Twitter Mailbag: When is it just not worth it to fight injured? When should a coach intervene?

Should Derrick Lewis’ coaches have kept him from fighting hurt at UFC Wichita? What are the top five greatest Jorge Masvidal moments? And what’s one time you’ve been severely wrong after talking up a fighter to your friends?

That and other pressing questions in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

* * * *

Just about every coach who trains fighters at the UFC level has knowingly brought an injured fighter into the cage at some point. The severity of those injuries may differ, as will the potential impact on the fight itself, but it’s an aspect of this sport that’ll never be totally eliminated, especially not while the pay structure is such as it is.

Put yourself in Derrick Lewis’ shoes. You did all that work in training camp, and you did it for the promise of future riches. If you pull out because of your injured knee now, you get nothing, except for maybe the ire of fans and UFC executives. If you fight, take your chances, maybe get lucky with a clean punch or don’t, then you get paid before you head off to surgery and a potentially lengthy recovery.

I’m not saying it was a great idea, but the calculation makes some sense. And what’s his coach supposed to do? He could advise against it, maybe. (Though if the fight doesn’t happen, he probably won’t get paid either.) But once a fighter has his mind made up, most coaches will just focus on making the best of the situation.

A lot of times, that’s what their jobs boil down to on fight night. It’s why many of them have learned to steer clear of stuff like matchmaking or overall career management concerns. Coaches have to work with the fighters they have, in whatever condition they’re in. If they only agreed to go along with what they thought were good ideas, they probably wouldn’t last very long in this sport.

1. The first time I became aware of Jorge Masvidal, back when I saw him in a bare-knuckle street fight video and he beat up a larger opponent who was billed as a Kimbo Slice protege, and he did it while wearing jean shorts.

2. When he knocked out Yves Edwards, who was always one of my favorite fighters, with a head kick in BodogFight, and even though it was amazing it still hurt me to watch.

3. When he won a decision over Tim Means in the UFC, but got his scalp split open by elbows in the process, and still showed up backstage right after to talk to the media. The cuts were still open and bleeding, and from where I was standing I realized I could see into them, which was gross, but then it was like I couldn’t look away. I don’t remember a single thing he said during that interview, but I do remember feeling vaguely nauseous by the end. Masvidal barely seemed to notice that he’d been cut.

4. When he surprised the hell out of me by finishing Donald Cerrone with strikes just about a month after he’d defeated Jake Ellenberger via a toe stuck in the fence.

5. When he showed up in London this week looking the cover model for a romance novel and then conducted a profane, no-holds-barred self-defense seminar for fans in order to “give something back to the community.”

One lovely April afternoon in 2009 it was unseasonably warm and so I invited some friends over for a barbecue. We had some burgers and beers and I told them how later there was this amazing fighter on TV and I was going to order the pay-per-view and they should stick around and see it. This guy, I told them, was an unbelievable talent, a true artist, and getting to see him in action in his prime was like a gift that they couldn’t possibly turn down.

They were intrigued. They stayed and watched. That fighter was Anderson Silva, and the man he “fought” that night was Thales Leites. Those friends never let me talk them into sitting through another MMA fight ever again.

First of all, I’d be mildly surprised if Tyron Woodley gets to fight for another UFC welterweight title. I never got the sense that UFC President Dana White was ever super thrilled with his title reign (mostly because all he did was complain about Woodley at every opportunity), and the division is deep enough that it’s not like you absolutely have to put him back in there with the champ due to a lack of other options.

As for the question of all-time rankings, I think Woodley’s somewhere between Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre. He’s not the greatest ever. (That would be GSP.) But he is, so far, the most dominant welterweight champ of the post-GSP era, and he did it against a much higher caliber of athlete and fighter than what Hughes faced in his day.

Of course, that’s just how things stand now. And it doesn’t seem like Woodley is ready to be done any time soon.

It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone would conclude that the real barrier keeping mainstream fans from embracing MMA more is that the walkout music isn’t broadly popular enough. Still, I also noticed the uptick in Queen songs, especially “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.”

They’re fine songs. But if that’s your choice for walkout music? I don’t know, kind of makes it seem like either you didn’t put much thought into it or else you just don’t listen to much music aside from what you hear on the classic rock radio station while waiting for your tires to get rotated.

Fedor Emelianenko got spiked on his head and still pulled off a legit submission moments later. Ben Askren got spiked on his head and then was the beneficiary of some bad refereeing to give him a submission win he didn’t actually deserve.

Point is, there’s really no comparison and you owe Fedor Tha Gawd an apology for even suggesting otherwise.

B.J. Penn vs. Clay Guida. You can’t convince me that there was a single human being (outside of their respective camps) who was sitting around in the year 2019 thinking, now there’s a fight I need to see. And yet here we are.

Ben Fowlkes is MMA Junkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMA Junkie.

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