OPINION: Champion vs Champion fights a huge money draw for UFC – Impact on ranked fighters

Ever since Conor McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez to become the first simultaneous two-division UFC champion in 2016, many champions have taken their chances at achieving the same feat.

McGregor’s flawless performance, which many hail as one of the greatest in a UFC title fight, saw him dispatch Alvarez in just two rounds to claim the lightweight title whilst also being the featherweight champion.

It came as no surprise when president Dana White and the UFC faced backlash with MMA purists and fighters suggesting that McGregor received preferential treatment in being handed a lightweight title fight, despite the fact that the Irishman had never fought in the division while being in the UFC.

More recently, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya moved up a weight division to face current light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. The fight didn’t go the way that many MMA fans expected to as the underdog Blachowicz retained the title, handing Adesanya the first loss of his MMA career.

Spare a thought for the ranked fighters in the light-heavyweight division though, who have seen a middleweight fighter being gifted an opportunity, something they work their whole careers for.

From a business standpoint it makes perfect sense for the UFC. Why not make fights that pull in the most money? But this is more often than not done to the detriment of the less popular ranked fighters who perhaps deserve it more.

The facts do speak for themselves when the money drawn in is taken in to account as these events tend to generate huge figures.

McGregor’s fight against Alvarez generated a 17.7 million gate, the highest in UFC history and drew in an incredible 1.3 million pay-per-view (PPV) buys, at the time becoming the second highest watched fight in UFC history.

There have been four simultaneous two-division UFC champions including McGregor, with Daniel Cormier (Light-Heavyweight & Heavyweight), Henry Cejudo (Flyweight & Bantamweight) and Amanda Nunes (Bantamweight & Featherweight) all having held two titles at once.

In defence of the UFC, it could be that they were left with little else other than to offer champions a shot at another weight divisions.

In McGregor’s case, there was really no fighter left for him to face as he had all but cleared out the featherweight division so the UFC were left with only a few options on the table for their Irish superstar.

This tends to be the case when a champion is offered a chance to fight for another title, the ranked fighters have already fought or lost to the champion, or they are too low ranked to be even given a title shot.

But the lightweight division at the time held the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson who themselves had a claim for a shot at the lightweight title but McGregor was given that opportunity.

Champion vs Champion fights are no doubt a huge draw and they will continue because of the financial benefits for the UFC, the only people that suffer as a result of them being the less popular, ranked fighters.

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