January 21, 2016

UFC 200: Who Will Carry The Weight Of The UFC Milestone?

By Raphael Garcia

In sports, organizations and promotions look to capitalize on major milestones. The UFC is in such a position as UFC 200 quickly approaches. Set for July 9 in Las Vegas, this is an important event for the largest promotion in mixed martial arts. As a company that was on its last lifeline, to the newest and perhaps fastest growing member of mainstream sports, the UFC must ensure that UFC 200 is an epic event.

With the confirmation that Ronda Rousey is out of UFC 200 due to movie commitments, and Conor McGregor fighting Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 197, MMA fans and media are left wondering who is capable of carrying such a huge event. At this time, no fights are officially slated for this card, but many rumors have made their way into the pipeline. Looking through these rumors uncovers a number of individuals that would make for compelling television if used for this event.

BJ Penn took to The MMA Hour earlier this week to announce that not only is he coming out of retirement, but he’s also working with Greg Jackson for one last run at the featherweight title. Whether or not he reaches that point remains to be seen, but the fact is that he’s going to garner a lot of attention with his attempt. If Nik Lentz, who engaged with Penn in a war of words recently, is unwilling to fight Penn on his schedule, finding another opponent for the former two-division champion and placing him into the opening fight of the main card would be a worthy candidate for the pay-per-view slate.

The return of another former champion would capture a lot of attention from fans as well. That individual is Georges St. Pierre. “Rush” has long hinted at a return to the Octagon, even to the point that one of his coaches, Freddie Roach, commented that GSP will soon complete a test camp to see how he feels about returning to active competition.

St. Pierre is one of the largest draws in UFC history, and the welterweight division is in the perfect position to welcome him back into the fold. Outside of Tyron Woodley, there aren’t any clear-cut choices for the top challenger to face Robbie Lawler. While an immediate title shot for GSP upon his return might not be his first choice, the positive impact on the show would be monumental.

What about other title fights? Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones immediately jumps to mind as a person whose presence and rivalry with current champion Daniel Cormier could carry this show. With both McGregor and Rousey unavailable or currently busy with other fights, he is the next best candidate for main event status as he looks to reclaim the title he was never defeated for. Pairing that bout with one featuring Luke Rockhold, Dominick Cruz, or the aforementioned Lawler would create the perfect mix of action and promotional abilities.

The current roster is full of men and women who would benefit from placement on UFC 200. Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant both cultivate mass appeal that would warrant undercard bouts on UFC Fight Pass or Fox Sports 1. Rose Namajunas, Donald Cerrone, and others could all be part of a strong slate of matchups leading into the PPV main card. As the UFC looks to build on 2015, which was its highest grossing revenue year in history, UFC 200 will be a major driving force behind hitting that goal. For this event to be a success, the UFC needs to give fans the fighters that draw the most attention, both inside the sport and out of it.


UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes (formerly UFC 200: Cormier vs. Jones 2, UFC 200: Lesnar vs. Hunt) takes place on July 9, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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