Contrary to popular belief (and FS1), the fight of the summer in 2017 is not the hyped meeting of Floyd Mayweather and UFC champion Conor McGregor on Aug. 26. However, this summer’s best fight will happen inside the Octagon when Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier touch gloves in a highly anticipated rematch for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
After a cancelled rematch and the suspension of Jones, the return of arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all-time against his biggest rival in Cormier was expected to be a mega-fight with a similar pre-fight build.
And, despite the matchup of two of the sport’s most marketable stars and a rivalry unparalleled in the rest of the sport, the build to Cormier-Jones is nonexistent less than two weeks ahead of what should be UFC’s biggest PPV card of the year. Outside of an excellent promo trailer for the fight, the UFC has not put in a fraction of the effort that Dana White and Showtime put into the McGregor-Mayweather World Tour.
The lack of effort Dana White and the UFC brass have put in a proper press tour speaks volumes on the current problems within the organization. While UFC champions complain about a lack of marketing since the takeover by WME, and Dana White retorts with low PPV buy-rates during disputes with his fighters, the company continues to put all of their eggs into the proverbial Conor McGregor basket.
To have two of the UFC’s biggest names and best talkers on the sidelines while Conor McGreor and Floyd Mayweather dominate headlines — especially during the slowest period on the sports calendar — is a concern for a company that routinely garners criticism for its failure to market its stars.
If Jones and Cormier — two of the sport’s very best and most bitter rivals — can’t get a proper worldwide press tour to build attention for a PPV card, what does that say for the rest of the talent pool?
UFC title holders Demetrious Johnson and Tyron Woodley vocally came out against Dana White in the past year, only for the boisterous UFC figurehead to blame what he deemed their lack of star power and drawing ability.
Now, it might be time to finally point the finger at White for the UFC’s inability to develop immensely successful fighters into household names, capable of generating those big PPV numbers.
It is unfathomable that White can spend weeks getting face-time in the Mayweather-McGregor circus for Showtime, but can’t do a one week tour of North America to build similar hype for the biggest fight of the year in his own promotion. There is zero doubt both Jones and Cormier could provide an even better war of the words than the contrived smack talk from McGregor and Mayweather. More importantly, Jones-Cormier is a more evenly matched contest.
So why has the UFC kept the two in the shadows in July and conceded the spotlight to a boxing match that takes place in late August?
One possible answer could be the risk of Jones once again kiboshing a main event the UFC has invested into. His removal from the UFC 200 card last summer left UFC scrambling to deliver on a card it promised would be the biggest in history.
However, if the feeling is Jones is too much of a risk to promote with a proper press conference tour, that’s a weak excuse at best; especially now, just a week out from the event.
The UFC and White have taken for granted hardcore MMA fans will purchase UFC 214 out of the already built-in name value attached to Jones and Cormier. It will likely pay off, but the lack of investment into building up a fight for the ages, appealing to more casual MMA fans, is concerning.
Surely there was an opportunity for the UFC to compete with the Mayweather-McGregor tour, if not piggyback off of it, and garner some further attention to their marquee event. We will never know now, but it is time to question the direction of the UFC under WME, and the organization’s commitment to promoting its fighters, if they can’t even invest in a press conference tour of two of its biggest fighters in a massive rematch.
Real fight fans are excited for July 29 and the fight between Jones and Cormier will go down in UFC history as one of the best tilts in the history of the Light Heavyweight division. If McGregor-Mayweather is all about hype and narrative, Jones-Cormier II is as pure and genuine of a feud as there is in sports.
Perhaps it is for the best that Dana White is more focused on boxing, but WME might want to take a hard look at their failures in promotion as they drop the ball at building coverage for one of their few blockbuster matchups. As of now, the UFC is squandering another opportunity to move past their one track focus on McGregor and it could haunt UFC in the future.