Waiting is the Hardest Part: Should Fighters Stay Active or Sit and Wait for Title Shot?


Rashad Evans UFC 114

Rashad Evans

The debate has raged for what seems like forever.

Should a fighter sit out and wait when given an opportunity to fight for a title or should they continue to compete if the champion is injured or unable to step in at a certain date?

The subject has come up several times in the past few months, and reached fever pitch after former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans opted to sit out and wait to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua after an injury pushed back their original fight day in 2010.

The fight was rescheduled for UFC 128 in March 2011, but this time it was Evans who ended up dropping out of the fight with a knee injury. Evans’ former teammate Jon Jones stepped in and went on to claim the light heavyweight title in a one-sided beatdown of Rua.

Evans was then slated to face Jones for the title, but the new champion has been dealing with a recurring thumb injury that forced him to delay the fight. Now Evans will fight Phil Davis at UFC 133 in Philadelphia. If he loses, he obviously forgoes his chance to fight for the title.

Despite the outcome, Evans says he has no regrets about waiting for his shot at the title. As a matter of fact, even if he knew the outcome ahead of time, he still would have sat out and waited.

“I still would have waited,” Evans told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “I think besides the fact that I didn’t get to fight there’s other things that I got to accomplish in the whole time I was off as far as personal business I want to do outside of fighting, you know when fighting is said and done.

“You think about it, a lot of professional athletes they never really get a chance to see what they could do outside of the sport while they’re in the sport cause the sport keeps them so busy.”

UFC president Dana White has argued all along with fighters sitting out and waiting for title shots. He believes that fighters should stay active and not miss out on paychecks and keeping busy just for the chance to fight for the belt.

He also points to the situation that happened with Junior dos Santos, who opted not to sit out and wait when UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was injured and put out of action for several months.

“You get in these positions, look at dos Santos. He could lose and lose that spot. If Rashad lost, yeah, Rashad could lose the spot to (Davis),” White commented.

“(Rashad) sat out and missed opportunities and so now you’re back in line. Then a guy gets hurt, a guy gets hurt, it keeps happening. You don’t know. When you get an opportunity in this business you jump on it and you take it.”

The case that most people point to when it comes to fighters missing an opportunity for a title shot is the situation that happened with former UFC welterweight Karo Parisyan a few years back.

Parisyan had been scheduled to face then champion Matt Hughes for the UFC title, but he suffered a sternum injury in training and had to drop out of the fight. Due to several circumstances and the fact that the division kept moving while he was injured, Parisyan never got a shot at the title.

Anthony Pettis at WEC 48

Anthony Pettis at WEC 48

While title opportunities are rare, fighters ultimately have to decide whether they want to keep busy and stay active and risk it, or sit out and still possibly miss out on a title shot like what happened to Evans.

Former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis was riding on top of the world after defeating Ben Henderson to win the belt. Following that fight, Pettis was scheduled to meet the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard in the UFC to unify the lightweight titles between the two promotions.

What ended up happening is something no one would have predicted.

Edgar and Maynard ended up battling to a five-round draw in January. At that point, Pettis and his management team at MMA Inc. opted to take another fight, which headlines this weekend’s “Ultimate Fighter” finale, instead of sitting and waiting for Edgar and Maynard to fight again and then facing the winner.

Now more than ever, it looks like Pettis made the right decision because Edgar and Maynard both ended up with injuries further delaying their title fight rematch, which would have put the final WEC champion on the shelf for an unknown amount of time.

“Look what would have happened to Pettis if he would have waited. That speaks volumes. Look at Rashad Evans,” Pettis’ manager, Mike Roberts, told MMAWeekly.com.

“A few weeks ago is when we found out about Edgar and Maynard falling out, and all the fight cards are already booked. The soonest Anthony would have been able to fight would have been September. A couple months short of a year off, that’s way too long.”

Now because of the injuries to Edgar and Maynard it’s more likely that Pettis will end up fighting a second time before he gets a title shot, but he’ll still be keeping busy and off the proverbial shelf.

UFC lightweight Jim Miller keeps a similar mindset to what Pettis has when it comes to his activity versus waiting in line for a title shot. The New Jersey native may very well be the top contender at 155 pounds, but he’s taken short notice fights, and keeps as active as anyone on the UFC’s lightweight roster.

While Miller was never guaranteed a title shot, he has very well earned it. But if the call for a title shot came from the UFC tomorrow, but it meant he’d be out for a long time before fighting, he’d pass on the title shot and stay busy in the cage.

“If they were saying Jim you get the next title shot, (but) it’s not going to be till the end of the year, I’d rather throw another fight in there,” Miller stated.

There is no one right or wrong answer when it comes to a top contender opting to sit out or not sit out waiting for a title shot, but the numbers seem to favor staying busy and keeping active because there are no guarantees.

Ultimately it comes down to the fighter and the people around them to make the best business decision.


Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
Follow
@DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon a question or comment.


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