There Are Two Title Fights At UFC 165, But Fans Are Only Buying The Show For One

By Adam Martin

Is it just me, or are the majority of fight fans forgetting that there are not one, but two title fights scheduled for this weekend’s UFC 165 card?

Obviously, much of the talk surrounding the card has focused on UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and his main event matchup against Alexander Gustafsson, but there’s also a rare co-main set for the card that has a title up for grabs as well. I’m talking about the UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship matchup between current titleholder Renan Barao and top contender Eddie Wineland, a fight that was originally set to be the main event at UFC 161 before an unfortunate injury to Barao forced the bout’s rescheduling.

When this fight was set for UFC 161, even though it was a title fight and the main event, the draw for that card for most people were the two light heavyweight bouts — between Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (a fight that never happened). For most, the Barao/Wineland fight was just an added bonus, and not the real reason why they were going to buy the card. Instead, they were buying it for established stars like Shogun, Evans, and Hendo.

I find it’s the same situation this weekend at UFC 165. Although Barao is ranked as one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, no one is buying this card to see him fight. They are buying it to see Jones fight, and the Barao fight is just extra value for the 50-dollar price tag to order the card. That’s it, for the majority of people anyways. (I guess there are some hardcore Barao and Wineland fans who may disagree, and who are buying the card just for them, but they are most definitely in the minority.) If you disagree with me, ask yourself this: Would you still watch this card without Barao-Wineland? Of course the answer is yes.

To me, this is a sign that the UFC hasn’t promoted Barao properly. Even though this guy hasn’t lost in 31-straight fights – by far the longest such streak in the UFC – for some reason the casual fans just don’t know who he is yet, and I think that’s the UFC’s fault. Hell, I cover the sport for a living, and other than knowing he’s a fantastic fighter, I don’t know much else about him, and I think that just goes to show that he UFC has failed to tell his story.

Barao is in a lose/lose situation because, even if he has an impressive performance in the co-main event this weekend, Jones is poised to have an incredible showing as well, and he will more than likely overshadow Barao. This will make people talk less about the Brazilian than they should at the water cooler on Monday morning. Instead, everyone is going to be talking about Jones.

Last year at UFC 152, ironically also in Toronto, Jones was in the main event of the card, and although the co-main event was a great fight for the flyweight title between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, everyone was talking about how Jones survived Vitor Belfort’s armbar attempt, and not how Johnson had become the first-ever flyweight champ. And I really think things will play out similarly this weekend, except at bantamweight this time.

I know the UFC’s plan is to help build awareness of the bantamweight champion by putting Barao-Wineland on a card many people will already be ordering, but I don’t think it’s the right strategy. I think, instead, the UFC should have put Barao-Wineland into the main event of a free TV card in Brazil on Fox Sports 1, rather than hiding them under Jones.

But if we’ve learned anything from the UFC’s strategy with Jones, it’s to put fighters they want to promote in the future (Johnson, Barao, Rory MacDonald at UFC 145) under him on cards, in the hopes that they themselves will eventually become the reason fans order pay-per-views in the future. But that’s in the future, not the present, because this weekend, Renan Barao is far from the reason people are going to order UFC 165.

UFC 165

Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland (Interim Bantamweight Championship)

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UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson is due to take place on September 21, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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