All it took was nine days for the UFC’s plans at 145 pounds to hit its first major speed bump.
Shortly after announcing that it would be opening a new women’s featherweight division, the UFC learned that the best female featherweight in the world, Invicta FC champion Cris Cyborg, had been hit with a potential anti-doping violation from USADA. And UFC president Dana White wasn’t surprised.
“If she was having health problems that were that bad, she should’ve brought it to our attention,” White said on Wednesday. “And when she kept turning down fights, when that thing came back, I wasn’t shocked. It made more sense on why she didn’t want to fight for the 145-pound title.”
The UFC offered Cyborg two title shots at 145 pounds for early 2017, however the Brazilian fighter turned down both opportunities, stating that she needed more time to recover from her dramatic weight cut down to 140 pounds for her Sept. 24 fight against Lina Lansberg.
Rather than wait, the UFC instead elected to set up an inaugural women’s featherweight title fight between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie for UFC 208. Just days later, it was revealed that Cyborg tested positive for the banned diuretic Spironolactone.
Cyborg now faces a potential one-year suspension from USADA — a suspension that could throw the UFC’s plans for 145 pounds into disarray.
“Obviously the plans that I had for 145, it didn’t go the way that I thought it was going to go,” White said. “Both of those girls wanted to fight Cyborg, and stylistically, they’re both great match-ups for Cyborg. I actually like both of those fight. Germaine and Holly are both great fights for Cyborg. Cyborg got her 145-pound title and her division, and that all blew up on me.
“Listen, Holly and Germaine will be a good fight,” White continued. “It’s a good fight, and I don’t know. I gotta see. The wheels are already in motion, so I just gotta see how this thing plays out and go from there.”
No women’s 125?
Women’s featherweight isn’t the only division that has been loudly called for by both fans and fighters over recent years.
The creation of a UFC women’s 125-pound class is one that has gained strong support of late, as the talent base at women’s flyweight is significantly greater than that at 145 pounds. But on Wednesday, White downplayed the idea of creating a fourth women’s division, stating that the UFC would not be adding any other weight classes to its ranks in 2017 other than women’s featherweight.
“That was never the plan to do that one either,” White said. ”But now we’re in, so we’ll see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe one of these two (Holm and de Randamie) will win the belt and we’ll find a contender, and I don’t know. We’ll see how the whole thing plays out though.”
End of an era
A familiar voice in the UFC broadcast booth will be gone after UFC 207.
White confirmed reports on Wednesday that the Dec. 30 show will mark the final appearance of veteran play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg in the UFC broadcast booth.
Goldberg has been a mainstay in the promotion for nearly two decades alongside his long-time partner Joe Rogan. And though White declined to specify whether the decision was Goldberg’s or the UFC’s, he did say that the UFC already has a replacement in line.
“I do,” White said. “Listen, you know we have guys right now from (Jon) Anik to several fighters who are involved. But I’ve had a plan for couple years now that I’ve been waiting for it to play out. That’s now playing out.”
White said that nothing is final, but he expects Goldberg’s replacement to be finalized and ready to debut “probably by July, if everything goes my way.”
Rousey’s coach, future
The past year hasn’t only been tough on UFC 207 headliner Ronda Rousey, but also on Rousey’s coach, Edmond Tarverdyan.
Tarverdyan has come under fire for several incidents since Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm, including his now-infamous cornering advice given to Rousey at UFC 193, as well as his run-in with Fabricio Werdum at UFC 203. The criticism has been bad enough at times that Rousey’s own mother, AnnMaria De Mars, has publicly ripped Tarverdyan and requested that her daughter leave her long-time coach.
White, however, believes the controversy surrounding Tarverdyan is much ado about nothing.
“The thing is, in my opinion of it, nobody was complaining about Edmond when she was on a tear and beating people in record time,” White said. “And then she loses a fight and that’s when everybody starts pointing the finger and saying she shouldn’t be there. That’s her decision. She’s a grown woman, she’s intelligent. She knows what she’s doing.”
White said that he has been in contact with Rousey every day in the lead-up to UFC 207, and that despite Rousey’s media blackout, the former champion is in a good place mentally ahead of her return against Amanda Nunes on Dec. 30.
White also indicated that he was confident Rousey will fight again in 2017 if things go well on Friday night, although he admitted that he was less confident about what would happen if Rousey falls to Nunes.
“She’s going to stick around,” White said. “Well, if she loses, I don’t know what she’s going to do. If she wins, she’s definitely (sticking around).”
The fact that UFC 207 takes place on a Friday, rather than the UFC’s traditional Saturday, has been a point of emphasis for the promotion in the lead-up to the year-end show. But even White slipped into old habits on Wednesday, as he closed his media session by stating that he was looking forward to the fights on “Saturday,” before having to be corrected by a member of the media.
And apparently it wasn’t a first-time gaffe for the UFC either.
“I’ve literally been reaming my whole crew,” White said, laughing. “Because we did that whole — did you see the Countdown show? It said Saturday. Even DirecTV was saying Saturday.”