February 13, 2017

UFC 208: Featherweight Champion Germaine de Randamie Now Has To Shoulder the Load of An Entire Division

By Raphael Garcia

In the conversation surrounding the idea of stars in professional sports, it needs to be understood that business is often more important than victories. In the UFC that is even truer, as big stars such as Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey demand the attention of mainstream and hardcore fans alike, and becoming a champion isn’t a precursor to becoming a star. With Germaine de Randamie capturing the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship at UFC 208, the organization is now facing a massive question: What to do with this champion, and her entire division?

This is a question isn’t new to the UFC. Demetrious Johnson is lording over the flyweight division and is widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. However, that has yet to translate into star power, as Johnson’s fights are relegated to either the co-main event on pay-per-view or headlining a free card on FS1. In Johnson’s four opportunities to main event a PPV, he has yet to crack the 200K PPV buy mark, a fact that’s far from acceptable for UFC business. While Johnson may be the best competitor in MMA today, he’s not a star in any sense of the word.

De Randamie may be in an even worse position. With only five fights in her UFC tenure since joining the promotion in 2013, she hasn’t had any opportunities to become memorable to UFC fans. In fact, prior to Saturday’s win she was most recognizable as being another name on Amanda Nunes’ hit list on her way to the women’s bantamweight title. De Randamie has never even been the co-main eventer on a show and has only one appearance the main card once before headlining UFC 208; how is she now expected to carry a division that’s entirely new to the promotion? Leading into the fight, some major sports media outlets didn’t even report on de Randamie’s name, even though she was the betting favorite days before.

It’s clear that there were hopes that Cris Cyborg could have filled this spot. The news story of the UFC offering her title shots broke towards the end of 2016, but those talks fell apart. Coupled with her post-fight drug test failure, Cyborg will be out of the Octagon for an extended period of time. However, the organization cut to Cyborg multiple times during the show and immediately after de Randamie was presented with the title, signifying plans for the future.

But what does that future look like? Even the UFC’s official webpage lists only two fighters in the women’s featherweight division. Those two women fought Saturday night. Creating a title without a division seems to be a very hasty move, but it’s clear that the UFC needs as many headliners as possible to carry all of the events scheduled for 2017 and beyond. The UFC doesn’t have a large roster of stars, however, and that loan to cover the UFC’s $400 million price tag is looming each day. 

Germaine de Randamie should be excited to have UFC gold around her waist; any fighter would. But the question is whether or not the decision makers within the UFC, know that they are now charged with the development of a barren division and a widely unknown star.

UFC 208: Holm vs. de Randamie took place February 11, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC 208 was.

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