5 UFC championship fights we never got a chance to see
Take a deep dive into UFC history and explore title fights that never happened.
Throughout the history of the UFC, there have been dozens of high-profile championship fights that have captured the imagination of fans everywhere. Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 2, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor, and Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn 1 & 2 are just a select few fights that helped enhance the growth and popularity of MMA.
On the flip side, however, fans have had their heartstrings pulled when a championship fight gets axed last minute. Those can get rebooked, right? A lot of times, yes. But other times, it just wasn’t meant to be. And sometimes, it was actually for the better.
Over the course of two decades, the UFC has seen its fair share of championship fights simply never happen, despite multiple bookings or attempts to make them a reality.
Here are five examples of the most heartbreaking title fights that didn’t happen.
1. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson — UFC 249
This fight goes without saying. Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson have been linked to one another for six years. Injuries from both men derailed the fight on four separate occasions between 2015 and 2018 before the fight was rescheduled for a fifth time ahead of UFC 249, which was scheduled to headline a pay-per-event in Brooklyn, New York.
Of course, as we all know, the coronavirus derailed the potential mega-fight and put a complete stop to the world as we knew it. April 18, 2020, the date the event was originally going to take place, is a day that will live in MMA infamy. The fight was canceled once again and was never rebooked.
Ferguson would go on to lose to Justin Gaethje in in an interim title bout, and then Nurmagomedov retired officially ending any chances of a fight ever happening.
2. Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson — UFC 151
In 2012, the UFC’s three biggest stars were Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, and Georges St-Pierre. Jones was the reigning light heavyweight champion and had just come off of a one-sided victory against former training partner and rival, Rashad Evans. Jones was now seeking his next challenger, and Dan Henderson was the division’s No. 1 contender at the time.
Up until UFC 151, the promotion had never postponed or cancelled an event. Then, all of the sudden, disaster struck.
Less than a week before the event, the UFC received word that Henderson, a former Strikeforce and PRIDE FC champion, had partially torn his MCL and would be unable to make the fight. Of course, as it had done many times before, the promotion scrambled to find an opponent for Jones, until they did. Chael Sonnen had lost his UFC 148 rematch to Silva in July, but was ready to return to action in the fall if needed. Sonnen then accepted the Jones fight after hearing of the situation, as it looked the event was saved.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Jones refused to fight Sonnen and the card was canceled due to a lack of time to restructure a pay-per-view main event.
3. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor — UFC 196
McGregor had just dethroned Jose Aldo for the featherweight championship and wanted to do something that no fighter had ever done — become a champ-champ. Now a common trend in MMA, McGregor’s bold proclamations about his fighting future were the stuff of epic proportions. When then-lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, was scheduled to face McGregor, it felt like a new era was beginning to emerge.
After a pre-fight press conference between the two men, along with a bit of build-up as the fight was nearing its peak, the entire MMA world was changed forever. Dos Anjos had suffered a broken foot just 10 days prior to the bout, which forced the UFC to find a new main event to save the card once again.
Unlike the UFC 151 fiasco, the promotion was successful in its new opponent search, as Nate Diaz stepped in to face McGregor. Of course, this led to Diaz and McGregor putting on two of the best back-to-back fights the sport has ever seen.
As for dos Anjos, he would go on to lose his title to Eddie Alvarez in July 2015 and the fight never materialized again. McGregor eventually defeated Alvarez in his first defense to claim double-champ status.
4. Jon Jones vs. Anthony Johnson — UFC 187
Before Anthony Johnson put himself in a position to compete in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, Johnson was on a career resurgence in the UFC and was knocking on the door of a long-awaited title shot in May 2015.
Jones was still dominating the light heavyweight division and had no signs of slowing down in the Octagon. The law, however, was a different story. Ahead of his fight with Johnson, Jones was forced to relinquish his light heavyweight title after a hit-and run incident suspended the champion indefinitely.
As for Johnson, he remained part of the UFC 187 main event and faced Daniel Cormier before losing by submission. The fight was never rescheduled again, as both Jones and Johnson went on two separate paths in the subsequent years after the cancellation.
5. Dominick Cruz vs. Renan Baraõ — UFC 169
A lesser-known cancellation to some, Dominick Cruz and Renan Beraó was the dream bantamweight fight that nearly came to fruition. At the time, Beraó was in the midst of a 10-year unbeaten streak that saw him become the undisputed bantamweight champion in the process. Cruz, however, was the division’s first champion upon the UFC-WEC merger, but could never stay healthy. Because of those injuries, he was stripped of his title while inactive.
The injury bug struck again when Cruz-Baraó was cancelled after Cruz tore his groin in training ahead of their UFC 169 clash. Baraó would go on to face Cruz’s rival, Urijah Faber, in a rematch instead, as the Brazilian made short work of the former WEC champion.
Cruz would eventually go on to regain his bantamweight title, while Baraó never returned to championship form shortly thereafter.
Published at Mon, 09 Aug 2021 00:55:45 +0000