Exclusive – Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp discusses ‘Exciting’ debut on CBS Sports

Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp discusses exiting deal with CBS SportsShannon Knapp provides optimistic outlook for Invicta FC’s future.

Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp discusses exiting deal with CBS Sports

For months, there was fair reason to be concerned about Invicta FC’s future. The women’s MMA promotion, which had long been known for giving major stars in the sport a platform on their way up to the UFC, went more than half a year without announcing an event.

Many started to worry if the decade-long fixture on the U.S. regional scene had met its demise. However, the public recently learned that the idea of the promotion folding was far from the truth. The months of radio silence wasn’t Invicta FC slowly fading away, but instead their quiet behind-the-scenes pursuit of making a strong return. Work from recent weeks by the promotion will all come to a culmination very soon when they host an event in Kansas City.

The absence of Invicta FC will come to an end this Friday when the promotion kicks off a five-event tour which will take place in the second half of 2024. The series of events comes along with a new distribution deal, airing events live on American TV channel CBS Sports Network.

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“It’s always hard when you know you’re working on something but you can’t say anything,” said Shannon Knapp, the President of Invicta FC. “You see the speculation, you know. Everybody wants to know what’s going on. So when you can make that announcement and let the world know what you’ve been working on, it’s a very exciting moment.”

Invicta FC Returning Amid A Women’s Sports ‘Evolution’

The deal is Invicta FC’s first major partnership since being acquired by Anthem Sports & Entertainment in 2021. It guarantees five events this year, with Knapp mentioning the possibility of further shows on the channel in 2025. After years on UFC’s online subscription service Fight Pass, the promotion briefly was hosted on Anthem-owned channel AXS TV. Knapp said that they were always in pursuit of a new media deal and that they are satisfied with the one which kicks off this week.

“I think it’s great for CBS Sports,” Knapp said. “They embrace more women’s sports, and I think it’s great for Invicta. We have the opportunity to possibly connect with maybe a potential fan base that didn’t have that opportunity before.”

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Invicta FC’s return comes amid a big moment for women’s sports. The rise of popularity for college and pro-level women’s basketball—coined by some as “The Caitlin Clark Effect” due to a highly successful popular Iowa-born player leading the charge—has put women’s athletics under a big spotlight. Other rising leagues, like the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), have also received a rise in popularity as of late. Knapp sees the importance of making sure every sport is involved in the current rise of women’s sports, including MMA.

“I think it’s very exciting to see the evolution that’s happening right now for women’s sports,” she said. “But I think that everybody’s part of that movement. If you’re an all-female [league] you’re part of that movement. I think it’s really important that we embrace that, and we help lift it up, not only for Invicta or for combat sports, but for all sports.”

Talita Bernardo, Kay Hansen Among Spotlighted Talents

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Friday’s card will include a mix of returning Invicta FC names, plus a wave of new talent who debut with a fair amount of buzz. The main event will see bantamweight champ Talita Bernardo hunt for her fourth consecutive win in the promotion, taking on rising ex-Bellator fighter Olga Rubin.

After having an unsuccessful UFC run that came to an end in 2022, Bernardo has found a second wind in her career through Invicta FC. After scoring back-to-back submission wins in 2022, she went five rounds against Taneisha Tennant to take a decision victory and capture the division’s 135-pound belt.

Earlier in the night, Kay Hansen will come back to Invicta for the first time since her two-year UFC run. At just 24 years old, Hansen will be looking to reboot her career by performing in the promotion that previously got her to a big stage in the sport.

“Having Kay [Hansen] back is amazing,” Knapp explained. “You know, this is where it all began for her, she was very young. If memory serves me right, I think she was like 18 when she came in, or somewhere in that vicinity. She was very young.”

Atomweight Division Continues To Receive Attention

Earlier in the night, an atomweight (105-pound) fight will see Japanese prospect Saori Oshima take on Andressa Romero. Oshima has put together a stellar record in Japan’s regional scene and has won four fights in notable promotion RIZIN.

Among the top MMA promotions (UFC, PFL & Bellator), none currently host fights at the atomweight limit. Knapp explained the importance of putting a spotlight on these divisions at Invicta, even if they aren’t exactly stepping-stone bouts to get into bigger promotions.

“It’s important that we embrace all the divisions,” she said. “Currently. we have five divisions. Could we expand on that at some point in time? There is a good potential. But yeah, I think it’s hugely important. I especially the lower weights for women. You find a lot of women that compete in those weight classes.”

Back up and running, Invicta FC is optimistic about what lies ahead. After months where fans might have felt worried about the promotion’s future, Knapp wants the public to know that they are working hard to provide the best product possible.

“We’re moving, and we’re super excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us,” she said. “I think that what fans can expect right now is I’m gonna do my best. My team’s gonna do their best to put on world-class matchups, entertaining matchups and to really fine-tune everything and give them the best that we can give them.”

Are you excited to see the return of Invicta FC?

Is UFC 303 actually better now?

Is UFC 303 actually better now?UFC 303 is without Conor McGregor’s return. But is the replacement fight possibly an even better headliner?

Is UFC 303 actually better now?

Earlier this week, the dreaded news regarding UFC 303 that many MMA fans long anticipated finally went public: Dana White took to social media and announced that the return of Conor McGregor—the most popular name in the sport’s history—would have to wait.

In its place at UFC 303 came a fight between UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira and former titleholder Jiri Prochazka, a pair of nasty finishers who have gained a reputation for putting on entertaining performances.

No matter how long the promotion delayed its announcement of the canceled bout for UFC 303, and no matter what was revealed in its place, the change would be a disaster for the promotion business-wise and would upset many. A McGregor fight can be without a title circumstance, a big rivalry, or even much momentum in the star’s sails and still be a massive live gate and pay-per-view hit. The mainstream pull of “The Notorious” is hard to match or replicate, hence why a return fight for him not even in his regular weight class earned the main event slot in one of the promotion’s biggest shows of the year.

All of a sudden, one of the biggest events of the year for the promotion became simply just another card in the schedule for many. But should those tuning out maybe stick around instead? Maybe. While UFC 303 isn’t a stellar card and certainly not in the running for one of the biggest shows of the year, it’s way better than it was before. Let’s look at where it was before, where it is now, and why the change due to circumstances actually wasn’t that bad for fans.

The Return of Notorious

Conor McGregor confirms UFC 303 fight with Michael Chandler is on amid scrutiny see ya's soon

It’s undeniable how big of a name McGregor is. If you asked the average person who they associate with MMA, McGregor is likely one of the first fighters to be mentioned. His buzz is massive and justifies why he gets placed in so many big fights. But there’s a reality to face about his matchup against Michael Chandler: While it is a bout that was expected to receive lots of hype, it isn’t a particularly stellar fight.

There are many factors that make McGregor’s return less intriguing that his previous outings. He’s coming off a pair of losses, both that came via finish against Dustin Poirier in 2021. He’s moving up to 170, a weight class he has only briefly flirted with in the past. He’s also coming off the longest layoff of his career, now set to stretch past the three-year mark. The 35-year-old isn’t getting any younger and certainly isn’t close to a title opportunity at the moment, or even if he put away Chandler. These quick-hit facts illustrate what type of a fight this was.

Now let’s be clear: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to watch a fighter who isn’t the best in the world. MMA, like any sport, is entertainment at the end of the day. Success through competition isn’t the sole factor that sells fights, and often is the least important thing when it comes to getting the public’s attention. But even the other side of the fight against Chandler, the promotion, hasn’t brought up the bout’s value much either.

McGregor will always get attention for his over-the-top and at times too-much personality, and that doesn’t change no matter who he faces. But realistically, the most attention was on him when he had not just a dance partner in the cage, but on the mic. The way McGregor would prod and poke at folks like Floyd Mayweather, Nate Diaz, Eddie Alvarez and others became big parts of their fight promotion.

Yet, there really hasn’t been much of that with McGregor and Chandler thus far. While the fighters never got their official media tour underway—with a press conference date in Dublin, Ireland being cancelled roughly two weeks back—this fight has essentially been kicked around as an idea by both fighters for more than a year.

Chandler has been jerked around by McGregor since early 2023, with the bout being delayed and the former Bellator champ going months on end without a paycheck. Through the online mind games, a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and more, the former Bellator champ hasn’t taken the bait that the Irishman has thrown out. He has instead been patient and diplomatic, two words that are never used when describing why a fight is appetizing.

What does a fight between McGregor and Chandler have? Besides the legacy hype that will follow McGregor for maybe the rest of his life, there is not much. Little meaning in its division, either fighter’s careers or even the general MMA zeitgeist. It’s not a bad fight and certainly would be more popular than the average PPV card. Apart from the public excitement to see McGregor compete, there’s little that the fight brings to the table. Some might see the show as not worth watching now that he’s off. But, let’s compare it to what we now have and see if that’s a fair assessment.

A Stellar Light Heavyweight Sequel

Alex Pereira confident ahead of UFC 303 title fight with Jiri Prochazka I have my ancestors with me

It’s hard to argue against the idea that Alex Pereira is one of the most exciting names in MMA at the moment. In just a few years he has gone from a veteran kickboxer with just a few fights in MMA, to a two-time champion who is trying to carve out the first era at light heavyweight since the end of Jon Jones’ reign.

Pereira has a style that is hard for viewers to not get behind, being an all-action striker. The damaging blows he mastered in kickboxing means that he has yet to go the distance through five championship fights. Just one of his UFC wins didn’t come via finish, and the others provided highlight-reel moments.

Something about Pereira’s current run that feels really special. It’s not just the moments that he’s creating, but the frequency at which they have emerged. UFC 303 will be his ninth appearance since his late 2021 promotional debut. He has stepped up on some of the promotion’s biggest stages: Three different Madison Square Garden cards, the huge UFC 300 PPV, and now International Fight Week. There are a lot of interesting things going on in MMA, like the dominance of Islam Makhachev and the rise of Sean O’Malley. But few have been as present in the promotion’s biggest spots over the past few years as Pereira. Because of his current run, the Brazilian champ feels more must-see than ever.

There’s also some solid storytelling behind a rematch between Pereira and Jiri Prochazka. On paper, it seems like there’s no reason for them to meet once again, especially so soon. The first time they fought, Pereira scored a second-round finish due to strikes. But if you go back and watch the fight, you may remember that there was somewhat of a discourse around an early stoppage. It wasn’t a full-on controversy, but Prochazka did mention his belief that the fight should have gone a little longer. If the promotion wants a little extra something to lean on when pushing the fight, they should focus on that.

Pereira is a brutal striker, and Prochazka fights with a kill-or-be-killed style. Both have hardly been seen in a dull moment since joining the UFC. It’s a stellar fight and one that doesn’t really need to be sold to the diehard fans who know what to expect.

The Clear Caveat For UFC 303

Jiri Prochazka offers to fight Aleksandar Rakic at UFC 299 on short notice in Miami

The new UFC 303 main event isn’t perfect. If there’s one glaring criticism of the matchup, it’s that the fighters have just a little over two weeks to prepare for a five-round booking. The fact that we will know both Prochazka and Pereira will enter the bout less prepared than they usually are does take something away from the bout.

For Prochazka, an unsuccessful result in the fight will definitely sting. The Czech fighter might look back on the bout with regret if he loses: “Did I waste my potentially only opportunity at avenging a loss to Pereira on a booking that I had little time to prepare for?” he might think. The short-notice opportunity certainly hurts him more than Pereira, who could probably petition for a trilogy fight between them if he comes out with a loss.

The talk-heavy promo style and the long MMA history that McGregor brings into fights won’t be carried into Las Vegas when Pereira and Prochakza meet. Instead, a clash between two fan-friendly talents who are much easier to associate with the current MMA moment that we’re living in will fight. A fighter who has dominated headlines in two divisions, and one of his rivals who has the motivation to avenge a previous loss. It’s not ideal business for UFC, who will likely miss out on millions without McGregor’s presence. But when looking through the lens of a fan, it’s hard to scoff at the new headliner.

Are you more or less excited for UFC 303 later this month?

With or without undisputed status, Dustin Poirier will retire a legend

With or without undisputed status Dustin Poirier will retiree legendDustin Poirier obviously wants a title, but does his legacy need it?

With or without undisputed status Dustin Poirier will retiree legend

There’s likely nothing in the contract for Dustin Poirier’s UFC 302 fight that explicitly states it will be his last-ever chance at a world championship. However, the fact that Saturday will be his final chance to become the division’s top name when he faces Islam Makhachev has felt like an unwritten rule ever since their matchup was revealed.

In what will be his 31st UFC appearance, 35-year-old Dustin Poirier will be trying to become undisputed champ for a third time. When given those numbers, it’s hard to wonder how much is left in his career.

At least, Poirier is having those thoughts. In the lead-up to his fight this weekend, he told CBS Sports that he’s seriously considering calling it quits soon: “I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s a very selfish sport. I’m ready to be a father and be a husband and be home and be into a routine. I wouldn’t say I can’t do it again. I can do it again. It’s just … this is it for me.”

His recent comments made it clearer than ever that this weekend is Dustin Poirier’s final chance at the lightweight title. Even if there was a world where he could find a fourth pathway to a title, he doesn’t want to walk that route.

Now knowing what Poirier feels on the inside, we’re set up for a dramatic storyline this weekend. It’s no longer an open secret that it’s his last chance, we know it is. Saturday is truly a do or die situation for Poirier to prove that he’s one of the best. But amid all of the hype and drama that will emerge this weekend, it’s important to remember that win or lose, Poirier has already proven enough to be considered a legendary fighter.

Dustin poirier’s Longevity At The Top

McGregor Poirier

When looking at Poirier’s career, it feels like an undisputed championship run is the one thing he hasn’t truly tackled. Other than the elusive undisputed champ status, Poirier has stacked his career full of big moments.

While there isn’t any gold to put to his name (unless you count a brief interim title run), Dustin Poirier has easily been one of the most dominant forces in the lightweight division for a decade. While many top names have come and gone, Poirier has not only stayed active but remained among the best.

Dustin Poirier was just 21 years old when he joined the UFC roster. The Louisiana-born and raised fighter very much grew up in the cage, with his amateur days dating back to when he had just turned 18. Before even hitting what you could consider the prime of his career, Poirier had made a living fighting at featherweight, a division rarely associated with him nowadays. Those who only started following the sport in the mid-2010s amid the popularity of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey—myself included—likely wouldn’t have any recollection of this time in his career.

While he had high-profile fights, like a 2012 main event loss to The Korean Zombie, a main event fight the next year against Cub Swanson and a meeting across McGregor in 2014, Dustin Poirier didn’t ever fight for a title in the division and wasn’t making headlines in the ways that more stand-out talents were at that time.

Following his loss to McGregor in 2014, a finish loss that lasted just under two minutes, he made the move up to lightweight. He had already fought 11 times in the promotion by this point, or four years in total. According to internal calculations made by the UFC around this time, this would have made him surpass and nearly double the average length of a career in the promotion, which they had pinned at 2.46 years overall from 1993 to 2014.

Chasing Greatness At Lightweight

Dustin Poirier
Credit: Getty Images

After his UFC run had already out-lived many of his peers, Poirier was actually just getting started. Lightweight ended up being the division where he put together his best performances and most high-profile wins, getting him near the title picture on numerous instances.

Things got off to a strong start when he took just one loss through 11 appearances in the division. After main event finish wins over Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje (a past undisputed and interim champ respectively), he was given a shot to face featherweight champ Max Holloway for an interim lightweight title.

Poirier went five rounds against the striking aficionado to capture the belt and win via unanimous decision. Poirier beat Holloway where he is at his best, getting a jump on the talented knockdown artist in the early rounds with clean combinations. Holloway unsurprisingly made the fight close, but not narrow enough for many to consider him victorious.

Holloway had built up an untouchable image heading into that fight, putting together 14 consecutive wins that grew in importance. After stopping legend Jose Aldo twice, he out-gutted Brian Ortega in a stand-up war to defend his belt once again.

While there will always be ways that people take things away from that fight, notably that Holloway had moved up a weight class and that the bout was actually for an interim title instead of the real deal, it’s still certainly a huge victory arguably the biggest of Dustin Poirier’s career. He took out one of the best while they were at their peak, and did so elegantly.

Over the next few years, Poirier would struggle against the absolute best and style on anyone below that level. He lost fights to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira, and Justin Gaethje, three names you could basically define a division’s entire era with. But against a past-prime Conor McGregor or a rising contender like Benoit Saint-Denis, he would put on a show. Dustin Poirier was a main event draw during this time, with his duo of non-title fight appearances against McGregor both headlining pay-per-view cards.

A Perfect Ending Isn’t Necessary

Islam Makhachev vows to sleep Dustin Poirier at heated UFC 302 press conference listen to your coaches and box with me
Mandatory Credit: Zuffa LLC

Just to list the absolute cliff notes of Poirier’s career, you need about 500 words. Poirier has accomplished a lot and left a print on the UFC’s history that even some champs likely won’t leave. Knowing the ins and outs of his career begs the question: How much does he even really need that belt?

It’s obvious that Poirier earning the title would be the best ending possible for his career. Dustin Poirier clearly sees earning the title as a way to complete his run as a fighter and show how great he truly is. He has used the phrase “finish the story” recently, a line that WWE’s Cody Rhodes used to illustrate a lengthy career arc that culminated with him sitting atop the world of professional wrestling.

But wrestling has the privilege to actually choose how stories end. WWE decided that Rhodes would get to reach the top of the mountain, but Poirier isn’t afforded the same luxury. Anything could happen at UFC 302, and oddsmakers seem inclined to think that the night will end with Makhachev still possessing the 155-pound division’s gold.

A championship belt is what everyone is after in MMA, but it’s not the singular litmus test for greatness. Many top names, including champs, can’t say that they have had the career longevity of Dustin Poirier. Few can get one title shot, come back from a loss to earn another, and then do it yet again. Dustin Poirier has just one thing left to prove in the sport, which means he’s proven way more than almost all of his colleagues.

Dustin Poirier’s story could have the perfect ending. But even if it doesn’t, he’s told a hell of a story.

With or without undisputed status, Dustin Poirier will retire a legend

With or without undisputed status Dustin Poirier will retiree legendDustin Poirier obviously wants a title, but does his legacy need it?

With or without undisputed status Dustin Poirier will retiree legend

There’s likely nothing in the contract for Dustin Poirier’s UFC 302 fight that explicitly states it will be his last-ever chance at a world championship. However, the fact that Saturday will be his final chance to become the division’s top name when he faces Islam Makhachev has felt like an unwritten rule ever since their matchup was revealed.

In what will be his 31st UFC appearance, 35-year-old Dustin Poirier will be trying to become undisputed champ for a third time. When given those numbers, it’s hard to wonder how much is left in his career.

At least, Poirier is having those thoughts. In the lead-up to his fight this weekend, he told CBS Sports that he’s seriously considering calling it quits soon: “I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s a very selfish sport. I’m ready to be a father and be a husband and be home and be into a routine. I wouldn’t say I can’t do it again. I can do it again. It’s just … this is it for me.”

His recent comments made it clearer than ever that this weekend is Dustin Poirier’s final chance at the lightweight title. Even if there was a world where he could find a fourth pathway to a title, he doesn’t want to walk that route.

Now knowing what Poirier feels on the inside, we’re set up for a dramatic storyline this weekend. It’s no longer an open secret that it’s his last chance, we know it is. Saturday is truly a do or die situation for Poirier to prove that he’s one of the best. But amid all of the hype and drama that will emerge this weekend, it’s important to remember that win or lose, Poirier has already proven enough to be considered a legendary fighter.

Dustin poirier’s Longevity At The Top

McGregor Poirier

When looking at Poirier’s career, it feels like an undisputed championship run is the one thing he hasn’t truly tackled. Other than the elusive undisputed champ status, Poirier has stacked his career full of big moments.

While there isn’t any gold to put to his name (unless you count a brief interim title run), Dustin Poirier has easily been one of the most dominant forces in the lightweight division for a decade. While many top names have come and gone, Poirier has not only stayed active but remained among the best.

Dustin Poirier was just 21 years old when he joined the UFC roster. The Louisiana-born and raised fighter very much grew up in the cage, with his amateur days dating back to when he had just turned 18. Before even hitting what you could consider the prime of his career, Poirier had made a living fighting at featherweight, a division rarely associated with him nowadays. Those who only started following the sport in the mid-2010s amid the popularity of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey—myself included—likely wouldn’t have any recollection of this time in his career.

While he had high-profile fights, like a 2012 main event loss to The Korean Zombie, a main event fight the next year against Cub Swanson and a meeting across McGregor in 2014, Dustin Poirier didn’t ever fight for a title in the division and wasn’t making headlines in the ways that more stand-out talents were at that time.

Following his loss to McGregor in 2014, a finish loss that lasted just under two minutes, he made the move up to lightweight. He had already fought 11 times in the promotion by this point, or four years in total. According to internal calculations made by the UFC around this time, this would have made him surpass and nearly double the average length of a career in the promotion, which they had pinned at 2.46 years overall from 1993 to 2014.

Chasing Greatness At Lightweight

Dustin Poirier
Credit: Getty Images

After his UFC run had already out-lived many of his peers, Poirier was actually just getting started. Lightweight ended up being the division where he put together his best performances and most high-profile wins, getting him near the title picture on numerous instances.

Things got off to a strong start when he took just one loss through 11 appearances in the division. After main event finish wins over Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje (a past undisputed and interim champ respectively), he was given a shot to face featherweight champ Max Holloway for an interim lightweight title.

Poirier went five rounds against the striking aficionado to capture the belt and win via unanimous decision. Poirier beat Holloway where he is at his best, getting a jump on the talented knockdown artist in the early rounds with clean combinations. Holloway unsurprisingly made the fight close, but not narrow enough for many to consider him victorious.

Holloway had built up an untouchable image heading into that fight, putting together 14 consecutive wins that grew in importance. After stopping legend Jose Aldo twice, he out-gutted Brian Ortega in a stand-up war to defend his belt once again.

While there will always be ways that people take things away from that fight, notably that Holloway had moved up a weight class and that the bout was actually for an interim title instead of the real deal, it’s still certainly a huge victory arguably the biggest of Dustin Poirier’s career. He took out one of the best while they were at their peak, and did so elegantly.

Over the next few years, Poirier would struggle against the absolute best and style on anyone below that level. He lost fights to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira, and Justin Gaethje, three names you could basically define a division’s entire era with. But against a past-prime Conor McGregor or a rising contender like Benoit Saint-Denis, he would put on a show. Dustin Poirier was a main event draw during this time, with his duo of non-title fight appearances against McGregor both headlining pay-per-view cards.

A Perfect Ending Isn’t Necessary

Islam Makhachev vows to sleep Dustin Poirier at heated UFC 302 press conference listen to your coaches and box with me
Mandatory Credit: Zuffa LLC

Just to list the absolute cliff notes of Poirier’s career, you need about 500 words. Poirier has accomplished a lot and left a print on the UFC’s history that even some champs likely won’t leave. Knowing the ins and outs of his career begs the question: How much does he even really need that belt?

It’s obvious that Poirier earning the title would be the best ending possible for his career. Dustin Poirier clearly sees earning the title as a way to complete his run as a fighter and show how great he truly is. He has used the phrase “finish the story” recently, a line that WWE’s Cody Rhodes used to illustrate a lengthy career arc that culminated with him sitting atop the world of professional wrestling.

But wrestling has the privilege to actually choose how stories end. WWE decided that Rhodes would get to reach the top of the mountain, but Poirier isn’t afforded the same luxury. Anything could happen at UFC 302, and oddsmakers seem inclined to think that the night will end with Makhachev still possessing the 155-pound division’s gold.

A championship belt is what everyone is after in MMA, but it’s not the singular litmus test for greatness. Many top names, including champs, can’t say that they have had the career longevity of Dustin Poirier. Few can get one title shot, come back from a loss to earn another, and then do it yet again. Dustin Poirier has just one thing left to prove in the sport, which means he’s proven way more than almost all of his colleagues.

Dustin Poirier’s story could have the perfect ending. But even if it doesn’t, he’s told a hell of a story.

The UFC heavyweight mess – Here’s how we get out of it

The UFC heavyweight mess and here's how we get out of itUFC’s heavyweight division has become a disaster. What should be changed?

The UFC heavyweight mess and here's how we get out of it

Who is the best fighter at heavyweight? Depends on who you ask.

If we’re going by the books? Jon Jones is the best in the world. He’s the division’s top champ, which by definition puts him above everyone else. But when logic sets in, things get more confusing. Jones hasn’t fought in more than a year. Tom Aspinall, the interim champ at heavyweight, earned his title last year and is already on track to defend in just a couple of months. Does that make him the best?

The issue with this “best” question is a simple way to describe the issues at heavyweight currently. Due to delays in fights and a promoter who hasn’t stepped in to end a reign, heavyweight has found itself in a usual position with two champions who have gotten comfortable sharing the throne.

A slow-moving division isn’t new for heavyweights in the UFC. With the undisputed title being put on the line on average less than once a year since 2019, it’s been a weight class dragging its feet title fight-wise for a while. But the current two-title dilemma that it finds itself in lasts much longer than many delays we have seen recently. It’s an issue with no clear end in sight, and with unavoidably bad optics.

How the UFC Heavyweight mess Got Here

When Jones captured the UFC heavyweight championship in early 2023, an optimist might have thought that the class would finally receive a consistent champion. After UFC iced out Francis Ngannou for a year, making his run with the belt uneventful, the division could have used a more workhorse fighter on top.

Sure, Jones had no shortage of controversies while reigning over the light heavyweight division, but he was a face that defined an era and cleaned out a roster. Maybe he could have done that for heavyweight. And for a moment, it looked like he could be an active fighter: Eight months after winning his title with a first-round finish of Ciryl Gane, Jones was expected to face former champ Stipe Miocic at Madison Square Garden.

Jon Jones weighs up Alex Pereira and Tom Aspinall fights after UFC return decisions decisions
Mandatory Credit: Zuffa LLC

The fight would have been a passing of the torch. Miocic is 41 and hasn’t fought in more than three years, but is remembered for the three title defences that made him a more successful heavyweight champ than any other in UFC history. A victory for Jones would further cement that it was officially his era, and shut down any complaints that Miocic was deserving of a title opportunity after Francis Ngannou ended his second title run with a scary knockout in 2021.

But a torn pec put a massive road bump in Jones’ title reign and took him out of the fight. The injury not only prevented the champ from fighting in New York, but also meant that he would be benched for a significant period of time, cutting into a serious chunk of 2024 as well.

With Jones on the bench, UFC tried to keep the division moving. No, they didn’t strip the champion who was set to go more than a year without defending his belt, they introduced an interim title. England’s Aspinall earned the gold with a swift finish against Sergei Pavlovich.

An interim is, by definition, a placeholder. As the Cambridge Dictionary defines it: “temporary and intended to be used or accepted until something permanent exists.” However, this title soon became more regular than, well, the regular title.

It was announced this week that Aspinall will defend his belt at UFC 304 against Curtis Blaydes. A fine matchup, but one that keeps the division in a puzzling position. The person who is supposed to be the true champion sits on the sidelines, while the man with a supposed temporary belt goes out and faces legitimate contenders.

At least once the fight between Blaydes and Aspinall is done with, we can finally unify the titles and have a singular true best fighter in the class, right? Well, if you ask Dana White, no. He’s still hoping to make the bout between Jones and Miocic, and Jones is hinting that his next appearance will be around November. This means we could see an interim title exist for more than a year before even getting to discussions about unification. That is not ideal.

What Can Be Done?

Tom Aspinall accuses Jon Jones of playing games I don't know what's going on
Mandatory Credit: Chris Unger – Zuffa LLC

This is an ugly mess. With all of the obligations and complications, UFC’s heavyweight division has become a disorganized room that needs a full makeover. From an inactive champ to owing a fight to someone who isn’t even involved in the current title picture, to a pair of belts that need to be unified sometime before things start to look absurd, the promotion has a complicated puzzle to solve.

There’s a world where UFC can fix all of these problems by simply handling them when the right opportunity comes. But the truth is, that would likely take a long time. It’s hard to imagine a reality where a year from now we will have an undisputed heavyweight champion that has faced Miocic and unified the titles through a fight. And even with that generous estimation, that’s still a year and a half of an interim champion, which feels bizarre.

Realistically, it doesn’t make sense for Jones to be the champion at the moment. If someone asks who is the best active heavyweight in the world, it feels dishonest to say it is Jones. Why? He’s simply not active. It’s no knock on his fighting abilities or accomplishments to say that he isn’t fighting at the moment, which should realistically take him out of the equation so the class can keep moving.

Would stripping Jones of his title due to injury kill his momentum? Absolutely not. When he would return and inevitably get another title fight, the crowd that had come out to support him in the past would show up once again.

He was stripped for wrongdoing in three different instances during his light heavyweight title years and remained a star nonetheless. Why would freeing up a title for injury—instead of an issue where he can take the blame—hurt him? Jones is absolutely deserving of a title shot and should receive an opportunity once he is ready to fully return, whether it be in November or on a later date. But there’s no reason for him to sit with the belt when he can’t contribute anything to the division.

It feels tough to decide what’s right for Miocic. While on paper it’s hard incredibly to justify him getting a title fight since he hasn’t fought in years, is 41 and coming off a nasty knockout defeat, it also feels like he has been a victim of circumstance. He should have received a shot at the title way sooner, instead of just quietly waiting for all of this time.

After the UFC kept him waiting for too long, it feels easy to consider him a contender who isn’t worthy. Miocic was likely guaranteed a shot after the end of his title reign and has been waiting for ages for it. Because of that, it would be somewhat cruel if UFC changed course now.

If UFC really owes Miocic a title shot, they should get it over with quickly. UFC probably wants to make a fight between Jones and Miocic specifically because its two guys from a specific era and it can be marketed as a super-fight. But hat fight is becoming not only less realistic but less attractive as each day passes by. In a perfect world, Miocic would return in a non-title fight first to show the type of shape he’s in, which it seems like many are questioning. If that can be done, great, do it.

What Will Actually Happen, If Anything?

Stipe Miocic warns Jon Jones true power at UFC 295 anything can happen
Mandatory Credit: Josh Hedges – Zuffa LLC

With those changes, you have a weight class full of active fighters who are keeping the title picture moving. Of course, these are combative changes that won’t please everyone. It’s easy for a columnist to say: “Okay and take this from that guy, and tell the other guy he shouldn’t get the title fight.” It’s another thing to actually make those moves and then deal with the potential blowback from them.

UFC has two options in front of them. They could let their heavyweight class figure itself out over the next year and some change, keeping the division’s title picture awkward and confusing to outsiders for the entire time. Or they could put in some calls and make some changes that could immediately put the division back into shape, although not without some scrutiny from corners of their fanbase and fighters. They could let their division continue to make little sense for a long time, or take control and show that holding the top title in a weight class means something. There’s certainly less shame in one of these options.

Review – An Honest Ronda Rousey Pulls No Punches In New Memoir

Review An Honest Ronda Rousey Pulls No Punches In New MemoirA look at Ronda Rousey’s new memoir.

Review An Honest Ronda Rousey Pulls No Punches In New Memoir

Ronda Rousey might not be a unanimous fan favorite. Some take issue with comments she has made in the past, like calling herself the greatest fighter ever, and others are definitely critics of her 14-fight MMA career, where back-to-back losses against Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes took her out of the sport for good.

But there’s no doubt that when discussing fighters who shaped the modern years in MMA, you can’t go far into that conversation without mentioning “Rowdy.” Because of this, Rousey’s story is perfect for a memoir.

‘Our Fight’ Provides Honest Perspective Of Rousey’s Champion Years

Ronda Rousey hits out at MMA media over concussion claims they hate me it's fine
Mandatory Credit: Zuffa LLC

Rousey’s latest book, “Our Fight: A Memoir,” is different from her prior published title due to its timing. Unlike her prior release, Rousey is now past her years as a fighter and wrestler, giving her stories a start and ultimate end. But a good story isn’t always told right. This begs the question: Does Rousey provide a good recounting of details in her April release?

Memoirs can bend the truth. They can allow figures to provide a retelling of the past through rose-colored glasses. It can give a public figure the chance to tell you that things didn’t actually go as poorly as you might have thought they did, or that unfortunate events that hit them were actually someone else’s fault. Ronda Rousey’s book doesn’t attempt to do any of this.

In “Our Fight,” readers are brought into the unfiltered mindset of one of MMA’s most influential names. Rousey isn’t afraid to discuss failure or low points in her career. In fact, it felt like Rousey sped past the glory of her MMA popularity and instead allowed more time to explain struggles in her career. And Ronda Rousey certainly doesn’t sugar-coat her feelings about anyone or anything she has experienced. 

Is it because the former bantamweight champ is simply a tell-it-like-it-is figure? Or because she seems at peace with leaving MMA and professional wrestling behind her, leaving no incentive to avoid publicly burning bridges? Either way, there’s a sincerity to hearing her perspective that makes it seem like she is neither trying to protect her image nor exaggerate life experiences.

Rousey comes off as an intense character, one that isn’t uncommon to find in athletes. When she feels a way about someone, it’s a strong feeling. Once you’re done reading this book you will know who she hates (Vince McMahon, WWE producer Bruce Pritchard, and former rival Miesha Tate to name a few) and you will be fully aware of the close circle that she trusts (The Four Horsewomen, husband and former UFC fighter Travis Browne).

It’s that same intensity that comes back to bite her at times. When she lost her bantamweight title to Holly Holm, she remembers it completely derailing her life. Everything revolved around being the best, and when she suddenly wasn’t, she was lost. She also reflects on how the sacrifices she made throughout her combat career meant that she was not having experiences in life as much as she hoped. 

Both of those anecdotes—telling the stories of sacrifice and loss—are something that you can hear about from likely any fighter. But hearing it from Ronda Rousey, where there was heightened attention in the mainstream, is incredibly intriguing. Her work ethic set herself apart from others and made her a trailblazer in an industry, but it came at a cost.

The Cost Of Being A Fighter

Looking at her career in retrospect, Ronda Rousey was able to provide stellar insight into the life of a fighter and the negative impacts it had on her. Arguably one of the strongest chapters in the story sees Ronda Rousey revisit times in the past when judo and MMA trainers pushed her hard possibly too hard. She recounted these training sessions but looked at it through a different lens: When does tough, hard training cross the line into abuse?

She’s also open about how head trauma severely affected her career and could come back to haunt her. It’s often referenced in the book how prior concussions and damage to the head meant that, by the start of her MMA career, she could hardly even take a punch. Training sessions would end with her seeing “camera flashes” when she closed her eyes, a common symptom of head trauma. 

Years after the wear and tear that she took from her combat sports career, she started to worry about long-term symptoms that might haunt her in the years to come. Did she not remember much of her time travelling the world for work because she was focused on the task at hand, or because her memory was already fading significantly? She’s not entirely confident about what the answer is.

There’s also a respectable bluntness when discussing the self-inflicted pains that Ronda Rousey went through in her career. While she lived in a pressure-cooker setting that certainly didn’t have safeguards in place from pushing herself beyond her limits—something which arguably deserves some blame as well—both her MMA and wrestling careers ended because she had burnt herself out mentally and physically. 

The competitive edge that was constantly pushing her was at times working at a much more aggressive pace than what she was able to realistically endure. A recurring example of this was Ronda Rousey’s vow to UFC promoter Dana White that she would be available anytime, anyplace for them. Upholding this promise even when she became one of the promotion’s top stars meant that she ended up competing in eight title fights over the course of four years. This level of activity, which is nearly unmatched, eventually pushed her out of the sport.

The Verdict: Is Ronda Rousey’s Book Worth Reading?

Ronda Rousey accusses WWE star of inappropriate behavior he pulled the string of my sweatpants
Mandatory Credit: WWE

While Ronda Rousey’s stories are captivating and interesting—likely elevated by her sister Maria Burns-Ortiz, a journalist who helped co-author the book—it’s important to remember that you’re simply hearing one perspective. There are parts of the book that you might disagree with, like certain grudges or feelings. Among the more questionable moments is Rousey seemingly still harbouring hard feelings for rival Miesha Tate, whom she last fought more than a decade ago. But the honest feelings that Rousey holds toward everyone mentioned in the book make the stories feel like a genuine reflection of her thoughts.

This book might not appeal to you if you only want to hear about one facet of Ronda Rousey’s life. If you’re only interested in Rousey’s MMA career, the first half of the book will provide juicy details that will keep you hooked. But, if along with that MMA fandom comes a disinterest in professional wrestling, the lengthy inside baseball talk about her time in WWE might lose you. Rousey goes in-depth with each topic, meaning a passion or interest in the entertainment genres will enhance your experience when reading about the stories. If Ronda Rousey’s life is a story you want to hear, from Judo to Wrestlemania, this couldn’t be a better book for you.

Whether you like or dislike Ronda Rousey, her impact on MMA cannot be denied. Because of that, experiencing all of her big moments in the UFC cage from her seemingly genuine perspective makes this a worthwhile book. Clocking in at just under 300 pages, this book won’t consume too much time if you’re an avid reader. When considering all of these factors, it’s hard to not recommend the book to someone who wants to hear beyond-the-mat info about MMA and inside the ropes details from her WWE career.