The UFC is the most powerful promotion in MMA. Yet even with all of that power, they have let several big money fights slip through the cracks. Here are 10 fights that would have drawn money that for one reason or another the UFC failed to make.
This was a tougher list to make than I anticipated. A part of me wants to look strictly at money and what would draw the most dollars at the time of the fight while another part of me looks for the best matchups that never materialized. While they are usually the same for casual MMA fans, hardcore MMA fans may think differently.
I think that the UFC gets a little too cute at times when it comes to their money fights. Several times the company has passed on obvious money fights for a number of reasons. Generally the greed gets the best of them and they try and hold the fight off to create even more interest. Unfortunately that generally bites the UFC in the butt more often than not.
Here are ten fights that I think the UFC should have pulled off for millions of dollars, yet failed to do so. Some aren’t their fault, such as failing to sign the most polarizing heavyweight fighter in MMA history to guys just being hurt at the wrong time. Regardless, these are ten fights that the UFC failed to make that could have made them millions.
Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar III – Quite frankly this fight was the catalyst for this list. I watched Brock’s promo the other night on WWE RAW and was reminded about how great his UFC 100 Countdown promos were leading up to the Mir fight. It was one-sided domination, but these two guys could have easily talked the UFC audience into a rematch. UFC 100 drew the biggest buyrate in UFC history and a lot of that had to do with this fight. According to numerous reports, the plan was to go with Mir vs. Lesnar for the JDS-Lesnar The Ultimate Fighter season but it never materialized. As fun as it was to see Overeem vs. Lesnar, I think the UFC cost themselves millions by passing on this fight before Brock retired.
Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Leben – I don’t know if the UFC would have drawn millions of dollars from this fight, but you can’t tell me it wouldn’t have been huge. Fans watched a real grudge play out on national television during the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter. Koscheck won a one-sided fight on the show but both fighters have gone on to become superstars since those early days in the UFC gym. Hardcore MMA fans don’t forget and I think with the right Countdown special, a replay of their old segments on TUF 1, that this fight could have been huge. According to one report I read, the fight was on the table but Koscheck turned it down.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz – The UFC has nobody to blame but themselves for not cashing in on this obvious choice. The UFC got cute last year when Diaz skipped a couple of press conferences and pulled the fight. It was a big gamble because if Diaz beat Penn, the fight would be bigger and vice versa if Diaz lost. Now you could tell me that GSP was hurt and would have pulled out anyway, but who knows? Fate could have played out differently but we will never know and at this rate, this fight looks further away from happening than it ever did before.
Frank Shamrock vs. Chuck Liddell – Frank Shamrock retired as the undefeated UFC light heavyweight champion in 1999. The Iceman entered the division shortly thereafter and become the dominant force in all of MMA once he hit his stride a few years later. The personal issues between Dana White and Frank are well known, but imagine how huge this fight could have been if Shamrock came back to take this fight? I think this would have shattered records for the time period and could have helped move MMA closer to the mainstream. Unfortunately personal issues got in the way of what could have been the biggest fight up to that point in MMA history.
Anderson Silva vs. Lyoto Machida – In 2009 Joe Rogan proclaimed the UFC light heavyweight division the “Machida era” after he knocked out Rashad Evans to win the UFC championship. Anderson Silva was already regarded as one of the greatest, if not the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Silva was already doubling in the light heavyweight division and the fight seemed like a natural. In retrospect, it probably would have been a one-sided win by Silva but you never would have known that then. This was a case where the UFC needed to strike while the iron was hot because the flame on that iron went out pretty quickly thereafter.
Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelienanko – This is a tough one to pin on the UFC because according to all reports, they went hard at Fedor. I remember the buzz at the time of negotiations being that Lesnar vs. Fedor was already penciled in on an upcoming UFC show. Unfortunately for fight fans, Fedor wound up signing with Strikeforce for less money (some would say to avoid the fight). Should Dana White have given in and allowed M1 to co-promote? Maybe, maybe not, but the decision not to do so cost the UFC arguably the biggest money fight in MMA history. Think Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and you got Lesnar vs. Fedor in 2009.
Randy Couture vs. Anderson Silva – I can’t remember ever seeing anyone write about this one so let me be the first. I have certainly been critical of Couture and his place in MMA history but I won’t deny that the guy could draw money. I was just watching his UFC heavyweight title win over Tim Sylvia on Fuel TV the other night and thought, “Wow imagine the hype if he ever moved down to middleweight to challenge Silva or meet Silva at light heavyweight?” I am certain that it would have been a massacre but the intrigue seeing Couture try and pull of the impossible is a Rocky-like storyline that could have set records.
Rampage Jackson vs. King Mo – Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that this fight would bring in the kind of money Brock-Fedor or Machida-Silva would, but this is a fight that had legs a couple of years ago. A video went viral in the MMA world of Jackson and Mo having words and all of the sudden a feud was born. Of course Mo was in Strikeforce at the time but once Zuffa bought Strikeforce, the fight could have been made. I’ll be honest and tell you that I never had the interest in seeing this one that some did, but I think that these two could have talked themselves into some big money if the UFC made the fight. Unfortunately for all, I think that time has passed.
Roy Nelson vs. Brock Lesnar – This odd freak show of a fight could have wound up making the UFC a whole lot of money. Both fighters wanted the fight after Brock’s UFC title to Cain Velasquez but for some reason (most likely Lesnar’s injuries), the fight never happened. It is a shame that Brock is retired because this fight would have been a lot of fun to watch and talk about. Whether the UFC didn’t strike while the iron was hot or Brock was just never healthy at the right time, this was a money fight right in their backyard that they failed to pull off.