While the initial reaction for most fans was likely one of disappointment when news broke that Alexander Gustafsson was out of his highly anticipated title rematch against Jon Jones, the long-time champion and injury replacement Daniel Cormier have certainly done their part to get fans pumped for UFC 178. While last year’s initial Jones-Gustafsson clash at UFC 165 may have been one of the best light heavyweight title fights of all time, Jones vs. Cormier has easily become the promotion’s most anticipated fight of the year.
A truly wild week to promote the Sept. 27 clash included a full-scale brawl in Las Vegas that made a folk hero of UFC PR man Dave Sholler after he got caught in the middle of the mayhem, and a follow-up video that featured venomous and expletive-laden trash-talking between the two fighters.
In an off-air dialogue where the cameras were still rolling and the microphones were hot, Cormier called Jones a fake, referred to him as scum of the earth, and talked about wanting to spit in the champion’s face. “Bones” replied by saying he would “literally kill” Cormier if he ever did such a thing. It looked and sounded like genuine hatred that couldn’t be manufactured. Jones would continue his verbal assault on Cormier in a much more light-hearted manner during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
While UFC officials may have condemned the actions of both men and promised ramifications, the enormous hype should lead to huge pay-per-view numbers. The feud remains in the spotlight several days after the confrontation at Ultimate Media Day. Last month’s UFC 175 event, which featured successful title defenses by Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey, produced an estimated 500-550 thousand PPV buys. That represents a high point for what’s been a disappointing 2014. However, Jones vs. Cormier should exceed that figure by a wide margin. It shapes up as a classic matchup between the sport’s current pound-for-pound king against an undefeated challenger.
We’ve seen many examples in the past where a heated and nasty buildup to a fight has fizzled when the two combatants actually squared off inside the Octagon. We’ve also seen burying of hatchets in post-fight interviews where competitors have used the tired, traditional line of just looking to sell the fight. Hopefully neither will be the case with Jones vs. Cormier. The mutual disdain seems legitimate.
The two immensely talented fighters have taken the hype for their Sept. 27 clash to a fever pitch, and both have the skills to produce a tremendous battle. We can only hope that the light heavyweight title fight itself will generate as much buzz and discussion as the lead up to the event has so far.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.