This ignorant fan dares to submit that there is not. These thoughts come to mind after not one- but two- interim title bouts were announced as main and co-main events for UFC 236: Max Holloway vs. Dustin Porier for the interim Lightweight Championship & Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum for the Interim middleweight championship of the world. For the purposes of this entry, we’re only considering the Holloway vs. Porier bout , since that is the one that has the potential to create more gridlock in the lightweight ranks, the very thing the matchmakers think these decisions are supposed to avoid.
In my analysis, I’m operating under 3 premises: 1. A Champion is one who beat the previous champion to get the belt. 2. A champion defends his belt. 3. To be a champ-champ, one must meet criteria 1 & 2 in two different weight classes. With these criteria in mind let’ts examine the previous so called “champ-champ’s”
- Cornor McGregor (21-4): Starched Jose Aldo in a mere 13 seconds with that infamous left -hand from hell at UFC 194 , both winning and unifying the featherweight( 145 lbs) championship. He then humiliated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden -at that time the biggest stage the promotion had ever booked- to steal away the lightweight( 155 lb). So he meets the first and third criteria. But he was immediately stripped of the first belt as soon as he won the 2nd. He was then later stripped of the LW belt after 18 months of inactivity. Conclusion: While he’s done wonders for bringing the sport to mainstream fans and media as the company’s first legit superstar, he is no champ-champ.
- Daniel “DC” Cormier (21-1-1): Surely he’s a champ-champ right? He was the light heavyweight(205 lbs) champion, moved up to heavyweight ( <265 lbs) and knocked out arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time in Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. Then defended the HW belt against Derrick ” The Black Beast” Lewis at UFC 229 in a not-even-remotely competitive bout that was booked on short notice to fill a main event slot at MSG, which he won with the most easily attained rear naked choke I’ve ever seen, a foregone conclusion as soon as he got the first takedown. So he meets first and second criteria for the heavyweight belt . But wait… I dare postulate that he was never the legitimate LHW champion in the first place. He lost to John “Bones” Jones in his first bout with the reigning champ. He won the vancant LHW belt after Jones was stripped due to some legal troubles outside the octagon, which he successfully defended against formidable opponents to his credit. Then he i lost it agan to Jones when he made his return after a 14 month layoff. Then accepted the LHW title again – per his own admission ,for purely financial motivations – when Jones was stripped yet again, this time for a failed PED test. DC was then stripped of the LHW belt( he’ll argue that he vacated it) when Jones made his third bid for the belt when he returned again after an 15 month suspension and reclaimed it at UFC 229. The whole point of this long ramble is that he never beat the champ at 205 lbs, so he never was the champ at 205 lbs. So he doesn’t meet the criteria. Conclusion: While he is arguably one of the p4p greatest athletes in the sport, and the reigning defending undisputed HW champion of the world, he is no champ-champ.
- Amanda Nunes: Wins Women’s Bantamweight (135 lbs) belt from Meisha Tate at UFC 200. Defends it 3 times. Check. Moves up to Featherweight (145 lbs) and knocks out the scariest woman on he planet Cris Cyborg to become the first woman in the promotion’s history to win a belt in a 2nd division. Check. However, she took to social media to insinuate that she would never gain that weight again. So it remains to be seen if she would ever defend her 2nd belt. Conclusion: Though her body of work has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is the greatest female mixed martial artist on the planet, it is yet to be seen if she’ll defend her FW belt. So she’s not a champ-champ.
- Ryan Bader: Bellator LHW and HW champion. Conclusion: TBD.
This now brings me back to the headline for UFC 236, set for April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA. In yet another effort to avoid gridlock and stagnation in the lightweight ranks because of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s suspension until summer 2019 ( per UFC 229 post -fight brawl outside the octagon) Dana White is putting another interim LW title on the line by asking the men’s FW champion Max Holloway to try to avenge his loss to to Dustin Porier. Admittedly, this is the point of an interim belt- to determine number one contendership while the divison champion is benched. While I’m as excited to see Max Holloway fight as any other MMA fan, I can’t help but think of the negative implications for the ranks if he were emerge victorious, holding two belts( so… he’d be a “Champ-Interim champ”?) History has shown that no fighter ever defends both belts, so one of the two divisions is going to become stagnant with no one in the top 5 being able to get a title shot.
The message: Dana- stop it with the champ vs. champ fights and interim belts, which are a transparent ploy to sell PPV’s and which in my opinion has been played out. Holloway vs. Porier is compelling by it’s own merit given that it’s a rematch between two competitors who are both far more experienced and meeting at a higher weight class than their first meeting. You already have my money for the pay-per-view. I’m all in. I’m tired of hearing Luke Thomas complain about you on the MMABeat every Thursday. Please don’t give him more reasons to do so.
Stay tuned for future post, where I’ll discuss more broadly the usefulness and validity of interim belts, and the implications they have for the fighters, the promotion, and the fans.