With major injuries plaguing UFC 147, 148 and 149, the summer has become a graveyard of exciting fights that could have been. When world title fights are being cancelled and postponed on a horrifyingly consistent basis, it's easy to lose sight of the whole picture.
Top names like Vitor Belfort, Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz have fallen to the wayside, as have pivotal matchups that had fans on the edge of their seats. Those injuries blurred the vision of fight fans and we have largely ignored a tragic injustice.
The Ultimate Fighter has proven to be a successful vehicle for winners and losers alike. Tournaments are a popular format that fans can keep track of. They build anticipation for future bouts and give bragging rights to the eventual winner.
The title of “TUF winner” is a marketing tool that has permitted humdrum and irrelevant matchups like Mac Danzig vs Efrain Escudero and Amir Sadollah vs anyone to somehow grab the interest of fans who would otherwise sit apathetically.
Although the coaches’ fights have been plagued by injuries that postponed or cancelled the highly anticipated matchups, never in the history of The Ultimate Fighter has a finalist been injured between the time he earned his spot in the finals and the time that the fight was originally scheduled to take place.
Daniel Sarafian was not only a promising fighter, but he was also the favorite to win the tournament. When UFC.com reported on Monday that the Team Belfort fighter would have to bow out, it simply became a footnote in regards to the recent plague of injuries that has ravaged the main card of the summer’s biggest events. However, a bigger story is being overlooked.
When a fighter earns a title shot and has to bow out due to injury, it is common that someone else will replace him in the championship bout and he gets his shot after recovering. With the TUF plaque, there is no defense of the title. It’s a one-time thing that is non-transferrable down the line.
How can you crown either Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira or Sergio Maraes as The Ultimate Fighter when the rightful finalist has not been defeated? For the sake of preserving the prestige of TUF, shouldn’t the finals have been postponed until Mutante and Sarafian were both available to do battle? If successful on Saturday night, can anyone call Maraes the true tournament winner after his incredible KO loss to Sarafian?
Sure, top fighters like Matt Hamill have been injured on the road to the finals and replaced along the way, but this marks the first time that a fighter has already seen his ticket to the final punched and then been forced out.
For the sake of Daniel Sarafian, I hope that the UFC awards him the same contract as the winners of the show. He deserves better than to miss out on the six-figure contract that comes along with a tournament win.
Author’s Note: Before you comment about Jesse Taylor being a rightful finalist, save your breath. He was removed from the Season 7 competition due to behavioral issues that required disciplinary action. Sarafian is in a completely different boat and has done nothing wrong that justifies him missing out on this golden opportunity.