By: Jonathan M. King
In the fight game, anything can, will and usually does happen. Fighters often fall off of cards at the last minute, leaving promoters in the lurch, holding the bag. So replacement fights are understandable. “Shit happens”, as my mother would say. Mixed martial arts fans understand that. So when news broke about Renan Barao falling ill during weight cuts broke, a replacement name was not a surprise. After all you can’t cancel the event, that would be a logistical nightmare that would cost many people their hard earned paychecks.
So thanks to Joe Soto, we will still have an opponent for headliner TJ Dillashaw. The fact that the fight is still a 5 round title fight however leaves many with their chins on the floor. How does a first time UFC fighter earn that kind of juice? Especially a fighter that was bounced from Bellator after loosing his title and subsequent bouts in decisive fashion.
Of course we will be subject to the same rhetoric Don King used to feed us “Only in America”, only this time it will be geared to a fighter who stays ready. Well, unfortunately the world isn’t buying the “wolf tickets” the UFC is selling. Giving Joe Soto (who does belong in the UFC) a title shot is more than just affording a worthy fighter with the “opportunity of a lifetime”, it cheapens the brand and creates a paper title.
In our sport which is teetering on the main stream, that is a suicidal push in the wrong direction. Renan Barao was Dana White’s pick for best overall fighter pound-for-pound. TJ Dillashaw earned the opportunity to shock the world, and now that same opportunity is being gifted towards Soto? A guy who Terrion Ware thoroughly dominated on his feet just a few weeks ago? Do rankings matter at all?
Ware also belongs in the UFC, but he like Soto are long from being contenders, let alone champions. The move again has to be to satisfy the hometown Sacramento crowd. And the UFC is in a tough spot. Decisions have to be made quickly and you have to move forward. Its too close to show time to second guess themselves. That being said the fight should have remained a five round contest with no title ramifications. After all Soto hasn’t earned even Chael Sonnen type bragging rights yet.
Maybe from the outside it is easier. Without having any money invested, it may be clearer. The decision to put Soto in was a good call. He is a tough fighter, and a former champion. However the UFC is supposed to be the place where titles are earned.
Thought: Joe Soto lost his Bellator title, and then his job. Wins on the regional scene and gets gifted a title shot. Ben Askren is undefeated, untested, leaves Bellator with the strap, but he doesn’t even warrant a roster spot? Wolf Tickets! What about Scott Jorgenson? He is on weight? He has at least won in the UFC? Also Former Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo is so happy he is bumped from the headlines by Barao’s illnes. Cejudo missed weight again, 4th time as a pro, and is out of his UFC debut.