As we have all have heard by now, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has suffered a knee injury “postponing” his title fight against Daniel Cormier at UFC 178. UFC officials have confirmed that Daniel Cormier will remain the number one contender whenever Jones is ready to return. Alexander Gustafsson was in line for a shot at Jones’ crown before he was injured and was forced to pull out of the bout. But is this the correct decision? Yes and no, and I’ll tell you why.
For years, hardcore MMA fans argued the sport did not get the recognition it deserved in the mainstream media. While high-profile boxing matches received coverage on Sportscenter. UFC title fights would barely make the bottom line for a few seconds. It wasn’t until UFC struck a deal with FOX that MMA got the exposure fans had been calling for. FOX Sports 1 is basically the UFC channel, they show all the prelims to pay-per-view cards, have exclusive cards, and even broadcast UFC Tonight.
Fighters like Jon Jones and Anderson Silva began getting huge endorsement deals from Nike and Gatorade. MMA had arrived! But the weirdest thing began to happen, the same hardcore fans that were calling for the exposure, now transformed into MMA hipsters, too cool for the mainstream.
Daniel Cormier is not the most exciting fighter in the world, he has only one finish in his UFC career. And although it did come in his light heavyweight debut, it came against the world’s most famous barista. His only other win in the weight class came against a 43-year-old Dan Henderson, who will be mostly remembered for the work he did at middleweight, not light heavy.
So why Cormier over Gustafsson? Let me remind you that the Swede was the first to make Jones seem mortal. Gustafsson dominated the first half of their fight last September, before Jones unleashed a series of elbows that turned the fight around.
The reason Cormier is keeping his spot as the title challenger is because he created hype by pushing Jones during the now famous MGM Grand incident. The bad blood then spilled over in the series of interviews the pair did on ESPN from which we got to hear Jones threaten Cormier’s life via hot mics between interviews.
The rivalry captured America. Soon after the aforementioned incidents, I would hear sports radio stations talk about how this is the most anticipated fight in UFC history. That is a big deal hear in the Dallas/Ft Worth area since the sports talk airwaves consist of 90% Dallas Cowboys.
The truth is, Gustafsson is much more deserving of the rematch. He has proven himself a more worthy opponent by his body of work within the weight class and by his performance against the champ himself. In my opinion, Cormier is too short and too slow to be a threat to the owner of the longest reach in the game as well as the longest winning streak for a current UFC champion.
However, for the sport to grow in popularity, it must appeal to new audiences and not just the hardcore fans. From a business perspective, the UFC got this one right. Jones vs. Cormier will be a higher grossing pay-per-view card. But Jones vs. Gustafsson will be the most anticipated rematch and the better fight of the two.
Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.