Home UFC A great draw provides more emphasis for style over substance.

A great draw provides more emphasis for style over substance.


Back in November (2012), Georges St. Pierre sent the mixed martial arts community into an uproar when he chose to face Nick Diaz instead of Johny Hendricks. Dana White flaunted the fact that GSP “hated” Nick and wanted to beat him up really bad.

It didn’t matter than Nick had just lost a title eliminator against Carlos Condit, and subsequently failed his post fight test for Marijuana metabolites (which is a stupid rule anyway as he has the legal right to smoke it, but that’s a discussion for another day). Johny’s impressive win streak over top of the heap contenders was overlooked. The “grudge match” between Diaz and GSP was on, and the online community was pissed.

What was everyone boiling about? It was multiple things; Georgie boy had just mopped the floor with the guy who beat Diaz the last time he was in the cage, Hendricks had blasted Jon Fitch and Martin Kampman into the twilight zone in two out of his last three fights, Nick had been sitting on the sidelines for a year, etc. The “sport” of MMA was being put on the back burner for the show.

The idea of earning your way to a title was blatantly dismissed, and the men who are in charge of making the matches washed their hands of any responsibility. “GSP never asks for fights, so we felt compelled to give it to him” and “Georges never got over Diaz’s smack talk when the fight was set to happen last time” were quotes among the selling points given by White.

He knew that he had to deflect any responsibility in making the match because it goes directly against one of the main selling points for the UFC throughout its history: “The best fight the best”. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and with the numbers GSP-Diaz did Saturday night it will continue its rise to normalcy.

Bad Blood Sells 

Dave Meltzer, the de facto brain of PPV numbers as far as mma is concerned (Zuffa doesn’t release actual numbers), is reporting the best number in years for Georgie boy. Condit helped bring in about 700k viewers against Georges 5 months ago, and the projections for UFC 158 are over 100k more than that. This fun bit of information means a couple things.

First off, the public bought in to Diaz being a legitimate threat against St. Pierre. A fighter that has historically struggled with wrestlers, hasn’t gone against a top of the line grappler in years, was being given a legitimate chance at an upset. Second, casual fans obviously thought the trash talk between the two combatants was entertaining. Third, and this point my be the most telling, the passing over of the rightful number one contender (Hendricks) was given little or no thought by the fan base.  

Hendricks being passed over was a huge deal in our little world when it happened. A guy who just took out three top 5 fighters in a row, while putting half of them away in emphatic fashion got the Fitch treatment for a guy whose thought pattern resembles a lie-detector test with Lance Armstrong attached. A lot of our very own readers couldn’t believe it, and spoke of how they wouldn’t tune in because regress in sporting direction. 

The problem is, we all still bought it. We grouped ourselves in with the fans referred to sometimes as “casual”, and gladly plopped down our 50+ dollars only to watch what most of us saw as a foregone conclusion. Things like this happen routinely, and we get on our soap box and complain. Then a few months down the line we somehow pass off Vitor Belfort as a legitimate fight for Jon Jones. It’s a policy that has somehow grabbed momentum, and with the great numbers from this last weekend; it’ll only get worse.

MMA as a sport gets compared to other team sports a lot in conversations. While it’s never really been an accurate relation, its becoming even less of a comparable because of the blatant disregard for accomplishment when its put up against drawing power.  

Apparently woof tickets (or wolf), really do sell well. Bring on Jones vs. Sonnen. 

  • Good article Evan,

    PPV numbers must be taking a heavy hit overall because there is only so much hype and wolf tickets a fan can handle. UFC definetly sold the hype well for the Diaz fight.

    Right now at my local bar, I am seeing a decline in the number of people that turn up to watch UFC events and its broadcast live and free.

    Increasing number of events, overhypinga card, bad matchups are obviously having an effect otherwise it wouldn't be in decline.

  • I second that, nice article. The only part I disagree with is where you imply that Diaz was not a legit threat to Georges. While he was certainly a long shot to beat GSP (I myself had Georges in the picks) he stood as good a chance as anyone GSP has previously faced and did pretty good in comparison to the rest. How many guys have stuffed any of GSP's takedowns let alone the number that Diaz stuffed? Not too many. Hendricks was clearly the front runner though despite his controversial win over Koscheck. This has to stop happening.

    • True that I understand your opinion, and we just disagree on the competitveness that Diaz presented. Which I was a bit wrong about as GSP didn't do as much damage on the ground as I thought he would.

      I know I was also going nuts in the third for Diaz to unleash some volume on Georges.

      • He was too tentative at that point. That's what fighting a guy like Georges does to you. Even if you are an amazing striker you can't get much off because of the threat of a take down.

    • don't forget the now controversial win over Condit , Hendricks did KO Kamptman which is very impressive but don't forget John Fitch was no longer a Top 5 when he beat him, the Koscheck fight in my opinion was not a win, Koscheck won 2 out of 3 rounds , same as the Condit fight Condit took almost no damage and he did the damage himself while on the ground and feet, Hendricks should fight Jake for the No.1 spot

      if he had beat Condit then for sure GSP would be the right call , but he didn't
      so at least beat Jake to prove your the No.1 contender

      while Condit should fight McDonald in a very interesting fight!

  • I think the point of your argument is that money and spectacle are trumping the sport aspect of MMA. And I would agree with this general point.

    However, I disagree with the examples you have chosen to illustrate this lamentable trend.

    In my mind, Nick Diaz was as worthy as Johny Hendricks for a title fight. Remember, Diaz lost to a very, very controversial decision with Condit. So controversial that they were going to have a rematch–at least until Diaz tested positive for that powerful PED known as marijuana. Many fans thought Diaz won that fight. Whether Diaz won or lost–it was not a resounding victory for Condit–he barely scraped by with a win.

    Johny Hendricks impressively KO'd Kampmann and Fitch–but less impressively, he squeaked out two split-decisions against Koscheck and Pierce. And not so long ago, Rick Story narrowly defeated him.

    So I don't see the travesty in Nick Diaz getting the nod over Hendricks. I would not have been upset if it were the other way around either. What I don't get is this notion that Hendricks was hands-down the only viable title contender and that NIck Diaz, due to his very, very controversial loss was so out of consideration–that his title fight with GSP was a travesty and that it proved MMA was heading down a slippery slope.

    Sonnen getting a LHW shot is a better example.
    Cutting ANY top ten fighters is also a good example. eg. Jon Fitch.
    Even Vitor Belfort moving up to LHW without having to prove himself first is another.

    No bad blood here, Evan, I just disagree that Diaz was the poster boy for spectacle over sport. Diaz is a legit WW and a controversial loss to Condit did not drop him to the bottom of the pack in my view.

    • You make some great points Code (as usual): A lot of fans thinking Diaz beat Condit, Johny had some controversial wins, Diaz's drug suspension being insane for something he's legally allowed to use, etc…

      I'll just say I thought Diaz vs. Condit should definitely be taken into account, and I thought the sheer amount of contenders on Hendricks resume over the last two years should have made it no doubt who #1 was.

      However, this fight just happening was the main reason it was the center of the article. I completely agree that Belfort and Sonnen fighting Jon is far worse than this. It was more about how this is the "norm" now, and spectacle over sport isn't even really questionable anymore.

      • I think there was some savvy business reasons for choosing Diaz. Diaz might have a short shelf-life, given his unpredictablity and the abundance of great wrestlers in the WW dvision.

        Hendricks still gets his shot. Once Hendricks defeated Condit (another squeaker, in my view) he clearly established himself the number one WW contender, I think Hendricks defeating Condit made him a much more credible opponent–and more PPV worthy as well.

        The Condit vs. Hendricks fight truly had no losers. Both fighters used everything in their arsenal–and both are very well-rounded. It was an MMA clinic of skill and ferocity.

        In the end, Hendricks got his title shot–and so did Nick. It's all good.

  • My Two Cents:

    GSP, in terms of PPV status and The UFC, is more an anomaly, than a standard. As White said, everyone wants to fight GSP and for good reason, they get paid. For that reason, I’m not sure that much conclusion can be drawn from the numbers, other than GSP’s fights sell. However, I do not believe there is enough or even any evidence, to surmise that The UFC is now a style over substance, sport. Particularly when taking into consideration, that whatever wrong which is perceived to have been made or slight given, is now going to be wiped clean by GSP v. Hendricks (which is tentatively scheduled for August).

    With that said, I believe the point could be argued in cases such as Jones / Belfort, Jones / Sonnen and perhaps some other matches, which we could mention. It’s not always perfect, but then again, sometimes it can’t be. Sometimes, it’s (more) about who’s available and not, why it isn’t the number one contender fighting. As long as a Champion is facing off against a top five fighter or better and preferably always the number one contender, then most fans would be fine with match-ups, as most fans were, last Saturday night. Nick Diaz is / was a quality, top-ranked opponent, with an interesting back-story and promotional pitch, his personal baggage aside.

    I’m not sure which, whether it was Entity, Enjoy or Evan, who said it, but legitimacy cannot take a backseat to business and I couldn’t agree more. If it does, it will kill the sport. However, I don’t think we are there yet, and in terms of Sonnen / Jones, what we are really seeing here, is the final death throes of the crappy year, which was, 2012. This is simply old business, which is finally being put to bed. As long as it is put to bed and seldom, if ever repeated, I can live with it.

    For me, the problem with Jones / Sonnen is not whether or not he deserves it or has earned it, because he doesn’t and hasn’t. My problem with Sonnen is that there is no “wolf” ticket, here. Sonnen may have howled like a wolf to get the fight, but he’s walked into and around TUF like a sheep. Subsequently, Sonnen has done nothing to improve the show or increase its ratings. He’s a bust. Concordantly, I don’t care about this fight and I wouldn’t waste $55, on it. Sonnen has completely failed to hype this card, by becoming (for all-intents-and-purposes) Jones’s friend. No story, here.

    The irony is, of course, that Nick did, by the force of his true nature (and it’s not an act) what Sonnen failed to do, even though that’s what he was brought into do, which was play the wolf. Unfortunately, that’s all it appears to have been is playing or play acting. He’s not really that wolf, guy.

    Personally, I believe there is a place for wolf fighters and wolf tickets, so long as the wolf is legitimately talented and legitimately, a wolf.

    • Good points.

    • @Truth….Some great points there, I guess the ufc road gets a little twisted at times before it finally straightens. But I think its safe to say that the top guys eventually get their title shot despite the occasional queue jumpers. Bellator CEO made a comment which was really an indirect criticism of the UFC stating that his fighters don't talk their way into title shots. he never mentioned the UFC but it was clear what he meant.

      • @ Enjoy

        The sport is in constant flux and far too dynamic, for it to ever be perfect, regardless of whatever perfect may be. Resultantly, our sport, from time-to-time, may and will become, a bit of a dog's breakfast.

        Again, I had no problem with Diaz getting a shot, all while acknowledging Big Rig as the #1 contender and apparently, it all worked out. The fans got to see two great fights @ the main and co-main level.

        Ironically, it might not have worked out that way, had it not been for MacDonald's injury. We might have ended up seeing Hendricks / Ellenberger and maybe the fight wouldn't have been as exciting as Hendricks / Condit was and maybe Big Rig would have lost, pushing him out of title contention. In terms of how it all broke, aside from MacDonald's injury, it was a great dog's breakfast. I know I had my face in the bowl and so did many others. The whole meal was rather delightful and let us not forget, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 🙂

        As to Bjorn's remarks, it's like two restaurant owners complaining about one another and fighting over the same customer. The fact is, that although they offer similar menus, they offer completely different dining experiences. That is / was self-evident when Bellator failed to hire one of The UFC's better chefs, John Fitch. Bellator, as they are a tournament style (MMA) dining experience and already underway with their dinner service, had no place for Fitch in their kitchen. The only sad part of it, is that Bjorn didn't just state that, instead, he stated or insinuated, I can't remember which, that Bellator wasn't particularly interested in UFC cast offs, which of course is a load of crap.

        Personally speaking and in terms of fighters talking their way into title shots, historically, their is little evidence of it and what evidence there is, has generally worked out well, Silva / Sonnen 1 and GSP / Diaz, being the best of the few examples we have, to consider.

        Again, it's not always a bad thing so long as the guy doing the talking is ranked top 5 or better and is a legitimate fighter.

  • Like to hear your writings….good job EH