How would you grade UFC’s handling of the Featherweight Title situation? How would you have handled it differently?
ROBERT VALLEJOS, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Intrinsically, I have no issue with stripping Conor McGregor of the Featherweight Title. If he had no intention of defending the title, there was no reason to keep a ceremonial champion. With that said, to just create a phony interim belt just to have a main event is very short-sighted. In actuality, promoting Jose Aldo’s next fight as a battle for the Undisputed Title would have made more sense. In what universe was Anthony Pettis a legitimate title contender? I understand that some believe that titles are merely promotional tools, but if that is the case, the UFC should do their best to preserve their legitimacy in order to use those tools in future. The UFC would be wise not to appear similar to boxing, where keeping tabs on champions is very confusing.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Absolute F. They handled this as badly as you possibly could. If I didn’t know better, I would say that the producers, writers, and showrunner from “The Walking Dead” were behind this because they completely and utterly bungled this. The UFC could not have done a worse job of handing the situation.
For one, where was the celebration of Conor McGregor winning two titles? This was unprecedented in the UFC and could easily never happen again. This is a landmark achievement that should be celebrated. This is the equivalent of an NFL team going 19-0 in a single season by winning the Super Bowl, and it barely gets mentioned. We might not ever again see a fighter holding two UFC titles simultaneously, and they treat it like a footnote?
Two, they announce that McGregor has “relinquished” the UFC Featherweight Title on a D-show? Seriously? That’s ridiculous. An announcement of this magnitude is treated like an afterthought. It’s almost unbelievable.
All this because they were trying to provide some juice for UFC 206 because they had to cancel the main event. The original main event, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson, had to be canceled because Cormier hurt himself. So the fight between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis was switch to serving as the main event, and the UFC wanted to make it a title fight (for the Interim UFC Featherweight Title), as if that will somehow get people to buy the PPV who weren’t going to if it wasn’t a title fight. Newsflash, if you weren’t going to buy the fight as the main event before, making it a “title fight” wasn’t going to change that. Making it a title fight didn’t make a bit of difference.
They did this to try to squeeze some buys out of a weak PPV, but doing so also ruined what should have been a great moment in UFC history. They should have had an hour long (or even longer if they could) special on Fox Sports 1 where they open with highlights of McGregor’s title wins, showing plenty of pictures and footage of him and the two belts, Then they announce that McGregor is going to continue with the UFC Lightweight Title and is vacating the UFC Featherweight Title. The next 55 minutes of this special are spent discussing what this means for each division, as well as reflecting on what McGregor was able to accomplish.
You break out the pomp and circumstance and all that stuff, and make this a huge deal. Bring in a lot of guests, ex-fighters, and analysts to talk up what McGregor did. Hype the program up beforehand, advertise it during these other fight cards and shows. Talk about how the fate of two divisions is going to be decided during this hour. Obviously an extended sit-down interview with McGregor would be great on the show, but you don’t even need that to be honest. This could have been so much better and bigger than it was. They could have, and should have, actually treated this like the huge event that it is.
MIKE HISCOE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
UFC didn’t handle the Featherweight Championship situation well at all. Creating an Interim Championship to set up a contender for another Interim Championship is an insult to fans and to the champion they chose to strip in order to have a title fight on the next pay-per-view. UFC is going to have a hard time selling anyone as a true champion at 145 unless Conor states publicly that he’s done at 145, and I don’t see that happening.
They would have been better off having Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis as a no. 1 contendership fight, stating that the winner would face Jose Aldo for either the Undisputed or Interim championship depending on what Conor decided to do next. If his next fight announced is not at featherweight, they are perfectly justified to strip him, but to bury the announcement in the middle of an FS1 show and pretending Conor was part of the decision was very short-sighted. UFC 206 gains no buys with the current setup.
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