Favoritism in the UFC

Brie Coder, Copy Editor

Whether we like it or not, favoritism will always prevail in any industry.

In combat sports for example, if we want the underdog to win, most times as a fan we are faced with the disappointment that the bigger or the face of that business will win the fight. At the end of the day, the owners of the company will go with what will make them more money for the business, and what will increase their ratings if applicable. Unfortunately favoritism reared its ugly head at the 25th anniversary conference for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) earlier this month. Instead of excitement towards new blockbuster matches that will happen this year and the next, the news caused more chaos to abrupt in the industry.

The press and fans awaited for the exhilarating news that UFC owner Dana White was going to announce on Aug. 3 in Los Angeles. Several big matches were announced including Dustin Poirier (24-5) against Nate Diaz (19-11) at the biggest stage of them all, Madison Square Garden for UFC 230 in November. Since Diaz hasn’t stepped into the Octagon for two years, you’d think that would be the biggest match of the year? Well it’s one of them, but not the biggest match White has to offer.

Towards the end of the conference White showed a trailer for an upcoming match that will happen at UFC 229 on Oct. 6, a month before Diaz’s match. After so much publicity and controversy White is giving “The Notorious” Conor McGregor (21-3), who’s been absent from the company for three years, his dream match against Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (26-0) for the UFC Lightweight Championship title.

This did not settle well with Diaz, who stormed off during the UFC 229 preview clip. It wasn’t long until Diaz voiced his frustration through Twitter using cryptic messages saying “I’m not fighting on that show F the UFC.” As of now no one has a clue whether or not Diaz will even compete in his upcoming match in November.

All this commotion is causing fighters like Diaz to question if being in the UFC is really worth it. There are so many men and women in this business who have put their blood, sweat and tears into this company, only to be tossed aside because a bigger name wants to make a comeback. Take for example Georges St-Pierre. Recently St-Pierre was denied a championship match with whoever wins at UFC 229, because he is getting close to retirement age, and White doesn’t think it’s a good idea for St-Pierre to compete in a championship match.

Up and coming fighters are tired of being second best to former or current MMA athletes who White has spotlighted for many years. Three of those spotlighted and compared to names are Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar and McGregor.

Rousey began her career at the bottom like every other female fighter and rapidly rose to the top. She was the first female fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, and the first woman to represent the company by being promoted in the media. Let’s not forget that there are other women who have gone further than Rousey like Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm, but yet did not get the same recognition as Rousey did.

Lesnar on the other hand has gone back and forth between MMA and professional wrestling. No matter how many times Lesnar would tell White he was done with the UFC, he was always welcomed back into the company with open arms, and had main event matches waiting for him. White has gone on the record to say that Lesnar is “special” to him, and he would not let any other fighter of his have the same opportunities that the Beast Incarnate is guaranteed to have when he comes back.

With the bus incident McGregor caused in April, White seemed thrilled that the UFC was getting more air time and popularity. There have been many real life fights outside of the ring by White’s fighters and many of them were suspended or let go. McGregor however was not suspended or let go, instead was granted a championship fight after the fiasco he caused. How does this make sense?

For a long time now these three fighters have been what the UFC community has heard about. But what about all the other well established fighters? The problem that White is going to face sooner rather than later is losing great fighters like Diaz, Poirier and many others, because he puts too much emphasis on fighters who really don’t care to fight anymore. Now that they are rich and famous, to them fighting isn’t worth it.

White should know by now that what makes a fighter liked is their relatability to fans. For a while now, the athletes he thinks are relatable are not. I hope that someday we can see less fighters walking away from their dreams, and more of them headlining the biggest matches in UFC history.