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Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier Brawl Shows The UFC Has A Lot To Learn About Pre-Fight Melees

Photo courtesy WWE.com

The brawl between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier at a Las Vegas media event is the talk of MMA, but by public brawl standards, the scuffle was more comedy than captivating.

Who came out the star of the event? Jones, of course. But Jones already was a star, and the whole point of fighters scrapping in public, among everyday people, is to create the illusion that both fighters are larger than life and that the sanctioned fight is going to be the greatest fight since King Kong vs. Godzilla (the Japanese version).

The public brawl is supposed to make people say: “Wow, those guys were out of control; This isn’t just another fight. These guys really do hate each other and this is going to be a war. I have to order this fight on PPV.”

Instead, Cormier, the smaller, older, chubbier, underdog fell off the stage after high-tailing it in the other direction when Jones threw a punch at him. He needed security crews to pull Jones off him. He allegedly threw a shoe at Jones (really, the Olympic wrestler threw a shoe?) and hit a random person. Jones then got back on stage and shouted “Yeah! Yeah!” to the crowd, most of whom were busy taking selfies with the commotion in the background, while flexing like Triple H after Trips spits the water up in the air.

What was the takeaway? Jones is going to mop up the Octagon with Cormier.

It’s clear that if the UFC is going to stage or allow its fighter to engage in pro wrestling like public brawls, the company better learn to do it right.  There are three simple rules to getting fighters and fights over at media events that turn into so-called chaos. Here they are:

1. Never Bury The Underdog: Cormier is 5′ 11,” 35 years old and a bit plump around the middle when it’s not fight time. Jones is 6’4,” 27 years old, and a total physical specimen. Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler. Jones is an essentially unbeaten light heavyweight champion who has destroyed everyone he has ever fought, with the exception of Alexander Gustafsson, who was robbed worse than clients of Bernie Madoff.

We don’t need another a reason to believe Jones is going to win the fight. We need to believe Cormier has the riddle solved, but based on his rear footwork at the media event, he doesn’t have it yet, not physically or psychologically.

Here’s a thought: Maybe Cormier should hire a stand-in, like Mike Tyson, for all future media events. They are about the same size, but Tyson certainly isn’t going to throw any shoes, nor let anyone punch him out like Cormier while wearing street clothes. Homework for Cormier: If you are going to push the No. 1 mixed martial artist in the world, be be ready to back it up, not back up. And watch this epic Mike Tyson press conference first. For the uncensored version click here.

In those clips a smaller, older, chubbier Mike Tyson got into a brawl with a much taller, younger, stronger champion Lennox Lewis, before berating an audience member, in what was a very ugly tirade full of all sorts of offensive language. But at the end of the day, Tyson didn’t end up on his back and you believed he was going to defeat Lewis at the PPV, which was the third-highest grossing PPV in boxing history.

Lewis, the far better fighter at that stage of their careers ended up knocking out Tyson, which is why the media brawl was so important. It made Tyson look scary going into the fight.

2. Beyond A Push, The Fighters Should Never Touch Each Other

Fighters should never give away anything for free. When in public it’s just supposed to be a taste. What do you think would have happened if Chael Sonnen would have ever put his hands on Anderson Silva during a pre-fight publicity stunt? Silva would likely have choked him out right there and then nobody would have ordered either fight. That’s why Sonnen was so genius. He made people believe in him just because of his acerbic tongue. He psyched Silva out so much in the first fight that he nearly pulled off the upset.

But no, Jones has to softly head butt Cormier, Cormier pushes back and then, as we all say, Cormier back-pedaled like he was Bugs Bunny being chased by Elmer Fudd. A press conference fight should give the fans just enough, but not too much. Enter Mike Tyson, again. Watch this epic video where he and Stone Cold Steve Austin participated in some pre-fight gold:

Austin absolutely buried Tyson with a series of insults, while still respecting him and his abilities. Austin slayed it on the microphone, ending his monologue with a double middle finger, forcing Tyson to push him. Crews then immediately intervened and broke the two up.  Tyson never got on top of Austin and Austin never got on top of Tyson. They were split up on equal grounds. Both guys ended up pummeling security crews, but never each other during the event.

The WWE was going through a tough financial period prior to the press conference, but the Tyson-Austin exchange launched the WWE back into the mainstream, where Tyson ended up serving as a special guest enforcer at WrestleMania. A good shove is all you need to get people interested.

3. Neither Fighter Should Get The Last Word

Jones ended the brawl by jumping back on stage and showing his superiority, screaming and flexing to the crowd, while Cormier was probably still wondering where his shoe landed. Jones then told the LA Times this:

“I try to carry myself as a true professional, a role model, a leader. Disgracing the UFC was never my intention, but I felt obligated to defend myself. In the day of bullies, maybe the bigger man should walk away. But sometimes it’s OK for the bigger man to stand up for himself.”

Jones is coming out of this thing the hero, which is absolutely the wrong message the UFC needs to sell this fight. To use pro wrestling vernacular, Jones is the ultimate heel. He gets booed at his fights and is perceived as being too arrogant for his own good. Now he’s acting like Cormier bullied him? Jones has done nothing but call Cormier fat, suggesting that the former Olympian is “pregnant.” Who’s the bully?

These pre-fight spectacles should not be about getting the bad guy. They should be about building hype for the fight and giving fans a reason to root for the underdog. Right now,  Jones has all the momentum and wind at his back.

And that’s not really what you want because Cormier has a good chance of frustrating Jones and either knocking him out or stretching the fight into the later rounds. You’d never know or believe that though, especially from watching the brawl in Las Vegas. Instead, Jones ended up on top, literally, figuratively and psychologically.