HYDEN’S TAKE: Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov, the idea of Michael Bisping vs. Tyron Woodley, UFC 207 buyrate estimates

By Frank Hyden, MMATorch contributor

Michael Bisping (photo credit Jake Roth © USA Today Sports)

There were no events this past week to run down, and the NFL playoffs have started, so I’ll just do some quick hits this week.

•Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: This fight has been discussed for the Interim UFC  Lightweight Championship while the UFC waits to see what is going to happen with UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor and if he’s really going to not fight until later this year. However, Ferguson wants to be paid as much as Nurmagomedov for the fight, which sounds fair because Ferguson is at least as big a draw as Nurmagomedov, if not a bigger draw.

The issue, though, is that Ferguson is in the middle of a contract he signed that is slated to pay him less than what he’s wanting here. The UFC is absolutely within their rights to want to hold Ferguson to that contract. And normally I would say that people should honor their contracts. The only thing that gives me pause is that I don’t think the UFC pays its fighters as much as they should. So I understand when guys want to get paid more.

I do want to see this fight, so I’m hoping both sides can come to an agreement. There’s been talk of having UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo fight Nurmagomedov which is an interesting fight, but another one I don’t think should happen. Aldo is a champion in a division that doesn’t need to be held up any longer than it already has been. Also, I wonder if this fight would even happen? Both guys are known for suffering training injuries and having to pull out of fights. Neither guy is also much of a draw, so the featured attraction aspect of things is also out the window.

If this fight actually gets made, it’s more likely to be delayed or cancelled than actually happen, so why bother booking it in the first place? You would do it if the sporting aspect dictated it, but that’s not the case here so I think the UFC should try as hard as they can to make Ferguson-Nurmagomedov a reality.

•Woodley vs. Bisping? UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping and UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley have engaged in a war of words and have been talking about wanting to fight each other. However, Woodley came out and said that his next fight is a rematch against Stephen Thompson. That’s much better than a fight against Bisping because at least Thompson is a top contender in the Welterweight Division. Whether or not you think Thompson deserves an immediate rematch (which I do) is another story, but at least the division won’t be held up. I assume this means that Bisping will be defending his title in his next fight.

The idea of Woodley-Bisping is intriguing, but there are a couple problems with it. For one, both the Middleweight and Welterweight divisions have viable contenders waiting for their title shots. There are at least a few fighters in each division who are deserving of a title shot: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero in the Middleweight Division and Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia in the Welterweight Division. Then there are also former champions such as Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman in the Middleweight Division and Robbie Lawler in the Welterweight Division who surely want to fight their way back to a title shot.

Also, this is being discussed as a catchweight fight at 180 lbs. That means the fight would serve as nothing but a featured attraction. No offense to either guy, but this fight wouldn’t draw the buyrate you would need in order to justify slowing down two divisions.

It’s an interesting fight, for sure, but it’s also one that makes almost zero sense to actually do. There are just too many reasons to not do this fight. Because of that, I hope this fight doesn’t happen, not as long as both guys are still the champions of their respective divisions. I like the idea of champions from different divisions fighting each other, but not at the expense of the division they’re in.

•UFC 207 Buyrate: The buyrate for UFC 207 is reportedly in the 1.1 million range. That’s outstanding, a testament to the popularity of Ronda Rousey. Of course, her loss means that drawing power would likely drop if she fights again, but in time her popularity would likely return to high levels. What this also means is that over a million people were exposed to the big victories from UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes and UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt. I hope this added attention turns into increased popularity for both Nunes and Garbrandt, as they both deserve it. Both are exciting fighters who should have good crossover appeal. We’ll see if that actually happens. I have a feeling it won’t, but it’s possible.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: HYDEN’S TAKE: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from UFC 207 including Rousey-Nunes, Garbrandt, Goldberg’s lack of farewell

Comments and suggestions can be emailed to hydenfrank@gmail.com and you can follow Frank on Twitter at @hydenfrank.


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