Bloody Elbow roundtable: The UFC's awarding of title shots (part 2)

USA TODAY Sports

Bloody Elbow's roundtable on the UFC's recent handling of their title fight matchmaking concludes with part 2 of our discussion, which includes the marketability of the featherweight division, and "superfights".

To read part 1 of the latest BE roundtable, click here.

Mookie Alexander: Here's another interesting talking point - Mike Goldberg on multiple occasions mentioned that 2013 would essentially be the first of "many superfights". First off, Aldo vs. Pettis isn't a superfight in the context of its original meaning. But returning to what I was saying earlier, does this mean that the UFC is looking to go all-out in 2013? That means setting up Anderson vs. GSP, Jon Jones vs. Top 5 HW, etc.

Tim Burke: As for what Goldberg said, I'd just take it as promotional nonsense. What he's saying on-air shouldn't be used as an argument towards anything the UFC might be doing. We all know they're trying to book these superfights, but if the fighters won't agree to them (and they aren't), then there's nothing they can do. I don't think bouts like this fit into that bigger issue anyway. This was the best fight they could make for Aldo from a money standpoint. That's it.

Fraser Coffeen: Tim - I'm with you on the idea that FW is not yet a drawing division, so it makes sense why they are hotshotting title fights. The trouble is, like Nate kind of said earlier, how do you turn it around and make it a drawing division? The answer is to establish some FW draws, but they're not really doing a good job at that. Korean Zombie is a perfect example - anyone paying attention knew his fight with Poirier was likely to be awesome, and it was. But no casual fans saw it because it was buried on Fuel. Which is the same fate BW is seeing with Barao vs. McDonald. If they're not going to push any BW or FW fighters, then the division isn't going to grow. You have to get those guys on to big shows consistently, and they're not doing that. You also need more ways to get fans to know about fighters. Things like the HBO Boxing "2 Days" shorts are super valuable in exposing fighters, but the UFC just doesn't do that kind of thing at all.

TP Grant: I'd echo Fraser and Tim, establishing Featherweight would mean building up real fighters there, not cherry picking Lightweights to cut more weight and jump the line with zero Featherweight resume.

Tim: I agree that all title fights should be on PPV (or even maybe Fox), but they have to balance things out. They seem like they don't want two title fights on PPV's anymore due to time restraints, and they only have a two-hour window on FX and four-fight main cards, so that limits them there as well. It's easy to look back and say Zombie/Poirier should have been on FX or Fox, or even PPV. But A) they didn't know it'd be fight of the year beforehand, and B) It's probably not a five-round fight on another network. It's a tough tradeoff, and a lot needs to be taken into account when they book these things. Booking TV vs. PPV and eight divisions will take a lot of time to figure out. In the meantime, they might have to hotshot some title booking to establish interest.

Chris Hall: As Tim pointed out, the problem isn't with Aldo vs. Pettis individually. These marquee fights should help build Aldo's star power. The problem is that they're setting a standard of irrational matchmaking especially with title fights. Right now, we've just passed the first of three events where a fighter coming off a loss will be challenging for the title. Sure, the narratives created by Dana will pass for now, but eventually that will break down and people will stop taking championship fights seriously. Just like they have with #1 contender fights.

What strikes me as even more interesting is the possible consequences of devaluing the titles. By having the title itself be more of a drawing factor than the champion or challenger, the UFC brand was always bigger than the fighter. The more they sell based off personality and "sounds cool" matchmaking, the stronger the fighters' brands will become.

T.P: What the UFC is currently doing to the FW division is damaging the entire division in the long term. Fans are not being introduced any new faces from that weight, instead it is a train of Lightweights cutting weight because they have been promised a fast track to a title shot.

We've never seen a division treated like this before, sure we've seen Anderson Silva move up in weight but this seems to be the discrediting of entire weight-class. The last two fighters to face Aldo with more than one Featherweight fight in their career were Chad Mendes and Mark Hominick, and it has been fairly well proven since then that 145-lbs has much more to offer the champion. Yet the weight-class is being treated as being devoid of talented fighters, when that is simply not the case.

Tim: We have seen a division treated like this before though. The UFC lightweight division was treated like this for years.

Fraser: Yeah, there's a bigger issue at FW. I don't know how much is just bad luck with injuries and how much is bad timing and matchmaking, but they really have failed to capitalize on the few possibly hot fighters they have created. I mentioned Zombie before - he hasn't fought since the big Poirier win. Jimy Hettes looked great in the Nam Phan win (on a big PPV too), then was out for nearly a year and returned on a prelim. Eddie Yagin has lost all the momentum from his Hominick win. So the potential for new blood is there, but for a variety of reasons, it's not being used.

Brent Brookhouse: The larger problem is that the division don't REALLY feel like it's being made to grow. 3 of the last 4 challengers combined for one featherweight bout before the had a title shot. The last time an established featherweight got a shot at the the title was January of 2012. With Pettis/Aldo happening in August 2013 and then assuming 3-4 months before their next defense it'll be about 2 years before one gets a shot at the title (assuming an established FW gets the next shot).

There's no divisional picture forming because it's like the champion exists in a different space than the challengers. Obviously the UFC is happy to have a Korean Zombie or Ricardo Lamas around, but they're being treated like they're in a different division. Cub Swanson is a big hot name in the division right now and Lamas subbed him. Hioki was being positioned for a title fight and Lamas beat him. Koch was supposed to be in the title fight before he got injured and Lamas destroyed him. So three top end wins in a row for the guy in the division and instead it's Pettis moving down for a fight in August? When he could have stayed at 155 and fought the Henderson/Melendez win in a fight that still would have been really awesome?

What you're doing is sending the message that these "big" featherweight fights aren't really all that big or important.

Yes, there's marketability at play and selling fights is important. But there's a balance between the "sporting" and the "entertainment" aspects of things. And the hiding behind "well the casuals don't get THIS" or "the casuals don't understand THAT" or "The casuals don't care about WHEN" is wrong in many cases. People just saw Lamas destroy Koch on the same show they saw Pettis destroy Cerrone. He's not a complete unknown to where Pettis vs. Aldo is just some hugely valuable fight in comparison. It's not that Aldo vs. Pettis is bad. It's not, that's crazy. It's an awesome fight. It's that it wasn't a necessary one.

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We can assure you that there won't be a two-part roundtable again. Thanks for reading and as always express your thoughts on our thoughts and talk about the UFC's recent title shots, the featherweight division, and the overuse of "superfight".

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