If you’re an old MMA fans like me, sometimes you may find yourself thinking of the “good old days” — when we had several approaches to MMA competing for the spotlight, rather than one organization with so much power. It’s something we miss, having more than one approach to the sport and more places for a fighter to go.
But of course, the truth is, the current MMA climate has some real advantages. Generally, we see the best fight the best.
We got another reminder of those mixed feelings yesterday, as Bjorn Rebney, Bellator chairman and CEO, issued a statement that that he will likely not make an offer to their welterweight champion Ben Askren after his contract expires this year. This would seem to indicate that we can expect Askren to join the UFC soon.
This is both good, and bad. It’s good that we can see him fight some of the very best in the world under the ZUFFA banner. Maybe some of you are excited to see how he could handle the likes of Georges St-Pierre. We otherwise may never get that chance.
The truth is, we’ve gotten so many great fights over the years — but maybe there’s a few that didn’t happen.
Here’s a trio of fights from the past which I would have loved to have seen, but which never quite happened.
2004: Wanderlei Silva vs. Vitor Belfort 2. It’s well known that Wanderlei Silva has always wanted to avenge his T/KO loss to “The Phenom” in 1998, and this would have been the perfect time for it. Belfort had just won the UFC Light Heavyweight title from Randy Couture, and Silva was the PRIDE champion. Belfort had been an inconsistent performer, but here he could have been at an emotional peak. Silva is always mentally ready for a fight, and here he may have been at his physical peak. What a fight it could have been! But a Couture rematch, admittedly deserved, shut it down.
Both are totally different fighters now. This bout wouldn’t be nearly so interesting if it had happened as scheduled at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil last year. On the other hand… thinking of the TUF concept…
2008: Randy Couture vs. Enson Inoue II (as the finale of The Ultimate Fighter: US vs. Japan). Back in 1998, Inoue caught “The Natural” in an armbar at Japan Vale Tudo, handing the legend his first MMA loss. With the upset victory, Inoue could lay claim as the world’s best heavyweight. He became a huge star in his adopted home of Japan, while Couture returned to the UFC and become its brightest star. Now, fast forward a few years. Inoue retired, but contemplated a comeback bout; and what better occasion than this? PRIDE had just went under in 2008, so why not start that ZUFFA takeover with the Ultimate Fighter series that propelled the sport to the mainstream? Have both captain a team, one US, one Japan; and fight it out in a Tokyo Dome finale. Carry that PRIDE atmosphere right on through, and who knows where MMA would be in Japan today?
2009: Emelianenko Fedor vs. Josh Barnett, Affliction MMA. Hey, here’s another one that was actually scheduled. In the mid 2000’s, “The Last Emperor” Fedor was an unstoppable juggernaut who had dominated his every challenger, except one — he had never faced Josh Barnett. It was a natural match for the short-lived Affliction MMA promotion. Had it occurred, maybe Fedor, who began looking listless by the time he began fighting in Strike Force in 2009, would have gotten his groove back — vanquishing that one challenger he never got around to in his PRIDE heyday. Instead, the bout was cancelled as Barnett failed a drug test, and Affliction MMA disbanded. It was a doubly sad day for the sport.
So, what about you? What dream fight of yours never happened? Please, let us know!