not anything about pay or finances, is why Rodriguez has never returned to the UFC.
• To me, the issue of pay isn't about the low end of the salary structure. A fighter who is just beginning in the UFC who makes $6,000 to show and $6,000 to win, with the possibility of bonuses further increasing pay, is doing well. It's more than fighters in similar spots in any other fighting sport make. The issue is what the top-end fighters make. Fertitta said the UFC has made 39 millionaires since buying the company in 2001 and UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has admitted he makes $4 million to $5 million a fight. The question that should have been asked is why the top stars in boxing, such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, make many times that per fight. The UFC does well by the entry-level and middle-class fighters. If there is a discrepancy, it's with the high-end talent and ESPN seems to have missed that.
• I'm not sure what referee Mario Yamasaki was thinking, but he blew it by disqualifying Erick Silva on Saturday in his fight with Carlo Prater. Silva was disqualified for landing illegal blows, but replays showed there was one, at most, and it was debatable. If Yamasaki was concerned about the blows, why didn't he call time, separate the fighters and admonish Silva or deduct a point?
I thought Anthony Johnson was given a raw deal when it came to the quick stand-ups in his fight with Vitor Belfort. Johnson had to work very hard to get Vitor down, and when he did, was stood up too quickly. The ground game was not at a stalemate nor do I think either fighter was not keeping busy. Furthermore, there was a questionable separation while Johnson had Vitor against the cage. I know there isn't much that can be done now or even in the future, but I don't think anyone has mentioned this fact in any blogs, articles, or summaries after this fight. All three of these decisions to stand up and separate were when Johnson was in control and were ultimately to his disadvantage. What do you think?
I agree that referee Dan Miragliotta made a mistake in the instances you cite. It's a judgment call which must be made quickly, but I thought in both cases, the fighters were active and the bout should have been allowed to continue. That said, such judgment calls happen all the time and fighters at the highest level need to be able to deal with them. It's no different than an umpire who calls a pitch a strike when it was actually outside the zone. The hitters in that case, or the fighters in this one, need to adjust. His calls were mistaken, I believe, but I don't believe they influenced the outcome of the fight.
I was really happy to see you wrote a column on Jose Aldo Jr. and wrote that he is an elite fighter. I have been watching Aldo since his rise through the WEC, and I think that he is the second-best fighter in the world behind Anderson Silva. I think the fans and media have underestimated him because he did not finish Mark Hominick at UFC 129 and he was cautious against Kenny Florian at UFC 136, but I think the way that he fights really speaks for itself. I do not think that there is anyone who has a better chance at becoming the "best ever" in MMA. Do you think that the lack of competition in the featherweight division, or lack of big names, really, will continue to hurt him in these conversations?
The competition for the best active fighter today is fierce. I think right now it is Jon Jones, though most give that nod to Silva. Aldo clearly belongs in the conversation, but when the competition is so fierce, little things mean a lot, and his late fade against Hominick and, as you say, his caution against Florian work against him in that regard. He's young and he's talented and I think he could get significantly better than he already is. But if I were to pick an active fighter and make the case for him having the most potential for greatness, without question it would be Jones.
"As a fighter, your job is to make weight. Rumble didn't do that and I haven't seen anything less professional. That was a huge international event for us and a lot of people in Brazil came out to watch Vitor, who is a legend there. Vitor suffered, but he was a pro and he made weight. Anthony knew for weeks what he needed to weigh, but he wasn't a pro and didn't do his job." – UFC president Dana White, discussing Johnson's failure to make weight for UFC 142.
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- Vitor Belfort