The Mayweather / McGregor Money Fight has come and gone, leaving a strange sense of desolate despair amongst the MMA fanbase. The feeling of dragging our feet as we still are trying to make sense of what happened in Las Vegas, coupled with the “life goes on” analogy and that there is already a UFC event going down this weekend.
What we witnessed on Saturday night, as well as the incredible lead-up to the fight was somewhat of a throwback to the old days of boxing and believe it or not, even how the UFC used to be.
Before the UFC signed their deal with FOX in 2011, heck even before The Ultimate Fighter on Spike in 2005, anticipation for a UFC event was somewhat akin to what we experienced with the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor spectacle.
There was intrigue. There was chatter. There was the build-up and water cooler talk about what would Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz do in their bouts. There was the whole Shamrock vs. Kimo superfight. Could Georges St-Pierre get a title shot vs. the unbeatable Matt Hughes.
I miss those days of in-depth conversations with my fellow MMA diehards, about what we can expect in the octagon. Today, it’s more or less one, maximum two weeks leading up to a UFC event, quick breakdowns and analysis, then the event goes off and there is barely an aftermath. By the time the event is recapped, we have to preview the next one, which takes place just a few days later.
We barely get the chance to focus, feature or get to know so many of the fighters on the UFC roster, because we have over 500 of them thrown our way over 52 weeks a year. Instead of being able to learn more about some of these athletes, we are rushed to focus on the next 20 or so competing the following Saturday night.
It’s a challenge learning more about, say, Alexander Volkov, a heavyweight headlining UFC Rotterdam on Saturday vs. Stefan Struve. Or the other 23 fighters competing on the same card. There are UFC vets on this card that the mainstream fan has never heard of. Guys like Rustam Khabilov, who will be competing in his 10th UFC bout. Yes, his tenth octagon scrap and rest assured, 99% of the people I personally know, have never heard of him.
Think about it. It’s his tenth fight in the UFC and a minute few can even pronounce his name correctly let alone tell you anything about him. The days of someone making it to the UFC, and it truly being a big deal, has all but passed. Now it’s all about content, and filling up the roster and spots on the Fight Pass prelims, FOX prelims and main card.
On and on, the cycle repeats itself, over and over again, until we finally get to a true “big fight” that is worthy of our attention. Matchups where there are actually fighters the fans can either relate to, remember, or actually care about.
There’s Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping. And then there’s … oh wait. Bet you can’t name a few more big fights for the rest of 2017 that will have your own friends asking you about them or where will you be watching them.
But when it came to Mayweather and McGregor, everyone knew what they were doing this past Saturday night. If you were interested, you made plans. If you do did not pre-plan, you still scrambled and found yourself at a friend’s place or a local establishment airing the bout.
Yes, this was a once in a lifetime bout, but my point is that there can be so many more bouts in the UFC that can feed off this lustre of a big fight. With this one, we as fans were allowed to breathe, to enjoy the ride, to see it build and develop. To finally make it to the big fight and let the ‘what ifs’ transition to reality.
I long for those days of anticipation and build up but in an obvious strange sense of gratitude, am happy there are so many UFC events, as it allows me to do what I love: watch, cover and analyze MMA events and fighters.
This lapse from The Money Fight has all but subsided and it’s now time to return back to our regularly scheduled lives of UFC events nearly every Saturday night, the odd big fight every few weeks or so and hope the Combat Sports Gods can give us some more “Money Fights” in the very near future.