I’m by no means the first person to point this out, but the current state of the UFC’s heavyweight division is absolutely dismal. Need proof? You need look no further than Fabricio Werdum, who is said to be getting the next shot at the “interim” heavyweight strap after Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira square off for it. That’s right, Werdum, who is currently riding a one-fight win streak after his victory over a lackluster Gabriel Gonzaga, has apparently proved he’s worthy of a shot at the title.
Sadly, he has. But only because there isn’t anyone else to give the fight to. At least, there isn’t anyone else if you don’t count Andrei Arlovski (who beat Werdum), “Cro Cop” (whose relationship with the UFC is strained), Randy Couture (whose relationship with the UFC makes Cro Cop’s look ideal), Josh Barnett (who the UFC is unwilling to shell out the cash for)…you see where I’m going with this.
Partly because of the naturally high attrition rate for heavyweights in this sport and partly because of the UFC’s somewhat abrasive way of dealing with talent, there aren’t many other options beyond giving the shot to Werdum. But on top of the question of what qualifies someone for a title shot (one loss and then one win, apparently), there is also the question of what they are fighting for.
This is still the interim heavyweight title, and unlike the situation in the welterweight class, that apparently isn’t going to change any time soon. As Dana White confirmed at the post-UFC 80 press conference, they plan on keeping the official title around Randy Couture’s absent waist as long as necessary.
“Believe me, we’ll hold on forever,” White told reporters.
Nobody holds a grudge like White, it seems. While that’s probably useful for legal maneuvering in their case against Couture, it also guarantees that whatever happens in the heavyweight division will do so with an asterisk next to it. For all the concern over MMA becoming fractured with too many orgs and too many titles (a valid concern, by the way), the UFC is successfully fracturing its own titles in this case.
While I don’t think the UFC should bear all the blame for the sad state of their heavyweight division at the moment, neither are they helping themselves very much. And if you don’t think Sylvia-Nogueira is going to be one of the most forgettable title matches in recent memory, you better reconsider.
I just hope that at the very moment Sylvia and Nogueira touch gloves and get ready to go at it, in some alternate universe Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko are doing the same. What an awesome universe that must be.