The UFC might want to start adding a hyphenate when it comes to the biggest marquee match ups; UFC-ER.
Alarming might be, well, too alarming to state but certainly there is concern when another much hyped event is sidetracked by one of the co-stars being injured. Add lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos to a list that within a mere eight months includes Jose Aldo and Cain Velazquez as other casualties of training injuries that knocked them out of headlining a UFC event.
A broken foot for dos Anjos means he won’t defend his title anytime soon against featherweight champ Conor McGregor. It means fans who have hoped many times in the past for super fights that never happened for other reasons, think Georges St. Pierre-Anderson Silva; Silva-Jon Jones, won’t be seeing one at UFC 196. It means McGregor won’t have a chance at making history as the first to hold two titles at once. Probably not at least.
Disappointing? Of course. Frustrating for all? Certainly. What now? A scramble on a large scale for the UFC. Questions outnumber answers at the moment.
The flamboyant McGregor is in the U.S. leaving his native Ireland to begin the final preparations for what was supposed to be that epic March 5 showdown. If he fights someone it would seem it would be a lightweight. Then what? The UFC can call it whatever they want, but an interim title fight seems premature with dos Anjos on the shelf for a whole two weeks.
The ever confident and talented McGregor wouldn’t let this cross his mind, but in a wild scenario what if he takes a short notice fight and is upset? That would be a setback for the new star of the organization and an even bigger one for the UFC after Ronda Rousey’s stunning and thorough defeat by Holly Holm. There are those already lining up making their pitch to take on McGregor, they have nothing to lose after all.
The well-oiled machine that is the UFC will find a remedy in what has become another medical emergency of keeping a card together. They’ve been getting practice including Aldo pulling out of his fight with McGregor last July and Chad Mendes stepping in with shorter notice than exists at this moment. McGregor is the golden PPV draw and will be on the card and maybe it doesn’t matter so much as to who he is fighting or what if any title is dangled out there.
And the antithesis of McGregor’s flair, the calm champion Holm will defend her crown for the first time against Miesha Tate, not generating as much hype but a worthy pairing that will draw deserved attention as it gets closer.
Even more puzzling though is not just dos Anjos but all the top fighters who are injured on the way to title shots. Legendary fighters, Sugar Ray Leonard and Randy Couture have told me in separate interviews that to make it through a training camp with only a few nagging injuries is a triumph of sorts. That is the fragility of a misstep; an unseen punch; or a simple wrong twist or turn that pulls or snaps something. It isn’t a matter of how tough, it’s a lot of luck and smart training. But the most planned program leading up to a fight doesn’t assure there won’t be issues.
“In his (dos Anjos) case who knows for sure, it’s too early,” says another trainer speaking on agreement of anonymity. “It would seem with all the technology methods and nutritionists and all these systems no one would get hurt any more at least not a big one. But I’ve had it happen in our camps. Maybe we’re not making all that progress after all, cause there does seem to be a pattern.”
A pattern that might keep fans holding on to their money a little longer to make sure the stars show up, even if it risks losing a better seat. A reminder that there are no guarantees in the fight game and becoming more an uncertainty at UFC-ER.
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