The only thing constant in life is change, and nowhere else is that more true than in the microcosm of the fight game. This weekend, we saw a strong case made for a fighter’s pound-for-pound status, another fighter prove that she’s miles ahead of the competition, and a legend call it quits once and for all. All of this is pretty standard stuff for the organization called the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but for some reason now more than ever – with the over-saturated domestic market and international events featuring more and more fighters we’ve never even heard of – it seems that the UFC is hemorrhaging stars. And stars are what it needs.
So what to do with the organization’s shrinking ranks of pay-per-view drivers and worthy headliners? What next for Chris Weidman, Ronda Rousey, Anderson Silva and anyone else who has the capacity to motivate fans to tune in? Let’s you and I figure that out together.
-Chris Weidman - First on the Weidman agenda should be to heal up the nagging injuries that have been plaguing him. After that, well, the waters are muddy on just who can effectively challenge him for the belt. After all, he’s already taken out two of the best in the world in Silva and Lyoto Machida, and the title challenger pipeline is filled with a bunch of names that fail to inspire. Tim Kennedy? Luke Rockhold? Ronaldo Souza? All these guys are tough. However, their threat-level is pretty much non-existent, and without that, Weidman’s star power is squandered.
-Lyoto Machida - We know what Machida is capable of because he’s been in the UFC a long time and was once the light-heavyweight champ. And after Saturday night’s performance, we know he might never be the one to dethrone the reigning king. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be interesting to see him take out the other middleweights working their way up. To me, it would be more compelling to see Machida wreck Kennedy, Rockhold and Souza than to see Weidman do it. Agree or disagree?
-Ronda Rousey - There is literally no one on Earth who can steal away Rousey’s belt, so all we’re left with now are “freakshow” matches that we know Rousey would win. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the way it is. So yeah, put her against Holly Holm or Gina Carano, and if Cyborg can cut down to 135, let’s see that one as well. Who else is there? Cat Zingano? Ha, don’t make me laugh.
-Cain Velasquez - The champ has got a full plate right now with TUF: Latin America and his bout against Fabricio Werdum. Let’s put a pin in this one and come back to it if he gets past the Brazilian submission master.
-Jon Jones - Jones may or may not defeat Alexander Gustafsson in their rematch, but if he does, then there’s only one bout that makes sense: him versus Daniel Cormier. Past that, Jones might be in Weidman/Rousey territory in terms of worthy opponents.
-Johny Hendricks - He’s exciting to watch, but Hendricks is still teetering on the cusp of stardom. Maybe another bout against Robbie Lawler would do the trick…?
-Urijah Faber - Faber absolutely cannot defeat anyone wearing a belt, and that’s fine – stick him in the cage against up-and-comers and title challengers. The world needs popular gatekeepers.
-Anthony Pettis - Like Hendricks, Pettis might not be all that far into the realm of stardom as of yet. Provided his injuries heal up and he doesn’t turn into another Dominick Cruz, he needs to be able to strut his stuff against some worthy competition. But who? I say… Khabib Nurmagomedov.
-Anderson Silva - He’s done as a champ and probably done as a challenger. But Silva’s star power is undeniable, so it behooves the UFC to make up some “fantasy” matches to put him in. If Georges St. Pierre comes back, definitely put him and the Brazilian together. Who else?
-Vitor Belfort/Wanderlei Silva/Dan Henderson - The Great TRT Debacle of 2014 has last this trio a mass of twisted hormones and/or athletic commission shenanigans, which is a shame, because Belfort, “The Axe Murderer” and “Hendo” are stars in their own right. Hopefully things can get sorted out. The UFC – and the fans – need them.
Not on this list are champs Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, as well as a bunch of fighters who’ve appeared in main event bouts. The reason: They’re not stars!