The UFC has been prioritizing title fights over fighter health for some time now, and it’s fair to say they’re hurting themselves in the long run.
The UFC 223 main event is a good example of the UFC shooting themselves in the foot. UFC president, Dana White has been adamant on pay-per-view events strictly being headlined by title fights for some time now. UFC 139 was one of the few pay-per-view events that was not headlined by a title fight and it turned out to be one of the greatest five round battles in UFC history. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan “Hendo” Henderson went to hell and back. Granted UFC 139 was originally scheduled to be headlined by Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos in a heavyweight title rematch. That was before the UFC decided to move the title fight to their first event on Fox.
Today, fans look back at UFC 223 and they either remember Khabib Nurmagomedov’s decision to throw away the game plan to test his striking ability against Al Iaquinta. Or they remember Al Iaquinta’s ability to both stuff Nurmagomedov’s take downs and stand back up on multiple occasions. There was also Joe Rogan’s strange and questionable commentary. But what shouldn’t be forgotten is that the UFC allowed Max Holloway, their featherweight champion who has been quite the commodity for them, to put his health at risk to save their event.
Holloway is certainly “about that life,” but he’s also a potential dominant champion in a division that hasn’t had the same flare since Conor McGregor moved up to lightweight. Holloway wasn’t given the option to fight at a more reasonable weight, which is a decision made by the UFC far too often as of late.
It’s a shame given that Nate Diaz was offered a fight against Conor McGregor at 170-pound catch weight with two weeks to prepare. Max on the other hand was not given that option despite having less than a week to cut weight. It’s worth noting that McGregor had to convince the matchmakers to offer Diaz the fight at 170-pounds. Could you imagine a world in which Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor didn’t lock horns because Nate couldn’t make the 155-pound limit on short notice?
UFC 183 was headlined by Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz in a non-title fight and there were zero complaints from fans. Much like the UFC 196 headliners, Silva and Diaz along with Rua and Henderson were known to give fans their money’s worth.
Interim titles have become somewhat of an epidemic in the UFC. This is due to the UFC’s need to fill main events faster than incumbent champions are willing or able to fight. Tyron Woodley is the latest victim of the interim title epidemic and he won’t be the last.
One solution to the UFC’s problems could be to stop stretching themselves thin and simply hold fewer events. Another more likely solution is to create more weight classes, but we have a better chance of seeing Dana White with a full head of hair. Then again, never say never.