There’s a lot to be thankful for in the fight world, but we can’t help but want more. It is the holiday season after all, so we’re making a quick wish list.
If Santa or Krampus can get around to a few of them this week or next, we wouldn’t complain.
Wish No. 1: The UFC stops making interim titles
Interim championship titles used to be invoked by the UFC when champs were kept away from the cage for long stretches by serious injuries and in order to prevent the division’s top contenders from being held up unduly. Heavyweight champion Frank Mir after his nearly fatal motorcycle accident and welterweight king Georges St-Pierre as he recovered from knee surgery come to mind as examples.
In recent years, however, the UFC has used interim titles and stripped champions with previously unheard of quickness, often when far less than even a year had passed since their last title defense. More often than not, such moves have happened after champions refused to rush a rehabilitation from an injury or wanted to fight on a different date than the UFC told them to.
Because the UFC sanctions itself in regards to rankings and titles, unlike what is allowed under federal law by boxing promoters, they’re largely able to get away with this. In effect, it punishes fighters — champions no less — for not letting the UFC dictate almost every aspect of their professional life, by holding over the loss of a valuable title that they’ve earned.
Of course, the UFC can only do this because they find no short amount of athletes willing to step over others on their roster for a shot at a championship. Interim titles are being used to divide fighters, and those who have stepped across those labor lines have sometimes quickly realized that there are downsides to being company yes-men and women.
Both Colby Covington and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, for example, gladly agreed to step over a champion colleague and fight for an interim or stripped belt before soon feeling burned by the promotion afterward. A much less important consequences of the many UFC interim titles in rotation in recent years is that the promotion’s gold belts have lost no small amount of their luster.
Fighters should battle one another inside the cage, not outside of it and ruin solidarity amongst one another. When they do get to make it into the ring at the highest levels, here’s wishing that they start getting to do so for belts that always mean something as well.
Wish No. 2: Henry Cejudo comes back healthy
Henry Cejudo made history winning and holding the flyweight and bantamweight championships simultaneously. Serious injury took him out of action after his most recent victory last summer, however.
Cejudo has been stripped of his flyweight title by the UFC but he’s still clearly the top guy in the UFC at both 125 and 135 pounds (since the UFC “traded” the best flyweight of all-time, Demetrious Johnson, at least) and he has many tough challengers at each division awaiting him upon his return, especially at bantamweight. We hope that while Cejudo works on whatever juvenile promotional video he comes out with next, he’s also healing well so that he can be his full and phenomenal self inside the cage sooner than later.
For all his boring shenanigans outside the ring, Cejudo is a sight to behold inside of it. He’s one of the very best combat sports athletes in history, and we can’t get enough of watching him compete.
Wish No. 3: Randy Couture has a healthy 2020
Randy Couture had age-defying success in the ring as an MMA fighter and continues to be an example of athletic discipline in retirement. Sadly, the retired former two-division champion suffered a heart attack in 2019 that gave us all a bad scare.
When we last communicated, Couture assured that he’s back to feeling good and we don’t doubt it. “The Natural” is in a class of his own as an athlete, and we hope his 2020 is full of health and wealth.
Wish No. 4: Daniel Cormier gets his heavyweight title rematch
Daniel Cormier moved up in weight to knock Stipe Miocic out and claim the UFC heavyweight championship in 2018. Then, he defended the belt successfully.
In 2019, Cormier gave Miocic a rematch even though his win over Miocic was clean and without controversy, and despite the fact that Miocic did not win a single fight in between losing to Cormier and being granted a rematch and spent a year degrading Cormier and his accomplishment. Good on Cormier for giving Miocic a rematch.
Once he got the chance he agitated for, Miocic took full advantage and knocked Cormier out in impressive fashion last August. The pair are 1-1, now, and Cormier deserves to get what he gave Miocic — an immediate rematch.
At 40 years of age and undersized at heavyweight Cormier very well could retire after winning two world titles and being an Olympic wrestler before that. Still, he says he wants to fight once more and have it be for the heavyweight belt.
The right thing for Miocic to do is to grant the rematch against his smaller, older rival, so the two can settle things decisively before Cormier walks off into retirement.
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