The original UFC 218 main event featured Max Holloway defending the featherweight title against former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar. Fans were clamoring to see whether the former titleholder could be successful in third attempt to become the fifth fighter in UFC history to capture a world title in two different weight classes.
Not only would history be made, but a very competitive championship fight would have ensued — one which fans would be talking about for years to come if Holloway and Edgar lived up to their reputations.
The dream matchup came to a screaching halt when last month Edgar pulled out of the fight due to a facial injury. The UFC would ultimately go with former featherweight champion Jose Aldo on Saturday from the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
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Initially seeing the announcement, it is a great move by the UFC to tap someone like Aldo when a headliner is needed. But after realizing that about six months ago Aldo got stopped by Holloway in third round in a title unification bout at UFC 212, you shake your head and wonder if this is the fight you really want to see.
The argument can made that Aldo is the best option for Holloway. Aldo put the division on the map. He is the greatest featherweight champion of all time. He streched out an 18-fight winning streak. He was one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Aldo’s extensive résumé earns him the opportunity to regain the belt.
But other options were out there. Cub Swanson, winner of four consecutive fights (and lost to Holloway by decision in a competitive fight in 2015) is one, or surging contender Brian Ortega who is undefeated in 12 fights with all four of his UFC wins by stoppage, or ninth-ranked Darren Elkins, who has won five consecutive bouts.
Though, fighting isn’t always about what is “deserved.” Whether the UFC admits or not, it comes down to dollars and cents. What’s going to put butts in the seats and get fans to spend $60 on a pay-per-view?
UFC president Dana White told the media that prior to Edgar’s injury, UFC 218 was on track to sell out — but that wasn’t guaranteed. When the Aldo announcement was made, the remaining tickets sold.
“So, the Detroit show is on par to sell out. We’re selling out. The show’s going to be a sell-out,” White said. “You know when you’re going to sell out because of how many tickets you have left and how many days. We put Jose Aldo on the card, and (whoosh). Tickets.”
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On the flip side, Holloway and Aldo already fought in 2017, and it wasn’t really competitive, which means Aldo really has to earn this opportunity. More often than not, fans don’t like seeing rematches so close together, unless the first in a pair of fights warrant a rematch. See: Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz in 2016.
Should Aldo earn a win or two — and if Holloway holds up his end of the bargain — run it back. Maybe Aldo represents himself well and turns back the clock — throws his signature leg kicks, secures a few takedowns, uses his black belt in Brazilian-ji-jitsu and regains the title. Or we see what we saw back in June, with Holloway ending the fight violently.
Whether we like it or not, Holloway and Aldo will step inside the Octagon one more time in the main event of UFC 218.
In terms of filling the arena, this fight was the right decision. But will they put on a competitive bout and sell pay-per-views? That remains to be seen.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can listen to his podcast, “The Fight Junkies” here. You can email him at email@example.com and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.