clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

So now that all we’re back to MMA, what’s on tap for the rest of 2017?

Esther Lin, Showtime

Now that we’ve had our wild weekend with Floyd Mayweather down at the Oasis, it’s back to regular old MMA for MMA. So how does the post-boxalyptic world of the UFC look? Like a street littered with party horns, empty cups and discarded beads after Mardi Gras. It’s a damn sober sight for those hoping to continue living it up big — enough to give you the shakes.

It turns out Jon Jones’ blood is clean, but his fate is still hinging on the B sample of his hot UFC 214 urine test (more on him shortly). Ronda Rousey, who just got hitched, doesn’t look to be coming back from regular life. As for Conor McGregor, who shut down the UFC’s regularly scheduled programs in August with his foray into boxing, nobody really knows what happens next. The only thing that feels certain is he’ll come back a changed man from the one that left.

Without the Big Three competing, the UFC would appear totally fu

But wait, hold on a second, hold on — let’s focus on some positives before we go there. Former champ Georges St-Pierre is coming back after a four-year sabbatical at UFC 217, and that can’t help but be a welcome thing. It’s true he’s fighting Michael Bisping for the middleweight title (which has some banging their heads against the wall), but GSP was the outsized MMA star before those aforementioned transcendent stars came along. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up in the cage after so long away. Or actually, if his style will even be acceptable to a public which had grandfathered his wrestle-first mentality to his burgeoning title run, back to when such a thing could still be considered riveting.

So that’s good.

There are other intrigues to be found on upcoming slate, too. Cody Garbrandt is returning in November for a grudge match with T.J. Dillashaw, which is a very nice fight for the bantamweight title. Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson can break the UFC record with his eleventh title defense next weekend in Edmonton at UFC 215 against Ray Borg. And at some point Justin Gaethje will fight Eddie Alvarez, which will be like watching heavenly bodies turn to pure white light energy before our eyes, while Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will eventually crush another hapless victim.

Between those people and Francis Ngannou, it’s all going to be okay.

It helps the Big Event hangover that McGregor came out of that Mayweather fight with his head up. He didn’t win, but he certainly didn’t lose, at least not in the grand scheme of things. At worst, lasting ten rounds with Mayweather (50-0) just compelled some of us to try and rank our own gullibility. And you know what, considering all that could have happened, we’ll take that! Now McGregor can come back for a monolithic trilogy bout with Nate Diaz, or a title defense at 155 pounds, or both. At this point, it’s wide open for McGregor, who can just about call his shots.

Then again, these are uncertain times. It remains to be seen how all this will work. McGregor wants equity in the ownership, and if his historic weekend with Mayweather told us anything, it’s that he has leverage to do just about any damn thing he wants. To what extent will he make the UFC dance to his tune? Will working with him become a difficult proposition? Is there enough money to keep him motivated? There’s a lot left to be solved. If you can take anything away from his post-fight press conference in Vegas last weekend, it’s that he will be back in the UFC. The question becomes, when?

Because right now, though there are some decent fights in the works, the UFC’s upcoming calendar isn’t exactly glittering with stars — not the kind that carry the industry forward, anyway. You know, the ones where you check off the days as they pass with X’s.

UFC 215 is a fight fan’s card with two of Dana White’s estranged titleholders — Johnson, and women’s bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, who will rematch Valentina Shevchenko. Beyond that it’s a lot of blue-flame confrontations. Neil Magny against Rafael Dos Anjos is bang for the buck, and Ilir Latifi’s fight with Tyson Pedro is a diehard’s delight. Neither are what you’d consider earth shattering.

As for UFC 216, it couldn’t land the big fight at the top so will settle for an interim lightweight title fight between Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson. That’s a hell of a lot of compromise, especially when the UFC could have booked that fight in Lee’s hometown of Detroit later in the year if it weren’t so desperate for a headliner in October. The (possible) dangling carrot is that the winner might challenge McGregor to unify the titles, but — as always — there aren’t any guarantees. McGregor hasn’t defended a damn thing yet, and isn’t affected by traditional norms. It’s just as likely he’ll be on his way to welterweight, or to box his sparring rival Paulie Malignaggi, or to launch his own promotion.

In other words, after last weekend’s McGregor-Mayweather boxing extravaganza, the marching band seems intent on hibernating for a little bit. Part of what felt good about Jon Jones’ reemergence at UFC 214 was that a big fight could be set beyond McGregor’s control, whether it be against Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title, or Alexander Gustafsson in a rematch to one of the best fights in UFC history. Yet if Jones’ B sample confirms the Turinabol in his system, his re-resurgence will likely be stillborn. That could be it for Jones for a long time.

Meaning that in the foreseeable future, MMA may find itself in the process of uncovering the sport’s next transcendent star, rather than waiting on those that have already shone.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting