NEW YORK -- For as stacked as the UFC 146 card appears for Memorial Day weekend, it’s really two title fights (Urijah Faber/Dominick Cruz and Chael Sonnen/Anderson Silva) and a pack of glitzy non-consequential match-ups (Cung Le/Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin/Tito Ortiz).
Not so for New Jersey and this weekend’s free UFC on FOX 3 card. No belts will change hands, but situations are in play. Complicated situations. Theoretical ones. Titles dangling in the balance, right there for some and just out of reach for others. And there is, of course, much obfuscation.
For example: If Nate Diaz capitalizes on his broadcast television main event and downs Jim Miller, he is essentially guaranteed a title shot at 155 pounds. However, with Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar fighting for the title in August, that shot might come in a wintry month like December. That’s a long time to wait for a guy who A.) fights for money, B.) likes fighting and C.) has a nice head of momentum. When asked if he’d wait in that situation at Thursday’s news conference, Diaz said simply, “I have a fight on Saturday.”
This drew a New York cheer. Diaz, for all his volume in punching, is a man of few words.
If Jim Miller beats Diaz, on the other hand, he isn’t guaranteed anything. Rather, he is guaranteed to be cheering for Frankie Edgar at UFC 150 when Edgar fights Henderson, because in that case Miller would potentially get to fight Edgar (his erstwhile training partner/friend).
Here’s what Miller had to say when asked if he’s confused by Diaz getting a title shot with a win (even though he’s 3-3 in his last six lightweight bouts) while he (10-2 as a lightweight in the UFC) won’t necessarily:
“You know, honestly, it doesn’t matter to me right now. I’ve got a fight in two days, and that’s where my focus is. From doing that [10-2 record] and having that seven-win stretch and dealing with the rematches in this division, it really cemented that things change -- and things happen. So I’m not going to sit here and try and predict what’ll happen with a win or with a loss. I’m just focused on the fight itself, and after that, then it’s time to speculate about the next fight.”
If he won’t speculate, we sure will, and we’ll add a name to the mix: Anthony Pettis.
Pettis, who is a quasi-No. 1 contender, will be coming back to full health some time in the summer. Logic would say that the winner of Diaz/Miller will end up fighting Pettis to establish a true No. 1 contender, while Henderson/Edgar II plays out.
Meanwhile, the co-main event has its own wild set of conditions. Should Johny Hendricks beat Josh Koscheck, he is the No. 1 contender for a title fight. Problem is, once again, that Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit are likely fighting in November to settle up the permanent and interim belts. There’s no way that Hendricks will want to wait for that to play out for a spring 2013 title fight.
Yet if Koscheck wins, he will have to pull for Condit to beat St. Pierre to have a word in the title conversation.
Confused? You should be. If we learned anything from the final prefight news conference, it’s this -- the UFC doesn’t want repetition. Koscheck/St. Pierre and Henderson/Miller happened too soon ago to happen again. The UFC craves new blood.
It’s the most complicated contender-type card that ever was, and it’s going down Saturday night in New Jersey.
First UFC "super fight" in January?
In the post news conference scrum, a media member asked Dana White about a potential fight card at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, a venue which can hold 100,000 people.
White said all that flirtation about holding an event there was not only real, but is a serious possibility. He also alluded to a big January card that could potentially be so massive.
“We’re always looking for a potential big fight,” White said. “We’ve always wanted to do a fight, and we’ve been talking to [Jerry] Jones and his crew about doing a fight down in Dallas Cowboys Stadium, but we need a fight big enough to do it. The last fight that I was going to try and make there was Brock [Lesnar] and Fedor [Emelianenko].”
There is potentially a fight out there that’s big enough.
Running through the timelines of “super fight” candidates for a place like Dallas Cowboys Stadium, or a second event at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (or at the old, reliable stand-by in Las Vegas), one could envision a Jon Jones/Anderson Silva match-up at least being discussed.
Think about it. If Jones beats Dan Henderson in September, that would be four months ahead of January -- perfect for the turn around. Anderson Silva fights in July. Should be beat Chael Sonnen for his record 10th title defense, there would be only one way to raise the ante -- and it wouldn’t be to take on Mark Munoz or Hector Lombard.
It would be to fight Jones, who’d have tidied his own division up just in time. Is that what the UFC has in mind?
“I don’t know,” White said. “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what we end up putting together.”
New York state of mind
By now, everyone knows about the MMA ban in New York, even as we make our way through open-minded 2012. This is why the UFC dangles its product just across the Hudson River -- to reinforce that all notions of “human cockfighting” are antiquated and hyperbolic. Whether the sport hasn’t been sanctioned in the Empire State is about “gangsters” in the Culinary Union (as Dana White says) or something less ominous, it depends on whom you talk to.
But when MMA does finally get legalized in New York, the UFC plans on doing it big.
“When we finally do break through and do a big event here, I think the event at Madison Square Garden that we do will be huge, and it’s be a great time to pull off a Fan Expo here in New York,” White said. “I think it would be huge.”
In the meantime, those in New York who want to catch MMA in a live setting must go underground. Or, underwater. For MMA, there’s light at the end of the Lincoln Tunnel, across the way in East Rutherford, N.J., where the UFC will once again mock New York with the one thing it doesn’t have.