Designing the Perfect UFC Pay-Per-View Event
UFC fans are in the midst of a remarkable week.
First, the promotion booked a scorcher in Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier for November. Shortly after revealing that bout (perhaps too shortly), the UFC announced Conor McGregor will also return to action later this year, as he's booked for an October tilt with lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov.
That's going to make for a fun fall. It got us to thinking, though: What if we could wave a magic wand and assemble the greatest card in history?
Let's do just that.
We'll plan for a five-fight main card and account for stakes, excitement potential and fan popularity. We've also listed a few undercard ideas as well.
No need to worry about existing matchups on the books or any of the other pesky barriers of reality. However, the following matchups only include active fighters.
Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw
Our pay-per-view opener features a pair of champions in the UFC's lightest men's divisions.
Demetrious Johnson deserves a rubber match with the new champ who just deposed him, Henry Cejudo. In time, he'll get it and probably win it.
For now, though, this is the hot topic at both flyweight and bantamweight.
Fans waited a long time to see Johnson move up to face TJ Dillashaw. It never happened. Why not let it happen now, when Cejudo and Dillashaw (especially Dillashaw) are such hot commodities?
This would be a fun matchup between two highly skilled combatants, with Cejudo bringing his Olympic wrestling against Dillashaw's razor-sharp kickboxing.
After winning their respective bouts at UFC 227, Cejudo called out Dillashaw, and Dillshaw later accepted the challenge. Dillashaw later walked back that acceptance, but this would be a breath of fresh air for these weight classes.
Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes
Cris "Cyborg" Justino is the best female MMA fighter ever. As impressive as she has been over the last decade-plus, the UFC women's featherweight champ doesn't have the public profile one might expect.
Part of that is because there aren't many worthy challengers for her at 145 pounds. No offense to the Lina Lansbergs of the world, but one-off transplants don't inspire a lot of buzz. Neither do established fighters like Holly Holm, who gamely but futilely moved up a weight class to face her.
UFC women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes might be different. She will still have a size disadvantage, but her extreme talent and toughness could pose the biggest threat yet to her fellow Brazilian.
Nunes hasn't lost since 2014. During her ensuing seven-fight win streak, the champ notched five stoppage wins.
Cyborg, meanwhile, hasn't lost since 2005. In that ensuing 21-fight unbeaten streak, she has notched 17 knockouts. She didn't go the distance in four of her five UFC contests to date.
This superfight is the best women's MMA bout that can happen today. As evidenced by their running public dialogue on the matter, both Nunes and Cyborg see the potential, too.
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
After his back-to-back defeats of legend Jose Aldo and his unification of the featherweight title, observers installed Max Holloway as a signature star for the UFC's current era. He's talented, he's fun to watch, he's tough as nails and he's a riot on the mic.
Brian Ortega is less well-known, but he has an impressive 14-0 (1) record. He has beaten a who's-who of veterans, including ex-champ Frankie Edgar, and he's built a reputation for slick grappling, ever-improving striking and a penchant for the dramatic along the way.
It doesn't hurt that he's a camera-ready California kid with a seemingly earnest desire to make life better for kids growing up in the same inhospitable conditions that he did.
Holloway is 26 years old, while Ortega is 27. A bout between the two is inevitable, and its impact will shape the division for years to come.
Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
There admittedly isn't a whole lot of imagination in this. But even before last week's announcement, this was an essential key to any such fantasy card-building. And it is your co-main event.
McGregor is the biggest star in MMA history. Nurmagomedov picked up his vacated belt, and he has the talent and punishing ground-and-pound style that would appear to be Conor Kryptonite. Oh, and there was that whole dolly-throwing incident.
When this fight goes down, expect some chatter about crowd-noise records. With Irish and Russian fans in the Las Vegas crucible, with so much bad blood and so much potential for explosive violence, this bout could be ear-splitting bedlam.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier III
While we're waving magic wands, we might as well wave one over Jon Jones and create the ultimate main event.
His ongoing legal and regulatory troubles notwithstanding, Jones would be the sport's GOAT today if he could ever get out of his own way.
Yes, he has beaten Daniel Cormier twice, and he did so rather handily each time. However, Cormier hasn't received much of a challenge from anyone outside of Jones, as evidenced by his possession of the heavyweight and light heavyweight belts.
Jones seems likely to return at some point. A trilogy matchup with Cormier would be a perfect welcome-home party for him and everyone else.
Could both belts be up for grabs on a single night? One could only hope.
Listed in no particular order:
- Daniel Cormier/Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar
- Dustin Poirier vs. Nate Diaz
- Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
- Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold
- Tyron Woodley vs. Colby Covington
- Justin Gaethje vs. Tony Ferguson
- Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens
- John Lineker vs. Marlon Moraes
- Paulo Costa vs. Israel Adesanya