This past week, following on the heels of April Fool’s Day, was one of the more disappointing ones in the world of MMA for many reasons. It was a week that featured news stories that couldn’t possibly be true, but were. The stories ranged from the disappointing to the mind-boggling to the weird.
Let’s start off with news that broke early in the week, on Tuesday, April 5, about lightweight contender Tony Ferguson being forced to pull out of his fight against Dagestani phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov. The battle between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov had been highly anticipated for months now, so it was a major blow for a main event on national TV.
While the injury bug will always exist in combat sports, this one had a particular sting to it for fans. Nurmagomedov has been injured and out of action for almost two years now. Understandably, people were itching to see him back in the cage, as was the fighter himself. Initially, the fight was pulled off the card entirely because the UFC had such short notice to find a replacement, but the UFC did manage to find a replacement with just over a week left. Nurmagomedov’s new opponent will be newcomer Darrell Horcher.
This is good news for Nurmagomedov, who finally gets to fight after a long layoff, but it definitely won’t be the same. Not only was Ferguson a worthy opponent, but this fight was supposed to headline the show. Instead, veteran light heavyweights Rashad Evans and Glover Teixeira will take top billing.
The second story that definitely seemed like a joke involved UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. It turns out the legend might try to make another return to MMA at age 52.
That’s an absolutely terrible idea at this point. For those fans who saw Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie at Bellator 149 in February, their fight should be exhibit one of how bad a fight would go between two fighters who are decades past their prime. What we witnessed that night were two legendary fighters actually trying to put on a show that they thought fans would want to watch. But did fans really want to see it?
The whole idea from the outset sounded like something out of a circus sideshow. No disrespect to these fighters, because they are legends who should be honored for their accomplishments, but their age should immediately disqualify them from a combat competition as brutal as MMA. It’s not like it was a celebrity boxing match or anything. It was two 50-year-olds (to be fair, Gracie was 49) with small gloves doing what they haven’t done in years. OK, sure, Shamrock had fought Kimbo Slice eight months earlier, but the fight barely lasted two minutes.
For Couture to endure any similar punishment at his age is absolute madness. He retired at the right time and, based on his comments in the article, he appears to feel the same way and plans to stay retired.
The third and final story to come out in the week was just plain weird. Following the announcement that Daniel Cormier was out of his light heavyweight championship fight against the returning Jon Jones, the fighter replacing him was revealed to be contender Ovince Saint Preux. Furthermore, the UFC is creating an interim title that will be contested in the bout.
Shortly thereafter, Cormier actually offered to help train Saint Preux with his team at the world-renowned American Kickboxing Academy. Cormier even wanted to pay for OSP’s flight out to San Jose, Calif. I was absolutely flummoxed at the gall of Cormier and questioned his intentions.
Why would a fighter want to help train one of the top contenders in his own division, let alone someone that might end up holding the belt on an interim basis? Maybe he’s doing it out of the goodness of his heart and he wants Saint Preux to be prepared enough to beat Jones. That’s the best possible reason, if we’re being kind.
Another guess — one that’s slightly more conspiratorial, though, and definitely pulled out of thin air — is that it’s possible that Cormier wants to bring OSP in to see him train in an effort to scout him just in case Cormier has to fight Saint Preux in the future. Remember, Cormier is injured right now, and he’s not fighting, so why not get a step up on a possible future opponent by watching him train? OSP won’t be able to see Cormier training, since Cormier’s out of commission. Of course, there’s no evidence to back any of this up. Just throwing it out there as speculation.
It seems like OSP ended up turning Cormier down, even though one report says he accepted, but it’s doubtful that Saint Preux will end up doing it. Either way, it’s one of the strangest stories to surface in a while.
How many of you out there would think these were actually real April Fool’s Day jokes?