A Beginner’s Guide to a Grown Man’s Fantasy: “Dana White Kicks The Bucket (List)”
by Justin Nearon
I was in the midst of compiling a list of the ten most interesting questions facing the UFC this year, when I thought ‘Why not take this a step further?’
What the UFC would like to see happen this year is far more intriguing than what is likely to occur, because our hopes and dreams so often exceed reality.
To that end here are ten things, however unrealistic, that would be sure to turn UFC President Dana White’s persistent frown upside down in 2015.
#10. China Produces Its First UFC Star
Like every other major corporation on the planet, the UFC would like to get their hooks into a country that’s home to a billion potential customers. The Chinese market has already shown a willingness to embrace some of the best sporting products North America has to offer (see: The NBA), as long as there is a marketable star to go along with it. That star doesn’t have to be Chinese (the country’s most beloved basketball player ever is Kobe Bryant, not Yao Ming), but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Vietnamese born Cung Lee might have been the man for the job 15 years ago, with his appeal outside of the sport as Hollywood/Hong Kong film star, but he’s long in the tooth and currently in litigation against the UFC. Jumabieke Tuerxum making a meteoric, if unlikely rise in the Bantamweight Division might be the promotions’ best case scenario. The smaller weight classes have had trouble maintaining traction in North America, so sacrificing one of its American stars for a Chinese Champion might be far more profitable for the UFC in the long run.
#9 Demetrious Johnson and ‘Uncle Creepy’ get into a Brawl Outside the MGM
It’s been no secret that the UFC has had some trouble cultivating its stars in the lighter weight divisions. This is no more evident than with Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, who despite being one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world (he’s defended his belt 5 straight times), can barley co-main event a pay-per-view fight card.
If he can’t build his brand inside of the octagon, maybe he needs to create some tension outside of it. We just saw what a Las Vegas hotel dust up did for the Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier rivalry. Why couldn’t that work for DJ as well? Flyweight contender Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall is as recognizable and villainous as anyone in the division. Prefight fisticuffs between him and the squeaky clean Johnson could create a social media firestorm. Okay, maybe something more like an internet brushfire, but you catch my drift.
Demetrious Johnson(left) and Uncle Creepy(right) – UFC
#8 The UFC Finally Gets Licensed in New York
Having already put on fight cards in Vegas, L.A., Rio, Mexico City, London, Sydney, Stockholm, Tokyo and Toronto, just to name few, the only major metropolis still resisting the UFC’s advances is New York City.
To be fair, there is not a lack of fan support in the Big Apple, as evidenced by the multiple shows they put on in neighbouring New Jersey every year, but the politicians won’t allow it. They claim the sport is too barbaric, despite the fact that Madison Square Gardens has been a mecca for other forms of professional fighting for over a century. By all accounts this has more to do with the union practices, or lack thereof, of UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta in Las Vegas. Whatever the reason, if the UFC wants to considered one of the truly elite sports organizations it needs to play on the world’s biggest stage.
#7 Anderson Silva Embarks on a Super Fight Tour
In my opinion Anderson Silva is the greatest mixed martial artist in the history of the sport, but styles make fights and I’m afraid this over forty legend may never solve the riddle that has been current middleweight champ Chris Weidman.
I think the UFC knows this as well, so after giving him one last attempt at the middleweight belt, they would love to see the thirty-nine year old take one last victory lap around the sport against some of MMA’s biggest pay-per-view draws. It’s what he will be doing at UFC 183 opposite welterweight bad boy Nick Diaz. Hopefully this trend continues against the likes of Jon Jones, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Robbie Lawler, Michael Bisping and dare I even say an un-retired George St-Pierre?
Silva has done the work and his legacy is secure, so why not end his career in matchups that allow him to do what he does best: Entertain us and make the UFC a boatload of money at the same time.
#6 Connor McGregor Beats ‘Up’ Jose Aldo to the Lightweight Division
I’ve already made clear my thoughts on the UFC’s inability to make stars in its smaller weight divisions. Sure the TJ Dillashaws, Demetrious Johnsons and Frankie Edgars of the world resonate with avid fans, but they’ve failed hold the attention of the casual MMA consumer that the company so desperately craves.
Conor McGregor, the ultra cocky Irishman, has seemingly bucked that trend. Despite having been with the promotion for less than two years, McGregor has burst onto the scene with so much swagger and skill, that he’s already the most popular fighter in the UFC not named Ronda Rousey. A Championship belt with multiple title defenses, would only intensify the spotlight on McGregor and the promotion’s other diminutive stars.
To do this he’d have to beat featherweight champ Jose Aldo, who despite having defended his belt an astonishing nine straight times is still not a household name outside of MMA. Ironically a loss by Aldo might serve him and the sport better. It could induce a series of thrilling rematches between the two combatants, or better yet chase the Brazilian over to the lightweight for a superfight against current champion Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis.
UFC Flyweight John Dodson’s (far right) secret Twitter Pic of CM Punk (3rd from right)
#5 CM PUNK is Relevant beyond his First Fight
If former WWE star CM Punk is to make a Brock Lesnar sized impact in MMA, he will need to beat fighters far more talented than the tomato can the UFC is likely to serve up to him in his first fight. The problem is, the UFC is too deep and there are only so many bad fighters to go around. Punk’s skill, if there is any, will have to shine through pretty quickly if Dana White’s is too get a sizeable return on his investment.
#4 Ronda Rousey Gets a Rival
Ronda Rousey has been so dominant that some are questioning if there is enough talent to support a women’s bantamweight division. Much like women’s hockey at the Winter Olympics, the lack of significant competition could be its death knell.
Finding a challenger that could push the champ to her limits would solve this problem. In the perfect world we are imagining for the UFC that fighter would be retired MMA legend and current Hollywood action star, Gina Carano. The combined celebrity these two would bring to the ring could make for one of the most profitable fights in UFC history.
A more realistic opponent is Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos. She’s the only woman in the sport more physically imposing than Rousey, which could allow champion to be perceived as an underdog rather than a bully for the first time in her MMA career.
Ronda Rousey(left) and Gina Carano(right) and their flat stomachs – UFC
#3 George St-Pierre Makes a Hasty Return to the UFC
Before he retired, GSP was one of the biggest contradictions in the sport. He spoke broken English, wasn’t a bombastic personality and had a visually unappealing fighting style, yet was (and still is) one of the biggest stars the promotion has ever known. Sure his dominating run of title defences had something to do with it, but Jose Aldo and Anderson Silva have had similar success inside the octagon, but aren’t nearly as popular.
Having said that, the North American audience is a fickle one and if you stay out of the limelight long enough, you are easily forgotten. Unlike a Chuck Lidell or Anderson Silva, G.S.P. doesn’t have a string of flashy knockouts or submissions looping endlessly on sports highlight shows. That will it a little more difficult to introduce St-Pierre to the fans who may have started following the sport during his absence. The UFC is well aware of this and if they don’t want one of their biggest cash cows to fade into obscurity, they need ‘Rush’ to make a hasty return
#2 Jon Jones’s Stint in Rehab is a Short One
Ah the irony! Just as Jon Jones’ star was burning brightest, on the backs of a feud with Daniel Cormier that extended beyond the ring, the lightweight champion will disappear for awhile after checking into drug rehab.
Whether it was inadvertent or not, Jones had finally seemed to accept his role as MMA villain, something that Dana White and the other suits at the UFC head office weren’t opposed to. Fans will buy just as many tickets to cheer against a guy they hate, as support a fighter they love. The ante is upped when that villain is really good (just ask the New England Patriots, Miami Heat or Darth Vader). Jones is both of these things and I’m sure the UFC had great plans to exploit that.
Other than a date with the winner of the Alexander Gustafsson/Anthony Johnson battle in late January, Bones was thought to have cleaned out the light heavyweight division. But some subtle digs on social media had created some new enemies in the weight class above him. A few catchweight fights against interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum or better yet the injured reigning champ Cain Velasquez appeared to be on the horizon.
Cain is of course a training partner of Daniel Cormier at American Kickboxing Academy and Bones hasn’t hidden his distaste for anyone on that team. If Cain was to unify the heavyweight belt with a win over Fabricio, a fight with Jones might not only be next, but necessary. Like Jon, Cain has nearly cleaned out his division and is in danger of becoming obscure from lack of competition. With the UFC wanting to make inroads into the Mexican market, a super fight with Bones in Mexico City could make for a Pay Per View bonanza.
*Note: This is one wish that appears to have already come true for the UFC, as Jones apparently checked out of rehab after only one day.
#1 Brock Lesnar Reignites his Star in The UFC
Who has been the biggest star MMA has ever seen? It’s not GSP or Jon Jones. Its most certainly not Anderson Silva or even Ronda Rousey. This man made his bones as an entertainer, not a fighter. This same man spent less than four years competing in the UFC before retiring. The man I’m referring to is WWE star, Brock Lesnar.
UFC 100, when Lesnar unified the heavyweight belt with a mauling of Frank Mir is the highest selling MMA Pay Per View of all time with 1,600,000 buys, which is how many homes or establishments purchased the right to watch that fight card. UFC 116 when he unified the belt again against Shane Carwin is the second with 1,116,000 purchases. In fact four of the ten highest selling MMA cards of all time were headlined by Lesnar.
For a man who fought only eight times, his success as a fighter (one title win and two more title defenses) and as a box office draw is astonishing. To say that the UFC is pining for his return in 2015 is an understatement.
As successful as the Ultimate Fighting Championship is, it stills pales in comparison to pro wrestling, particularly the WWE. Their fans are so loyal, they will follow wherever their biggest stars go, and Dana White is more than happy to be a beneficiary of that pilgrimage.
A second stint in MMA is not likely to be as successful as the first one, as Brock is older and his wrestling stardom no longer as bright. Still, he would still bring a much needed infusion of personality and talent into a slightly stale heavyweight division and more eyes to a company looking to continually grow its brand.
Brock Lesnar and his peni….eeer sword tattoo – www.sportskeeda.com
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