It’s important to start this by saying, UFC fans, we hear you. It’s a bit of a strange time for the company. Between complaining about CM Punk being on the PPV over professional athletes who deserve their shot and talking about “how much the company has changed since WME took over,” there’s been a lot of debate about the direction of the company.
For many, the recent stunt in the cage involving Brock Lesnar and Daniel Cormier seemed to be a bit over the top — with a number of fans saying the company has gone “too WWE” for their tastes.
Which is silly, considering most of the marketing and use of narratives are ripped directly out of the playbook pioneered by Vince McMahon, but I digress. The feedback from disgruntled fans seems to be that the company’s direction seems fake or so ridiculously out of the realm of what fans might consider to be acceptable. Consider the shove seen round the world:
Yep, that’s it. And don’t get me wrong, it’s ridiculously silly. But Daniel Cormier won the “Blottery” (that’s what I’m calling it, so just go with it).
UFC President Dana White says the fight will happen. USADA says, “it will, but def not before January.” And yet, there are still some fans who aren’t quite convinced this is a fight worth their time.
With that, I come to you today with a simple appeal: for once, can we just have some fun?
I’m not going to sit here and argue about the validity of Lesnar’s title shot against the new two-division champ. He famously failed a drug test in his last bout against Mark Hunt and didn’t remotely seem to offer so much of an apology. White didn’t help matters much when he basically said “meh” in response to hard questions about Lesnar’s fast pass to the title shot.
However, at UFC 226, the next two fighters that seemed to be in line for a Heavyweight title shot pretty much rendered themselves irrelevant with one of the most boring fights in UFC history (which is a shame, considering that both Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou have put on stellar performances in the past).
No, Lesnar’s shot is firmly in line with the company’s “to hell with the rankings, let’s put on huge fights for the sake of putting on huge fights” philosophy.
It doesn’t seem right that a dude who would get popped for steroids should be rushed to the front of the line, but this was Daniel Cormier’s reaction when Dana White said the winner of the fight between DC and Stipe Miocic would get Lesnar at a press conference earlier this year:
Here’s the thing, DC is the most elated about this news because he’s set to be in what promises to be a huge PPV draw. Cormier has famously said that he intends to retire in March, coinciding with his 40th birthday. With that timeline, we are looking at two to three more fights at most (in the most optimistic timeline possible).
It also helps that DC is a giant pro wrestling fan and now gets the opportunity to test the waters for any future pro wrestling appearances (don’t be surprised if it happens, folks).
So, if DC is clearly stoked about this news, why can’t the rest of the MMA community get behind it?
Let’s consider the facts:
Many UFC fans like to point out how the PPV numbers are dwindling and how the ratings continue to decline. That’s a fair criticism; however, it’s also somewhat diluted by the fact that all major sports have experienced declines in their base numbers. While the UFC was widely criticized for the use of stop-loss stars like CM Punk (who have no business in the cage) to try and drum up interests in their events, Lesnar is a former UFC Heavyweight champion. At the very least, that and his NCAA wrestling pedigree should at least open up a curiosity factor on how the match might go.
That brings me to my second contention: MMA fighters who have wrestling backgrounds love to talk about that when they get on a microphone. There’s an inherent competitive vibe between college wrestlers who commonly drop the use of the words “D1” and their win-loss records on the microphone that does make you wonder how two dominant beasts in their fields would look in the cage.
Finally, DC has earned the right to call the shots on his way out. Sure, the Lesnar and DC fight has spectacle written all over it, but Cormier has put in his time as a diligent company man, succumbing only to Jon Jones on two occasions in his otherwise flawless UFC career. He’s served as an ambassador, commentator, and analyst for the company, often saying he never fully felt he got the respect that he deserved in the cage.
Which is strange when you consider the following names on the man’s resume:
Anthony Johnson. Anderson Silva. Alexander Gustafsson. Dan Henderson. Roy Nelson. Frank Mir. Josh Barnett.
All guys he’s beaten, many of whom are held in high regard from fight fans around the world. Despite the best efforts from Yoel Romero in the past few days, you really can’t say DC has ducked the top fighters in his field.
Moreover, for a guy who is truly concerned about the legacy he will leave in the cage, Cormier has a unique challenge that comes with a number of uncertain outcomes. Despite his many layoffs in the UFC, Lesnar is still a giant with a solid wrestling background. If he gets on top of DC, it would be a very difficult evening for the champ-champ.
Yet, for all the unpredictability in the fight world, there are very few downsides for DC in taking this fight. He has all the tools he needs to win this fight; in addition to his own wrestling pedigree, he’s proven he’s got KO power, he can go championship rounds, and he’s even got another heavyweight champ on his team in Cain Velasquez who previously bested Lesnar at (arguably) the peak of his UFC career.
I get there are die-hards who will wonder why folks like Curtis Blaydes or Gustafsson (or hell, even Romero) don’t get their fair shake at either one of the titles held by Cormier, but I also find it hard to criticize the UFC for low PPVs and ratings when they’re clearly trying to put together the fights that energize a base that seems to be evaporating.
And you’d be hard-pressed to find another draw other than a certain enigmatic Irishman who holds more PPV records than Lesnar who might fit the bill for bringing people back to the sport.
Moreover, it’s an opportunity for those fighters who win undercard status on the Blottery. For the athletes, you’re looking at the most eyeballs the company will have on it in the past two, maybe three years. And for the fans, here’s the chance to help those fighters get paid with the views those fighters would need to later carry cards without the assistance of those “giant spectacle fights” that eschew the rankings.
And if nothing else convinces you of the true mixture appeal of the fun of this fight, allow me to show you Cormier’s utilization of one of the best competitive phases in all of pro wrestling: “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”