I woke up at 5am in Denmark to catch UFC 295 live. That hour was a gamble because the PPV main card starts at 4am, and every minute is precious. Best case scenario is that the fights don’t start for about 30 minutes and then the curtain jerker goes to a decision. No such luck this time. I sat on the couch and Jessica Andrade vs Mackenzie Dern had just walked out; Bruce was Buffering.
Perfect, I would be on my second coffee by the time Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka stepped into the octagon.
Mackenzie Dern: Plateau or ceiling?
Mackenzie Dern is both blessed and cursed with having a solid Q rating. She has the attention of fans and the media in a way that has resulted in her either headlining Fight Nights or on the main card of a PPV for two straight years. In that time she’s looked dominant against measuring stick opponents like Angela Hill and Tecia Torres, but stumbled three times versus top 5 fighters Marina Rodriguez, Yan Xiaonan, and now Jessica Andrade.
Fighters all have their own perspective on MMA. Some treat it like a job, while others a lifestyle. There’s a certain variety that only fights to be a champion and they have the most serious reckonings when confronted with losses. Given Dern’s previous life as a BJJ champion I am genuinely curious where she falls on this spectrum. Is it enough to be a high level fighter who will earn a decent purse for a couple more years, or can Dern only find satisfaction when the path leads to greatness?
Fighters past their prime talk about ‘one more run’ and it hurts everyone who hears those words. Some walk away, others need to fight until they come to a conclusion themselves. We shall see what road Dern walks.
Alex Pereira makes history, Jiri Prochazka makes it legit
Alex Pereira should be lauded, he just became a two division champion in his seventh UFC fight.
I’m struck by the fact that this was accomplished in fewer than the eight fights it took Conor McGregor to culminate his champ-champ run, defeating Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez. This should have been a talking point after Alex Pereira’s historic win, especially on the night of UFC’s 30th anniversary (to the DAY).
It’s strange that the promotion would fumble the opportunity to add Alex Pereira’s accomplishment to company lore, but I have a theory as to why.
The UFC is perpetually torn between touting the company’s greatness and downplaying the fighters. Marketing the brand, not the fighters, was perceived as a savvy way to keep the UFC aloft when its foundation was more tenuous.
Better not to hitch the brand’s wagon to Chuck, Tito, or Randy, because fighters come and go. It’s reasonable in theory, but in practice the company pays the fighters according to this fabricated value imablance. The long term repercussion is that historically relevant fighters exit the promotion with little love lost or cash in hand. The UFC spends so much time downplaying fighters’ relevance and reputations through public disparagement by Dana White that it feels disingenuous for them to celebrate past accomplishments today.
UFC 295’s main event saw a fine fight but lacked the satisfying closure of a clean finish by Alex Pereira. Referee Marc Goddard jumped in just a tad early for everyone’s liking, from the booth to the fans online, and Jiri Prochazka himself. In the moments between the ref’s call and the post-fight interviews fans got to churning on twitter with discontent. Replays on Alex Pereira’s stoppage win were inconclusive as the booth replayed and dissected the ending sequence like it was the Zapruder tape (h/t Eugene S. Robinson for that reference).
It was easy to imagine Dana White at the post-fight press conference throwing someone under the bus, be it Goddard, the commission, or spinning this into a rematch opportunity. Instead Jiri Prochazka stepped in with his martial arts mindset and cleared up all doubt.
In a post-fight inteview with Daniel Cormier, Prochazka confirmed that he was out, and the stoppage against Alex Pereira was legit. It was a humbling moment to see a fighter with the opportunity to speak in their own self-interest defer to a truth that shone its light on their opponent. When I was first becoming an MMA fan, the moment that stood out to me most about the sport was how fighters could go from all out war to hugging and congratulating their opponent at the moment the final bell rang.
That ability to separate violence and personal motivation from their shared experience to acknowledge each other was profound. It made this sport and the people in the cage special.
The UFC as a promotion, as a brand, and as an corporate entity is a vehicle for these moments. Don’t ever let them trick you into thinking they’re bigger than the fighters.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these quick post-event charcoal sketches. I’m starting to color them digitally and turn this new form into a kind of comic book style series over at the Bloody Elbow substack. Join me over there and check out The Fine Art of Violence column for a new storytelling style every Thursday.
About the author