If 2016 was the year that the UFC cashed-in on the “Money Fight,” 2017 is the year that UFC has chased the “Money Fight.” Thus far the UFC has been unsuccessful in their attempt to recreate the madness that was 2016. Unless, of course, you count that boxing match that takes place in few weeks.
From a commercial and critical perspective, UFC 214 was the most successful MMA endeavor of the calendar year. UFC 214 was not a card filled with outlandish fights; it was a night where the official UFC rankings once again mattered.
With that said, the UFC is not likely to revert to their traditional style of matchmaking. The WME-IMG owned promotion will continue to seek the profitable fight over the logical fight. Both UFC fighters and MMA fans can bemoan the current state of affairs, or the reality of the situation can be examined.
Here is look at realistic potential “Money Fights,” an analysis of the fights likelihood, if the fight will sell, and if the public will care.
Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre
Will the fight happen? The Michael Bisping- Georges St-Pierre saga has been on roller coaster. If you believe UFC president Dana White, the fight was a done deal before the ship sailed, and then Tyron Woodley steered the ship back on track. Recently, St-Pierre tweeted a picture of himself signing the bout agreement for the Bisping fight at UFC 217. Unless someone gets injured, this fight is likely happening.
Will the fight sell? In all likelihood, UFC 217, headlined by the return of Georges St-Pierre, will only be behind UFC 214 in terms of pay-per-view buys. However, this does not imply that GSP-Bisping is an especially marketable fight. The return of GSP is a strong promotional tool. Additionally, UFC 217 looks to be loaded with two additional title fights.
Will the public care? As the fight approaches, intrigue will grow over the return of GSP, but the matchup with Bisping is very inorganic. No fight fan ever pondered what would happen if these two ever faced off. At this point the fight is a necessary promotional evil, but it does not excite the loyal UFC fanbase.
Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar
Will the fight happen? Both fighters are seemingly interested, but making this fight might be out of their hands. Lesnar must serve the remainder of his USADA suspension and get permission from the WWE, or wait until his contract expires in April. For his part, Jones could go on a different path such as defending his UFC Light Heavyweight Title against Alexander Gustafsson or Volkan Oezdemir.
Will the fight sell? If the fight gets booked, the UFC will get paid. Alone both men are major stars. Jones has been reestablished as the King of the UFC while building up goodwill among UFC fans. At the other end of the spectrum, UFC loyalists have always been reticent to accept Lesnar in MMA. If Lesnar once again swoops into the UFC for a large payday, many UFC fans will be more than willing to plop down $60 to see Lesnar get knocked out.
Will the public care? Even if the public sours on the Lesnar-Jones spectacle, the fight is unique enough to hold the interest of UFC patrons. When the bells and whistles are removed, the fight would still feature a showdown between a physically gifted NCAA National Champion and arguably the greatest MMA fighter in the history of the sport.
Demetrious Johnson vs. T.J. Dillashaw
Will the fight happen? Before this fight is a possibility, both men have other challengers to contend with. Johnson will take on Ray Borg at UFC 215 while Dillashaw is rumored to be challenging UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217. In the event that both fighters win their future fights, one of these men can be in pursuit of being a two-division champion.
Will the fight sell? No! Just ask Dana White, he will tell you that Demetrius Johnson does not sell on pay-per-view. For his part, T.J. Dillashaw is unproven as a pay-per-view draw. Unless one of these two men turn into a silver-tongued devil, this fight will not move the needle financially.
Will the public care? The general public will let this fight fly under the radar, but dedicated MMA fans will treasure this hidden gem. Some are critical about the level of competition that Johnson has faced throughout his lengthy title reign. A win over Dillashaw could change the Johnson narrative.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: Why the UFC promoting boxing would be a terrible idea