BloodyElbow.com’s Nick Baldwin is often first to criticize a UFC pay-per-view, but he thinks fans are taking it too far with Edmonton’s UFC 215.
Demetrious Johnson and Amanda Nunes are not Dana White’s favorite champions right now, but that doesn’t mean two title fights involving them makes for a poor pay-per-view card.
The UFC’s first show in Edmonton, Alta., Canada, UFC 215, will be topped by Johnson’s historic title defense against Ray Borg and a women’s bantamweight title fight between Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko, which was supposed to headline the International Fight Week pay-per-view card this year.
Just days after the news was announced, I’ve already seen numerous complaints about the star power the September event is expected to bring. Though I’m not surprised to see fans saying they won’t dish out the hefty price tag of $59.99 to sit down on a Saturday night and watch “Mighty Mouse” fight, I’m not sure all the criticism is fair.
Is the Edmonton card as good as UFC 214? No. But UFC 214, headlined by Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2, is the best card all year, and that will likely be proven by its pay-per-view buy rate. So if you’re dissatisfied with how UFC 215 is shaping up, your expectations for a 2017 UFC pay-per-view are way, way too high. Or you’re a Conor McGregor bandwagoner.
We all know the story with Johnson; he’s the best fighter on the planet but only the most hardcore fans care about him. “He’s too small,” many fans say. The flyweight division sucks, and Johnson runs through all his competition, others think.
Johnson is never going to be one of the organization’s biggest stars (which is OK), but I do wish more people would appreciate what he has done — and still plans on doing — in this sport. Currently he’s tied for most consecutive UFC title defenses with Anderson Silva, and with a win on Sept. 9, he will hold that record at 11 defenses. He is arguably the most athletic and fastest fighter the sport has ever seen, and he consistently outclasses his top-tier opponents. He’s incredibly special, and he won’t be around forever.
Nunes and Shevchenko, on the other hand, is one of the best fights in women’s MMA the UFC can put together today. Maybe even the best. Both are outstanding strikers and improving grapplers, and are quite clearly the two top women’s bantamweights in the world. Nunes just beat Ronda Rousey in under a minute last year, and Shevchenko has a unique personality. On top of that, they don’t like each other much at all and have fought once before. I get that they aren’t huge names, but if you really think about it … what’s not to like?
UFC 215 won’t be the blockbuster pay-per-view event of the year (that, of course, will be Floyd Mayweather vs. McGregor, and sticking to the Octagon, next week’s UFC 214), nor will it be the card that Dana White and co. really cash in on. This is clearly a filler pay-per-view event between Cormier vs. Jones and fourth-quarter Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden events.
But not every event that has a price tag attached to it has to have a rivalry as big as Cormier vs. Jones or a super star as big as McGregor. Fans seemingly struggle to accept that, but I do encourage you to treat UFC 215 as an above-average card that is very reasonable by UFC pay-per-view standards in 2017. Beyond the pair of title fights, it also has a superb heavyweight matchup between Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou, as well as Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez and Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis. Topping off the prelims is light heavyweight sensation (and king of all kings) Ilir Latifi.
White, the UFC president, has thrown shade at both champions on UFC 215 in the past two months. He criticized Johnson for not wanting to fight T.J. Dillashaw and even sarcastically said he is “sure the fans will be clamoring for” the Johnson vs. Borg fight. More recently, White publicly stated that Nunes was medically cleared to fight despite pulling out of the Shevchenko fight on UFC 213 fight day, and claimed it was mostly a mental problem for “The Lioness.”
White isn’t Johnson’s and Nunes’ biggest fans right now, and it’s no surprise he threw them on the same card. But don’t let any of that fool you. Johnson is the pound-for-pound king, and Nunes vs. Shevchenko is a terrific co-main event to his record-breaking title defense against Borg. Top to bottom, UFC 215 is a very fair card, and better than some pay-per-view cards just in 2017 alone.
So stop apologizing to the entire country of Canada for another “lackluster” event. Edmonton is getting the best Canadian card in recent memory, and now fans just need to realize that.