The UFC was supposed to have a big event on Saturday night, but the shine from the marquee faded rather quickly when it was announced on Friday afternoon that the co-main of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson was cancelled after Nurmagomedov was hospitalized while trying to cut weight. Even though it was scheduled to be the second-last fight of the night (ahead of Stephen Thompson vs. Tyron Woodley), many fans were looking forward to Khabib vs. Ferguson more than the actual main event.
If it seems like a lot of UFC cards have been falling apart lately, it’s not an illusion. Huge PPV events have been suffering from a staggering amount of cancelled main and co-main events lately. Reddit user andywarhaul put together an exhaustive list. When you actually look at it all together, it’s quite concerning.
Out of the last 30 numbered UFC PPVs (from UFC 179 to UFC 209), exactly half have suffered from a change or cancellation of one of the final two advertised fights. While everyone knows that combat sport events always come with the “Card Subject to Change” disclaimer, having half your events fail to deliver as advertised is a big concern.
Here’s the entire list of fights that have been called off:
UFC 180: Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum cancelled due to Cain knee injury
UFC 181: Vitor Belfort vs. Chris Weidman cancelled due to the Chris breaking his hand
UFC 184: Vitor Belfort vs. Chris Weidman again, undisclosed injury to Weidman
UFC 186; T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao, Dillashaw broke a rib
UFC 187: Jon Jones vs. Anthony Johnson, Jones pulled his hit and run stunt
UFC 189: Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo, Aldo broke a rib
UFC 191: Daniel Cormier vs. Alexander Gustafsson, was technically not made official but still kind of cancelled
UFC 193: Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit, Lawler aggravated a thumb injury
UFC 196: Was supposed to be Werdum vs. Velasquez again but injuries had it moved, McGregor vs Rafael dos Anjos was cancelled when dos Anjos broke his toe/foot
UFC 197: Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, Cormier injured his foot
UFC 199: Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman, Weidman had a herniated neck
UFC 200: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz, McGregor and the UFC had disagreements on the promotional media requirements and the fight was cancelled. Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier, Jones popped on a drug test days before the fight.
UFC 201: Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis was cancelled when Johnson had an undisclosed injury and pulled out
UFC 206: Daniel Cormier vs Anthony Johnson, Cormier pulled out due to a torn tendon
UFC 209: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson, Khabib pulls out due to weight cut complications
That is a very poor record of delivering on your promises. It suggests a growing problem in the sport as a whole, as fighters seem to be getting hurt in training more frequently. One Reddit user has a theory:
The elephant in the room: Most of these took place after USADA.
It was a lot easier for guys to recover an injury in time for a fight when everyone was on testosterone. Steroids aren’t just for the strength/mass benefits, it also makes you recover from injuries and overtraining faster. Look no further than WWE.. guys like Cena have had serious injuries like a torn tricep, and miraculously always come back in less than half the expected time. Dat TRT. (Via)
“TRT” is testosterone replacement therapy, a procedure that was banned when the UFC enacted tougher doping rules a few years ago, in partnership with the United States Antidoping Agency (USADA). There is definitely a suggestion that many fighters had to alter their training and recovery practices once the changes were made.
Another potential part of the problem is fighter pay. As “independent contractors,” fighters only get paid when they actually fight. There’s no health insurance, benefits, or sick pay. That causes a lot of fighters to keep injuries a secret, hoping they can fight through whatever it is that hurts. Ultimately, a lot of these injuries eventually end up cancelling fights at the last minute, either because the fighter finally admits they didn’t heal fast enough or because an athletic commission won’t clear them after a medical exam.
Longtime commentator Joe Rogan has also suggested that the UFC needs to drastically change their weigh-in process. Currently, fighters will drastically dehydrate themselves 36-48 hours before they fight in order to make weight. The process can have severe health consequences, even when done correctly.
Weight cutting is the biggest problem in MMA. We need a solution where we transition towards fighters competing at their actual weight.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) March 3, 2017
To severely dehydrated yourself 24 hours before a cage fight is insane and has massive health and performance consequences.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) March 3, 2017
The UFC already has the problem (in my opinion) of over saturating the market with fight cards that no one cares about. Between the numbered PPVs, UFC Fight Night events, UFC on Fox cards, and The Ultimate Fighter finales, it’s more then most fans can keep track of. Having their marquee events continuously fall apart is actually starting to hurt the brand, as casual fans can’t get a handle on when their favorite fighter might be fighting next.
I don’t have an answer to the problem, but hopefully the UFC is keeping a close eye on the increasing amount of fights that are getting cancelled and coming up with some possible solutions.