UFC Fight Night 124 was this past weekend. It lost a few fights, including Vitor Belfort’s possible retirement fight, but hopefully it was still a good show. Let’s get to the rundown before I talk about why I hate the fact there’s been so many interim titles lately.
UFC Fight Night 124
GOOD- Darren Elkins submits Michael Johnson
Johnson had success in the first round, but in the second round Elkins took over and ended up locking in a rear-naked choke for the victory. Good win for Elkins.
GOOD/BAD- Kamaru Usman vs. Emil Weber Meek
Usman totally dominated this fight. He was just too much for Meek. It would have been nice if he had gotten the finish, to really put a stamp on this win, but it was a fine win nonetheless. It wasn’t the most exciting fight ever, but a win’s a win.
BAD- Paige VanZant vs. Jessica Rose-Clark
This just was not a very good fight. Rose-Clark won the pretty clear decision but it was just kind of there. VanZant was trying to come back, but Rose-Clark was just better and stymied her attempts. PVZ also had to deal with a broken arm she suffered sometime in the second round.
GOOD- Jeremy Stephens stops Doo Ho Choi
Both guys came out firing and we got some exciting exchanges. Stephens took over with his power, though, as he turned out the lights for Choi. Good win for Stephens, who’s always game and ready to fight.
This is a setback for Choi, but he’ll be back. Stephens called out Brian Ortega after the win. I’d love to see that fight. The UFC might make it happen, but Ortega is right there in the mix for a title shot, so they might not go that way.
Regardless, this was a good fight and a nice way to end the weekend.
UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has been injured and had to pull out of his scheduled title defense against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221.
This sucks in and of itself because Whittaker has already had to miss a lot of time due to injury but had established himself as must-see TV prior to these injuries. Yoel Romero will step in and fight Rockhold now.
That’s cool, and a really interesting fight. That’s the good news. The bad news is that fight between Rockhold and Romero will now be for the UFC Interim middleweight title.
Unless Whittaker is expected to miss eight to ten months (or more) there is no reason to have this be an interim title fight.
This is especially true because the winner of Rockhold-Romero is expected to fight Whittaker to “unify” the belts. That means that obviously the UFC doesn’t expect Whittaker to miss that much time.
Let’s briefly go over the preponderance of interim belts in just the UFC Middleweight Division alone.
-Michael Bisping is the UFC middleweight champion but instead of fighting the top contenders in the division, he convinces the UFC to let him fight Dan Henderson and Georges St. Pierre. So, the UFC creates an interim UFC middleweight title and has Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero fight for it. Whittaker wins and becomes interim champ.
-GSP beats Bisping but immediately vacates the title. The UFC responds by promoting Whittaker to full champion.
-Whittaker gets hurt and has to pull out of his first title defense. The UFC responds by inserting Romero into the fight with Rockhold and creating yet another interim title for these guys to fight for.
So, Whittaker was the interim champ before being promoted to full champ, and now either Rockhold or Romero will become the new interim champ. They’ll then fight and whoever wins is the full champ, at least until the UFC decides to get lazy and create another interim belt because it’s apparently too hard to promote a fight without having to resort to calling it a title fight. How many interim titles does one division need?
Let’s also look at the guys who are competing to become the interim champ.
Rockhold has won one fight in the last two years, his only other fight being a loss to Bisping, but you could definitely argue that he’s the most deserving of everyone left. Plus, he was originally slated to fight Whittaker, who’s been the unquestioned best fighter in the division for a while.
Yoel Romero lost a decision to Whittaker last year, which was his only fight in 2017. So, you’ve got a guy who hasn’t won in about a year and a half fighting for the title.
Again, you could argue that someone needed to step in and he was the best option. Okay, that’s fair. However, that decision loss to Whittaker last year was also for the Interim UFC Middleweight Championship. So, Romero will be fighting in back-to-back fights for the interim title. If that doesn’t sound odd to somebody then we obviously have very different opinions on what odd means.
The obvious answer is to not have so many interim titles, especially when the champ is slated to fight the winner in their next fight. This is just a cheesy way for the UFC to try to promote this as a title fight because apparently, it’s too hard to promote this fight based on its merits and they have to try to gin up some manufactured importance.
Call this fight what it is, a #1 contenders fight. That’s the only label you need.
Rockhold-Romero is an incredibly interesting fight, and I think most fight fans are excited for it. It doesn’t need any artificial hype, the fight itself is the draw.
Calling this a fight for the interim UFC middleweight championship isn’t any different than saying it’s for the Northern Great Oaks Southwest Field Championship; it’s a meaningless title.
Stuff like this makes me wonder if the UFC is just trying to get as many guys as possible recognized as former champions?
And with that I’ve probably broken one of my New Year’s Resolutions to try to not be so negative about sports. Oh well, there’s always next year I suppose.
Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at email@example.com and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank