STOCKHOLM – It was nothing new for Dana White and the UFC brass, the whole business of a fighter falling off a card the week of the fight.
White, the UFC’s president, talks frequently about how often that exact scenario happened to the company in 2012.
But this was a special brand of “Uh oh” for UFC on FUEL TV 9, which had Swedish headliner Alexander Gustafsson fall off four days before the event – in Stockholm.
Gustafsson’s replacement to face Gegard Mousasi at Ericsson Globe Arena was teammate Ilir Latifi, who likely hadn’t been heard of by a majority of MMA fans before this past week. And to say Latifi was an underdog is an understatement – Mousasi was as much as a 15-to-1 favorite, nearly unheard of in a UFC fight.
The public outcry from many fans was that the UFC was delivering a main event not only much less competitive than Mousasi-Gustafsson, but one that might not make the fight card worthy of their time.
And that’s something White has a problem with.
“The media didn’t do it to us this time, but some of the fans did, and it drives me crazy when people start talking s— about a card that has never even happened yet,” White said. “You know, you start saying, ‘This card sucks,’ and this and that because one guy fell off the card. This was a card full of talented people. There were talks about canceling the card and stupid s— like that.”
The show went on, of course, without Gustafsson. The main card featured three stoppages, and the prelims had four.
Including among those prelims was the UFC debut of former Cage Warriors two-division champion Conor McGregor, who announced his presence in the promotion with a 67-second TKO win over Marcus Brimage.
Cancel the card? Forget that, White said. (The UFC went down that road, now infamously, in September with the scrapping of UFC 151.)
“If you don’t put on fights, how do people like Conor McGregor, and all the other people that fought tonight – how do they get noticed if you don’t put on a show?” White asked at the post-event news conference. “And everybody who spent money tonight, whether it was a ticket to sit in the arena tonight or sat home free and watched it on television, it was worth every minute of it. These kids went out and poured their hearts out. The fights were amazing. I always feel weird saying this to grown men, but I’m proud of all the guys that fought on the card tonight.”
For more on UFC on FUEL TV 9, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
(Pictured: Dana White)