Opinion: Contenders and Short Notice Fights
By Jesse Heitz
The events of UFC 161 this past weekend give us something of considerable importance to ponder. The notion of contenders taking short notice fights. Indeed, the injury bug strikes, or a fighter encounters visa troubles and is unable to compete in a given event, or the promoter simply decides to shake things up. However, is it wise for contenders to step into the void and fill the opening?
At UFC 161, heavyweight contender Roy Nelson did just that. He stepped up on short notice to fight rising star Stipe Miocic after the UFC opted to bolster an already staggering card by replacing Miocic’s scheduled opponent, Soa Palelei, with Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Going into the fight, Nelson seemed optimistic that UFC 161 would be merely another stepping stone to a shot at the UFC Heavyweight Championship by both stating and tweeting,
“@danawhite if your (sic) going to fire people for losing to @roynelsonmma (Cheick Kongo), than (sic) get ready to fire velasquez (the current UFC heavyweight champion) #NextWorldChamp.”
“On any given day, I know I can beat anybody up and knock anybody out.”
Unfortunately for Nelson, he wasn’t able to defeat the surging Miocic, who subsequently de-railed his plans to unseat current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez. In that bout, Nelson showed up out of shape. He was noticeably sluggish, and absorbed an uncanny amount of punishment. It can’t be doubted that “Big Country” is tough, and that even a Louisville Slugger might not put him flat on the canvas. However, both his hopes and those of the fans expected a better showing from a man that had recently run through the likes of: Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione, and Cheick Kongo.
Now, the fan friendly fighter is on the outside looking in. He’s essentially back to square one, from riding an impressive three fight win streak to having to battle his way back up the heavyweight ranks at the age of 37. The question that emanates from this particular event is whether promoters should promoters and the contenders themselves should keep their collective eyes on the big picture.
Personally, I admire the warrior spirit, the “I’ll fight anyone at anytime” mentality that the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is based on. Yet, it’s important to note that I’m a fan and a writer. I’m not a professional fighter that needs quality wins to keep food on the table. So, the question remains, should contenders to take short notice fights or should they keep their eyes on the “golden” prize, or should they simply fight when called to do so?