UFC 115, held in Vancouver, Canada, was headlined by the matchup between Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin, two mixed martial arts veterans. Liddell, in particular, had had a storied fighting career, and at one time, was virtually untouchable at light heavyweight. Franklin, too, had had a tremendous run in the welterweight division a few years ago. But by the time the two fighters met in Vancouver, both were past their prime. Why did the UFC create the matchup, and was it the best choice for fans?
Entertainment Vs. Athleticism
Mixed martial arts has long struggled to evade comparisons to professional wrestling. MMA is a legitimate sport, sanctioned by most US states, and has strict rules about judging and fighting. In the old days, matchups between fighters were a free-for-all, but now, rules have been created that protect fighters and make bad officiating more rare. However, choosing two fighters that were past their prime like Liddell and Franklin to headline an event shows that the UFC management was more concerned with entertainment that with creating interesting fights. There were plenty of up-and-coming fighters that were more athletic, entertaining, and explosive than Liddell and Franklin, but the UFC assumed more people would recognize and watch known fighters than unknown ones.
Aging Fighters Embarrass Themselves
The result of the matchup: both fighters swung away at each other, and eventually Franklin caught Liddell with a short right that knocked the former champion out cold. For the unschooled mixed martial arts fan, that may have been an exciting result. But to the devoted MMA watcher, it was sloppy fighting that was almost painful to watch when compared to the fighters’ previous bouts. Worse, the fight came at the expense of younger, better fighters getting a chance to be in the spotlight. Unfortunately, the UFC was more interested in ratings than promoting new fighters, a tactic that, in the long run, will lose more fans than it creates.