Bellator 106 is a disaster. Tito Ortiz’s injury created a domino effect that left “Rampage” Jackson without an opponent and CEO Bjorn Rebney with no choice but to downgrade the event into a free telecast. While this is a disappointment to fans, it does not compare to other altered main events.
When a fighter is pulled from a headlining bout, fans and sponsors grow disinterested. Anticipation turns into indifference, often resulting in low buy rates and lower TV rating.
Here are the five most disappointing main event changes in MMA history:
5. Midcard bout between Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans headlines UFC 161
Interim Bantamweight champion Renan Barao was set to defend his title against Eddie Wineland until a foot injury forced him to bow out. Unfortunately, the co-main event between Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and “Shogun” Rua was also scrapped due to a back injury Nogueria suffered. Wineland and Rua were taken off the card altogether and the UFC was left scrambling.
Even a call to Chael Sonnen could not stop Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans from taking over the main event. Sonnen was considered as a replacement for Nogueira until a visa issue eliminated him from consideration. In the end, UFC 161 received 150,000 purchases, one of the lowest buy rates in company history. While blame can’t be put on either Henderson or Evans, this card was more appropriate for the UFC on FOX.
4. Four fighters replaced from UFC 85 main event
By the time UFC 85: Bedlam began, injuries had made the main card nearly unrecognizable. Light heavyweights Chuck Liddell and “Shogun” Rua were supposed to headline the pay-per-view until leg injuries forced each fighter to withdrawal. Their replacements, Rashad Evans and James Irvin, were also taken off the card when Irvin sustained a leg injury.
With the promotion’s second ever visit to London’s O2 Arena in jeopardy, Matt Hughes and Thiago Alves elected to take the fight on short notice. Apparently Alves did not have enough time to cut weight as he came in four pounds over, making the main event a catchweight bout. In the end, five fighters were replaced and one match was scrapped, making the events “Bedlam” title all too appropriate.
3. Ken Shamrock pulls out of EliteXC: Heat moments before facing Kimbo Slice
In October 2008, EliteXC had one foot in the grave and needed big primetime performances from UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock and Internet sensation Kimbo Slice. Shamrock received a cut to his left eye during warms up and was unable to compete. Head of fight operations Jeremy Lappen reached panic mode and chose journeyman Seth Petruzelli as Shamrock’s replacement.
Petruzelli knocked Slice out 14 seconds into the first round; signifying the end of EliteXC and Slice’s 15 minutes of fame. Petruzelli would later state that he was paid to keep the fight standing, a claim he would later rescind. Either way, it was a humiliating experience for all involved.
2. Strikeforce cancels show after injury forces Frank Mir to withdraw
Less than a week after cancelling an event in Sacramento, CA, Strikeforce was forced to do the same with Strikeforce: Cormier vs. Mir. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir bowed out of his fight with Daniel Cormier citing an injury. While Matt Mitrione and Pat Barry were considered as replacements, the promotion decided on moving their fight to a future date.
The travesty in this cancellation is that it was one of few events left under the Strikeforce moniker. Zuffa purchased the promotion earlier in 2012, in essence eliminating their competition. Mir and Cormier would face off in April 2013, but it would not hold the same weight as their Strikeforce bout.
1. UFC 151 cancelled after Dan Henderson injured his knee
In September 2012, the UFC was on top of the MMA world. Needless to say, it would take a major injury to even consider cancelling an event. It happened with UFC 151 when Dan Henderson injured his knee and Jon Jones declined a replacement fight with Chael Sonnen.
Dana White’s inability to find a suitable replacement was a symbol to many that events held bi-weekly stretched the UFC’s talent pool thin. He announced that the event would be deemed “a lost show” and placed blame on Jones and his coaches, going as far as to say that Jones “murdered” UFC 151. It remains the only cancellation in their 20 year history.