Ending nearly two months of no live sports, the Ultimate Fighting Championship put on three shows in the span of eight days. VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville played host to 32 fights.
On a scale of one to 10, UFC President Dana White gave it a “10.5.” White has been known for a lot of things in his 20 years of running the promotion, and let’s just say that you can’t always take him at his word when it comes to the business of the UFC.
However, he and his staff nailed this eight-day run of fights and fireworks. With the world watching and media members poised to pounce at any opportunity to vilify him for rushing back and putting his fighters in unnecessary danger, the events went off without a hitch.
Yes, Jacare Souza tested positive for COVID-19, prompting his bout against Uriah Hall to be cancelled 24 hours before they were going to throw hands in the Octagon. Two members of Souza’s team, who had made the short drive with him from Jacksonville to Orlando, also tested positive, but they immediately left the hotel after being informed of their test results.
Souza and his team had been isolated in the hotel upon their arrival when they informed the UFC that he might have been in contact with a family member who was showing symptoms. Along with the Florida State Boxing Commission, White and the UFC had expected to get at least one positive test.
Therefore, there was no panic when Souza tested positive. In fact, they had anticipated more than one positive test.
But nobody else tested positive even though the promotion administered around 1,100 tests. White had three tests, coming up negative each time.
Here we are on Tuesday, nearly 72 hours removed from the third show, and there are no reports of any fighters being sick. With that in mind, we have to give the UFC an A+ and White deserves kudos galore for bringing sports back into our lives.
Now let’s look back at the scraps, the winners, the bets, the cuts, the damage, the heartbreak and more.
Justin Gaethje: With his dominant win over Tony Ferguson to win the interim lightweight title, Gaethje set up a date with unbeaten 155-pound champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. White has said that this bout will probably take place in September. With all eyes on his showdown with Ferguson, Gaethje put together a flawless performance that made him a mainstream star. He ended Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak and handed him his first career loss by knockout. Gaethje collected two bonuses for Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night to give him nine fight-night bonuses in his seven-fight UFC tenure. ‘The Highlight’ is the first fighter in UFC history to earn a bonus in his first seven fights with the promotion. Gaethje’s disclosed salary reported by the FSBC was $350,000, and he received $100,000 for his bonuses and $30,000 from Reebok. With points off the pay-per-view which reportedly had 700,000 buys, Gaethje probably made around $1 million and will bank even more for his showdown with Nuramgomedov.
Glover Teixeira: The Brazilian is on a four-fight winning streak at the age of 40 after smashing Anthony Smith by fifth-round KO. Teixeira was paid $295,000 total with his Reebok money (15K), his 115K/115K to show/win and $50,000 for POTN. He moved into third place in UFC history with 14 wins in the 205-pound division, trailing only Ryan Bader (15) and Jon Jones (22). Teixeira became the loop’s all-time leader in career finishes (11) and moved into a third-place tie for most career KO/TKO wins with six. He’s already tied with three others for most submission wins (five) in LHW history.
Alexey Oleynik: Facing financial woes that he detailed during fight week, Oleynik needed his show and win money at UFC 249. With his split-decision victory over former heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum, Oleynik got an extra $80,000 for a $160,000 check. With his $10,000 Reebok payment, ‘The Boa Constrictor’ took home $170,000. The win also improved his UFC record to 8-4 and he jumped up two spots to No. 10 in the heavyweight rankings.
Chase Sherman: After struggling to a 2-5 record in his first seven UFC fights, Sherman was cut in the fall of 2018 and forced to fight in the minor leagues. ‘The Vanilla Gorilla’ went 1-1-1 in three fights for Bare Knuckle FC in 2019, in addition to a 3-0 record with three first-round knockouts in MMA fights under the Island Fights promotion. When Sherman got the call back to the UFC to face promotional newcomer Isaac Villanueva in the opener of this past Wednesday’s UFC Jacksonville card, he earned his third career UFC win with an outstanding effort. Sherman pushed the pace, peppering Villanueva with punches, elbows and kicks from start to finish. He captured the KO victory 49 seconds into Round 2. With $14,000 to show, $14,000 to win and a $5,000 check from Reebok, Sherman earned $33,000. It’s a far cry from what many fighters were being paid, but it was definitely an upgrade from the slim checks he was getting in the minors. Most important, Sherman solidified his spot on the roster for at least two more fights.
Andrei Arlovski: At the age of 41, ‘The Pitbull’ picked up another victory over Philipe Lins by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27) as a +190 underdog. The FSBC had his disclosed pay as $325,000 and his Reebok check brought his total pay to $345,000. Arlovski is 2-1 in his last three fights, and he should be 3-1 in his last four. However, judges inexplicably awarded a split-decision win over Arlovski to Augusto Sakai at UFC Sunrise in South Florida last April. According to MMADecisions, four media members had it 30-27 in favor of Arlovski, eight media members scored it 29-28 for ‘The Pitbull’ and one media member had it as a 29-29 DRAW. None of the 13 media members submitting scores had it for Sakai. Arlovski is the UFC heavyweight division’s all-time leader in career fights (32), wins (18), decision wins (nine) and total fight time (4:48:12). His 32 career Octagon appearances have him in a third-place tie with Demian Maia behind only Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Jim Miller.
Cortney Casey: ‘Cast Iron’ defeated Mara Romero Borella with a first-round armbar to get her first finish in nearly four years. Casey also got the first POTN bonus of her career. With a 50K/50K show/win payout, she earned $160,000 with the POTN bonus tacked on along with her Reebok pay (10K).
Walt Harris: ‘The Big Ticket’ has been to hell and back with his family since October, when his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard was kidnapped and murdered in Alabama. Fighting in his first main event against Alistair Overeem, Harris got off to a fast start. He floored Overeem with a powerful left hand and appeared poised to finish the bout with ground-and-pound punishment. The damage Harris inflicted created two cuts on Overeem’s face, but the Dutch kickboxer somehow survived and found his way back to his feet. Then Overeem got a takedown and was able to finish the round on top. Another takedown led to a second-round KO finish for Overeem.
Tony Ferguson: ‘El Cucuy’ didn’t lose a fight for nearly eight years in the shark tank that is the UFC’s lightweight division. He was booked to face Nurmagomedov five different times, only for the scrap to dissolve for various reasons in each instance. A 12-fight winning streak netted him zero shots at the undisputed lightweight championship. After sustaining a broken orbital bone, he might not fight again until 2021. Only a fool would rule out another run from Ferguson to get that long-awaited title shot, but he’s now behind Gaethje and Conor McGregor in the line. Furthermore, he probably needs to beat someone of Dustin Poirier’s ilk his next time out. All of those potential foes are younger than the 36-year-old Ferguson.
Edson Barboza: The perennial lightweight contender looked outstanding in his featherweight debut. He nearly finished Dan Ige in the first 90 seconds of their fight. Barboza seemed to clearly win the first two rounds, and Round 3 was a close one. Sixteen of 18 media members at MMADecisions scored the fight 29-28 for Barboza, but the judges awarded Ige a split-decision victory.
Angela Hill: On the cusp of a four-fight winning streak, the unranked Hill appeared ready to capture a decision win over sixth-ranked Claudia Gadelha as a +185 underdog. However, the judges gave it to Gadelha via split decision. Thirteen of 17 media members at MMADecisions had it 29-28 for Hill.
Marlon Vera: Although only nine of the 17 media members from MMADecisions had it for Vera over Song Yadong, the reactions on social media were seemingly as hostile about this decision as the ones that robbed Barboza and Hill.
**B.E.’s Bonus Octagon Nuggets**
–The favorites went 9-2 on the UFC 249 card. Gaethje (+200) and Oleynik (+240) were the underdogs that cashed.
–Ferguson has bagged eight fight-night bonuses in his last nine Octagon appearances.
–I think middleweight Eryk Anders could use a change of scenery. The former Alabama football player has spent his entire MMA career training with Harris at the same camp in Birmingham. In his UD loss to Krzysztof Jotko this past Saturday, his corner kept pushing Anders to wrestle for some reason. Even when he seemed to be down on the scorecards and needing a finish, his team was pressing him to wrestle in the third and final round. It made no sense, especially since Jotko stuffed every takedown attempt. Anders’ strength is his heavy hands and wrestling saps him of his power because of the energy it requires.
–The 22-year-old Yadong is 5-0-1 in his six UFC fights.
–Ige has won six fights in a row in the featherweight division.
–Miguel Baeza nearly got finished by Matt Brown in the opening frame, but he was able to survive and then finished ‘The Immortal’ only 18 seconds into the second stanza. Baeza earned a POTN bonus for an extra 50 large.
–Other fighters who could’ve easily been included in ‘Biggest Winners’ above include Brian Kelleher, Drew Dober, Francis Ngannou, Calvin Kattar, Henry Cejudo, Bryce Mitchell and Vicente Luque.
–Mitchell is 4-0 in the UFC and dominated every second of his UD win over Charles Rosa. White has promised Mitchell that he’ll have camo Reebok shorts ready for ‘Thug Nasty’ in his next trip to the Octagon. Speaking of, let’s see him against 13th-ranked BJJ specialist Ryan Hall next. The 25-year-old Arkansas native has the personality to make himself a star if he can keep producing victories. He isn’t just looking for camo from Reebok, either.
Mitchell’s sound clips are so money! Enjoy these two below: