That was quick. Often times, it’s weeks or even months before the UFC makes an official announcement regarding news that breaks early across the net. Like Randy Couture’s return to the Ocatagon, however, that’s not the case with reports from yesterday that suggested the UFC would be heading to Dublin, Ireland on Jan. 17 to hold UFC 93. The UFC made it official on UFC.com earlier this morning.
Yesterday’s reports suggested Rich Franklin would be headlining the event against either Chuck Liddell, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, or Dan Henderson. Those reports were pretty accurate as Rich Franklin will fight in the night’s main event in a light heavyweight clash against Dan Henderson. That doesn’t mean Shogun won’t be on the card on though. He’ll make his return from multiple knee injuries with an opportunity to settle the score against UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman.
It’s unclear whether or not this would affect Henderson’s rumored bid to coach TUF 9 “US vs. UK,” and if this move back to light heavyweight is just a one time deal for the near future. In recent interviews, Hendo has expressed his desire to earn another shot at Anderson Silva in the middleweight division. As rumor has it, the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter would have culminated in a three-round battle between Hendo and Michael Bisping sometime in late 2009 with the winner earning a shot at the title. Since this is a light heavyweight bout, win or lose, the UFC would still be able to legitimately push Hendo as a top contender in the middleweight division, so perhaps that is their reasoning behind this. Hendo gets a high profile fight before sitting out for nearly a year, and regardless of the outcome they can still move forward in the same manner with the reality show. Makes sense to me at least.
It’s usually pretty hard to excited for a match-up that pits one of the sport’s brightest young stars against one of its past his prime legends, but Shogun vs. Coleman II is a little different. Those of you who followed PRIDE already know the story, if not, lucky for you, there’s YouTube. The whole fight including the ensuing brawl, backstage drama, and a pissed off Wanderlei Silva can be seen here. As you can see, even though it was a TKO victory for Coleman, you can’t really say Coleman actually beat him. Many think Shogun hasn’t been the same since that fight. Perhaps, this is his chance to put that all behind once and for all. That’s, of course, if these two can actually make it to the fight without seriously injuring themselves beforehand.
Oh, and one more thing. A lot of people, including myself, gave Affliction a lot of flack for the date mix up for their Golden Boy event. Remember? First, it was Jan. 17, then it was “nothing is finalized, sometime in Q1,” now it’s supposedly Jan. 24. Perhaps, Affliction is smarter than we give them credit for, and they just floated Jan. 17 out there to bait the UFC into scheduling a live counter-programming event. Either that or it was completely unintentional and Affliction really doesn’t know what’s going on. I’m going to go with the former. It makes the feud that much more interesting to think the underdog just outsmarted the reigning champ.
[UPDATE 10/01/08 6:15PMET] – I gave Affliction too much credit. According to Dave Meltzer, they really were planning on Jan. 17.
While not officially announced, Affliction and Golden Boy had booked the same date at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and gotten approval by the California State Athletic Commission, for its inaugural combined boxing and MMA show.
“They are going to do what they are going to do,” said Affliction promoter Tom Atencio. “It doesn’t make sense to go head-to-head with them. People are going to be forced to make a choice. Either way, we both lose.”
Lucky for Affliction, the UFC has made their official announcement, and there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why Affliction can’t move the date, so I would expect that’s what they’ll end up doing.
Meltzer also had an interesting excerpt at the end of story worth posting.
UFC president Dana White has said in the past he really doesn’t believe running a free special opposite an Affliction pay-per-view will hurt the buy rate, saying the hardcore fans who want to buy that show are going to buy the show. Atencio believed otherwise, thinking UFC running a live show on cable on July 19 against the company’s debut cost them tens of thousands of buys.
Many, including myself, give Dana White quite a bit of heat for a lot of the things he does, but don’t forget he’s not the highest man on the totem pole.