You may not know it, but these are desperate times for the top MMA promotion in the world. Sure, global expansion has made for success in numerous emerging markets, and ancillary revenue streams like broadcast rights and branded gyms means the most amount of money possible is being squeezed out of that valuable three-letter logo. But at the end of the day the UFC is a business driven pay-per-view, and what pushes those buyrates up are stars in star match-ups. Sadly, right now there are too few of either of those things to go around.
The list of stars on the “injured” list is daunting.
Former champ Rashad Evans is out until the fall with a torn ACL. Heavyweight king Cain Velasquez is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum and is out for a while. Lightweight stud Anthony Pettis has a bum knee, so he’s doing a TUF coaching gig opposite Gilbert Melendez and won’t resurface until late in the year.
As for the rest of the UFC’s “A” team, Jon Jones and Chris Weidman are tied up with fights in April and May, respectively – fights that could conceivably leave them banged up and in need of significant recovery time afterwards. And then there’s Demetrious Johnson, Renan Barao and Jose Aldo, who are obviously great fighters, but if forced to headline a pay-per-view, would put up dismal numbers.
Such is where births the UFC’s desperation, for there are two massive PPV events each year – the show around July 4 and the show around New Years Eve – and the formula for those events to be the annual cornucopia of currency they usually are is that they must be stocked with stars. Right now, the UFC has only a precious couple of those available. In fact, the desperation is so palpable, rumors of matchmaking bordering on science fiction have sprouted up, with champ Ronda Rousey allegedly facing either an over-sized steroid monster in Cris Cyborg (who has never made 135 pounds, Rousey’s weight class) or a movie star in Gina Carano (who hasn’t fought since 2009, when Cyborg damn near killed her).
Of course, the nature of the business of fighting is that one good upset or knockdown-drag out war could make for a rematch that would have fans everywhere tuning in. 2013’s July pairing of then-champ Anderson Silva and Weidman made for the second biggest UFC of all time in December when the two did the dance again. The UFC brass is undoubtedly hoping that somewhere in their Jones vs. Glover Teixeira, Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida and even Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler match-ups a compelling future bout will be created. Yet, relying on something so nebulous as organically-created hype is no sound way to run a business – hence the ridiculous Rousey and Carano rumors.
Hence the desperation.
What do you think – with stars like GSP and Anderson Silva gone, and the rest of the roster in disarray, are there any match-ups out there that could make the UFC’s July and New Years shows compelling?