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Many people, myself included, thought that UFC 136 suffered because the most outspoken "promoter" of his own fights on the card, Chael Sonnen, was relegated to a middle of the card position which the UFC did not hype. It didn't help that Chael was extremely complimentary about opponent Brian Stann and the juice simply wasn't there.
Now we're headed into UFC 137 and a main event between B.J. Penn and Nick Diaz, two of the most outspoken fighters in MMA, and we're simply getting no hype for the fight. Penn has talked about respecting Diaz, Diaz has called Penn his favorite fighter. If you'd have told me a year ago that I'd see this fight and get no trash talking, I'd have called you crazy.
Yet, here we are. The biggest storylines for this fight have been Nick talking about the fight he didn't get because of his own actions (vs. Georges St. Pierre), wishing he'd stuck to boxing and Penn causing a stir early on by saying the UFC attempted to "force" him into talking trash about Diaz.
Make no mistake, in a down year for UFC pay-per-view buys and a card that lost Georges St. Pierre, this is a nightmare for the UFC. UFC 137 was immediately less appealing once St. Pierre suffered an injury, the card needed to save some of the lost buys and it wasn't unreasonable to think that Diaz and Penn would give them an endless string of soundbites with which to promote.
In his second blog for Yahoo! Sports, Penn discusses why he isn't interested in promoting the fight:
He's a great fighter who I respect and I like. Nick and his brother Nate actually came out to help me train for my UFC 101 match against Kenny Florian. We're not close friends, but both of the Diaz brothers have really helped me out in the past and we have hung out. This isn't a fight either of us would have asked for, but we are both at the top of the division and there's no one else for us to fight.
Nick's very dangerous with his punches; we'd have a great boxing match, and he's got some of the purest jiu-jitsu in MMA.
I was told today that Yahoo! called the blog "The Penn is Mightier," which is pretty funny and a good title. But I won't read anything, no interviews or previews. I won't watch the Countdown TV preview show, nothing, because I want to stay away from the hype for the rest of my career.
You can't force guys to promote fights, and this isn't pro wrestling. But the lack of hype has me lowering my expectations for PPV buys for this show from 400k to thinking it'll clock in around 300k.