In boxing, sanctioning bodies only make money if there is a title at stake, so they recognize a lot of titles. The WBA sanctions Super, Undisputed, Unified, Regular, and Interim world championship bouts in 17 weight divisions (there used to be eight). Then throw in the WBC, IBF and WBO. And the IBO and WBF. And the World Underwear Association.
By contrast, the UFC recognizes eight weight divisions for men, and most fans can name all the champions. Not a single person alive can definitively name every “world” champion in boxing. This alphabet soup is one reason boxing is losing young fans to mixed martial arts.
There is one Super Bowl, and the Patriots won it. Professional football wouldn’t be as fun if there were a dozen “world” championships. And boxing isn’t as fun as it was, when every guy could name the eight world champions.
The UFC faces a similar but far less serious quandary. They make more money if a title is on the line, so there is pressure for Interim title fights. Jose Aldo has been the featherweight champion since November 26, 2016 (he was the interim champion since defeating Frankie Edgar on July 9, 2016). Aldo was elevated to full champion with the stripping of the belt from Conor McGregor, but was unavailable to fight, so Max Holloway fought Anthony Pettis for an Interim belt at UFC 206 on December 10, 2016. Pettis has been 1-3 his last four, and is now 1-4 his last five. Do you know Holloway was the UFC champion?
At UFC 209 on March 4, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson fight for the Interim lightweight belt, as McGregor said he did not want to fight until May, when he and longtime partner Dee Devlin are expecting the birth of their first child.
There is an argument a fighter wanting to take off several months is insufficient reason to declare an Interim title, given what the obese number of titles has done to boxing. During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar was not impressed with the proliferation of belts.
“I just think they’re getting silly with these interim titles,” said Edgar, as transcribed by Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting. “It’s a little too much. They’re already taking Conor’s 55 one away. I just don’t get it.”
Edgar didn’t cut at all for lightweight, and has dropped down to featherweight, where he is not large for the division. He would even consider a drop to bantamweight.
“If they offered me a title shot, I wouldn’t be able to turn it down,” said Edgar. “But I’m not gonna go down there and fight a contender fight and do that, not while I’m as close as I am, I believe still, at 145. Especially since we don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t want to leave yet and s*** gets figured out and I’m sitting here fighting in a 135-pound contender fight when I could have been fighting for a 145-pound title.”
Edgar has groin surgery scheduled and hopes to fight in May, at featherweight.
“It’s kind of been a mess for a minute now,” said Edgar said of the 145 division. “I don’t know what to expect and what’s gonna happen next. I’m kind of just a participant and just seeing what happened.”