A kid from New England shocks the world after being given no chance to defeat the long-reigning champion.
Controversy erupts across the internet as the former champion’s fans refuse to accept that he’s been legitimately defeated.
The UFC hurriedly books an instant rematch to settle matters.
Who I’m I talking about?
No not Chris Weidman, but Frankie Edgar. It’s hard to remember after UFC 125, UFC 135, UFC 144 and UFC 150 combined did around the same buys as the man Edgar dethroned challenging Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94, how big a story BJ Penn losing at UFC 112 was. It broke through to the mainstream, hell Edgar was nominated for Biggest Upset at the ESPYs.
But the UFC fluffed it. They made the story about BJ Penn losing and cast doubt on Edgar’s legitimacy by demanding he do it again to prove he was a worthy champion. Even with a comprehensive victory at UFC 118 he was never able to regain the momentum he enjoyed coming out Abu Dhabi and even in 2013 the lightweight division is still nowhere near the popularity it enjoyed during Penn’s run. Even after two entertaining defenses in front of millions on FOX it’d be a miracle if Benson Henderson’s next title defense breaks 250,000 buys.
It’s worth remember that the middleweight division was just as unmarketable as the lightweight division back when both were resurrected in the wake of the post-TUF boom. Indeed, given that there was no former light heavyweight star to move down and dominate as former welterweight champion BJ Penn did at 155Ibs it actually took longer for fights at fights at 185Ibs to gain commercial traction. Whilst I can understand the UFC’s thinking in giving Anderson Silva an instant rematch given all the mainstream interest it’s more than concerning to see the UFC repeat so many of the steps that turned out to be missteps with Frankie Edgar.
Maybe it’s different this time but then again the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect a different result.
“I’ve got this thing, and it’s fucking golden. I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing”.
Regardless of my concerns the UFC is going to the rematch and it’s going to do it soon. That then begs the questions – when should the rematch take place?
In the immediate aftermath Dana White’s eyes greedily lit upon the UFC’s annual Superbowl weekend show. This was based on two pieces of sound logic. Firstly it’s the next big pay per view that’s lacking a main event. Secondly due to FOX broadcasting the Superbowl from New York the UFC has at their urging moved the card to the Tri-State area. This just happens to be where Weidman resides. The idea of Weidman making his first defense in his home market naturally struck a chord with White. But in the days that followed White had second thoughts, fearing that the Superbowl would gobble up all the mainstream publicity he’s relying on to goose the buyrate for the rematch beyond what the first fight did. While there’s some logic to such fears, it ignores the success that the aforementioned GSP vs. Penn 2 fight did on that weekend plus to a lesser extent fights such as Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir and Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort.
There has been two alternatives publicly floated. The first was adding Weidman vs. Silva 2 (how weird does it feel to put him down second!?!) to the New Year’s Eve weekend show currently headlined by Rousey vs. Tate 2. Our own Ryan Frederick explained the rationale for this move on Twitter. “Rousey/Tate is prob 600K. Adding Silva/Weidman could push it to 1.2 million. You get all those extra eyeballs on Rousey/Tate which would be good for them”.
The other idea floated by Dana White is to go to the Cowboys Stadium, something he’s been obsessing about since seeing Manny Pacquiao face Joshua Clottey there. Now I don’t know what Jerry Jones is planning to offer in terms of a site fee but nobody should be in any doubt about the limitations of Dallas as a market. Forget the worked numbers you heard about the two fights Pacquiao had there; the tax returns show that neither fight passed 40,000 paid attendance or $6million in gate. The fact that they were flops was confirmed by Bob Arum scuttling back to Las Vegas as soon as the deal was over. In any case that would involve throwing together a new event onto the UFC’s crowded schedule or alternatively delaying the rematch past the end of the year deadline has now set.
There is however an alternative. Twenty years and four days after UFC 1 the UFC will host UFC 167 at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre. This is a landmark in the sport’s history equal to UFC 100. And yet currently the event is headlined by Georges St. Pierre vs. Johnny Hendricks, a fight no more anticipated than Thiago Alves’ challenge of the same champion that went on second on July 11th 2009.
Imagine this. UFC 167 is rebranded Ultimate 20. Added to the card is Weidman vs. Silva II. Hell if you really wanted to you could move it to the Cowboy Stadiums (although I wouldn’t). All of a sudden it goes from being another UFC 150, a milestone marked by just another run of the mill event into a genuine tent-pole supershow that draws in mainstream attention and the casual fans. And if the UFC was able to break UFC 100’s record that would put the perfect cap on what has already been a hell of a comeback year after a troubled two years due to fighter injuries and teething problems with the new television deal.
UFC 100 secured the UFC unprecedented exposure on ESPN and other mainstream outlets. It brought new fans into the sport. The momentum ihelped make UFC 101 one of the biggest shows of all time. The UFC could do it all again, if they dare invest in the biggest birthday party the sport has ever seen.
A Hero Leaves the Stage
Staying with the Middleweight Division, former US Marine Brian Stann announced his retirement today due to his growing broadcast commitments with FOX SPORTS and a recognition that he’d never get high enough on the card to earn the money that makes the concussions worthwhile.
To me Stann was not just an entertaining fighter who had some really memorable fights (not least his last one) but a real life hero. Not only had he served his country with distinction but his efforts to support his fellow veterans are genuinely inspiring. You can read my interview with him from back in 2010 here.
His decision to retire undoubtedly makes sense for him although I have to admit that personally I’m disappointed. With the announcement that the UFC will be holding another Tribute for the Troops I thought the time was right for the UFC to finally do Brian Stann vs. Tim Kennedy, Marine vs. Green Beret in an armed forces derby match. Given the inter-forces rivalry, that fight in front of a service crowd would have some of the best heat of any fight in UFC history.
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