UFC 225 is an event loaded with contenders, and that means some ranked names will have to be content with not being on the main card.
One of the fighters who unexpectedly finds himself on the preliminary portion of UFC 225 is heavyweight veteran Alistair Overeem, currently sitting at No. 2 in the UFC’s official contender rankings. His June 9 bout in Chicago vs. Curtis Blaydes was moved from the pay-per-view to the FOX Sports 1 preliminaries after a women’s featherweight bout between Holly Holm and Megan Anderson was promoted to the main card.
While Overeem himself has reacted positively to the change, UFC president Dana White was asked at the UFC Liverpool post-fight press conference Sunday why an upper echelon fighter like Overeem was competing on free television while the more inexperienced CM Punk earned one of the 10 spots on the PPV.
White offered a pragmatic response.
“Listen, when Alistair Overeem sells as many pay-per-views as CM Punk does, we can argue,” White said.
Punk was a star with World Wrestling Entertainment who announced that he was transitioning to MMA in 2014. He would make his pro debut at UFC 203 two years later, losing to Mickey Gall by first-round submission. That event, headlined by Overeem challenging Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight championship, drew a reported 450,000 PPV buys.
White seemed to scoff at the suggestion that Overeem’s move to the preliminaries was a demotion at all. In addition to Overeem, other fighters currently scheduled for the preliminaries include former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza, rising contenders like Blaydes, Sergio Pettis, and Mirsad Bektic, and previous title challengers Claudia Gadelha, Ricardo Lamas, and Joseph Benavidez.
“He was ‘demoted’?,” White said. “If that’s the way you want to look at him, being ‘demoted’, what is Rashad Evans? What is Pettis? There’s guys that could be on the main card that are on the Fight Pass prelims.”
Though White feels justified in giving Punk a lofty spot at UFC 225, he was also realistic about what it could mean for the 39-year-old’s future if he falls to 0-2 as an MMA fighter. Asked if it would be “game over” for Punk with another loss, White acknowledged that is likely the case.
“I’m sure it is, yeah,” he said.