Chad Mendes announced via Twitter Sunday that he was off the UFC 157 card. Mendes had been previously searching for a new opponent after Manny Gamburyan withdrew due to multiple injuries suffered during training.
This leaves UFC 157 lacking the star power to support the already risky main event.
The UFC is gambling by featuring a pay-per-view with Ronda Rousey fighting Liz Carmouche for the women’s bantamweight title. To support that questionable main event, five fights were added to the pay-per-view. All five of those fights feature title contenders, with Mendes being the top contender in the group.
UFC is now left scrambling to select a preliminary fight to replace Mendes-Gamburyan.
The obvious choice of a replacement fight would be Lavar Johnson versus Brendan Schaub. Both heavyweights possess huge power and are accustomed to brawling, however, neither fighter is close to title contention in the heavyweight division. While this fight could start the pay-per-view off with a bang, the mediocre heavyweights will be nowhere near the same draw as a title contender like Mendes.
If a lesson is to be learned from this by the UFC, it is that they need to do a better job supporting women’s main events on pay-per-views. This can be achieved by including another title fight for added star power or by beefing up the preliminary card to easily substitute for injuries. Even better, the UFC can begin featuring women’s MMA on Fox or FX cards where there is no risk of alienating pay-per-view regulars with weak cards.
If Strikeforce taught us anything, it is that MMA fans will certainly tune in for women’s title fights. The same fans, however, are unlikely to pay $54.95 for a weak main card, even if it features the top female fighter in the world.