Quick, name the last and most unlikely contender for the biggest MMA event of 2013.
Easy, right? UFC 168, coming up next Saturday — with Anderson Silva challenging Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight championship in the main event.
It’s last, because it’s the last major MMA show of 2013, unless you count the IGF New Year’s Eve event in Tokyo. (Their “Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2013″ will include showcases for Satoshi Ishii and Shinya Aoki. It looks more “fun” than “good,” but we’ll see…)
It’s unlikely, because very few expected Silva to ever find himself in the position of challenger next weekend — but that all changed when the Brazilian legend was knocked out back by Weidman back in July.
That night, Silva infamously clowned about before getting knocked senseless by a Weidman left. A post-fight interview even saw a dejected Anderson Silva speaking vaguely about leaving the sport behind.
When the rematch was scheduled, Silva opened as favorite to reclaim the championship, but not by much. Currently, odds makers have him a (-145) favorite.
What if he loses again, though?
What if instead of saying he was done with title fights (so much for that), instead of, “I’m tired… I fight for a long time,” as he memorably said last time around… what if he follows Georges St-Pierre in leaving the UFC?
At 38, what if he’s simply had enough?
What kind of jam would the UFC be in, then?
Yesterday, Dave Walsh, one of the writers I recently listed as among the best in the fight game, took ZUFFA to task for their lack of promoting and star-building in recent months.
The UFC, simply put, needs to give reasons for the fans to care, and judging by recent drops in ratings, maybe they just aren’t.
Walsh mentions the absence of the casual fan, in his own experience:
Part of the original charm of UFC was the rebellious, anti-establishment sport that made it appeal to all sorts of fans. I’d have strange moments in past years where friends who never had even a passing interest in any sports would tell me that they were Chuck Liddell fans and that he was going to win his next fight. That kind of enthusiasm doesn’t seem to exist anymore and it’s their own damned fault.
Click here for the rest of his article. He makes some great points, especially with the recent loss of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view attraction in St-Pierre.
Concern is growing that the UFC may lose Silva should he lose next weekend.
The Silva vs. Weidman 2 preview begins with Joe Rogan hailing Weidman’s defeat of Silva “the biggest accomplishment anyone has achieved inside the Octagon.” I’m not sure I’d classify it that way: it looked more like he was knocking out a guy who is clowning around. I wouldn’t say we “saw Chris Weidman destroy Anderson Silva,” as Rogan says, either. Sure he threw the punch that knocked Silva out and deserves all the credit in the world. But, it seems Silva played a role in his own demise.
Still, what do you expect? They’ve got to try and market the star. They’ve got some catching up to do.
Should Weidman succeed in the rematch, the UFC may find themselves struggling to convince fans that Weidman is just as much a reason to watch as Anderson Silva was.
It may just be the last — and most unlikely — place they thought they’d be.