If the UFC couldn't sell a Frankie Edgar title defense against the most popular lightweight in company history with a big time freak show fight featuring James Toney, how will they sell him against Gray Maynard? (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Dave Meltzer comments on the upcoming Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard UFC lightweight title fight in the Wrestling Observer (subscription required):
That match and Gray Maynard's win over Kenny Florian sets up Edgar vs. Maynard as the next lightweight title fight. There were questions regarding that fight as a main event. Edgar has mostly had exciting fights, but they were low profile and his weakness as a personality has led to him not really being popular even with an excellent record (13-1). Maynard (11-0) has had a string of boring fights, and also doesn't have much to offer from a personality standpoint. After the show, White was pushing the idea that the fight will draw based on the fact Edgar had just dominated Penn, Maynard had won matches to be the rightful top contender, and that Maynard is the only fighter to beat Edgar (via decision by being the bigger, stronger and better wrestler on April 2, 2008 in Broomfield, CO). Unless they put it on a show with a second strong fight, that is going to be a tough sell as a main event.
He also comments on the apparently weak PPV sales for UFC 118:
In estimates we have at press time, trending figures indicated about 570,000. In looking at certain systems that we have contacts with, the numbers were a little above Liddell vs. Franklin (which did 520,000), which would indicate 550,000 to 600,000. But keep in mind both of those indicators pointed to far larger numbers for Silva vs. Sonnen then ended up materializing, but have been accurate predictors in the past. DirecTV numbers, which are the first real figures to come out, indicated a final figure around 600,000, but those numbers indicated a much bigger number than materialized last time. But as we say every time, any figures in the first two weeks are at best estimates.
Based on the reaction we got, the show didn't do all that well at the movie theaters. ...
Bar reports we had were that places were packed for the most part. About half were strong, one-quarter were way down and one-quarter were usual for a non-major show.
I had originally predicted 750,000 buys when the show was announced, but I was counting on the boxer vs. MMA gimmick catching on bigger than it did. Unlike the 8/7 show, where the buildup made me rethink upwards, I was down to thinking 550,000 by fight time, thinking the only boost would be that ESPN Sports Center was playing up the boxer vs. MMA fighter angle, and that could lead to late curiosity buys. But when Toney showed up looking out of shape, I could sense people thinking back to all the bad boxing heavyweight matches with older guys that were such a turnoff. Plus, when Toney took off his pants and his underwear rode down, it made him a comedy figure instead of a really hated guy people wanted to pay to see get shut up by the beloved veteran who did show up in shape. The dynamic I expected to be there wasn't. Plus, even though B.J. Penn has been a big draw the past two years and is one of the company's most popular fighters, and his losing his title and trying to regain it is on paper a strong drawing dynamic, people didn't care about Edgar. Edgar comes from the amateur wrestling mentality when it comes to promoting a fight and himself, and it makes him a tough sell as a headliner. Plus, their first fight was exciting in the sense it was a close fight and you didn't know who was going to win, it was not the kind of fight most fans want to see.
Gray Maynard, himself a long-time collegiate wrestler, promises that the lack of trash talk won't change for the Maynard vs Edgar fight, per MMA Weekly:
"It's great competition. He trains hard. He's a cool guy too. It's cool because his dad is always like 'hey Gray!' talks to me and stuff; nicest guy in the world. So trash talk ain't gonna happen," Maynard said. "But I guarantee you he's going to train hard, and I'll train, and it's going to be a good fight.
"It's all business. Throw the trash talk out, it's just all business."
Good lord. Dana have Chael Sonnen and Rowdy Roddy Piper put on a seminar for your lightweight fighters post haste! With two fighters with pretty dull styles and no interest in trash talk to build the fight, the Edgar vs Maynard bout will not be a strong main event.