The Successes and Setbacks of UFC 300

Even though UFC 300 faced major setbacks and failed to reach the expectations set by company president Dana White, the UFC 300 will go down as one of the greatest fight cards in UFC history as it celebrates the company’s past, present, and future with some of their biggest names featured from the early prelims to the main event

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By Ivy Zheng

The UFC will be celebrating 300 pay-per-view events next month in Las Vegas with one of the greatest cards in the league’s history. The UFC has historically attempted to deliver their best fight cards for their centennial events, as exemplified by the UFC 100 in 2009. That event delivered on its high expectations, celebrating many fighters such as legend of the Pride Fight Championship era, Dan Henderson, reigning champions Georges St-Pierre and Brock Lesnar, and future legend Jon Jones. In 2016, UFC 200 had the makings to be the greatest card of all time, but was cursed with two canceled main events and left as a shell of its former self. Conor McGregor was initially set to have his rematch with Nate Diaz, but was removed after McGregor refused to do promotional material. Their new main event, Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier 2, was canceled three days before the event due to Jones taking performance-enhancing drugs. As a last resort, the UFC was forced to have Miesha Tate vs Amanda Nunes headline the card as it was the only title fight left.

This year, however, UFC president Dana White was looking to rectify the mistakes made in the last milestone event. He had been hyping up this card months before the first fight was even announced as jaw-dropping and must-see television. “What you can expect [from UFC 300] is for you to be going, ‘This is the first prelim of the night? This isn’t right. These two shouldn’t even be on the prelims,’” White said in an interview with TNT Sports. To an extent, he is correct. The first fight of the night features Deiveson Figueiredo vs Cody Garbrandt, two former champions. While this is a fight fans cannot miss, this placement was done because of the terrible bout order. It would be understandable if a ranked fighter would be on the main card, but they aren’t. Instead, undefeated prospect Bo Nickal is given a placement on the main card over fan favorites and former champions. While the UFC is trying to push Nickal as one of the faces of the company, this choice only causes fans to resent him since the league is promoting him over established names. It would be understandable if he was fighting someone of note, but the promotion matched him up against journeyman Cody Brundage, who has a lackluster 10-5 record. In addition, notoriously boring fighters such as Holly Holm, despite being a former champion, generated no hype with her bout against Olympic Judo silver medalist, Kayla Harrison. The addition of these fights had stretched the meaning of “stacked from top to bottom” for most, leaving the company president seeming disingenuous and incompetent.

But as fights kept getting added, a majority of the fights proved to justify some of White’s hyperbole. The prelims will feature rising superstar Diego Lopes against the heavy-handed Sodiq Yusuff, knockout artist Jalin Turner against the loud-mouthed Renato “Money” Moicano, and a battle between UFC veterans, Bobby Green and Jim Miller. Miller is the only active fighter to be on UFC 100 and 200, so placing him on this card was a no-brainer. Former Bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling will be moving up to face Calvin Kattar in a classic New York vs Boston rivalry. Charles Oliveira and Jiri Prochazka, fighters known to bring violence every time they step into the octagon, will be opening up the main card and headlining the prelims respectively against surging top five contenders, Arman Tsarukyan and Aleksandar Rakic. The feature fight will be a lightweight bout between Justin Gaethje and former Featherweight champion, Max Holloway for the BMF title. In school-appropriate terms, it is a battle for the title of “most violent man in the UFC”. Zhang Weili, Strawweight champion and arguably the women’s pound-for-pound number one fighter, will face the number one contender, Yan Xiaonan, in the first-ever bout between two Chinese fighters in the promotion in the co-main event.

The most important piece missing in the UFC 300 puzzle was its main event. As the weeks went by, there was still no sign of the main event, even though they are usually one of the first fights to be announced for a pay-per-view card. Fans had already conjured up predictions for the UFC 300 card with all of the sport’s biggest superstars, but none of them were anywhere to be found on the actual bout order. Conor McGregor had shot down the possibility of headlining against fellow lightweight contender, Michael Chandler, in a video he posted at the start of the year. Jon Jones was recovering from a torn pectoral that canceled his bout against Stipe Miocic this past November. Meanwhile, other superstars such as Islam Makhachev and Israel Adesanya had other circumstances such as Ramadan or were completely radio silent. 

The UFC panicked. There was no way they could deliver a historic card when they couldn’t get even one of their current superstars to headline. Thus, they turned to their last resort: UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira, whom they allegedly intended to save as the headliner for UFC 301 in Brazil. He had always been open to the idea of being on UFC 300 and 301. “Guys, let’s focus on what matters, which is Jamahal [Hill], and then I’ll focus on beating another record in making two title defenses in the shortest possible time,” Pereira said in an Instagram post. While Alex Pereira deserves to be named a headliner of a milestone card as the result of his meteoric rise to the highest level in the UFC, doing so almost felt like an admittance of defeat from the company. Pereira’s title defense against former UFC light heavyweight champion, Jamahal Hill, was expected as implied in Pereira’s post. There is nothing wrong with the bout itself—in fact, it has fireworks written all over it. The issue is that this was expected to happen. This was not some monumental main event but rather a standard title defense. 

The struggle to find a main event has only highlighted the UFC’s recent incompetency. If White wanted it to be as monumental as he claimed it would be, he would have set up these matchups months in advance and not scrambled to find a main event two months out. His attempts to still hype up the main event just characterized him even harder as a desperate fool. “There could actually be a documentary right now being shot behind the scenes to build UFC 300”, Dana White said in an interview on the Full Send Podcast. If there was, it would have shown the textbook definitions of overpromising and under-delivering. Yet the final product is still one of the greatest cards of all time. Whether it is a testament to the greatness of the card or the low standards set by the UFC recently is up to whomever you ask. But White was correct in stating that this card is unprecedented because the number of former champions and rising superstars that occupy only the prelims has never been seen before. Despite that, to feed UFC bottom feeders to potential stars and have one of your most boring fighters as your “super fight” is disingenuous and does explain some of the fan backlash. Nevertheless, this will be a card to tune in to from start to finish.