MMA is a colourful sport, and we have a deep and convoluted lore for such a young sport. We have running gags, promos, characters, walkout songs and hell, we even have an evil authority figure. Let’s face it, MMA is basically pro wrestling, just with legitimate competition (most of the time).
This will upset some of you, no doubt, but “it is what is”. That’s Max Holloway’s catchphrase by the way; he has an actual catchphrase.
Let me put it another way: a man actively a part of his own country’s counter terrorism outfit, a man who has taken actual lives, was gifted the ring name “Cro Cop” because he is Croatian and was a cop. As his cold eyes stalked his opponent, eyes that have seen things you or I will hopefully never have to see, the commentators called him “Cro Cop”, like he’s the Shockmaster or something. God bless this borderline sport.
In the spirit of this revelation, and inspired by Kelvin Gastelum’s recent gimmick shift, I present to you five fighters who should turn heel immediately, and how they should do it.
1. Kelvin Gastelum
The main inspiration for this list, Kelvin Gastelum recently decided to turn heel after his fight with Robert Whittaker was cancelled because, you guessed it; his insides exploded again. Yes, technically this is cheating because the transition is already complete, but what I am suggesting is a full on overhaul, a paradigm shift in the Heely Gastelum direction.
Gastelum decided to borrow Cejudo’s belt and walk around claiming to be the rightful champion by default, as Whittaker pulled out. This irked some folks, but that’s not the creative direction I’m interested in. Before the fight, folks began to notice marks on Kelvin Gastelum, and it quickly became clear that Robert Whittaker was about to lock himself in a cage with a man riddled with staph and ring worm, so he faked his hernia. (Probably not, but who could blame him?)
This is where I want to take it, we go all in on “Typhoid” Kelvin. His team accompany him to the octagon in hazmat suits, he gets a big biohazard symbol tattooed on his chest and he walks out to the Resident Evil movie theme song. His opponents won’t even want to touch him.
2. Sam Alvey
Sam Alvey is a perennial babyface, that’s his whole thing, “Smilin” Sam Alvey they call him. Recently however, Sam Alvey wasn’t so “Smilin”. Alvey was recently KOed, finished as you would say by Jim Crute – “you ever heard of Jimmy Crute!?” – at UFC 234. Was it a little premature? Perhaps, but in case you didn’t think so Sam Alvey did his best impersonation of an Italian footballer and reacted like his dog had just been shot in front of him.
I say run with it, after every fight protest. Protest if you win, if you lose, complain about something. In fact, he should be at his most irate when he has just been stopped convincingly; like an ice cold knockout. Extort the judges, cry, defecate yourself, just get the point across. It’ll be can’t miss TV.
3. Matt Mitrione
Getting fans interested in Matt Mitrione is a mammoth task for any promoter. He doesn’t do a whole lot and he fights like a middle-aged Mum trying to encourage her angst ridden teen son to join her on the dance floor at a wedding, i.e., my Mum.
That was until now. We have ourselves a golden opportunity gentlemen. (Imagine I’m in a packed board room at the Bellator headquarters wearing a suit – that’s the kind of head space I’m operating in). Mitrione somehow just gave a man hemorrhoid’s in the cage. This kind of luck blesses a promotion once a generation, we can’t squander this valuable opportunity.
Mitrione will now be the nut shot guy. Whenever things are looking bad for him in a fight (so most fights), he delivers a swift punt to the plumbs. Yes, there will be a lot of DQs, but when he fights Cro Cop it will all pay off. Mr. Croatian Police Officer will eat a dick kick, then reveal he is wearing one of those steel Thai cups. Mitrione will sell like Ric Flair in the 80s and the crowd will tear the roof off the place. It’s fool proof.
4. Valerie Loureda
At the minute, Bellator newcomer and pre-eminent taekwondo PR person Valerie Loureda is one of those heels who lacks self-awareness, and that’s fine. Rocking up to the microphone after a fairly unimpressive victory and turning into Sally Fields accepting an Oscar is great for the time being, but it has to eventually go somewhere.
Enter Luke Rockhold (I imagined Luke awkwardly walking into a party not knowing what to do with his hands and muttering “what’s uuuuuppp?” with zero confidence and now I’m laughing alone at something I just imagined in my head.)
After the brutal public humiliation of Rockhold at the hands of Loureda and Jorge Masvidal – Masvidal shared the DMs exchanged by Loureda and Luke, and it’s bad – Loureda could slowly slip into a heart breaker persona. It even rhymes: Valerie “Heart Breaker” Loureda. This would have the unfortunate consequence of turning Luke Rockhold babyface, but don’t worry, that wouldn’t last; I mean it literally couldn’t.
5. Demetrious Johnson
I present to you my John Cena level of hypothetical heelness. It’s never going to happen, but if it did… Oh boy if it did. Back in the 1990s Hulk Hogan made the jump to WCW, where the big boys play – “look at the adjective”. Everyone loved Hulk Hogan, he was ultimate babyface, so imagine everyone’s surprise when he attacked Randy Savage and formed the nWo with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I propose the same thing for “Mighty Mouse”. He shows up to ONE and blows through the flyweight grand prix… until the final. The final doesn’t go so smoothly and DJ scrapes by with a split decision. The crowd boo him, and he goes full Raging Al Iaquinta on them
He will be a foreign heel, looking down on the no name roster. He will wear tailored suits and take private jets. He will learn the Malay but never speak it. And eventually, that person he beat in the grand prix final will return and take the title from him. It’s perfect.