The UFC’s desperation cost fans a great title fight

The UFC has less flexibility than ever before. The result? Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

By: Zane Simon | 1 month ago
The UFC’s desperation cost fans a great title fight
Louis Grasse / ZUMA Wire, IMAGO

This week, the UFC announced a pair of title fights for their upcoming PPV in Toronto. The event had been set to feature a top shelf featherweight championship bout between Alexander Volkanovski and fast rising contender Ilia Topuria. An excellent main event for Canadian fans too used to getting the short end of the stick from the world’s largest MMA promotion.

Instead, what fans will be treated to is a lightweight title fight rematch between Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira—along with a women’s bantamweight title fight for Amanda Nunes’ vacated belt, featuring Mayra Bueno Silva taking on former contender Raquel Pennington.

Now, before anyone tells me that either of those are—in fact—very good fights and that fans aren’t getting shafted, that’s not quite my point.

There was a time, once, when the UFC’s schedule was fairly flexible. They’d cancel a card if they had to way out ahead of a date, put together a new one close after if they could; squeeze in an extra PPV in a month just to keep the show running. The general point was, they could make the fights they wanted on the dates they wanted, provided the fighters were ready.

MMA: UFC 290 - Volkanovski vs Rodriguez Jul 8, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Alexander Volkanovski (red gloves) prior to the fight against Yair Rodriguez (blue gloves) during UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena. Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena Nevada USA, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY 20230708_szo_cs1_0310
Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA TODAY Network, IMAGO

UFC 294 didn’t need to go down like that

That’s very clearly no longer the case. The UFC had their card set for Abu Dhabi and they had to have Islam Makhachev on that card if he was going to be healthy to go. Charles Oliveira had a cut on his forhead, probably didn’t need more than a couple extra weeks to heal up, but that didn’t matter because Islam Mkhachev had to be in the main event.

So we got an inadvisably ballsy move from Alexander Volkanovski. He seemed like he was (concerningly) happy for the opportunity, but it’s hard not to look at the aftermath and think that the UFC really shouldn’t have had him on speed dial for that fight. They had Mateusz Gamrot there to play backup. 

He was prepared. He might not have sold extra tickets, but with a daytime PPV in Abu Dhabi, the point was never really PPV sales anyway. The promotion got big money just to hold this cards out in the desert, fans wanted to see Makhachev perform, the City Kickboxing star was an unecessary afterthought for a promotion hoping to squeeze every dollar they could out of their international TV audience.

Stipe Miocic could still be fighting

Similarly, the UFC has a big card coming up for Madison Square Garden, it was supposed to feature Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic. Jones got hurt and now, entirely not of his own choosing, Miocic has also been sidelined for 8 months.

Why? Because the UFC has one fight for Jon Jones and this is it…

Read the rest of the post over at our Substack.

May 12, 2017 - Dallas, Texas, U.S. - Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Cigano dos Santos during UFC 211 Weigh-in at American Airlines Center. UFC 211: Weigh-in: Texas - ZUMAs277 20170512_sha_s277_808
Jason Silva / ZUMA Wire, IMAGO

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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