Damn, It’s True: 2019’s First Four Months In MMA Kind Of Bombed
The beginning of the year has failed to live up to the hype for the most part around the offices of the UFC and Bellator MMA.
With Bellator 220 and UFC on ESPN+ 8 both completing this past weekend, we have reached the end of the first four months of 2019.
And as far as mixed martial arts goes, it kind of stunk.
Sure, we had a handful of “Fight of the Year” contenders, but overall, the first four months of 2019 didn’t really move the needle, as pundits like to say.
The UFC’s debut on ESPN bombed as Francis Ngannou stunned Cain Velasquez in a bout that didn’t quite live up to the pre-fight hype in February. A month before that, we had the cancelled UFC pay-per-view known as UFC 233, which was shifted to ESPN+ as Henry Cejudo destroyed TJ Dillashaw to defend his flyweight title.
Shortly after, Dillashaw vacated the bantamweight belt and was hit with a lengthy suspension for taking banned substances. Another black eye on the sport and Dillashaw in a major way.
Following the UFC 233 incident, we had UFC 234 in Australia, which lost its planned main event hours before it was to start when middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was forced to undergo emergency surgery for a hernia. The show went on with Israel Adesanya besting Anderson Silva on his way to eventually securing the interim title and a future day with Whittaker.
Two planned pay-per-views resulted in a total of 175,000 buys and no titles on the headline marquees.
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That isn’t to say we haven’t been blessed with some incredible fights including Anthony Pettis vs. Stephen Thompson, Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway. But, in the overall sense, it just doesn’t seem like there have been enough headline-making moments.
Bellator seemed to be on the right path when it opened 2019 with Ryan Bader knocking out Fedor Emelianenko, but the promotion has struggled since. Matt Mitrione’s fight with Sergei Kharitonov was stopped early and a much-hyped grudge match between Michael Page and Paul Daley was boring for five rounds.
So, maybe this was all just our way of getting the “bad” out of the way for the rest of the calendar year. Here’s to hoping that is the case and we are left with long-lasting memories over the next eight months.
Damn, It’s True is a weekly column posted on The Mix at FightLine by MMA reporter Dana Becker. He may be reached on Twitter @DanaBecker.