Look, I can totally get behind not wanting to risk the use of your extremities to Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in a fight. But, as the ever revolving musical chairs of perspective opponents continued to play on, the whole uncertainty became a subject of aggravation for fight fans around the world.
Initially, DREAM had announced that their May 29 “Fight for Japan” card, which is scheduled to take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, a very intriguing match between DREAM lightweight champion Aoki and grizzled veteran Antonio McKee in a classic jiu-jitsu vs. wrestling match up.
Then things got weird.
Suddenly, reports began to circulate around the internet that McKee would not face Aoki. The reasons for McKee’s dropout ranged from concern that DREAM would actually pay him, to an issue obtaining a visa. While the first item may be valid (DREAM’s financial stability has been in question), the visa issue excuse has been refuted by DREAM. DREAM’s US rep Mike Kogan tweeted the following earlier this week:
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McKee has been uncharacteristically vague in his response to DREAM’s assertion that there was nothing wrong with him obtaining a visa. In an interview with MMA Fighting’s Ben Fowlkes, McKee responded stating:
"I'm just going to plead the fifth right now until it kind of cools off. I seem to be a very hot topic right now in the community of MMA, so I got to be a little more careful about what I say. I'm very verbal and I shoot it straight from the hip, but this is a situation where I'm going to shut my mouth because I think that's best for my career."
What strikes me as odd is McKee’s insistence of decorum with regards to DREAM, yet he was quoted on camera as calling the UFC “the new slave masters” following his release from the promotion. Correct me if I’m wrong but pissing off the UFC would be nearly 100x more damaging to one’s career than incurring the wrath of DREAM. Something is not adding up in this situation but until McKee opens up, expect a huge question mark to hang over this whole fiasco.
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Of course, this leads to yesterday’s news break that The Ultimate Fighter season 8 participant Shane Nelson had agreed to face Aoki at DREAM.17. However, Nelson’s bravado was soon snuffed out when Aoki vetoed the bout agreement. Fortunately for Nelson, DREAM stepped up and did the right thing by offering Nelson a two fight contract with the promotional company.
Still, with ten days left until DREAM.17, the hunt was on for a credible opponent for Aoki to face. Enter UFC veteran Rich Clementi who will now face the Japanese BJJ expert on May 29. Facing one of the greatest lightweights in the game on short notice is a task I would not envy but in the grand scheme of things you have to respect Clementi’s toughness. Besides, Aoki’s inclusion on the card all but guarantees a respectable turnout at the event and with proceeds from DREAM.17 going to assist those devastated by the disaster in Japan; you have to get behind that.