Let’s be straight up about this: the UFC wanted Francis Ngannou to win at UFC 220. That’s almost as clear as the message they sent on Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov when they went ahead and booked a stadium in Russia for Conor McGregor’s estimated return date in September.
In the world of MMA, it’s never good to have one fighter you want to win way more than the other, because almost nothing ever goes to plan in this sport. It’s a jinx of monumental proportions, and once again we’re seeing the fallout from the UFC backing the wrong horse.
This isn’t about Ngannou. Don’t worry about him, he’ll be fine, he’ll come back, and he may be a future champ. The biggest lost opportunity here was the chance to sell Stipe Miocic to the public. There’s very little reason he couldn’t be a bigger star for the organization. His resume speaks for itself, and his fighting style is straight forward and violent. The guy’s a fireman when he’s not a UFC fighter, so like a double hero. How can that be hard to sell? But the UFC doesn’t even bother. The moment Stipe started to get uppity about his pay he largely disappeared from all UFC programming.
As Dana White was about to put the belt on Miocic, Miocic took it from him and gave it to his coach to put around his waist.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 21, 2018
Miocic on taking the belt away from Dana White to give to his coach: “That’s my dude. That dude respects me, I respect him. End of story.”— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 21, 2018
So once again we had a Rousey vs. Nunes moment, where Rousey falls but Nunes doesn’t get the rub because the UFC barely bothered to let people know she existed as anything other than a foil for the fighter they wanted to win. Miocic just broke the record for most consecutive heavyweight UFC title defenses. He’s made it through the hardest opponents in the division. And now he’s on the other side, with little publicity and a big ol’ chip on his shoulder. Well done, UFC.
For a sport that’s all about violent domination of your opponents, MMA sure does have a lot of heartwarming moments. There was Stipe Miocic ignoring his record breaking performance against Ngannou to crow about becoming a new father, which was pretty great. And then there was a less seen moment at the UFC 220 press conference where Daniel Cormier shared a tale about bringing his kids to watch him compete.
”This is the first time my children have ever been to one of my fights,” Cormier said. “My son and daughter have never seen me compete. My boy says he went when he was a baby because back in Strikeforce we couldn’t afford a nanny so we couldn’t have anybody watch the kids, so we brought him. Ever since, we’ve really kind of left ‘em home because ... of what happened last fight. For my son, who is six years old, to see that would devastate him.”
”But I’m 38 years old and it’s time for him to start understanding what dad does. I brought them and they loved it. And they loved every moment of it and I was able to walk right out of the Octagon and grab them and see my wife Selena. And we get to go to the back and see my mom and dad. Nothing’s more precious to me than family. I mean, I love everything else. I love championship belts and everything else, but nothing’s more important than family.”
Double Header Madness
If you were like me, you were flipping back and forth between Bellator 192 and UFC 220 all night. That was all well and good through the first half of both cards, where you got to switch channels and enjoy another fight rather than 15 minutes of sportsdesk crap, but it got kind of nerve wracking once the co-main and main events came up. Fortunately, things lined up almost perfectly for us fans.
I got to listen to Rory MacDonald’s creepy as f**k Bellator post fight interview and then flip back to the UFC just in time to watch Cormier and Oezdemir throw down. That fight ended quick enough that Sonnen vs. Jackson was just starting back on the Paramount Network. And while I had to miss half the third round of that fight to catch the start of Miocic vs. Ngannou, that wasn’t exactly a huge loss. I’d say the only thing I missed of any value was Chael Sonnen’s victory speech, which you can watch here through the magic of some guy filming his TV with his cell phone.
Then there are those of us who really don’t mess around...
What a time to be alive.