Feb 15, 2014; Jaragua do Sul, SC, Brazil; Lyoto Machida (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night Machida vs Mousasi at Arena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

UFC Co-Main Event Title Shouldn’t Be Used Lightly

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In my opinion, a fight should only be labeled as a “co-main event” if either A: the winner of the fight is virtually guaranteed a title shot, or B: It is the lesser of two title fights on a card a la Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis.

Let us use the upcoming Fox Sports 1 fight between Alistair Overeem and Ben Rothwell as an example. I understand that Overeem is popular as far as mixed martial artists go. However, his time has come and gone.

“The Demolition Man”, having a ton of hype coming in, was supposed to run the table and become the next UFC champ. This seemed inevitable after downing former UFC and WWE Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar with a well-placed kick to Lesnar’s diverticulitis at UFC 141 back in 2011.

…when this designation gets thrown around loosely it cheapens the experience for fighters who deserve the co-main spot.

Unfortunately, after the Lesnar fight Overeem he went on a bit of a skid–losing to underdogs Travis Browne and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva before rebounding with an uninspired decision victory over Frank Mir at UFC 169.

However, Rothwell does not (and never will) possess the name to justify his name being associated with a main event–co or otherwise. Rothwell is merely a middle of the road heavyweight who can pose an interesting challenge to mercurial fighters such as Overeem.

On the other hand, even if Overeem does win, he will have to pick up at least 2 more convincing UFC wins before he reestablishes himself as a legit title contender.

The best case scenario for either mixed martial artist would be a brutal knockout of the other. In which case, the winning fighter will still reside light-years from the nearest title shot.

Basically, fights like Overeem vs. Rothwell, as entertaining as they may be,  do not have more title implications than practically any other main card fight.

Naturally, some co-main event fights do more than boost a fighter’s ego. Sometimes we get a fight that has serious title implications. For example, Jacare’s upcoming fight with Gegard Mousasi was designated the co-main event for UFC 176 before being moved to the main event of UFN 50.

While the two fighters in question are not household names by any stretch of the imagination–this former co-main event places the winner in the unenviable position of having a strong claim to challenge undefeated UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Accordingly, in this case the co-main event tag was warranted.

Calling a UFC fight a co-main event, especially when there is nothing special about the fight, detracts from other fighters on the main card who might actually be in title contention instead of merely being a has-been with a name.

It goes without saying (although I will say it anyway) that fights such as Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nico Musoke at UFC Fight Night 44 have no business being called a co-main event and are only designated as such arbitrarily. I am happy that fighters get to feel good about the designation. However, when this designation gets thrown around loosely it cheapens the experience for fighters such as Jacare and Mousasi who deserve this designation.

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Tags: Alistair Overeem Ben Rothwell Gegard Mousasi Jacare UFC UFC Fight Night 50

  • libertyordeath

    I couldn’t disagree more. The UFC is a fighting promotion. The objective of this company is to sell tickets, PPV buys, increase viewership on Fox and sell subscriptions to its online service. I understand your argument, but the UFC will and should continue the practice of making the co-main, main and any other fight about what will grow the company.

    The fans in most every case wants to see title holders fight the #1 contender. This is great for the sport and the organization. If its not title bout, then they want great competition. They need to know the guys who are fighting to even determine whether or not there may be great competition. You are correct that Jacare vs. Mousasi is a more compelling fight with title implications, but its harder to promote and for a promotion company, well, you get my point.

    • Mike Bivins

      Thanks for weighing in!
      Could you perhaps explain how having a weak co-main event can help boost the UFC’s revenue?
      As for creating interesting fights as co-main events, I will agree Rothwell vs. Overeem is interesting, it would be no less interesting if the co-main event tag were dropped from it.

      The same could be said for Jacare vs Mousasi, except that unlike Rothwell and the ‘Reem, the winner deserves a title shot.

      Do you feel UFC fans are simple enough to be drawn in simply because a fight is labeled as a co-main event? How does having a co-main event bring anything different to the table? Especially since even being on the main card is so important given the size of UFC cards these days.

      • libertyordeath

        “Could you perhaps explain how having a weak co-main event can help boost the UFC’s
        revenue?” Even though you’re putting words in my mouth in an effort to diminish
        my argument instead of arguing the merits, I’ll do you one better and give you
        an example of a weak main event boosting viewership which in turn boosts
        revenue. Penn vs. Edgar 3. Even avid UFC fans had to tune in to that incredibly
        insignificant fight. That’s because one of the greatest ever has a bunch of
        star power. He’s not close to title contention, he probably shouldn’t fight
        again, but stars get viewership, sell tickets etc.

        You are making the argument that the prime slot of co-main should only be used for
        fighters in title contention. I disagree with that. I don’t think relatively unknown
        fighters help promote a fight card. I think having known fighters in the top
        two slots of co-main and main help the card look stacked. I think it’s even
        better for the up and comers that the promotion work this way because it’s in
        their best interest that a maximum number of fans see them fight. If they
        perform well, they grow a fan base which helps their bottom line.

        “Do you feel UFC fans are simple enough to be drawn in simply because a fight is
        labeled as a co-main event?” You really enjoy twisting words don’t you? I think
        there are different types of fans. There are fans like you and me, who will
        spend time reading and writing about the sport. There are new comers who couldn’t
        name Mousasi but know who Overeem is. And there are casual fans who also don’t know
        fighters in the depths of the division but know the stars who have been in multiple
        main events etc. because they saw those fights.

        The UFC has had this model since current management bought it and the fact is this
        model is growing the organization. That is non-debatable. The sport is
        structured well enough that those who should get the title shot always do.
        Those who should be stars are. Your argument is that saving co-main slots for
        title contenders will somehow make that better, I disagree.

        • Mike Bivins

          Exceptions can be made for fighters like Penn and Edgar (even if we are talking about a main event and not co.) These guys have done more for the UFC than most fighters can dream about. The most Rothwell did for the UFC was create the best argument for a 10-7 round I have ever seen. Oh and he went bananas on Brandon Vera, which was pretty funny to be honest with you.

          An up and comer does not deserve a co-main spot unless they are on an absolute tear with some demolished names in their wake.

          As far as their business model goes: It is more than debatable. In fact, I believe you are wrong. A part of their current business model is having crappy co-main events. Previously, they either had championships or superfights. Superfights and co-mains are an apples to oranges comparison since it was a different era (and the fights were actually important/super.) I am simply anticipating that argument.