Not for nothing, but the UFC is without a doubt putting more and more stock into its entertainment value instead of just focusing on the martial-arts sport aspect itself. In the new era ushered in by Conor McGregor, trash talk, craziness and “money fights” take precedence over the old-school way of fighting for UFC titles and cementing a strong legacy in the fight game.
While the new era of WME-IMG running the UFC has not gone smoothly, to say the least, there seems to be a glimmer of hope with the biggest (no pun intended) superfight scheduled since the new ownership took over. Outside of McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr., which did nothing for the UFC’s competitive nature and the lightweight division’s title picture, there has yet to be a true superfight that could not only cement one or both fighters’ legacies, but also a superfight with plenty at stake in the fight.
That all changes at UFC 226 when heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic takes on light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title. For the first time in a long time, the UFC has finally given two fighters what they deserve. This fight isn’t just a contest the fans want to see, but a showdown between two champions who have built up a strong case for divisional dominance.
Miocic, the longest-reigning defending heavyweight champion in UFC history, has a chance to not only continue to extend his streak of successful title defenses, but he can do so by beating one of the greatest light heavyweight fighters in UFC history, who happens to have a history as a very successful and undefeated heavyweight fighter as well. With the heavyweight division lacking top challengers, Miocic is welcoming Cormier in a fight that could cement the Ohio native as the greatest heavyweight in the promotion’s history.
While there can be a case for many former heavyweight fighters both inside and outside the UFC, none have gone through a great caliber of fighters or challenges than Miocic has in such a short time. In taking out Francis Ngannou at UFC 220, Miocic ended a hype train that the UFC was fully behind. While everyone was glorifying the champion’s historic achievement, his attitude that it was just another day at the office was refreshing to see.
Miocic won’t throw water bottles at Cormier like Cormier’s bitter rival Jon Jones did at a press conference last year. There won’t be heated trash-talking or any pre-fight scuffles. These two fighters will coach the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, and while there may be some bickering back and forth, Miocic’s smooth and calm demeanor puts all the focus on the actual fight. This makes it all the much more enjoyable.
Meanwhile, Cormier’s legacy has been haunted by the destructive ghost of Jon Jones. A win over Miocic not only solidifies the former heavyweight as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, but it could help close the book on the Jones chapter. While yes, any great fighter wants to get their losses back, and especially against an arch nemesis, what more would Cormier have to prove if he defeated Miocic and became a two-weight world champion while Jones was once again on the sideline?
Cormier, who was undeservingly booed any time he interacted or fought Jones, has an opportunity to beat a man in Miocic that has already taken up residence as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters ever.
There’s no sideshow here. There’s no bitter rivalry to be found. Hopefully, there is no outside interference leading up to this superfight main event at UFC 226 during International Fight Week 2018. Finally, almost two years since WME-IMG bought the UFC, we have our first true superfight where everything is on the line for the fighters. These are two deserving fighters doing what fighters should do: they’re competing to see who’s the best.
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