The UFC is taking extra precautions in the booking of its big pay-per-view fights. The increase in “insurance” bouts is a welcome addition for everyone involved in the sport.
The promotion had a historically bad start to the year in terms of matchmaking. On paper everything looked great, but, as is often the case with MMA, it didn’t all come to fruition. UFC 221, 222, and 223 all saw major shuffling due to injuries to one of the main event fighters. UFC 223, in particular, was a disastrous event that concluded with Khabib Nurmagomedov handily defeating eleventh-ranked Al Iaquinta in an interim lightweight title bout.
The UFC is doing its best to avoid these disasters from here on out. Lately, there has been an uptick in scheduling highly-ranked fighters on the undercard as insurance for the main event.
For UFC 228’s main event, the UFC brought welterweight contender Kamaru Usman along for the ride in case anything were to happen to champion Tyron Woodley or Darren Till before the fight. Usman went through a full training camp and made championship weight, but Woodley and Till did the same, leaving Usman fightless.
This was the first step in the process. Now, there’s more incentive for a fighter to provide backup for the main event.
We were able to see this strategy put into practice for UFC 229. Once again, the main event did go on as planned, but if anything were to happen to Khabib Nurmagomedov or Conor McGregor on fight week, both Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis were ready to step up to save the card.
In this case, Ferguson or Pettis could’ve received a title shot, but each of them still had their fight to fall back on when everything went according to plan. This appears to be molded into the norm.
UFC 230 is a bit of a different story due to the haphazard nature in which the main event came about, but UFC 231 and 232 both have backup fights booked already.
A featherweight bout between Renato Moicano and Chad Mendes is in the works for UFC 231.
If the UFC Featherweight Championship fight between Max Holloway and Brian Ortega falls through for the second time, one of Moicano or Mendes will be the next man up.
Matchmakers have also added insurance for the Valentina Shevchenko versus Joanna Jedrzejczyk bout that takes place on the same card. Jessica Eye or her opponent Katlyn Chookagian would get a shot at the vacant women’s flyweight belt if Shevchenko or Jedrzejczyk can’t make it.
Jessica Eye vs. Katlyn Chookagian has been added to UFC 231 in Toronto on Dec. 8, multiple sources told ESPN. Same card as the Shevchenko vs. Jędrzejczyk title fight.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 12, 2018
UFC 232’s main event features two fighters that have proven to be a major liability in the past. Former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones has gotten himself into a multitude of legal issues over the past few years, so the UFC can’t afford to trust him to make it to fight week.
Alexander Gustafsson has had his own issues with showing up to fights. In his case, injuries have forced him to pull out of his recently scheduled bouts.
On Tuesday, the UFC officially announced a fight between Ilir Latifi and Corey Anderson for the UFC 232 card.
This situation isn’t as straightforward as the others. If something happens to Jones, it would be Anderson who would likely get the fight with Gustafsson. Latifi and Gustafsson are training partners and have said on multiple occasions that they have no intentions of ever fighting one another.
Whether or not any of these fighters will be called upon is a totally different story, but this theme is a step in the right direction for the UFC, and it’s certainly a change that fighters can get behind as well.
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