Welcome to the first edition of Fight Game Media’s Three Rounds, where a panel of experts tackle three rounds of questions concerning what is going on in the MMA world. With this being the first edition, we are looking at doing this regularly? weekly? bi-weekly? It kind of depends on how quick the fighting world gets back to normal.
Today, I, Ryan Frederick, am joined by Fight Game Media contributors Paul Fontaine and Chris DePetrillo, and Fight Game Media editor-in-chief Garrett Gonzales as we look ahead to a big weekend in the UFC world.
1. How do you feel about the UFC returning right now during this stage of the pandemic?
Paul: I feel better about it than I did when they were originally going to come back in mid-April. Enough time has passed, basically without incident, with WWE and AEW running closed set shows that I think it’s as safe as it can be now. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think that UFC fights will play better in this setting than pro wrestling matches do. The one empty arena show they did in Brazil did not visually look all that much differently from a normal show. I am worried that they will try to rush into having shows with fans before it’s safe to do so but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Chris: Quite honestly, I’ve very excited for them to return. I know that we’re not out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic is concerned, and I would hope that proper measures to ensure fighter safety is being utilized. The sports fan inside of me is salivating for new content, and for something I follow closely like UFC to be one of the first live sports to return makes me happy. I just don’t want the return of frequent UFC events to jeopardize anyone’s well being.
GG: I’m completely conflicted in my feelings, but that’s because I, like tons of other sports fans, am ready to watch something for real. From the health perspective of all of it, I’d feel much better if the UFC was following the bio-dome situation that’s been mentioned prior where quarantining is done before and after the event. Because we don’t know the safety precautions and Dana’s unwillingness to be public about it, it’s hard to have an educated opinion on it.
The other thing I haven’t heard mentioned relates to weight cutting. I can’t imagine it’s going to be easy to cut weight for anyone. If more than usual miss weight, how does that factor into this? Are we going to have several fights where one or both are above the contracted weight? And how does that play into the safety of it all?
Ryan: I certainly am ready for fighting to resume. I think enough time has passed by, and I’ve always felt that coming back in May under the right circumstances was a good idea, and they are handling everything well. Attempting to run April 18 was ill-advised, but this doesn’t feel that way at all, especially with other major sports getting close to returning. There are risks, but there are risks in other sports coming back as well. As a fan, I’m very pumped for fights to returning. As a traveling media member with friends in the company, I fully trust the steps they are implementing to keep everyone safe and sound. I can’t wait for Saturday.
2. What three fights are you looking forward to the most on the UFC 249 card?
Paul: Obviously the main event. Ferguson is one of my three favorite fighters in the sport and if I extended that list to five, Gaethje is probably in there as well. Cerrone vs. Pettis is a fun fight and it’s really up in the air who will win. This is the type of fight that both guys should be taking at this stage of their careers. Third would be the heavyweight fight between Aleksei Oleinik and Fabricio Werdum. It’s a fight that could end at any moment and by any manor and for that, I feel like I’ll be on the edge of my seat for as long as it lasts.
Chris: This is such a loaded card that this is a tougher question than normal. For me, I’m looking forward to Pettis vs. Cerrone because they’ve always been two of my favorites to watch. Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik is a fight that I’m hyped for because it’s the one fight where I’m having trouble picking a clear cut winner. Finally, I think that both Ferguson and Gaethje are out to prove that they belong in that upper echelon of UFC fighters, and the battle for the interim Lightweight Title will prove to be worthy of a big card main event.
GG: For this card, choosing three is tough. I’m going with the main event between Ferguson and Gaethje as both men are highly skilled crazy men. I can’t imagine this fight disappoints. I’m also going with Stephens and Kattar and lastly, how can you not be psyched to see Cerrone and Pettis battle? Think Cerrone wants a little revenge there?
Ryan: It would be easy to say the main event, and while I am looking forward to it, I’m going to choose three other fights. I am completely in love with the fight between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz. Despite Cruz being out for almost four years, I feel it is the best fight that could be made at 135 pounds. I also love Francis Ngannou against Jairzinho Rozenstruik. I think we will see a knockout and they are heavy hitters. I also love the fight between Uriah Hall and Jacare Souza. Hall seems to finally coming into a more complete fighter, and Souza is always dangerous. That one should be fun as well.
3. Where do you think UFC 249 measures up to other stacked UFC cards in the past?
Paul: Losing the women’s title fights hurts. At the end of the day it’s headlined by an interim title fight and a fight where a guy who hasn’t fought in three years and is probably way past his prime is fighting for the title. The prelims are stacked, which should be good for the ESPN numbers, but I think this show would be maybe the 3rd or 4th deepest show in terms of fight quality most years. With the Nunes fight added, it would probably be in the “card of the year” territory.
Chris: Interest wise, I don’t feel it’s getting as much love as it deserves to among the mainstream and casual watchers, but that’s a given under the current circumstances. Among myself and other MMA fans that I talk to, it’s been a hot topic of discussion for a variety of reasons. The card is stacked from top to bottom, and it’s obvious this card was created with the idea of blowing people away with exciting fights that will give people a reason to tune in. Speaking purely from the matchmaking standpoint, if most (if not all) of the fights deliver, this could go down as one of the most must see UFC shows of all-time.
GG: Up and down the card, I don’t think there’s ever been as much talent stacked throughout the early prelims and prelims. Though, from a main event standpoint, it’s not nearly the level of fight that’s going to be a true mover of business. Though, hardcore UFC fans have to be frothing at the mouth for this one.
The one thing I’m slightly worried about is that we may not be getting everyone in their best possible shape. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone will be at their best. Does that make for better fights? But does it also make it more dangerous? Are the fighters on this card the guinea pigs and are they fighting too soon? I guess we’ll have some answers this weekend.
Ryan: I think it matches up well with other stacked cards, but I don’t think it’s the most stacked show in history. I think UFC 100, UFC 200 and UFC 205 were more stacked, and it matches up well with events like UFC 194 and UFC 214. It definitely lost something when Amanda Nunes pulled out, and while Gaethje is a fantastic replacement, if Ferguson was still fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov with what’s on the rest of this card, then it might be the top. It’s still probably going to be the most stacked event of the year.