First off let me say I’m sorry for not posting my thoughts on Michael Bisping vs Rashad Evans as UFC 78’s main event sooner. I saw the email in my mailbox around 9am and got all excited. Fingers crossed for Tito vs Wand I opened it up to see … well, you know the story. I spent the rest of the day in a listless stupor. Honestly, I felt like a faithful dog who’d just been kicked.
Now obviously I know I’m NOT a faithful dog. If anything I’m one of those annoying yappy dogs who pisses in the bed whenever you go out for an evening. But still, you get the point. I’m not going to go over why this match-up sucks … there’s 1001 other bloggers who have already done that. Luke Thomas does a good job of explaining why it sucks, and Ben Fowlkes at Five Ounces of Pain lays out what should be the three unbreakable conditions for a UFC pay per view main event:
- A championship title is at stake
- If no title is at stake, it should be a fight to determine number one contender status
- It is a grudge match of some kind with special personal significance for both fighters
So we all agree, this main event is a turd straight out of Satan’s anus. But how did we get here? Did Dana White and Joe Silva conspire to hit New Jersey with the worst main event for a PPV in Zuffa’s history? Are they testing us to see how shitty a card has to be to get less than 500,000 buys? Lets take a look.
In the beginning: Oh, things were looking so good for the New Jersey show just a few months back. BJ Penn had trounced Jens Pulver at the Ultimate Fighter 5 finale and the UFC was offering him a shot at the lightweight title. This title shot was all but locked into the New Jersey card. The only question was who Penn would fight: Sean Sherk or Hermes Franca.
Unless you’ve been living under a particularly large rock, you know what happened next. At UFC 73 on July 7th, Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans fought to an uninspired draw. Tito literally gave this one away by grabbing the fence, but hey … Dana White is into head wax and rematches so a rematch was in the works before the crowd even stopped booing. Again: it was common knowledge this fight was gonna go on the UFC 78 card.
So now you’ve got a pretty sweet card: BJ Penn vs Sean Sherk for the lightweight belt and a rematch between Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz. Not too shabby at all.
And here’s where everything falls apart.
Sean Sherk tested positive for Nandrolone, and since Dana White is good friends with Sherk he refused to strip Sherk of the belt until his appeal was dealt with. While that may have seemed like a good idea at first, I dunno if Dana realized the appeal would be postponed until the ass end of October. So there goes the title fight from the card.
As for BJ Penn, there was some talk of him staying on the card and fighting someone else, but my bet is he has no interest taking a filler fight while waiting for his shot at the belt. The UFC had a hard enough time convincing him to stay at lightweight at all, so they’ve now moved him to the UFC 79 card where he’ll be able to compete for the belt, be it occupied by Sherk or vacated.
Now onto the Tito Ortiz / Rashad Evans debacle. The story going around is that Tito was trying to bend the UFC over a barrel since he knew they needed him to get this PPV off the ground. Since Tito had no problem signing a fight against Rashad the first time around, there’s only two conditions I can see that would be dealbreakers for the UFC:
- Word is that Tito’s contract gives him a cut of PPV money on shows he headlines. If he was pushing for this and the UFC was saying the fight wasn’t a ‘headlining’ fight, that would definately be a dealbreaker.
- Tito’s all about winning back the belt. With kryptonite Chuck Liddell finally out of the picture, I have no doubt that Tito wants another crack at it. His condition for accepting this fight might be a title shot if he wins.
Neither of these two scenarios are bad enough to constitute as Tito ass fucking the UFC. But given Tito’s relationship with Dana White, I can see how the whole thing fell apart. Tito and Dana would have a hard time agreeing on the color of grass let alone these kinds of terms. The moment Dana White felt Ortiz was trying to use the weak 78 card to his advantage was the moment he said fuck it and moved on to other options.
And there you have it: A pay per view card that started off as pretty sweet is now reduced to a main event that’s better suited for an Ultimate Fight Night.
**Correction** We originally credited Sam Caplan with the three golden rules for a main event, when it’s actually Ben Fowlkes. But don’t worry Ben … the fact that people mistake your writing for Sam’s is a compliment all in it’s own.