Written by @NickRiznerMMA
It’s coming. You’ve undoubtedly heard whispers of its quiet approach. Perhaps you believe that it is already upon us, at least in a small capacity, waiting in the wings for the perfect moment to explode.
Well, for better or for worse, the Money Fight Era is upon us.
Okay, sure, a certain percentage of MMA fans have been screaming about this for a while now. They complain that McGregor has never defended a belt or that the Nate Diaz rematch didn’t make sense from a rankings standpoint. And they were right. But to compare that to the circus act that is Mayweather vs. McGregor would do justice to neither. That one is in a stratosphere of its own.
But I’m not here to talk about that. I figured you must be tired from getting bombarded with stories of the infamous boxing match between the two biggest names in combat sports. Every angle explored. Every quote turned into an entire article. Don’t blame us. The customer dictates the market, and you guys asked for this.
Still, a change of pace should come as a welcome relief, and I’m more than happy to bring that to you.
Let’s start with the contradiction of Demetrious Johnson vs. Germaine de Randamie. Two champions of very different pedigrees find themselves in an eerily similar position, with a common opponent. That sounds like the start to a riddle. Except a riddle would probably be easier to figure out.
The aforementioned ‘common opponent’ is, of course, the UFC, who are essentially forcing both Johnson and de Randamie into taking fights that they don’t want to take.
Last week, Mighty Mouse made headlines by speaking out against the bully tactics used in his negotiation for that all-important eleventh title defense. It’s a long, winding road, but I did my best to provide some clarity last week.
The major takeaway is this: The UFC can apparently dictate exactly who they want you to fight at any given time, and if you refuse to accept this offer, there will be dire consequences.
In the case of Mighty Mouse, threats were made to shut down the entire flyweight division if he did not accept a fight with TJ Dillashaw. And Germaine de Randamie was stripped of her featherweight title just four months after becoming the division’s inaugural champion, due to her unwillingness to fight Cris Cyborg. All of which was done under the guise of “maintaining the integrity of the sport” and the rankings within.
But make no mistake, this is all about the money.
There’s a lot to dissect, so let’s break it down, one situation at a time:
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson
First off, TJ Dillashaw isn’t even a flyweight. If you want to go by rankings, the #1 contender is Joseph Benavidez, a man who has already fought and lost to Johnson twice. The highest ranked opponent who has yet to square off with Johnson is the #3 ranked Ray Borg, a fight that was set up by the UFC, but apparently taken off the board when they decided TJ would be a more intriguing matchup.
Can’t say I disagree, however he is not technically the top flyweight contender, which brings us to Germaine de Randamie…
Germaine de Randamie
Okay so GDR was told by the UFC that her first title defense would be against Cris Cyborg. GDR essentially said she didn’t want to fight Cyborg due to her history of doping. The UFC said “tough shit, you have to fight whoever we want you to fight” (paraphrased slightly), and decided to take her title away.
Putting aside the fact that there aren’t any official rankings for the Women’s Featherweight division – probably because there are only three or four fighters in that division – the UFC claimed that the decision was made based on the expectation that champions should fight the top contenders.
“UFC maintains that any champion is expected to accept fights against the top contenders in their respective weight classes in order to maintain the integrity of the sport.” – Official Statement from the UFC
Many have drawn comparisons to Michael Bisping’s unorthodox title run and understandably so. Since becoming the middleweight champion last spring, Bisping has only defended the belt once and his opponent was far from the #1 contender at 185 pounds. In fact, he was ranked #14.
While Michael Bisping did a good job in pointing out the differences between the two situations, the whole thing is pretty hard to defend from the UFC’s perspective. How was Dan Henderson given a title shot at all? Should it not have gone to one of the thirteen men ranked above him?
You knew we had to bring it back around to the Notorious Irishman. Famous for never defending a belt – a goal which he allegedly hopes to achieve before the end of 2017 – Conor McGregor has broken every rule in the book and he has be allowed to do so because of one thing. Money.
Between welterweight fights with Nate Diaz while holding the featherweight title to fighting for the lightweight championship before ever returning back to 145 pounds, McGregor’s career path hasn’t made a whole lot of sense. Now he’s preparing to compete in a completely different sport while the top contenders at 155 pounds are expected to keep each other busy as they patiently wait for his return.
The Bottom Line
The UFC wants champions to fight the top contenders when the top contenders are, themselves, a big draw. When they’re not, the UFC isn’t so quick to act. And listen, I get it. It’s a business. But to make these universal statements that apply to some situations and blatantly contradict others… well that’s a dangerous game to play.
By doing this, the UFC is ultimately undermining their own authority, creating trust issues in the minds of fans and fighters alike. There seems to be a disconnect between words and actions.
In the immediate, the most exciting matchups are coming together for the enjoyment of all. But in the long term, the “integrity of the sport” that the UFC seems so keen on maintaining is simply being washed away by greed. Stay on this path, and we’ll soon have the same landscape as boxing, which could likely be MMA’s eventual downfall.
Here’s to righting the ship before we hit an iceberg.