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Analysis: Canceled UFC card sparks hidden benefits

Interest in rematch between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes grows with wait

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jose Aldo right, punches Chad Mendes during their featherweight title bout at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday Jan. 15, 2012. Aldo defended his belt by defeating Mendes in the first round.

Saturday's UFC Fight Night 46 card in Dublin

  • Featherweight bout: Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao
  • Welterweight bout: Gunnar Nelson vs. Zak Cummings
  • Flyweight bout: Brad Pickett vs. Ian McCall
  • Lightweight bout: Norman Parke vs. Naoyuki Kotani
  • Light heavyweight bout: Ilir Latifi vs. Chris Dempsey
  • Flyweight bout: Neil Seery vs. Phil Harris
  • Middleweight bout: Cathal Pendred vs. Mike King
  • Middleweight bout: Tor Treong vs. Trevor Smith
  • Light heavyweight bout: Cody Donovan vs. Nikita Krylov
  • Flyweight bout: Patrick Holohan vs. Josh Sampo
  • Airs at Noon Saturday on UFC Fight Pass

A local sports occurrence that was once as nonexistent as Floyd Mayweather Jr. losing a fight or casinos failing to post betting lines on an NFL game has become alarmingly commonplace.

With last week’s cancellation of UFC 176, the Las Vegas-based largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world has scrapped two pay-per-views in less than two years.

It managed to avoid turning the implosion of UFC 176, which was scheduled to take place Aug. 2 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, into the public spectacle created in the aftermath of UFC 151. UFC President Dana White infamously lambasted Jon Jones for his refusal to accept a short-notice fight in the announcement of the first dissolved event in August 2012.

He found it much easier to accept Jose Aldo’s neck injury that forced him out of a featherweight championship rematch with Chad Mendes. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta calmly confirmed reports of the second card’s demise on Fox Sports 1.

“Last year we went through the entire year and I don’t think we had to replace one card,” Fertitta said. “This year, unfortunately, this happened. Overall, at the end of the day, we have all these guys coming back and I think the fall for us is going to be pretty strong.”

First things first, the UFC deserves all the scorn it’s gotten for letting another event fall through — especially after trying to pass it off as a “postponement.” It’s a troublesome trend for an organization that used to pride itself on always making sure that fights went on, navigating through the inherently injury-riddled pool of mixed martial arts with perseverance to keep shows intact.

But not all cancellations were created equal. The loss of UFC 176 won’t strike as harshly as UFC 151 for the company, as Fertitta’s words began to explain.

Although the UFC surely suffered the loss of some nonrecoupable costs associated with the event, there are subsequent benefits this time around. UFC 151 bit the dust eight days before it was scheduled, which made it difficult on short notice to reschedule bouts in a timely fashion on other upcoming cards.

Nine of 10 fights set for the Staples Center have already found a new home, with only one of them scheduled more than a month out of the original date. And that’s a middleweight title eliminator between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Gegard Mousasi, which moves from UFC 176 co-main event into a justified Fox Sports 1 headlining role on UFC Fight Night 50 on Sept. 5 in Connecticut.

The next Fox Sports 1 card, UFC Fight Night 47, might be the network’s strongest offering since the channel's debut event last summer. Three projected UFC 176 main-card tilts relocated to the Bangor, Maine, event Aug. 16: Gray Maynard vs. Fabricio Camoes, Jussier Formiga vs. Zach Makovksy, and Abel Trujillo vs. Ross Pearson, who replaces the injured Bobby Green.

The only fight without a revealed home is Aldo vs. Mendes II, which has gotten perhaps the most momentous boost while the featherweight champion recovers from a setback Fertitta likened to a stinger.

It was projected to be an outstanding fight between the two best 145-pound fighters in the world but a marginal pay-per-view seller at UFC 176. The first fight between Aldo and Mendes sold a below-average 215,000 buys, according to MMAPayout, and that was with Vitor Belfort in the co-main event.

UFC 176 could have trended downward, but the rescheduled encounter has a better chance of eclipsing the figure. Because now it’s officially a grudge match.

Mendes reasonably expressed frustration after Aldo went down, which prompted the champion to respond with sheer venom. Aldo released a statement to Brazilian outlet Combate accusing Mendes of performance-enhancing drug use and calling the top contender an expletive.

Mendes came back with comparable vulgarity on social media to prolong a war of words that’s suddenly grabbed a hold of MMA fans far and wide.

“Before the cage is closed you can say whatever you want, because once they close it you won’t be able to open your mouth, so keep talking while you have a mouth,” read part of Aldo’s translated statement.

Despite his dominant run of 14 straight wins since coming to the U.S., Aldo hasn’t broken through as one of the UFC’s primary draws. The No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world’s average following is usually accredited to his small weight class and inability to speak English.

But the disconnect could just as likely derive from Aldo having no equal or enemy. Aside from a few passing moments, he’s never been challenged in the octagon. And Mendes is the first fighter to ever anger Aldo out of the cage.

The UFC should be ashamed of leaving itself no way out of a card other than to refund the reported $800,000 in tickets and move on, but the cancellation might not be remembered in UFC 151-like disrepute over the long term.

It might be remembered as the trigger that shot Aldo and Mendes into rarefied territory as one of the UFC’s greatest rivalries.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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