The UFC has been hit hard by injuries this year, and they had to cancel an event for the first time ever. They've also had to scramble and do some dubious matchmaking to save some other events. Jones v. Belfort and Silva v. Bonnar were both "freakshow" fights. There was no competitive reason for those fights to happen, but the UFC was basically scrambling. In the case of Jones, a more worthy challenger turned the fight down. In the case of the Silva fight, the man considered to be the greatest p4p fighter of all time was stepping in on short notice to save a card in his home country.
Both of those fights were more entertaining than Jones v. Evans, Evans v. Davis, GSP v. Shields, or Faber v. Barao, or even Henderson v. Edgar II. Those fights all involved the best fighters in the world at their weight class. They were skillfully fought by conservative, talented fighters. None of them ended in a finish (it is tough to finish top talent).
Here is the problem with freakshow fights - people like freakshow fights. Fans like them, because they tend to be more exciting (mismatches produce finishes or exciting upsets (and yes, despite that Bonnar had "never been finished!!!1!!1!" a quick finish was pretty predictable)). Fighters like them (the "freak" gets a fight he doesn't deserve and the champion gets a squash match) and promoters like them (they make money). The only people who don't like them are whiny hipsters on sites like this one who drone on about the "purity" of the sport.
But at the end of the day - the "purity" of the sport (or whatever you want to call it) really matters. It does. Ultimately, if Anderson Silva starts turning down fights against the Weidmans of the world to fight people like Stephan Bonnar (or Bob Sapp or Jose Canseo) and Jones fights people like Chael Sonnen the sport will suffer.
The UFC used to understand that. They used to brag about how they didn't put on the joke fights that Pride did. They used to laugh at Fedor for his fights against middleweights and unusually large Koreans. But maybe the injuries and the pressure of the Fox deal is getting to them.
I certainly hope not. There is nothing wrong with a good freakshow if you're trying to wait for a truly worthy contender to emerge, or plug the hole created by an injury, or even to put some luster back on a "boring" champion. Certainly the recent fights can all be justified, and maybe even Sonnen v. Jones will give Gustafsson or Glover a chance to step up. But if freakshows start to become your bread and butter, then you aren't a sport anymore. You're sports entertainment.
The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.