UFC 226 was a historic event.
Reigning light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier, stepped into the Octagon last Sat. night (July 7, 2018) in Las Vegas to compete at heavyweight, the first time he’s done so since abandoning the weight class in late 2013.
That gave the division five years to evolve without him and when he came back, “DC” fought the most dominant heavyweight champion in history in the form of Stipe Miocic, a fighter he not only defeated, but knocked out in the very first round.
It was a pretty big deal.
That feat leaves Cormier (21-1, 1 NC) as just the second UFC fighter in history to simultaneously hold two separate titles in two different weight classes, an opportunity he earned by A) having an undefeated record at 265 pounds and B) cleaning out the 205-pound division in the absence of Jon Jones.
Not that it matters.
What’s earned and what sells pay-per-view (PPV) buys are two entirely different things. Shortly after Cormier was given the microphone as part of his post-fight celebration, he promptly called out Brock Lesnar, on loan from WWE, for a 2018 title defense.
Lesnar has not competed since capturing a unanimous decision win over Mark Hunt at UFC 200, a victory that was later overturned to a no contest when the pro wrestling headliner failed his post-fight drug test.
Prior to that were technical knockout losses to Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez. If it feels like ancient history; well, it is. Lesnar (5-3, 1 NC) has not recorded a UFC win in over eight years, courtesy of his come-from-behind victory over Shane Carwin
So, a fighter who has not seen the win column since 2010 and is coming off a drug-test suspension is getting a shot at the UFC heavyweight title. Not because it’s what the fans want, but rather because it’s what the UFC needs ... and Lesnar breaks PPV records.
I hope the No. 2-ranked Curtis Blaydes at least gets a fruit basket.
UFC was having the shittiest of years in PPV buys and 2017 would have been an unmitigated disaster, but thanks to a boxing co-promotion featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor, Dana White and Co. made out like bandits.
We won’t see “Money” in 2018 and if we do see the legally-challenged “Notorious,” it probably won’t be until the end of the year against a fighter (Khabib Nurmagomedov) who isn’t exactly a mainstream draw.
UFC needs to hit its quota and desperate times call for desperate measures. I know we all like to pretend MMA is a sport, but it’s prize fighting and you make the fights that generate the most cash ... but does it have to feel so dirty?
Lesnar entered the cage and called Stipe Miocic, one of the most humble and well-respected heavyweight champions — who set a record that Lesnar couldn’t touch — a “piece of shit.” I know he was playing the heel, which is why he shoved Cormier upon entering the cage, but Miocic just got knocked out and lost his title.
Is that how we sell PPVs these days?
I’ve always been a fan of Lesnar because of his “it” factor and I don’t blame him for this circus. Cormier was, of course, a willing participant and reading from the script line-by-line. And why not? He’s going to make beaucoup bucks when you tally up his PPV points.
I just wish we could have had a few extra minutes of pretending that MMA was about real stuff like talent and performance. I’m always game for the occasional side show (PRIDE never die!) but the problem with UFC 226 and its post-fight shenanigans is that once you keep upping the ante, you eventually run out of ways to outdo yourself.
After we rip off the Lesnar band-aid this fall, who will stop the bleeding in 2019?
For much more on UFC 226 including live results and play-by-play, breaking news, video highlights, reactions, fight recaps and so much more, head over to our “Miocic vs. Cormier” live story stream by clicking here.