One thing fans of mixed martial arts often rave about compared to boxing is that, in MMA, “the best fight the best.” While that’s mostly true, it’s not always the case.
Every now and then we clamor for a fight that doesn’t get made for one reason or another. In the history of the UFC, it’s happened a handful of times, although UFC president Dana White insists it’s happened only once since he took over the promotion in 2001.
“Well, if you think about it, I’ve made every fight that was ever possible to make in MMA, including Mayweather and McGregor,” White said Wednesday during a fan Q&A hosted by Laura Sanko. “The only fight that I ever failed to make was Fedor vs. Brock. Every other fight that we ever thought about or the fans wanted to see or whatever it was, I’ve made.”
That’s not entirely true.
Below are five UFC superfights White should’ve made but didn’t.
(Note: This list excludes fights that were booked but didn’t happen because of circumstances outside of the UFC’s control.)
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar
The year was 2009. Fedor hadn’t lost in nine years, during which he posted a 27-0 record with one no contest while dominating mostly in PRIDE. At the time, he was widely considered the greatest heavyweight ever. Then you had Lesnar, a behemoth of a man who came over from WWE and won the UFC heavyweight championship by dominating Randy Couture in just his third promotional appearance.
White met with Fedor once, with the hope of striking a deal that would bring him over to the UFC to challenge Lesnar for the title at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium). Could you imagine how amazing that would’ve been?
Alas, White and Fedor never reached an agreement. Fedor instead signed with Strikeforce where he went 1-3.
Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre (left) and Anderson Silva face off during an appearance in September 2019.
“If Georges St. Pierre against Anderson Silva were to happen, that’s the fight you could do at Cowboys Stadium. We’ve been talking to (Cowboys Stadium officials) for a while.”
That’s what White said in November 2012 just before GSP defended his welterweight title for the seventh consecutive time by beating Carlos Condit at UFC 154. We all salivated at the thought of the two fighters considered to be the greatest of all time settling the debate in the cage.
Both men were open to it, but the size difference always was a concern as St-Pierre wasn’t a very big 170-pounder and then-middleweight champion Silva was a big 185er who performed well at light heavyweight. In a 2017 interview, St-Pierre said he would’ve fought Silva at a 177-pound catchweight, but White and Co. didn’t like that idea, so the superfight of all superfights never came to be.
Would’ve been something special.
Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg
This pick comes with a caveat in that we have the benefit of hindsight in knowing that a fight between Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg likely would’ve gone badly for Rousey. But at the time it was being discussed, a matchup between them could’ve easily been billed as the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object.
Rousey was the biggest star in the UFC, running through bantamweight competition with her signature armbar as she made six consecutive title defenses. Cyborg, meanwhile, had been pummeling opponents since 2005 and was easily the hardest hitter in women’s MMA.
Cyborg was in Invicta FC at the time talk of a Rousey superfight really ramped up, but there was always the issue of weight to hold things up. Rousey wanted Cyborg to come down all the way to 135 pounds instead of meeting in the middle at a 140 catchweight.
The UFC could’ve poached Cyborg from Invicta at any point to make it happen but never did. And by the time Cyborg made her UFC debut in May 2016, the ship had sailed as Holly Holm made Rousey look silly in a stand-up fight before knocking her out in November 2015 at UFC 193, killing all possibility of a Rousey-Cyborg showdown.
Like we said, probably for the better for Rousey.
Ronda Rousey vs. Gina Carano
Long before Rousey became a mainstream star thanks to the UFC, Gina Carano was the first breakthrough star of women’s MMA. Suffice to say, a fight between them easily could’ve been one of the biggest fights in MMA history.
Carano’s final bout was a loss to Cyborg under the Strikeforce banner in August 2009. After that, Carano moved on to being an actor and making movies Hollywood. But then White and the UFC brass came calling. According to a November 2019 interview, Carano said they met for dinner where she was offered $1 million to fight Rousey. She was in, but she told White that she needed time to find a team and get back into fight camp since she’d been making movies for a few years.
Everything seemed to line up for a superfight – except it didn’t.
“Then like the next day, Dana was out there talking about me, talking about my name, and telling people that he was going to sign me – and I don’t even have a team yet,” Carano explained. “I was like, ‘That’s not what we discussed; you were supposed to give me at least six months to kind of find a team.’ Then he started trying to put on the pressure through the media, and it was a bummer, because I told him over text message that’s not what we talked about. I need time. Now I’m going to walk into a gym, and people are going to know that’s what I’m doing. I need to build trust if I’m going to find people.
“So then he kept on doing that, and I was still kind of searching for a team and feeling all that pressure, and then he sent me a text message saying, ‘This b*tch is something, like d*cking us around,’ something like that. And I sent a text message back and I sent, ‘I think you sent this out to the wrong person,’ and he said, ‘I don’t think I did.’
“That was the last conversation that we had over text message.”
Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou
As of this writing, former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones continues to prepare to return to the octagon as a heavyweight, and there is no bigger fight he could come back to than facing champion Francis Ngannou.
This should be a no-brainer, and we should’ve gotten this fight some time in 2021 after Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic for the title. The problem? Jones wanted more money, as did Ngannou, and since White isn’t inclined to give them increases, we don’t get a superfight fans have clamored for and one that would generate huge revenue for the UFC.