The latest string of bad news to hit the UFC and its fans is that the main event for UFC 79: Nemesis is no more; postponed because Serra has suffered a back injury while training for the fight. According to Serra it is a herniated disc and there is no word yet on a timetable for his return. If he needs surgery, the fight could be pushed all the back to UFC 83 or later (which were talking about late March – April now). Now not only does the ‘Nemesis’ card need a new main event — a title fight being preferred — it also could probably use a new name and it definitely needs to have its website, preview and poster all redone.
However, those are all issues that take a back seat to a welterweight division that will now be going a year without a title fight. The two number one contenders — Matt Hughes (scheduled to fight Serra) and GSP (presumably waiting for winner) — are now also on the shelf. This is a major problem because not only are they going to get a little rusty but going a year or so without fighting is not good for anyone’s career, nor is it good for the fans. Georges St.-Pierre in particular is in the prime of his career, has a huge legion of fans that support him and is one of the top draws in the sport let alone the UFC organization. To have him sitting on the sidelines is not only bad for St.-Pierre but it is bad for business and it sucks for the fans.
It was obviously a bad idea in the first place to set up Hughes and Serra as coaches on TUF season 6 series, delaying Serra’s first title defense an extra 5 months. Hopefully, White learns his lesson and never ties up a title holder by making him a coach or whatever else again.
The UFC is in a very bad spot right now. Fans want to see title fights and the only title that is being put up for grabs consistently right now is the Middleweight title with Anderson Silva maintaining a vice-like grip on it. With Couture’s situation the Heavyweight title is on the shelf for at least another couple of months. Rampage is out for about the same amount of time with a hand injury so that leaves the Light Heavyweight belt on the shelf and then we don’t even want to get into the issues going on with Sean Sherk and his Lightweight belt.
What is the UFC to do? Well first they need to act quickly and restore order with its fans. UFC 78: Validation was a very weak promotion and 77 wasn’t that much better. With the legion of talented fighters that they have, many of whom badly in need of fights they need to find a replacement for the 79 card. My suggestion? Hurry up and sign Arlovski to a new deal and put him up against Cro Cop if he’s ready and willing or Kongo if not. You can’t push up the Penn–Stevenson interim title fight because you’ve already started selling tickets to that event. If the Arlovski fight isn’t an option then you either get an agreement with Couture and Nogueira and move that to 79 or you try your damndest to move Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson to 79 (Henderson has been training awhile now and we know that Silva is always ready to go).
After that is fixed you find out just how long Serra is out for. If he needs surgery you strip him of the title ASAP. In my opinion it should immediately become a UFC policy that if you don’t defend your title every 8 months at MINIMUM you forfeit the belt. Yes injuries are part of the game but this is a business and when a title holder goes down the other fighters lose out, it’s completely unfair to the fans, to the other fighters and to the organization; essentially it’s just tough luck. If it’s not a serious injury then you give that stripped title holder an automatic rematch when he comes back. Call it an interim belt if you want to but I don’t see the need. Just strip the fighter of the belt.
I personally think that Serra is out until April probably so he should be stripped, GSP vs. Hughes should be scheduled for UFC 80 and then Serra can fight the winner in April. Meanwhile you have Fitch and Koscheck fighting different opponents at 82 and I think if Fitch beats his opponent he becomes next in line.
Stay tuned for thoughts on what the UFC needs to do to clear up the mess with the other titles.