The thing about promoting conflict resolution through violence: your talent pool is going to take a beating.
Since October, an alarming number of the UFC’s box office attractions have been sidelined due to injury or illness. Anderson Silva had bone spurs removed from his elbow; Georges St. Pierre’s injured groin kept him out of the gym; Shane Carwin is suffering MCL strain; Lyoto Machida needed hand surgery following his last bout; Quinton Jackson is in Hollywood exile; most alarmingly, Brock Lesnar -- the UFC’s single biggest draw, and a peer of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as the biggest draws on pay per view -- collapsed in Canada. Dana White tells TMZ.com that Lesnar may need “major surgery” to correct an ambiguous intestinal disorder.
“There’s a possibility Lesnar will never fight again,” White said. He appears to be keeping his cool despite being in charge of a triage room, not a fight promotion.
UFC 108, a near-New Year’s event that was expected to one of the company’s biggest of 2010, is now headlined by Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva. Considering Evans is coming off a loss and Silva is not that resonant, it’s a fight that would be more suitable for a free Spike event. (Still $44.95, gang: no discounts.)
This is a serious draught that probably won’t see relief until February or March -- and that assumes headliners recovering from existing afflictions don’t re-injure themselves or trip over another rock. The plague is going to force the UFC to either get very creative with marketing, or with their matchmaking.
A Chuck Liddell Comeback: Both White and media have expressed concern over the punishment sustained by Liddell in the tail end of his career; the counter is that he’s an adult who can make his own decisions. The promotion could use his name, particularly after an extended stint on network television’s “Dancing with the Stars.” And if the UFC cares to balance their risk versus the reward, fights with Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, or Kimbo Slice would be unlikely to result in the kind of crippling knockout he’s gotten used to suffering.
Kimbo Slice: In Slice’s case, talent is inversely proportionate to ratings. People enjoy watching this man fight, and no one has yet capitalized on his post-CBS popularity with a pay-per-view slot. If the UFC chooses to treat Slice like the attraction he is -- as opposed to the contender he’s not -- he could be the company’s defibrillator during a slow season.
Build-a-Fighter: It’s shocking that this era of reality television hasn’t resulted in a series focused on an individual athlete. (Various fighters have filmed pilots --none have seen air.) The UFC’s marriage with Spike would seem to be an easy entry for the UFC to push it; better, a series chronicling the behind-the-scenes melodrama of running a promotion would allow them to rotate the focus. Too bad it wasn’t around for Greasegate. Better than CourtTV.
St. Pierre vs. Silva: There is no single bout on the company’s docket at the moment that could equal the attention and interest of a bout between the sport’s two pound-for-pound greats. St. Pierre has recently added weight under the care of a dietician and faces the low-BPM prospect of facing Dan Hardy; Silva has rematches in his immediate future. The time to do this fight is with both men at the top of their divisions, not years after the fact. A series documenting their respective physical trauma and rehabilitation would add to the attention.
Joe Lauzon vs. Dan Lauzon: You’d watch it.