UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is set to break Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses. Should he fight Sergio Pettis, a top contender and opponent he has not previously faced? That would be too simple. The UFC brass decided that he must fight Ray Borg, a solid flyweight with a 5-2 UFC record and a history of missing weight. Just kidding, now that Cody Garbrandt is injured and out of his first Bantamweight title defense against TJ Dillashaw, Dillashaw is getting the nod to fight for a title in a weight class he has never fought in. Is normal. Oh, and if Dillashaw misses weight, Johnson will not get any extra show money for his trouble, and he may or may not have to fight a different opponent on one day’s notice. Is more normal.
Dana White is the spray-tan on the Jersey Shore sidekick of combat sports: way more popular than warranted and for all the wrong reasons. Dana, bro, do you even “The Art of the Deal?” Well, he doesn’t mind looking like an ass because he’s got all the bargaining power, but, abuses of power and narcissism aside, he might need some of those fighters later on; that will be a problem if they’ve all left for Bellator or One FC.
Oh yeah, the situation has more fuel added to its fire with White threatening to shut down the division if Johnson doesn’t accept the terms of his upcoming fight. Any division looks weak whenever there is such a dominant champion. Of course, the division is getting deeper, but Mighty Mouse makes fight veterans and Olympians alike look foolish; maybe he really is just that good! Demetrious Johnson, arguably the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist on the planet, has looked mostly untouchable in his 10 defenses of his Flyweight title. Should he cave to the demands of his boss with no guarantee of anything positive coming his way for the sacrifice? With the way Dana White treats his aging stars and employees (or “independent contractors”, as Johnson accurately states), of course not. The fight game is more of an individual sport than any other, and with no unions or collective bargaining, each fighter absolutely must look out for number one. But he doesn’t draw big PPV numbers, which is why he is being bullied when it comes to contracts. Even Conor Macgregor learned before UFC 200 that no one is above the company when he was dropped from the card for missing promotional duties. So what can be done to make Johnson bigger?
Mighty Mouse is as adept a gamer as he is a fighter. His quickness and fluidity in the cage actually makes him a real-life video game character — ironic, since his UFC 2 counterpart is not nearly as smooth considering all the glitches. His clean-cut, family man image and respectful tone may make him bland to casual fans, but his wit, technique, and nerdy interests provide ample marketing material for a new type of fight fan. The face of the UFC has been quite different in each era. Think of the different personalities of Macgregor, Silva, Ortiz, Gracie; they were all marketed differently as demand dictated. Even if Mighty Mouse isn’t the biggest of draws, he can still be a boon to the company’s bottom line by hitting untapped markets. Rather than forcing your best talent to fit into previous markets, why not find new ones?
Trying to build off the TUF (forced) drama, TJ Dillashaw is eager to trash talk Mighty Mouse and simultaneously ingratiate himself to his boss. It may get him some money, but the bad blood between Dillashaw and Garbrandt can’t be transferred to a different weight class. Applying trash talk to the marketing of a Mighty Mouse fight is almost as dull as the Reebok fight kits. It is painfully obvious, no one cares about the drama, and, no matter what happens, the brand is cheapened.
The prevalence of money fights and champions ducking contenders has weakened many divisions, so why try to wring money out of a fringe division when it can be used to hit new markets, or at least keep some legitimacy to the sport? Now Dana looks bad whether he shuts down the division or gives in to Mighty Mouse. Either way, he doesn’t stand to gain much. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just let him fight Sergio Pettis?