UFC 186 will mark the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s seventh trip to Montreal, Quebec — but unfortunately, “lucky number seven” has been anything but.
The April 25 event, for those who have lost track, was to feature the long-awaited rematch between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barão for the UFC 135 lb. title. But with that bout scrapped (again) with the champ Dillashaw suffering a rib injury in training, the co-main event of flyweights Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi was bumped to the top of the show.
Sounds okay. But for all his talent, the flyweight titlist Johnson, and the division he has dominated in recent years, has struggled to find much of an audience. It seems MMA fans just aren’t so appreciative of 125 lb fighters darting about the huge confines of the Octagon — regardless of their obvious skill.
A welterweight bout between Canada’s own Rory MacDonald and fellow top contender Hector Lombard was also expected. But it too was scrapped with Lombard’s failed drug test earlier in the year.
Luckily, the event was also to feature the UFC return of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson — who was to fight another light heavyweight slugger in Fabio Maldonado.
But yesterday, it was revealed that Jackson has been prevented from participating in the event by a New Jersey Superior Court judge, who ruled Jackson breached the terms of his previous contract with Bellator MMA.
Still, the UFC released a statement yesterday that the event was to proceed as planned.
What are we left with?
A title fight, sure, albeit in a division that has failed to generate much interest. Per a recent report by Sports Business Journal, Demetrious Johnson has headlined three previous UFC PPV’s, which have generated an average of 175,000 buys.
How low is that? Compare to former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, who recently announced he would not return to MMA. Lesnar averaged a staggering 1,021,000 buys for his events. Longtime welterweight champion (and Quebec native) Georges St-Pierre averaged 688,000. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson averaged a strong 613,000 back when he was a UFC PPV headliner from 2007-2013.
The undercard? It’s difficult to believe, but the event still includes a few top-ten ranked fighters. But about half of them are scheduled for the preliminary bouts and off the PPV, as they compete in the still embryonic women’s 115 lb division. They’re strictly for aficionados who pay for the UFC’s subscription service, UFC Fight Pass.
One of the last widely recognizable names for UFC 186 is fringe middleweight contender Michael Bisping. In a recent interview, Bisping reassured fans that the event “is still a fantastic card.”
“I’m going to electrify Montreal,” Bisping boasted, predicting a knockout over his opponent, tenth-ranked middleweight CB Dollaway.
He may be right about getting the knockout. It may even end up an “electric” show. But it’s not a fantastic card.
Fantastic cards took place in the early 2000’s, when virtually every fighter on a given UFC PPV event was a top contender.
Fans today may not remember those days, but they’re catching on. Today’s glut of UFC programming is too much. Cards are too watered down for monthly PPV purchases.
It’s time for another transition — from the days of too few, to too many, and back.
Simply put, there needs to be some idea of what is worth plunking down PPV cash for, and UFC 186 really isn’t it.