In the face of stellar success, the UFC has a credibility problem with many of its fans---especially those fans who’ve watched since UFC 1.
These questions began for me in late 2008 when Brock Lesnar, a former NCAA and professional wrestler, took his unimpressive 2-1 record to a shot at the heavyweight title. The heavyweight division was thin, and I understood why the UFC would want to raise awareness by bringing in Lesnar’s fans. Also, the Minnesotan looked impressive in the beginning, and has a herculean physique. Still, the move lacked street cred.
Without going into great detail, other happenings in question are: Chael Sonnen using his mouth to get an undeserved title shot at 205; Edgar getting a direct shot at Aldo at 145 despite having been a champ at 155; Ronda Rousey getting a UFC belt without a fight or division to speak of.
White’s reaction to Jon 'Bones' Jones originally declining the ludicrous Sonnen fight was to go off on him publically, as if Dan Henderson’s injury was his fault. The affect is chill: fighters are going to do whatever White says for fear he’s going to lose his temper in public. And he is the boss.
On December 29th I was at a bar watching UFC 155, jaw on the carpet while Cain took it to Junior. A person beside me---a brown belt in shotokan under one of the best instructors in the world---asked it the fight was being thrown. “JdS isn’t fighting,” she said.
I ignored the comment and a week later had a Vlog on The Vancouver Observer lauding Cain for his victory and describing how tough it is to run the HW gauntlet. Then I re-watched the fight.
The most noticeable aspect of the fight the second time around was realizing JdS doesn’t fight. At all. And I'm talking about before he gets dropped in round one. He throws no real punches, spends his time scrambling up from takedowns, and misses wildly with an uppercut, something JdS doesn’t do much at all, and certainly not like that.
I’m not saying the fight was thrown. I can’t prove a claim like that. I only know what I feel after watching the fight again and reassessing comments heard watching it live, and it just feels wrong.
There is plenty of motive for fixing fights. Had JdS won via KO again, Cain would have essentially been relegated to also-ran, and would likely have gone down to light heavyweight. Cain has a huge fan base, and is of Mexican descent, a plus for the potentially huge market in that country. And a trilogy match promises a massive payday for everyone.
Where huge amounts of money are at stake, anything’s possible. The majority owners of the UFC are casino owners, after all. Without the Fertitta brothers and Dana white, however, the UFC wouldn’t exist. In fact, when the UFC came to Vancouver I stood in line not to get an autograph or photo of Dana, but to shake his hand and thank him. Again, I have no proof, and certainly I’m not attacking anyone’s character. All I’m saying is my spider sense is tingling.
In the early 90s the NHL wanted a US team to do well, The LA Kings in particular since they had Gretzky. In one playoff series against Calgary, the Flames shot the puck over the goal line and the LA goalie, Kelly Hrudey, covered it and pulled it back out. The puck was definitely in. The refs called it no goal. The Kings went on to the Stanley Cup, which is exactly what the NHL wanted.
At Superbowl XL, the hype leading up to the game was all about The Steelers, how they have more fans spread throughout the country than any other team, and how their running back, Jerome Bettis, was from Detroit, where the game was being played. Seattle was the equivalent of a seat filler, evidenced in the horrendous calls made during the game that ensured Pittsburg’s win. I watched with a Steelers fan who didn’t want a win that way.
While I watch the odd game, I no longer follow the NHL or NFL because of these debacles. I don’t want to expend valuable time and energy to something where the fix is in.
I’ve been a fan of the UFC and an avid supporter of Dana White from their beginnings, but slowly the UFC has gone from the fastest growing sport in the world to a sort of fight entertainment. As fans, all we can do is speak up through PPV buys, which is why I refuse to watch LHW champion Jon Bones Jones fight some middleweight.
I’ve been wrong before, and I really hope I’m wrong about this.
Follow me on Twitter @RenkoStyranka