You win some, you lose some.
Title bouts, that is.
On Thursday afternoon in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as he was hyping a UFC 161 card (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, PPV) that has zero championship fights on it, promotion president Dana White captured the full attention of the assembled media by announcing the next title defenses for his heavyweight, light heavyweight and welterweight champs. Three belts, up for grabs.
Then, on Friday, White unveiled still another tussle for a brass-and-leather strap. But this time, the news, which was released via Twitter, was not so welcome. Well, unless you’re a zombie from East Asia.
Anthony Pettis, the lightweight contender who dropped down to featherweight in order to challenge José Aldo, injured a knee in training and is out of the Aug. 3 title fight in Rio de Janeiro. According to White, he’ll be replaced in the UFC 163 main event by Chan Sung Jung.
Known as “The Korean Zombie” for his proclivity to withstand punishment and keep on ticking, Jung (13-3) has won three straight fights, all stoppages. He’s No. 7 in the SI.com 145-pound rankings, No. 3 in the UFC’s official media-voted ranking, and was scheduled to face Ricardo Lamas on the July 6 card in Las Vegas. White did not say whether Lamas will still get a fight at UFC 163.
Jung’s reaction on Twitter: “I’m ready!!!!!!!!”
Pettis also had something to tweet: “Injuries are part of the sport. Small tear in my meniscus. I was so ready for this fight; this won’t stop me! Be back soon.”
But “be back” where? Will Pettis still get a shot at Aldo (or Jung) at 145 pounds? Or will “Showtime” bulk back up to 155 and go hunting for the lightweight champ? Benson Henderson’s next defense is scheduled to be against TJ Grant at UFC 164 on Aug. 31 in Milwaukee … which happens to be the hometown of Antony Pettis … who happens to be the only man to defeat “Bendo” since 2007. Oh, the intrigue.
While the UFC tries to untangle that, let’s give credit where credit is due. After some questionable matchmaking has tainted recent title bouts — Chael Sonnen challenging for the belt in a division he’d not fought in for seven years? Nick Diaz getting a title shot while coming off a loss and a suspension? — the behemoth fight promotion has nailed it with the championship fights announced Thursday. Light heavyweight Jon Jones finally will pick on someone his own size when he faces Alexander Gustaffson at UFC 165 on Sept. 21 in Toronto. Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will have their heavyweight rubber match in October in Houston. And Georges St-Pierre “probably” (White’s word) will take on top welterweight contender Johny Hendricks in November in Las Vegas.
Each one of those is a fight that needs to happen, worthy of championship-level stakes.