Although sport is entertainment, there is a subtle but sure line the UFC must walk to remain on the side of the former rather than the latter, at least in the eyes of fight fans crying for legitimacy.
That's why there is a segment of the fanbase that has derided the decision to place the Chris Lytle vs. Dan Hardy fight in the main event of the upcoming UFC on Versus 5 fight card on Aug. 14 in Milwaukee.
That's not because it won't be an amazing fight; quite the contrary, in fact. It's because the bout, contested at welterweight, has little to no bearing on the 170-pound division.
The same cannot be said for the co-main event of the evening, a lightweight scrap pitting Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson. While maybe not as high profile, the match-up is long on relevance, as a win for Miller would earn him a shot at the 155-pound title.
Yet, Lytle vs. Hardy was given the top billing and that's likely because it's almost guaranteed to provide the fireworks the UFC so loves to market to the masses. Lytle considers it an honor and as he tells MMA Weekly, he plans to deliver as expected:
"That's about as big a compliment as they can give me. They appreciate the way I've been fighting, they appreciate my style and what I've been doing. You know they're going to trust that the last fight on the card that people want to see it. That tells me that they know that people like the way I fight, they appreciate it and I'm honored to be in that spot. When (Hardy) told me he wanted to fight me, he was very respectful about everything. I understand it's not necessary for him to go out and make a big statement about this. From what I understand he wants to fight, he wants a good kind of fight, and fight the right kind of way. He thinks I'm going to give it to him and I'm going to."
After dropping his third straight loss, a unanimous decision to the returning Anthony "Rumble" Johnson at UFC Fight Night 24 event back in March, "The Outlaw" knows he could be on the Zuffa chopping block.
So he did what any gladiator would do and vowed to go out on his shield.
After stringing together four straight wins inside the Octagon, Hardy was upended by division champion Georges St. Pierre in their UFC 111 title fight just over a year ago.
A surprise knockout loss to Carlos Condit would follow at UFC 120 last October and Johnson continued the downward spiral by taking the slugger down and controlling him for the better part of three rounds.
Hardy knows what he needs to do in order to get himself back into the win column, or to at least keep the fans entertained enough to warrant him sticking around. He needs a gamer who isn't afraid to stand and trade or just flat-out brawl for fifteen minutes straight no matter what the cost.
Paging Mr. Lytle...
"Lights Out" saw his four fight win streak come to an end against Brian Ebersole at UFC 127 last February in Sydney, Australia. It was a shocking loss for the resurgent Indiana firefighter who was on the verge of breaking into the ranks of contendership before being thwarted "Down Under."
While his career clock may be ticking, he's certainly going to make the most of the remaining fights on his contract, and what better way to do that than by entertaining fans with a three round slugfest?
Expect fireworks in this one, even if it shouldn't be the main event.