It’s been an atrocious week for Dana White and the UFC. A surplus of main-event switcheroos, not to mention a gang-related melee which culminated in the arrest of Conor McGregor, it’s safe to say that UFC 223 has been a disastrous fight week.
Over the space of six days, Khabib Nurmagomedov has been offered five different opponents for his lightweight title tilt at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Finalised just a few hours before the ceremonial weigh-ins on Friday, it will be Wantagh, New York’s own Al Iaquinta to fight Khabib after complications involving Ferguson, Holloway, Felder and Pettis over the past six days.
Amidst the rubble of the cursed main event and a public relations nightmare involving McGregor (which we will get to shortly), the show still goes ahead with a weakened offering of just nine fights on Saturday, April 7.
Surely it’s all up-hill from here, though? Let’s dive fist first into the Twilight Zone and predict the fallout with four seriously plausible (yet equally crazy) possibilities which await us on the other side of UFC 223.
UFC take a hiatus from New York after UFC 223
With all the internal issues going on this week, it’s lucky that the UFC had a sound voice of reason to mitigate such a cluster f… Oh wait, they didn’t?
The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) should have been that guardian angel, but instead made a number of questionable decisions, including but not limited to: stopping Holloway’s weight cut without a medical professional’s ratification and refusing to sanction Khabib vs. Paul Felder due to the UFC’s farcical rankings.
The title situation is a bit of a mess as well. With Iaquinta weighing in .2lbs over the lightweight limit, the NYSAC refuse to recognise the New Yorker as champion if he overcomes the 5/1 odds and beats Khabib on Saturday night.
Mixed martial arts was only legalised by the New York State Assembly in March 2016 and the problems mainly boil down to archaic regulations tailored more to boxing.
Alas, during the UFC 25th Anniversary Press Conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed that the UFC will recognise “Ragin’ Al” as the world’s champion if he wins on Saturday night, but could this affect the promotion’s future relationship with the NYSAC?
Tony Ferguson WILL FIGHT Khabib
If there’s one thing for sure about mixed martial arts, it’s that nothing’s for sure. Earlier this week, following Tony Ferguson’s unfortunate exit from UFC 223, Dana White p*ssed all over the possibility of rebooking Tony x Khabib for the fifth time.
Following the events of this hellacious week in Brooklyn, although, I’m fairly confident that Uncle Dana will be made to eat his words.
It may indeed be the unluckiest fight in the history of UFC, but there is no question that everybody wants to see “El Cucuy” and “The Eagle” throw down inside the Octagon.
A fight against Khabib at Madison Square Garden in September seemed plausible before McGregor’s self-destructive actions in Brooklyn. Any reward as such now feels filthily unwise.
If Khabib gets past Iaquinta, the UFC will want another marquee fight for the Russian and with Conor out of the picture and limited contenders at lightweight, White has little choice but to roll the dice one final time on the elusive Ferguson-Nurmagomedov match-up.
Joanna’s swansong at strawweight
Was Joanna Jedrzejczyk too invested in the mind games when she first fought Rose Namajunas?
After 14-fights unbeaten, UFC 217 felt like a rude awakening for Joanna Champion after being found out in less than a round against “Thug Rose.”
Overshadowed by her defeat, the talks of a move to flyweight calmed, but they certainly weren’t forgotten.
Brandished a bully last time out, Joanna has kept a much lower profile upon her return to New York.
At the UFC 233 weigh-ins, Joanna gave what was arguably her most candid interview yet.
“I took care of every single thing preparing for this fight and you will see [a] different Joanna champion, different Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Better fighter. And I dedicate this fight to people who have failed and don’t have strength to rise. Guys, everything is up to you.”
Foreshadowing the ‘rise’ of an even better Joanna Champion, the scene is set for the Polish fighter to make the move up to flyweight, whatever the result in Brooklyn.
I mean, the 30-year-old already has wins over a handful of the UFC top 10 at strawweight, so some new challenges in the flyweight division, including old rival Valentina Shevchenko and champion Nicco Montano, makes sense for a fighter who has openly spoken about her diminishing longevity in the sport.
Severe repercussions for Conor McGregor and his teammates?
It was a brief scuffle between Khabib and SBG’s Artem Lobov earlier this week which set the wheels in motion for one of the most controversial moments in UFC history.
McGregor flew himself and a handful of affiliates to confront Khabib in New York, because yes, that sounded like such a great idea.
The rest of course, is history, as McGregor and pals attacked the UFC fighters’ bus, injuring Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg after he threw a dolly truck through the bus window.
A seething Dana White condemned McGregor to oblivion and repercussions were seen immediately, when the UFC pulled Lobov from the card.
Legal action proceeded after McGregor (and teammate Cian Cowley) handed themselves into the police.
Both have since been released, Conor on $50,000 bail and Cowley with $25,000. They will have to return for a hearing on June 14.
So those are the real world repercussions, what about the UFC?
“This is bigger than Conor getting fired,” White said on ESPN’s Get Up.
After his initial outbursts, much akin to a disappointed Father, Dana seems to have cooled off. Let’s be honest, the UFC were never going to hit Conor (who happens to be the most popular fighter in the history of the sport) with the ban hammer.
However, after talks that the incident killed a potential new contract torn McGregor, it seems like the biggest effect this will have on The Mac is through his wallet. Of course, the UFC will eventually bring him back, and they would be stupid not too, but for now they will ice McGregor on the sidelines until the headlines and negative press diminish.
And who knows, maybe he’ll even get a lightweight title shot before the end of the year.