If you live in the eastern half of the United States, this winter was absolutely miserable.
Bitter cold and snow lasted into the official start of spring last week, and the northeastern United States was hammered with four consecutive nor’easters. It wouldn’t be a surprise if people in New England are still digging out from ridiculous amounts of snow.
Normally, a nice escape for a cold, bleak winter can come from sitting down and watching quality fights from the UFC. However, with the exception of a few standalone fights, the first several fight cards of this year were wholly uninspiring offerings. Save for a few token bouts, the product put forth from the UFC in 2018 has been forgettable, at best.
Speaking on a personal level, I have not watched a UFC pay-per-view so far this year and only bothered to record one fight card at all – the UFC Fight Night card in Austin, Texas, in February. However, as the calendar finally turns to spring and warm weather finally appears to be on the way, the UFC also appears ready to emerge from its own hibernation and begin offering a quality product once again.
Starting with UFC 223 on Saturday, April 7, we should finally receive some resolution to the UFC lightweight title picture when interim champion Tony Ferguson finally faces Khabib Nurmagomedov. The winner is supposed to be crowned the undisputed lightweight champion after Conor McGregor is allegedly going to be stripped of the belt – though I will believe that when I see it.
There will also be a rematch between UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, after Namajunas’ incredible upset and title win last year. Jedrzejczyk should be plenty motivated to regain her title and remind everyone that she is one of the best female fighters in the world. UFC 223 boasts other interesting bouts such as Michael Chiesa taking on Anthony Pettis, Paul Felder battling Al Iaquinta and Felice Herrig going against Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Immediately after the UFC’s next pay-per-view, fans will enjoy what should be extremely violent contests on the UFC’s next Fox card. Lightweights Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier and welterweights Carlos Condit and Matt Brown will face off, and fans will also see a possible emerging star in Israel Adesanya.
More and more fighters capable of delivering entertaining performances will be featured by the UFC as spring becomes summer, including UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Kelvin Gastelum, Kamaru Usman, Santiago Ponzinibbio and Darren Till.
If that’s not enough, the planned crown jewel of the UFC’s fight offerings in 2018 comes later this summer at UFC 226, when heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic faces light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. The two just recently finished filming the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, where they each served as coaches to a group of undefeated fighters.
The UFC experienced a down year in 2017 – that is pretty much indisputable, no matter what spin Dana White tries to put on it. Live attendance, pay-per-view buys and television ratings were down across the board from the previous year. That bad luck extended into the first few months of 2018, with the first three pay-per-view cards achieving middling buys at best, and two UFC on Fox cards being among the lowest-rated in the promotion’s history.
Simply put, the UFC product is stale and oversaturated right now. There have been too many fight cards filled with too few fighters that can move the needle for fans – beyond just the “hardcores” who will watch any fight card, no matter what – which results in the UFC going from “must watch” television to “must skip.”
But there is hope of sunnier days on the horizon for all fans, and it can’t come a day too soon.
Photo Credit: John Locher/AP