Imagine you're Dana White for a second. You wake up one morning in February 2011 and hear that Greg Jackson protege Jon Jones has stated in an interview that he would fight then-teammate Rashad Evans if necessary. Angels sing. Dancing commences. You know you have a surefire main event for a future show, because these are two of the best light heavyweights in the world and they're suddenly at odds. Guaranteed PPV buys in the hopper! Get Lorenzo on the phone! Joy! Rapture!
Time flies though. A full 14 months after the seeds were sewn, the two men are finally going to meet in the cage at UFC 145. Jones and Evans have been bickering back and forth since Evans made the decision to leave Jackson's camp right after Jones won the title at UFC 128. They were supposed to fight at UFC 133. Then UFC 140. They've been posturing for what seems like forever now. Has it been too long? Are people still willing to pony up 60 dollars to watch what amounts to a one-match show? Can the show hit the magical one million PPV buy mark that some expect?
Sure, Rashad has drawn a million buys twice. His UFC 114 bout against Quinton Jackson was drawn out for a while as well, and sold big. And Jones is steadily increasing as a PPV draw. Despite that, I don't believe that these guys, even with their seemingly bottomless bag of promotional tricks, are popular enough to carry this on their own anymore. Why? Fourteen months is too long for these two men, that's why. I know I'm not the only one that is sick of listening to both of them. The Primetime episode that hyped the bout did terrible ratings numbers and is a clear indicator that some fans might have tuned them out by now as well.
The UFC has actively encouraged the two grown men to squabble like children for months They act like ex-friends who hate each other and refuse to be in the same room together - yet they were able to sit down on opposite sides of Jon Anik and argue (ie. sell their fight) just a couple of days ago. Maybe I'm just burned out on pre-fight hype after falling for it so many times before, but this stuff seems pretty transparent to me. The fighters and the promotion are doing their very best to throw the wool over your eyes and get you to buy a one-match card where the champ is a prohibitive -500 favorite...eight months after the hype peaked. Are we all really that gullible? At least Rampage/Rashad at UFC 114 was an even fight. This one isn't even close.
I'm not trying to be the whiner in the corner, hoping that the card doesn't succeed. At the same time though, I'm getting kind of sick of the UFC promoting boxing-style cards that feature one "relevant" bout and a bunch of filler. That's certainly what this card looks like to me, and what happens if the one relevant bout has lost some of its luster? No one's going to buy this card to see Rory MacDonald or Brendan Schaub, right?
Well, a lot of people aren't going to buy it to see Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans either after this long. And it's not hard to figure out why.