A funny thing happened on the way to Sin City’s newest arena for the UFC’s biggest event to date, UFC 200.
The card, which will take place at the brand new Las Vegas Arena, was supposed to be headlined by Conor McGregor and Robbie Lawler for Lawler’s UFC welterweight title. That was the narrative we were all fed leading up to this month’s UFC 196 card, where McGregor took on Nate Diaz in a welterweight bout on short notice.
The Diaz fight was just a mere formality, or so we were told. McGregor was supposed to mow through Diaz like he had done to all of his previous UFC opponents and then embark on a date with destiny against Lawler. It was then that McGregor was supposed to have his official coronation as the king of mixed martial arts at the historic UFC 200.
However, some chicanery took place at UFC 196. McGregor bit off more than he could chew — he was choked out in the second round by Diaz. So, just like that, the UFC’s best-laid plans for UFC 200 went up in smoke. Or did they?
Although it hasn’t been officially announced, UFC 200 is expected to feature a rematch between McGregor and Diaz. It’s a rematch that absolutely no one asked for. It’s understandable why the UFC is putting on this fight, though. McGregor is still the biggest draw in MMA, and everyone wants to see him avenge his loss to Diaz. In other words, there is much money to be made.
However, there is an outcry from fans who would rather see McGregor finally defend his featherweight title against Frankie Edgar, or grant a rematch to former champion José Aldo. But let’s face facts, “hardcore” fight fans. The UFC cares little about you. Since Wrestlemania is upon us, there’s not much separating you from World Wrestling Entertainment fans who passionately boo Roman Reigns.
Just as many WWE fans reject the narrative that Reigns, rather than someone the fans really get behind (like Dean Ambrose), is the WWE’s hand-picked star of the future, many UFC fans feel Edgar is getting screwed out of his rightful featherweight title shot once again in favor of a fight that no one really had any desire to see.
UFC 200 was also hopefully going to feature the return of former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey for a rematch against Holly Holm. However, UFC 196 also messed things up in women’s MMA. Holm, the women’s bantamweight champion, took a fight against Miesha Tate and, like McGregor, was choked out and lost her title in the process.
Rousey can now eat an apple again, but it’s unlikely she will be available for UFC 200 and a third fight with her old rival Tate. So, does Holm get a rematch against Tate for the belt? Will Cat Zingano, who recently announced her return to competition after a year off, play a role?
Oh yeah, and the UFC announced on Monday that it will finally allow Invicta FC featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino to fight in the Octagon. Cyborg will make her UFC debut in May against Leslie Smith. After what will undoubtedly be a very short night for Cyborg, the door will probably open for her to compete at UFC 200 as well.
There was a time when we might have seen a UFC 200 card like this:
— The Minds Eye (@PinealMind) March 14, 2016
That’s right. That’s three title fights and former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre that you see on that rendering. There was a chance GSP would come back, particularly since he was cageside at UFC 196 earlier this month. But once again, UFC President Dana White threw GSP under the bus for some inexplicable reason in order to prop up McGregor. Who knows if we’ll ever see GSP at another UFC event again?
Right now, the only fight that seems likely to take place at UFC 200 is the rematch between McGregor and Diaz. The event is supposed to be the biggest in UFC history, but we’re just over three months away from the big day and a tentative rematch that no one really expected or wanted is the only fight being talked about. Even if that rematch includes the biggest star in MMA, why does it feel like the UFC has no idea what to do?