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At UFC 238, the question of why a title fight has to headline an Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view card is being brought up again. In the main event, flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is moving up in weight to fight Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight crown. It’s a solid fight, no doubt, but is it the bout fans want to see the most? I doubt it.
Instead, the main attraction is Donald Cerrone vs. Tony Ferguson. To this point, the UFC even posted a promo dubbing it the “People’s Main Event.”
Ferguson is riding an 11-fight winning streak with wins over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee, Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza and countless others. The 35-year-old has tasted UFC gold, albeit interim, and could arguably be the toughest matchup for Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Meanwhile, Cerrone is riding a three-fight winning streak and is now 2-0 since his move back down to lightweight. “Cowboy” has said he is really chasing after the belt since his son was born. He knocked out surging prospect Alexander Hernandez and then beat Al Iaquinta rather easily.
Both Ferguson and Cerrone are fan favorites, and even other UFC fighters mention how this is the fight they are most looking forward to. “I think that is going to be a super exciting fight,” said Sijara Eubanks. Kevin Lee also mentioned that it was a good fight. “If you start to sit down and analyze it, there are a lot of moving parts in that,” said the welterweight. There is no doubt this is what people will pay to watch.
To only limit this fight to three rounds because it is not a title fight is nonsense. This is the best fight on the card and bound to be one of the most anticipated fights of the year. The two will go at it and make it a fun-filled 15 minutes if it goes that long.
Not only will it be an exciting fight, but if the Las Vegas-based promotion is looking for casuals to buy this card, it’s likely most will know Ferguson and Cerrone over other fighters on this bill.
This conversation happens all the time, and it was brought up again when it was reported Conor McGregor turned down a fight against Cerrone because he would be the co-main event of a pay-per-view. Dana White’s excuse was the fact that non-title fight main events do not sell well. However, the facts don’t back that up. Both UFC 196 and UFC 202 were headlined by a non-title fight in McGregor vs. Diaz. It wound up doing 1.317 million buys the first time and 1.65 million buys for the rematch. Most combat sports fans want to see fights that are interesting and big-name bouts. If a title is on the line or not, it doesn’t matter, and those two events back that up.
In the ESPN+ era where fewer and fewer people are buying pay-per-views, as it was estimated under 100,000 people bought UFC 236, it is time for the UFC to stop forcing title fights to headline cards.
If you had the option of only seeing Ferguson vs. Cerrone or Cejudo vs. Moraes, the majority may pick the former.
So, people’s main event or not, it’s time for it to actually become the real main event.