Don’t Call it a ComebackGarage Admin
Believe it or not, the excitement in the Octagon over the last 6 months has been the UFC’s offseason. Despite the UFC knocking it out of the park with Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, Diaz/McGregor at UFC 201 and what may be the greatest card of all time at UFC 205, the UFC has been without three of its top stars. This has led to a few lackluster events spread between their marquee events. Talent has been spread thin to the point of canceling their scheduled foray into the Phillipines. The UFC Manila card relied heavily on an underwhelming return fight by former champion BJ Penn. While interesting, the bout was not supported strongly by undercard fights and a Penn injury left the card irreparably weak. This has been the story with most of the recent and upcoming Fight Night, Fight Pass and UFC on Fox cards. Each has a decent headliner but has little substance past the main event. It is becoming more and more difficult for matchmakers to disguise how spread thin the UFC has actually been. With TV deals already booked and global expansion underway the roster has struggled to supply talent to all corners of the world and the weak UFC 204 card and UFC Manila cancellation were clear indications. The otherworldly promotional talent of Conor McGregor has been the UFC’s saving grace.
However, the new owners of the UFC have no need to fret. Recent reports all point towards the company having the biggest two quarters in company history on the horizon. The UFC is staring down the barrel at the return of three of its all time biggest stars to complement what looks to be the biggest event in UFC history. First we are looking at November 12th for UFC 205 and the company has pulled no stops in their first foray into New York. The Madison Square Garden card will host three title fights including McGregor looking ti be the first man to hold two titles simultaneously. Stacking this card has undoubtedly leeched talent from the surrounding cards but their haven’t been many complaints amidst the excitement of the Superbowl level card.
The UFC will be hosting UFC 206 in Toronto headlined by Cormier vs Johnson 2 on December 10th. While this is definitely a big event the card has a notable vacancy. The last trip to Toronto sold out he Rogers Centre with 55,000 attending. This event was a showcase of the company’s golden boy George St Pierre. It is hard to believe that this isn’t at the top of the UFC’s to-do list. GSP has already begun drug testing to be eligible in time for the event and has repeatedly stated his interest in competing. Unsurprisingly, the company president Dana White has denied GSP’s participation in Toronto. This has happened before with McGregor, Lesnar and more. It is half a negotiation tactic to keep the fighter purses from skyrocketing before bout agreements are signed and half a promotional tactic to allow the company to break the news at the right time for maximum effect. It would be hard to believe the company will not come to terms with one of the biggest draws of all time to come out of retirement at the site of their largest crowd of all time. Biggest question is who will be across the cage from him….but that is a different discussion for a different day.
Just a few short weeks later on December 30th, UFC 207 will ring in the New Year. It has always been a targeted time of year and the UFC is bringing out the big guns. The Queen makes her long awaited return to the cage to take on Amanda Nunes. Rousey has been sidelined since the headkick heard around the world from Holly Holm back in November of last year. Ronda took the loss especially hard and some questioned whether a return would ever happen. While many debated the possible opponents, Rousey has finally locked on to her next target. The women’s bantamweight belt has been a hot potato getting passed from Holm to Tate to Nunes. Rousey’s has consistently proven herself a top draw despite mediocre opponents, weak undercards and global venues. Typically these factors all drop PPV buys but Rousey has never missed a beat. After a year long lay off and a compelling comeback story Rousey will quickly challenge McGregor for top draw.
The UFC’s number one anti-hero, the Stockton bad boy, Nick Diaz is now off his controversial 18 month suspension. Diaz has always been an easy headline draw and can build any fight to a fever pitch with his trademark brash attitude. With his brother Nate’s recent success he should be able to parlay the family name to new heights given the right dance partner. Tons of names have been thrown out but and permutation of top draws paired with Diaz will create a chemical reaction. For my money a Robbie Lawler rematch would be a fight fans dream.
We cannot forget the always controversial pound for pound king. Many have given up on Jonny ‘Bones” Jones after his most recent positive drug test. The disappointment surrounding his last minute removal from UFC 200 has left a sour taste in fans mouth. Many expected him to be sidelined on suspension for a lengthy term. However, all is not lost. Bones has an appeal scheduled for November 10th and him and his lawyers are very optimistic. They have several arguments on the positive test being linked to male enhancement medication and are ready to present their case. They, undoubtedly, have some of the top lawyers forming arguments and recent suspensions have been removed after linking tainted supplemnts to positive tests. Don’t be surprised if Jones can argue his way out of his suspension. A ‘Bones’ return would certainly be enough to fill arenas and move PPVs.
The recent stretch of weak cards getting us from UFC 201-UFC 205 has been a difficult stretch for fans leaving us all hungry for the top tier of talent, but don’t fret fight fans the offseason is almost over and the cavalry is on its way!