Is UFC 300 headliner a letdown, or should we all have known better?

Is UFC 300 headliner a letdown, or should we all have known better?

By the time UFC president Dana White announced the main event for UFC 300, even he didn’t seem excited about it anymore. Mostly what he seemed was relieved. It was finally over. This much-hyped, much-anticipated event had a headliner at last. And that headliner is … UFC light heavyweight champ Alex Pereira vs. former champ Jamahal Hill.

As UFC pay-per-view main events go, that’s a fine fight. It makes sense as a next step for the division. It’s an interesting stylistic matchup. You throw a couple of tall, lanky striking specialists in there against each other, the result ought to be fun and fast and exciting.

It’s just, weren’t we promised something more? As in, something so amazing it would blow our minds clean out of our skulls? Seems like I heard that somewhere. Oh right, it was from White himself, over and over these last few weeks.

“You guys can’t even handle the main event,” White said on Instagram just last month. “We’re working on a couple of different options. Trust me, the UFC 300 main event is going to be crazy.”

Of course, we know now that he had no idea then what the main event would be. Current heavyweight champ Jon Jones said he was offered a main event spot and turned it down. Interim champ Tom Aspinall was also in the conversation at one point. White said they tried three different options with welterweight champ Leon Edwards, all of which he accepted, though none came to fruition.

UFC president Dana White conducts a post-fight news conference after an Austin Fight Night in December. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

According to Hill, he was offered this fight just this past weekend. In other words, the UFC was feeling the pressure to get a headliner booked and announced, so it went with an entirely reasonable but definitely not crazy light heavyweight title pairing.

What we have here is a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering. The UFC loves to celebrate its century marks, even if the whole thing is fairly arbitrary. (The UFC is closing in on 700 events in total, and the pay-per-view numbering system itself has been thrown out of whack by event cancelations.) So naturally, a born promoter like White is always going to tell us that the next century mark event will be so incredible that our puny little human brains won’t even be able to comprehend it.

Then what we actually get is a main event that feels like it could headline any UFC pay-per-view, which is to say that it’s a good, meaningful fight that follows a clear internal logic. Really the only way for that to be disappointing is if we spent the last several weeks being promised something much, much more.

The truth is that, taken as a whole, UFC 300 is a genuinely stacked event. Two title fights. The somewhat ridiculous but still very fun “BMF” belt going up for grabs between Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway. The UFC debut of Olympic gold medalist and former PFL champ Kayla Harrison. Plus some exciting pairings that just flat out make sense for the future of their respective divisions, like Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan and Jiri Prochazka vs. Aleksandar Rakic.

Top to bottom, that’s a really good fight card. It might be easier for people to understand and appreciate that if they hadn’t been promised the most amazing fight card that has ever existed.

White is partially to blame for boosting those expectations to unreasonable levels. He’s been doing this for so long that he often slips into promoter autopilot mode. Each event is going to be amazing, incredible, well worth your hard-earned money to see the best in the world go at it. Once that’s over, it’s the next event that will be amazing, incredible, and so on.

But it’s not all his fault. It’s ours, too. If you’ve followed this sport for any length of time, you should have known how this was likely to go. If you got your hopes up for something other than a pretty standard UFC title fight as the headliner, that’s at least partially on you.

You also have yourself to blame for getting so distracted trying to guess what the main course would be that you missed all the other good stuff already on the table. Boxing has long sold its pay-per-views on the appeal of the main event alone, but MMA is at its best when it offers us a complete package. That’s how the UFC made its mark back in the days when it had no real stars but still had to convince people to hit that “BUY” button on an old-timey remote (or, and you’re never going to believe this, actually call the cable company on the phone to purchase an event).

A sport like this, you can make any main event you want and it might still get ruined by an accidental eye poke less than a minute in. Fighters can get sick, screw up their weight cuts, or just slip on a banana peel somewhere between the hotel room and the cage. It happens.

The only way to be really sure you can deliver a fight card worth paying for is to load it up with enough good stuff that you can afford to lose some. Main event letdowns aside, the current UFC 300 lineup is pretty well loaded with thoroughbreds. We might have an easier time appreciating that if we hadn’t let ourselves believe it when we were promised unicorns instead.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button