Saturday, September 26, 2020

UFC 249: Cancellation not what we wanted, but could it be a good thing?

We almost had it, amidst the chaos that COVID 19 has been causing it was looking like against all odds we were going to get UFC249. ESPN put an end to all those hopes when it was announced that UFC249 had been officially cancelled.

This really has been a roller coaster ride for MMA fans around the globe hoping to see this event pan out. Both the card and location have gone through several changes in a bid to try and keep the event going.

Dana White even proposed holding the event on a private island, it really looked like nothing could stop them and that UFC 249 would go ahead.

UFC 249 main event

So, let’s talk about the main event for a moment, Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov has now been attempted 5 times including this one. Part of me thinks that the MMA gods are just not willing to put this fight together.

It is arguably the most anticipated fight in UFC lightweight history, or any weight class for that matter. Both men are widely believed to be the most skilled in the division, a true Champion taking on the rightful number one contender in a match up that has been in the works for years.

UFC 249 Main Event was one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history
UFC 249 Main Event was one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history

The intriguing thing about Tony vs Khabib is not what Khabib will do as we all already know that, the real intrigue in this match up is what will Tony do from the bottom once Khabib takes top position.

Khabib is one of the most successful grapplers in the sport, his ground and pound from top position usually either getting the stoppage or opening the opportunity for the submission.

However, Tony is just so unorthodox and accomplished from his guard he attacks from the bottom with elbows and relentless submission attempts – that’s what made this match up just so interesting.

Unfortunately, as the travel ban came into effect in Russia as Khabib understandably headed home to be with his family, we knew that the UFC249 main event was off.

Gaethje steps up

All was not lost as a lightweight heavy hitter by the name of Justin Gaethje stepped up to take on Tony in a brand-new main event.

I would be lying if I said the fight had the same allure but that still has the potential to be a great fight and I was fully on board. Gaethje is an excellent wrestler with heavy hands and even heavier leg kicks, this presented a legitimate challenge for Tony.

Justin Gaethje steps up a short notice to save the UFC 249 main event
Justin Gaethje steps up a short notice to save the UFC 249 main event

So yes, the cancellation of UFC 249 after all the steps taken by the UFC is a real shame. The UFC were clearly thinking that without any competition from other sports they could possibly capitalise and corner the PPV sports market while all other were being cancelled.

Blessing in diguise for UFC

However, ESPN did not think it was worth taking the risk, and as unpopular as it may be, I actually agree with them. I do not think that the UFC would have got a very good return on this event at this time.

I realise the temptation is to think that there is no competition on at all right now and that people are at home in lockdown so the PPV figures would be astronomical right? I don’t think so, fact of the matter is that most of their PPV numbers come from North America.

We in the UK are very lucky, while we must stay up to watch the events at 5am we do get them included in BT Sport for about £25 per month. In the US a UFC PPV is usually about $70, that is a lot of money. Usually UFC fans will have some people over and they can kick in $10 each which makes it more affordable.

In a lockdown the average UFC fan will not be able to do that, couple that with huge unemployment and reduced hours I do not see the average American forking out $70 for a PPV right now. I think that the PPV numbers for that reason would have been very low, and the cancellation of UFC249 is a blessing in disguise for the UFC.

Blessing in disguise for UFC fans

I think it is also a blessing in disguise for the fans as well, lets face it as good as a scrap between Tony and Gaethje could be, the fight we all want is Tony vs Khabib. Now that fight can be rescheduled for later this year in a month or 2 when the World can hopefully return to some sort of normality.

Also, can you imagine the fight card that the UFC could put together in 2 months once the lockdown is lifted. All the fights that we have been waiting for that have been cancelled could all take place on some sort of post COVID19 super card.

  • Main event – Lightweight championship – Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson
  • Co – Main – Middleweight championship – Israel Adesanya vs Paolo Costa
  • Bantamweight championship – Henry Cejudo vs Dominick Cruz
  • Women’s straw weight – Rose Namajunas vs Jessica Andrade 2
  • Heavyweight – Frances Nganu vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Imagine the above as a main card, it is possible, they could do this in as little as 6-8 weeks provided the lockdown can be lifted. Imagine that, the month after they could have Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier 3 for the Heavyweight title with supporting match ups that could headline most cards.

In the short term no events is tough, but long term consider the UFC cards that could happen in the later part of 2020
In the short term no events is tough, but long term consider the UFC cards that could happen in the later part of 2020

What I am saying is that yes in the short term the cancellation of UFC249 is a bit of a blow but look long term. Provided the lockdown can be lifted in a month or 2 we as MMA fans could have a lot to look forward to.

8 weeks can go by very quickly guys so stay in, be safe and we will hopefully have some amazing match ups to look forward to very soon.

For more MMA news and views please head over to our combat sports section and for more on the UFC 249 cancellation see my colleagues article here. Don’t forget to follow our Twitter for all sporting updates.

Alex Green
Long suffering New York Jets fan, avid MMA viewer, been watching it since people still thought Ken Shamrock was quite good.

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