When Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) discovered that Wanderlei Silva was playing Marco Polo with Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), his UFC 175 opponent, Chael Sonnen, revealed that Anthony Johnson was being considered as a light heavyweight replacement.
Instead, the promotion went with embattled middleweight lightning rod, Vitor Belfort.
What stood out from the very beginning of this protracted charade is how unnecessary a choice it was, considering the insignificance of Sonnen's inclusion on a fight card that for all intents and purposes, sells itself. Fourth of July Weekend? International fight week? Two championship title fights?
Send the "Gangster" back to the hideout.
Sonnen -- despite his bluster and pig-in-a-poke performances -- adds tremendous value to a pay-per-view (PPV) line up and even more so to a FOX-branded fight card. But his histrionics are not required next month in Las Vegas, Nevada, because the meat and potatoes of ZUFFA's mid-summer mixed martial arts (MMA) pageant come in the form of Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida.
And nobody's talking about it.
That's a shame, too, because not only is their 185-pound showdown a fantastic pairing of styles, it also presents the great unknown.
Who is the baddest motherfucker at middleweight?
For years, the answer was (of course) Anderson Silva, but the last time we saw "The Spider," he was smeared across the canvas with half a leg, while Weidman was smiling and high-fiving his pasta pals from Long Island. If the "All American's" UFC 162 knockout was the death of the Silva era, then his UFC 168 finish was the funeral.
But that's not the end of the story, it's the beginning.
Whether Weidman becomes Arnold Schwarzenegger's Lee Haney, or nothing more than Matt Hughes' Dennis Hallman, all depends on his ability to shut down the completely reinvented Lyoto Machida when the cage door closes on July 5 in "Sin City."
The same Machida who buried Mark Munoz in an eight-sided casket, before treating Gegard Mousasi like an oversized Bobo doll. We always knew "The Dragon" was capable of breathing fire -- even during his hot-and-cold run at light heavyweight -- but the sizzle-reel of this latest incarnation plays like a work fiction.
Oh, and this all happens in less than 30 days.
But we haven't spent much time talking about it (guilty) because we're so hung up on Vitor Belfort's every move. While his failed drug test from last February has proved to be a great PR move for "The Axe Murderer" -- who can now watch the chaos unfold from a dark corner -- it's not exactly the best way to sell a PPV.
One that also includes women's 135-pound queenpin Ronda Rousey, who may or may not be the biggest star in combat sports, depending on who you ask. Unfortunately, her upcoming title defense against Alexis Davis is, on paper, a grotesque mismatch, leaving "Rowdy" to drown in "Phenom"-enal headlines (unless she's fighting Floyd Mayweather).
Who's to blame?
Well, everybody. UFC could have easily tapped "Rumble" Johnson and backfilled his spot against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in San Jose, or simply left Sonnen off the card altogether. That would have allowed Belfort the opportunity to slowly and quietly settle his differences with the commission later this year, free of deadlines and Plan Bs.
In addition, we as the media could shut up about it.
But that would require us to alienate a large portion of the combat sports fan base. Like it or not, Belfort and his carry-on luggage make for great discussion. In short, people want to argue about his place in MMA, whether or not he belongs at UFC 175, and of course, if he's still one of the greatest middleweights in the sport today.
Meanwhile, two of the other greatest middleweights in the sport today are booked to throw hands in just a couple of weeks, but somewhere along the way, we got too hung up on Belfort's drug-and-pony show to notice.
Sorry about that.