Back in April, Dana White appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter (h/t 5thRound) to announce Dan Henderson vs. Daniel Cormier. The fight, originally slated for UFC 175, was going to be moved to UFC 173...oh, and it was now a top-contender bout. No, really!
Literally minutes after Cormier tossed Henderson around in a way that was genuinely uncomfortable to watch, though? "Cormier should probably take another fight." White first said it to Fox Sports 1 during their post-fight coverage, then reiterated the sentiment at the post-fight press conference.
BloodyElbow's Brent Brookhouse summed up the situation nicely on Twitter:
I love MMA "Winner of Cormier/Hendo gets title shot!" 3 days ago: "…well, maybe not Hendo" last night: "…Cormier should take another fight"— Brent Brookhouse (@brentbrookhouse) May 25, 2014
So what changed? Well, that's obvious. The money came in.
From the get-go, we all knew that things had to align just so for Cormier and Henderson to even come close to a title shot. Jones was set to face Glover Teixeira at the time. Alexander Gustafsson was waiting in the wings for a highly anticipated rematch. If either of them beat Jones via anything but a five-round shellacking, there was no way a rematch wouldn't (rightly) happen.
Even if things went perfectly, the winner of Cormier vs. Henderson was looking at a year's worth of waiting for a potential title shot. That's a long time to spend on the couch without a paycheck.
In short, this was never a top-contender bout. So why did it get labeled such by White?
Well, why else would you watch UFC 173? The UFC could never be bothered to actually commit time or effort to its bantamweight division. White's near-comical insistence that Barao was the top pound-for-pound fighter in MMA was a band-aid for the fact that they couldn't be bothered to build up contenders for Barao the way they built up the likes of Dan Hardy and Thiago Alves for Georges St-Pierre.
Assigning an artificial importance to a compelling fight in one of the divisions Zuffa cares about is the best way, they figure, to get fans to buy the event. I mean, yeah, the word to describe that with would be "lie." The legal term would be "false advertising."
But once you hit that "Purchase" button on Ticketmaster or that final "OK" on your cable box, it isn't their problem. It's yours. It's the latest example of the UFC's long-running trend of trying to sucker fans into buying their products, and it's one that fans are quickly becoming numb to.
Perhaps I'm being idealistic here, but let's be real. The UFC attached this obviously fallacious importance on a legitimately compelling fight because they knew that Renan Barao can't draw flies. Maybe, just maybe, fans have picked up on that fact and agree with the UFC when they subliminally announce his shows aren't worth watching on their own.