It is common knowledge for a hardcore MMA fan that fights contested at 155 pounds and lower are regularly some of the most exciting bouts to watch. At the upper tier of the lighter weight classes: lightweight, featherweight, bantamweight, and flyweight, fighters operate at amazing speed, while also utilizing the utmost of skill. They may not be the power sluggers we see at heavyweight, but they deliver amazing battles of talent and technique with shocking regularity.
So, it is a shame that we haven't seen these fighters click with a larger group of fans. To some fans, these fighters are labelled with a slew of belittling terms. Some people call them runts, weaklings, dwarves, what have you. Many an internet tough guy will claim that they can beat the lighter weight champions. Though the UFC has been able to implement these weight divisions, and get great rosters for each of them, they have yet to become legitimized to a larger group of fans.
With the recent news of Erik Koch's knee injury giving way to a superfight between featherweight king Jose Aldo and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, the UFC has a huge opportunity. This is exactly the fight they needed to bring legitimacy to the smaller fighters. But this fight isn't a surefire sell, despite the 'super' label. The UFC will have to convince fans that this is the fight to watch.
Recently, we've seen the UFC's promotional abilities fade. Stars aren't being made like they used to. The Zuffa marketing machine has lost a step, and it needs some repairs. Some fights that should be considered a must watch are just not drawing what they should. But for the UFC, circumstances could not have aligned better for them to have full control of their promotional tools.
Football season starts soon, and he UFC has the ability to promote this fight to the wide audience that will be watching on Fox. The UFC is coming off of a rough summer, and fans who held out on paying for pay-per-views in the last few months may be more willing to check out the big cards of this fall. There is a huge pay-per-view in September which will be doing a lot of buys on its own, and they can promote from there. They have many avenues to reach their fans.
Beyond the factors outside of the fight that make it easier to sell, the fight in itself can draw many people. Aldo is a gifted athlete and fighter who has stood head and shoulders above his division so far. He is very promotable as a dominant champion, with a great highlight reel to boot. He's already gaining fame in Brazil, and it's about time that his talent converts into big buy rates. Frankie Edgar is the gritty former champion, he's got a relatable personality, and he puts on exciting fights. Edgar is the little guy who's put in hard work to be a top fighter, even though he may not have the athletic gifts of his peers. He took a fight with one of the best fighters to walk the earth on short notice, and that needs to be known by fans all over. Both men have a certain aura about them that could translate into popularity, but they need the backup power of the UFC's promotional tools.
Even beyond that, there is already a narrative building. The fight is regarded as a superfight, matching two of the greatest fighters from two different weight classes against each other, with championship gold on the line. Frankie Edgar is coming off two competitive losses to a gigantic lightweight in Ben Henderson, and now he will try to establish dominance against fighters who match his own size. Aldo will be defending his championship reign, where he has left few doubts about his dominance. He has already challenged Edgar to come down, saying that he would send him back to lightweight or down to bantamweight. With a little back and forth, this is an easily promotable fight, between two of the best fighters around, not to mention a bit of rivalry and bad blood. Aldo will be attempting to defend his championship in his home country, where he is beloved, against a man who is no stranger to big fights and an audience rooting for the other guy.
I get chills just thinking about this fight. While Aldo should rightfully be favored, it's not possible to count out Frankie Edgar. The two fighters operate at such great speed, with some of the best technique. It is almost impossible for this fight to not be thrilling, and that is what people need to know. It's hard to think of something that significant being looked over by fight fans. The roaring crowd, the awesome card, and the championship superfight are beyond what we've gotten to see from the UFC lately.
Despite the massive implications of this fight card, it isn't going to draw on its own. There needs to be a huge desire for this fight. There needs to be anticipation. The UFC has to make this card a must-watch, because that is what it is. This is the pinnacle of fighting, a showcase of two men who have risen to the top, and it should be promoted as such. Aldo is a phenom, a dynamic fighter, and a dominant champion. Edgar is his gritty challenger, a man who is no stranger to long odds and tough opponents. Both present things that the other has yet to face. So what if they are some of the smallest fighters the UFC has to offer? The casual fanbase has to know that these lighter weight class fighters can put on the best fights to watch. That is what we will see headlining UFC 153. The fight is big, but not quite a guaranteed sell. The UFC has a tall order in front of it, because it would be a shame if a fight of this magnitude isn't watched by the masses.