This weekend’s UFC 228 event will be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas and despite featuring two championship bouts on the card, there’s very little buzz ahead of this pay-per-view. The reasons for that seems to be a combination of factors around the show.
Tyron Woodley, the current UFC Welterweight champion, was scheduled to defend his title against former interim titleholder, Colby Covington, who defeated Rafel Dos Anjos just a few months ago for the belt at UFC 225. Covington, who does a cheap imitation of Conor McGregor to attempt to get attention, required nasal surgery and declined the unification contest. That prompted UFC officials to strip him of the interim status, making the entire title fight against Dos Anjos rather pointless.
The cancellation led to the announcement that undefeated British fighter, Darren Till will challenge Woodley for the championship in Dallas. So, why does this event lack hype?
Despite the unblemished record of 17-0-1, Till doesn’t bring much name value to the table, fighting four of his six UFC bouts on their Fight Pass streaming service, which brings the least amount of exposure of the current broadcast formats of the organization. He also missed weight twice in his UFC run, including his most recent bout against Stephen Thompson in May, which saw him win a very controversial decision. The Thompson contest was broadcast on Fox Sports 1, an outlet that gave Till the most TV exposure of his career and he didn’t necessarily deliver a thrilling performance that justifies a title shot.
Aside from a lack of mainstream exposure, even diehard fans know that this title fight won’t be secure until Darren Till makes weight this Friday. Without much name value, the intrigue of an undefeated competitor challenging for the belt is the only major selling point of the main event for UFC 228. Assuming that Till can properly cut weight this week, the flip side of this scenario is that he has an opportunity to use this platform of a pay-per-view main event to truly make a name for himself. Keep in mind, the UFC inked a deal with ESPN for their next TV contract for next year so that outlet will cover the sport closely to build a foundation for the launch in 2019. If Till KOs the welterweight champion, the highlight could be used for him to become more well-known to casual fans.
On the other side of the cage, Tyron Woodley, even as the current Welterweight champion, has yet to really reach the level of notoriety of most UFC champions. Woodley was outspoken about his discontent with the lack of promotional efforts from the company, and he might have a point, depending on someone’s perspective, but the fact remains that for whatever reasons, he doesn’t have a level of popularity that sells a considerable amount of pay-per-views, which is still the most important revenue stream for the MMA league.
Woodley won the belt via first round KO against Robbie Lawler in mid-2016 before he fought the previously mentioned Thompson in a contest that went to a draw in November of that year. He went on to beat Thompson in the rematch just a few months later, and then defended his title against Damien Maia for a decision victory in July of last year. A shoulder injury from that bout required surgery and put him on the shelf for an extended period of time. Woodley hasn’t fought in over a year, and competed only twice in 2016 and 2017 respectively. It’s a harsh reality, but Woodley has simply been off the radar of MMA fans for much of the time that he has been the 170 LBS champion.
The outside factor of the scenario ahead of UFC 228 is the return of Conor McGregor to the octagon for the first time in nearly two years next month against the dangerous Lightweight champion, Khabib Murmagomedov. The brash Irishman won that championship the last time he was in the cage when he KO’ed Eddie Alvarez and then took his name value from the UFC’s marketing plan to cash in to fight Floyd Mayweather for a rumored $100 million last year. McGregor was stopped in the 10th round, but it was about the payday, not the victory. The boxing venture and a lack of an indication of when he would defend either championship forced UFC management to strip him of both the featherweight and lightweight belts before he defended either title. Since his record-setting boxing match, Conor made headlines for all the wrong reasons in April when he threw a dolly at the window of a bus that transported fighters on the UFC 223 card. Supposedly, animosity between McGregor’s fight team and Khabib caused the altercation. A few fighters on the bus were injured from the shattered glass and McGregor was arrested.
About a month ago, Conor’s lawyer reached a plea agreement that ordered him to do community service and attend anger management. After the legal debacle was resolved, it was announced that he will fight Khabib for the 155 LBS championship at UFC 229 in October. Where this can affect the Woodley vs. Till event is that the audience might simply decide to wait a month to spend $65 for an MMA pay-per-view to see the return of the controversial McGregor to the octagon.
Again, it’s a harsh reality, but does a main event with a lesser-known champion scheduled to fight a challenger that might not make weight really justify the price tag for the pay-per-view? Granted, not every event can be historic, but there should be a standard for what is considered a PPV quality card, and without a solid under card, UFC 228 just doesn’t have the bouts to draw fans to spend the money order the event. If I had to guess, I’d say that UFC 228 will generate a buy rate of roughly 120,000 for the event, but more than anything, this scenario is a major example of the lack of star power for the product.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail email@example.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta