Most promotions are just dying for name fighters and especially like it when they can make fights between two fighters with recognizable names, even if these fights are not warranted based on the fighters current rankings, or the fighters are not in the same weight division (like Rampage’s, King Mo’s and countless others fights at Heavyweight), or the fighters are long past their prime (like Ken Shamrock’s last few fights).
The UFC is obviously in no such need for name fighters and fights as other promotions, as its roster is full of name fighters. Still, it seems baffling sometimes how they go out of their way not to book name fighters against one another, opting instead to put the over-the-hill name fighter against some up-and-coming prospect, or sometimes not even that.
One glaring example is Anderson Silva who was put against Derek Brunson not long ago. Another is BJ Penn’s fight against Yair Rodriguez. And I think now we have seen an especially good example of that: Last week Rashad Evans made his middleweight debut against Daniel Kelly. Rashad Evans didn’t fight for 2 years and then didn’t look good in his fights since his return. If his transition to middleweight wasn’t a successful one, this would probably be the end for Evans’ career.
This week we have Vitor Belfort, who also didn’t look good in a long time, taking on Kelvin Gastelum, a very strong up-and-comer who is the heavy favorite to win.
Before Evans’ fight, he was still considered a potential contender in the middleweight division, since it was his debut at that weight class. Belfort, too could have still been promoted as a viable force since all of his last losses have been against the very best of the division (Weidman, Souza, Mousasi). A fight between them at that point would have been very interesting – two big name fighters who might still be considered at the top of their game, even if on the decline, and who were competing at different weight classes, but now we have the opportunity of having them fight because of Evans’ move to middleweight.
Now, on the other hand, Evans lost to Daniel Kelly and didn’t look good doing that, which probably means that Evans would no longer be considered a top fighter any more, and if Belfort will lose on Saturday night, which he probably will, then his career would also be looking on it’s way to the end. A fight between the two at that point would be much less appealing that it would have been before those two (probably) losses.
It’s just a shame that the UFC keeps missing these opportunities, and what’s worse is that it looks like they are doing it on purpose.