On Saturday night in Houston, Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane will fight for the heavyweight championship at UFC 265. The interim heavyweight championship.
So why is this happening? Because Dana White, who can’t wait to show off his hotel suite in Houston that’s the entire floor of a five-star hotel with a basketball court and laser shooting range, wants to make as much money as possible. And championship fights equal money.
The BADDEST hotel room I have ever stayed in. The Post Oak in Houston TX♬ original sound - DanaWhite
The real heavyweight champion of the UFC is Francis Ngannou, who won the belt with a knockout of Stipe Miocic on March 27th of this year. It was his fifth-straight win by KO, four of which lasted 71 seconds or less. Ngannou is clearly the best and most dominant fighter in the world, and he’s a deserving title holder.
But he didn’t get back in the octagon quickly enough for White, who wanted him to fight tonight in Houston. When Ngannou’s team said he needed more time, he offered to fight just a few weeks later in September, but that wasn’t good enough for the UFC President.
And so the winner of tonight’s “interim” belt likely gets Ngannou next to unify the two titles. One of which likely shouldn’t exist in the first place.
The negotiations about fighter pay in the UFC continue unabated, with fighters receiving about 20% of the company revenue which is a fraction of any major American sport. So when you call yourself a major sport, but pay the fighters a fraction of what other sports do, it seems those fighters should at least have some control over their calendar as well.
The UFC puts a title on them, but as they also love to remind people, they’re all independent contractors. It’s also why the UFC doesn’t feel responsible for their long-term health care costs despite locking them into contracts where they’re unable to fight for other organizations.
So if a fighter with a title doesn’t sprint to get back in the cage, and they just put a belt on someone else ... doesn’t that devalue a championship in the first place?
This is no knock to Lewis or Gane, who are both outstanding fighters in the showcase division of MMA. But to call what they’re fighting for a championship just devalues what championships in combat should be.