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The UFC’s Future More Uncertain Than Ever in the Wake of GSP’s Departure


(Photo via Getty)

By Matt Saccaro

The UFC can undergo a new renaissance or it can further fade into Toughman on FX-level obscurity—and its actions in the aftermath of GSP’s hiatus (and possible retirement) from MMA will determine which path they follow.

GSP’s departure has come at a tumultuous time. The UFC is in a rut. TUF has long since stopped being the advertising vehicle/farm system it was years ago. Ratings are down. The worst part of all is that PPV—the UFC’s chief source of revenue—is lagging too. The culprit is a lack of stars, as well as the UFC’s apparent inability to replace the fading ones.

The UFC lost Chuck Liddell. The UFC lost Brock Lesnar. Rashad Evans, a good draw in his own right, is aging, as is the recently-toppled Anderson Silva. Ronda Rousey lost her luster and already put an expiration date on her career.

Now they’re short a Canadian superhero, a man who’s drawn an average of 800,000 buys over the last three years. And there are no young studs to pick up the slack. Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez are not fit to carry the company on their shoulders judging by the buyrates on their recent PPVs. The UFC’s young, great ethnic hopes—Tiequan Zhang, Erik Perez, and Erick Silva—haven’t developed as planned. Most importantly, the strategy of grooming Rory MacDonald to be GSP’s replacement has failed (or has at least been delayed).

The UFC is riding on the backs of aging warhorses whose knees are beginning to buckle.

Yet there is still hope.

GSP is leaving the welterweight division, true. But there are other men primed to take his spot at the top. Welterweight is now a division where anybody in the top 5 or even top 10 could win the belt. It’s a division that’s thrilling and unpredictable for the first time in years. The next champ will be either Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler since the two are facing off at UFC 171, but it’s not crazy to think that Carlos Condit, Matt Brown, or even Hector Lombard could hold the belt someday in the near future.

The same “this-division-is-a-close-race” claim can be made for the post-Anderson Silva middleweight division and even the lightweight division under Anthony Pettis.

Nobody is saying “Who cares? Silva/GSP/Penn will just murder whoever wins the No.1 contender fight.” This is the benefit of old greats retiring. Belts are open for the taking again. There is no fate but what the fighters make for themselves.

If the UFC can somehow find a way to take advantage of this rather than picking one fighter to promote and hoping they win all their fights (Michael Bisping, Rory MacDonald, Ronda Rousey, etc), the future won’t be quite so bleak as we at CagePotato often make it out to be.

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