Fight fans had cause for serious eye-rolling back in January, when UFC play-by-play man Mike Goldberg kicked off the organization’s first pay-per-view of 2013 by proclaiming this would be the “year of the superfight” inside the Octagon.
Guys in Goldberg’s position are paid to be hyperbole-prone, after all, and the commentary on UFC broadcasts is typically more hype than substance. Add in the fact the company was coming off a year where it couldn’t plan a Sunday brunch without half the invited guests dropping out due to injury or sudden illness, and a certain skepticism seemed justified.
Imagine our surprise, then, when nearly two full months into the new year, Goldberg (or whoever fed him that line) appears downright prophetic. To date, the UFC’s upcoming schedule looks “super” indeed, both for better and for worse.
Take for example the proposed interdivisional superbout between featherweight champion Jose Aldo and lightweight contender Anthony Pettis, which we were briefly told was off over the weekend, but was suddenly back on as of Monday. In terms of potential in-ring action that fight is as super-duper as they come, but otherwise serves as just the latest reminder that the organization’s matchmaking has become maddeningly random. Not to mention confusing.
Aldo-Pettis is scheduled for August and will be for Aldo’s featherweight title, but now an additional stipulation has been added. If Aldo (who has never fought at lightweight in the UFC) retains his belt by defeating Pettis (again, in a bout at 145 pounds) he’ll get a shot at the 155-pound championship sometime later this year. Conversely, if the featherweight crown falls to Pettis (who, again, is a natural lightweight) we can only assume he’ll stay at 145 for the foreseeable future.
In other words it’s a fun fight that will probably make some money, but not the kind of thing you want to think too deeply about if you lack immediate access to Ibuprofen.
(Side Note: Remember also that during that 48-hour window when Aldo was refusing to fight Pettis, he implied “Showtime” didn’t deserve it, because he’d never won a fight in the UFC featherweight division? Apparently, Aldo doesn’t apply that same standard to himself.)
Elsewhere, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend his title against a second consecutive middleweight opponent in April, and (with apologies to Lyoto Machida) a victory could set the stage for Jones to take on erstwhile heavyweight Daniel Cormier. If that doesn’t happen, there’s a longshot chance the UFC could still pull off a megafight between Jones and middleweight champ Anderson Silva. Silva, you’ll remember, most recently fought at light heavyweight and may end up squaring off with welterweight king Georges St-Pierre if the Jones fight won’t go.
If you find yourself perplexed by this company-wide game of divisional musical chairs, you are not alone. Just imagine how a dude like Ricardo Lamas must feel.
Lamas is currently No. 5 on ESPN.com’s featherweight Power Rankings and is riding a four-fight win streak over mostly Top 10-caliber 145-pound opponents. He might well have been up next for Aldo had Pettis not purportedly called out the champ via opportunistic text messages sent to UFC President Dana White a couple of weeks back.
Pettis allegedly texted White about his desire to fight Aldo while watching him defeat Frankie Edgar (another lightweight, one Aldo had no qualms fighting despite coming in off back-to-back losses) at UFC 156 earlier this month. Pettis himself was fresh off a first-round TKO of Donald Cerrone in January, which at the time we were told made him the No. 1 contender at lightweight. As the story goes, White found whatever was said in those texts so convincing that he scrapped the natural pecking order in both weight classes to insert Pettis into a featherweight title match.
An awesome move? Of course, but also one that was bound to rub some people the wrong way. Especially people who care about things like weight classes and title pictures and the UFC’s own newly minted “official” rankings system. That goes double for people like Lamas, who’s been working his tail off to earn a shot at Aldo for a bit shy of two years now.
“What am I, a mirage?!?!?!” Lamas tweeted, when Aldo-Pettis was announced.
We feel your pain, Ricardo. Unfortunately, the music has stopped and you’re the only one without a chair.
Before any of this Aldo-Pettis business happens of course, UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson will meet incoming Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez in an April “superfight” that somehow manages to confine itself to a single weight class. Not to be outdone by his peers however, Henderson is now declaring if he beats Melendez, he’ll request his own dream fight against St. Pierre at 170 pounds.
White has said he’s not particularly interested in booking that fight (both Henderson and GSP seem to have a lot on their plates) but who knows, maybe someone will send him a text that changes his mind.
Long story short: It’s not even March yet and so far -- knock on wood -- it looks like we’re going to get some amazing fights out of the UFC this year. So long as we don’t trouble ourselves with the details, it could be quite a ride.