Forget GSP's Return: Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw Is the Best Thing Going at UFC 217

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06:   (L-R) Opponents Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw face off during the UFC 217 news conference inside T-Mobile Arena on October 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

An ultimate truism of mixed martial arts is that feuds sell tickets.

Sure, there's a case to be made that stars or maybe sound bites or maybe even athletic merit (as ifsell tickets, but if you're looking for butts in seats, it's truly a good feud that will do it.

UFC 217 is setting out to prove as much, creating a dichotomy illustrative of the need for a proper feud in the way the main and co-main events of the pay-per-view have been structured.

In the featured bout Saturday evening, all-time welterweight great Georges St-Pierre is returning from a four-year absence to challenge middleweight champion Michael Bisping. Although the fight will likely be interesting once the cage door shuts, it has been largely dead on arrival from a promotional standpoint.

Bisping has done plenty to cajole St-Pierre into some mudslinging, but the pristine image of Canada's favorite son cannot be soiled so easily.

The Brit has tried everything obvious one might think of: mocking St-Pierre's clothes, his size and his accent. Bisping even squeezed his opponent's biceps at a presser but got little more than a smile and a playful shove in response.

That utter absence of heat between the parties is palpable, and fans can sense it. Beyond the abject curiosity of seeing two athletes who remain surprisingly capable in their late 30s fight for a title, not many people seem overly excited to watch.

You can chalk that up to the lack of a real feud. The fight is just a manufactured, money-chasing headliner.

Not long before Bisping and St-Pierre meet though, a real feud will be settled. That feud is the one that has people talking.

The co-main event between bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and former champion TJ Dillashaw pits former Team Alpha Male teammates against one another. The two best 135-pounders alive, each has a thrilling style, and anyone who has followed their careers sees the tantalizing potential of those styles clashing.

That would almost be enough on its own, but the pure hatred they have for one another takes things to another level entirely.

Garbrandt has made no secret of his disdain for Dillashaw, whom he sees as a traitorous snake deserving of a public throttling. Dillashaw, with just the appropriate degree of smug smirking, thinks Garbrandt is a young hothead who can't get a thought out without exploding.

There's been talk of gym battles, daddy issues and, of course, being afraid to fight. And it all appears to be coming from a place of genuine contempt.

What's not to love?

It's everything that makes MMA fans salivate so that they not only contemplate coughing up their hard-earned $60 on a Saturday night but also do so with enthusiasm.

Yet while Bisping and GSP are on the marquee in pictures and font almost as big as can be expected to physically fit on a poster, the good stuff is relegated to a tiny corner. That hardly seems befitting the culmination of a top-end feud years in the making.

Still, it's hard to go so far as to call it a misstep for the UFC.

The promotion is gambling on a big name from a relatively bygone era storming back to reclaim his superstar legacy, and it can't be faulted for that given the lack of big names it's been able to promote this year.

But there remains nothing truer than the idea that feuds sell tickets. Feuds put butts in the seats.

Garbrandt and Dillashaw have done all they can to put butts in the seats leading into Saturday night. 

The payoff is all that's left, and given the stakes and the talent involved, you can expect it to be the talk of the MMA world come Sunday morning.

       

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder

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