There’s just one month to go before Demetrious Johnson defends his flyweight championship title against challenger Ali Bagautinov as the main event at UFC 174 here in Vancouver but there are still good seats available.
A lot of seats, in fact.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship made its local debut four years ago with UFC 115, and local fight fans immediately made it the fastest sellout in the league’s history.
UFC 131 the following year didn’t quite pack Rogers Arena, which probably had something to do with it taking place in the middle of the Canucks’ Stanley Cup final series against the Bruins, but an estimated 15,000 mixed martial arts enthusiasts still turned up to watch Junior dos Santos beat the crap out of Shane Carwin in the heavyweight division.
Most Vancouver sports fans would’ve much preferred seeing Brad Marchand get pummelled at the time.
The latest one, on the other hand, might be turning into a bit of a bust. While head honcho Dana White deserves a lot of credit for turning a sport that wasn’t even allowed in a lot of places (including Vancouver) only a few years ago into the multi-billion dollar juggernaut it is today, he could still learn a thing or two from boxing promoter Don King when it comes to marketing.
Let’s face it, a three-letter acronym followed by a number doesn’t exactly scream “must-see event.” Who can even remember, say, at what particular UFC XYZ GSP first won his belt back or when female fighters stepped into the octagon for the first time without googling it?
But there’s a reason fight fans know what went down at Rumble in the Jungle or the Thrilla in Manila despite them occurring nearly half a century ago.
I humbly submit that White should consider retitling title fights to be more memorable. Fighters and fans alike deserve something punchier or with a bit more kick, and it’s hard to go wrong with a rhyme. Just look at gems like “Showdown in Motown” (Mike Tyson -Andrew Golota), “Drama in Bahama” (Muhammad Ali-Trevor Berbick) or “The Brawl in Montreal” (Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran).
Unfortunately, not a lot rhymes with B.C.’s biggest city but one possibility would be “Ground Maneuvers in Vancouver,” although this risks being off the mark if the main event isn’t decided by grappling.
Another option worth a shot would be to use local nicknames or geography to give us:
- War in the 604
- Unrest in the Pacific Northwest
- No Pity in Van City
- Hand-to-hand in Lotusland
- Wham Bam in Vansterdam
- Kickin’ Ass in the City of Glass
- The Battle up the road from Seattle
Using fighters’ names can sometimes also be effective. Exhibit A: “The Devil and Mr. Jones” for the 1995 middleweight bout between Vinny “Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza and Roy Jones Jr.
Sadly, UFC 174’s headliners don’t provide a lot to work with; five-foot-three Demetrious Johnson is known as “Mighty Mouse” while Ali Bagautinov goes by the even sillier “Puncher King.”
Using their first names could be an option though. After all, Ali versus Frazier, Ali versus Foreman or Ali versus anyone really are all enshrined in the annals of sports history.
It’s possible that rebranding it “Ali versus Demetrious” might help sell a few more tickets or pay-per-view subscriptions.
(© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)