The fans at UFC 289 picked Charles Oliveira to be the star of the evening. This is a compelling argument for why the UFC should hit the road more often, and leave the Apex for DWCS, TUF, and other assorted acronyms.
Give Charles Oliveira his due daps
In the week leading up to UFC 289 Charles Oliveira was a promotional afterthought. Much of the MMA discourse centered around whether Beneil Dariush would finally secure a title shot with a win over the Brazilian former champion, and whether said win would be overshadowed by the upcoming surefire, can’t-miss barnburner, Dustin Poirier vs Justin Gaethje 2.
However, all of this was turned on its head when Charles Oliveira set foot in the Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The crowd became electric and they never stopped loving ‘Do Bronx’ for a minute. The fight was nonstop action for just over four minutes and the post-fight adulation lasted a bit longer than that. Charles Oliveira went from elated to emotional and seemed overwhelmed by the crowd’s warmth. None of this was foreseen in either UFC or independent outlet pre-fight coverage or promotional packages and it showcases an important point.
The UFC does not always control the narrative
As the UFC has solidified (calcified, even?) control of the MMA landscape, the corporation has put a lot of effort into controling promotional narratives along with the livelihoods of its fighters. This is often apparent when big name fighters seek to be compensated fairly and when less flashy names have merit-based reasons to seek title shots or better paydays.
As the UFC micro manages its event using the Apex Center and whittles down the number of journalists who can attend media events, a more insidious crafting of reality takes place. I hadn’t noticed until Saturday night (5:45 am Sunday morning for me, in Denmark), how the fans get to decide things too. No amount of Angry Tomato bluster can stop people from loving a fighter, especially one like Oliveira, who has the two-pronged storyline that fans love: being an all-out action fighting bonus mahcing, and a veteran who has overcome career slumps to win a title.
The UFC likes to think it is in the driver’s seat at all times, but the Canandian fans’ embrace of a Brazilian from the Bronx shows that no matter how much control you possess, the heart wants what it wants. I’m looking forward to Charles Oliveira’s next title fight.
One last kill for the lioness
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I hope this metaphor sums up neatly what Irene Aldana looked like in the cage at UFC 289. That was a rough one for the Mexican contender. Kudos to Amanda for her championships, her poise, and the fact that she handled two belts for longer than any other double champ in the UFC.
Please hit me up in the comments with your thoughts on whether the UFC should commit to more events outside the Apex. I’ve been dissatisfied with the “home base” product for a while, but this past event was the first compelling reason I’ve seen to get back out on the road.
Take care of yourself and I’ll talk to you Monday, or join the Substack Newsletter and get more of my artwork, every day.
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