UFC 149: When is a Title Fight Not a Title Fight?

UFC 149: More boring than Calgary itself

Answer: When the champ doesn’t fight.

Reading the Wikipedia page for any UFC event lately sounds like a soap opera.  X was scheduled to fight Y, then the fight was moved from card Z, then X was hurt and now Brian Ebersole‘s chest hair has stepped in to fight.  The entry explaining how the card was put together and what the card went through is twice as long as any information explaining how the card played out.  It goes to show just how many injuries there are in today’s fight game.  What we end up with is a card that has Urijah Faber vs Renan Barao in the main event, for the interim title, with Hector Lombard vs Tim Boetsch as the co-main event.  Admittedly, this is not the most exciting card that we’ve had.  But this was the state of UFC 149.

My complaint with the event is not the quality of fights.  Any time two men want to punch each other in the face for my entertainment, I’ll give them the utmost respect and will most likely watch it.  The problem is the interim title belt.  When I was younger, and boxing was the king of combat sports, the champ was the champ until he got beat.  Or, conversely, he could get stripped of the title if he failed to meet the top challenger within a years time.  The UFC makes the fights, so there’s no scheduling conflicts, lack of agreement, or any nonsense from the fighters camps.  Either they take the fight that the organization offers or they don’t.  The only thing stopping number one from fighting number two is injuries and here we are.

Predictable Results

The results were rather predictable.  Another crummy card with a lot of boring fights on the main card.  Some excitement on the undercard kept the fans from revolting, but the main event was played out under a chorus of boos.  Ryan Jimmo‘s knockout of Aussie Anthony Perosh tied a record for fastest KO.  I watched Perosh fight Cro Cop in person in Sydney at UFC 110.  There was no way he should have made it this far, but here he was getting knocked out by a dancing robot weirdo in Canada.

Brian Ebersole getting ready for the fight. (photo credit: 40-year-old virgin)

Brian Ebersole’s run of luck ran out as he was bested via split-decision by James Head.  Where does this leave the man of a million chest hairs?  There was never much of a hope that he would make a title run but he simply kept on winning until now.  Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan put on what is being widely hailed as the most boring fight of all-time.

Lombard Fails

The biggest loser of the event was Hector Lombard.  With the entire middleweight division in question, aside from champion Anderson Silva, a title shot was his for the taking.  All he had to do was beat journeyman Tim Boetsch, and maybe a top contender, and he’d be primed for primetime.  But, alas, Boetsch did just enough to win the match (not in everyone’s eyes, though) and Lombard is now in the crap pile that is the lower half of the top ten contenders at 185.  Some felt that Lombard should have gotten the nod.  Most felt that nobody should have won.  Some have said that we were the losers.

I’ve seen some calls for more draws.  I would favor it.  If a round doesn’t have a clear winner, why not call it a 10-10.  So many fights that didn’t have a clearcut winner have been given to one fighter or another based on an extra take down or one having moved forward 55% of the time and the other moving forward 45%.  Let there be draws!

Anderson Silva sitting at ringside.

The Title That Wasn’t a Title

And now to the main complaint.  Why do we have interim titles?  They’re nothing more than a number one contender status when the champion is injured and nobody I know treats it as anything more than that.  The UFC looks at it from a marketing point of view.  Being able to call the fight a title bout sounds like a bonus for the sales team.  But most discerning fight fans know what’s at stake and will choose to pay based on the merits of the bouts.  Now that we have 5 round non-title fights, changing the label of the fight doesn’t change the rules.  And the casual fans, the sometime buyers, are not going to go for Faber-Barao no matter what you call the fight.  Brock Lesnar vs a grizzly bear?  They’ll buy that!

The long-term effect of this practice is what bothers me.  I grew up with baseball and its history and statistics.  The lore around the game goes back to before the turn of the last century and I was fascinated by it as a child.  It seemed timeless.  In the future, when we look back on this time period in MMA, or when young, new fight fans look up ancient history, this list of interim titles will look like mayhem and confusion.  People won’t know what to make of it.  If Carlos Condit fails to beat George St. Pierre, what is his legacy?  Was he a champ?  In the history books, he’ll be listed as one based on his interim status.  It’s a mistake.  Not a fatal flaw, but something that I hope will be viewed as archaic with the power of hindsight.

Oh, and Renan Barao kicked Urijah Faber and his legs into irrelevance.  But I’m sure you already knew that.

    • Pete Mac
    • July 23rd, 2012

    Stagger on delivers as always. Thanks for the post.

  1. Awesome post man! Don’t worry, Bendo/Edgar II will redeem the credibility of the title fight!

    • I have no doubt that that’s gonna be a great fight. I’m getting tired of these instant rematches though. I thought Bendo won the fight pretty easily….but I realize the complaints with the decision. Can’t wait.

  2. Stagger your starting to build a following. I think your pictures in your post(especially with the captions) are far better than mine.

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