UFC 215: What Happened to Seattle’s Proposed Pay-Per-View?

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UFC on FOX 15, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ Credit: Cageside Press

The Emerald City looked close to securing its first UFC event in more than four years, and the Northwest’s first pay-per-view event since UFC 174 in 2014. Thanks to some drama, a big boxing bout, and a loaded event calendar, Seattle’s PPV now belongs to Edmonton.

The UFC announced the change earlier this week, providing little insight into the decision making process. These changes are often caused by several factors, and a glance at the noise surrounding UFC 215 shows more than a few potential causes for the shift in venue. From drama surrounding Northwest-native Demetrious Johnson, to Conor McGregor’s summer plans, everything seemed to be working against Seattle’s UFC PPV hopes.

But, it wasn’t always that way. It was May 19 when ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was reporting that, amongst the news of Cody Garbrandt’s injury and its effect on UFC 213, the promotion was looking at Mighty Mouse headlining a PPV event in Seattle in August. It would’ve made all the sense in the world. Having Johnson attempt to break the UFC’s title-defense record in front of a hometown crowd is something everyone can get behind.

Then, those two seemingly separate developments began to intertwine. Once official, Garbrandt’s injury meant that 135-pound contender TJ Dillashaw was available for the time being. Rather than waiting for Garbrandt to heal and then challenge for the bantamweight belt, Dillashaw and the UFC began to push for a flyweight title fight between Johnson and Dillashaw.

Depite the fact that Dillashaw had never fought at 125-pounds, the lack of clear contenders in the weight class meant the matchup made more sense than others, according to UFC President Dana White. He made those thoughts clear on the June 1 episode of the UFC Unfiltered podcast, stating that although Johnson reportedly wasn’t a fan of the UFC’s plans, it was in-fact White who “makes the fights around here”.

We wouldn’t have to wait long to get a reply from Johnson. Not necessarily outspoken, but never afraid to say how he feels, Mighty Mouse released a statement on June 5 explaining his side of things. He coupled the message with a lengthy appearance on The MMA Hour, detailing the difficult negotiations the champion and his team were having with the UFC.

Those difficulties include threats of shutting down the entire flyweight division, going back on previous agreements, and an overall lack of respect for Johnson and what he’s accomplished in and with the UFC.

Following the public spat, some sort of solution was expected. But then, things changed even more. On June 14, the boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor was made official, after countless months of rumors and reports. The date for that bout? August 26: exactly one week after the initially proposed date for UFC 215.

While seemingly unrelated, the events taking place so close together would have an obvious impact on UFC 215. Hell, Mayweather-McGregor is effecting nearly every major late-summer sporting event. Nobody is expecting fans to purchase a $59.99 UFC PPV the week before potentially dropping $100+ on MayMac. And if they have to choose, the vast majority will likely choose the latter.

Nearly two weeks after the announcement of MayMac, and even after the official announcement of UFC 216 in Edmonton the following month, Northwest fans were left wondering if this event was still taking place. We got our answer on June 26, when the promotion moved UFC 215 to Edmonton, rather than deal with the issues surrounding Johnson and having an event in August.

The official word from the UFC says, “An originally planned August Pay-Per-View event has been removed from the schedule.”

But, why?

The location looked ready to go, with a local champion willing to defend his belt. While it may not have been against the opponent the promotion preferred, this wouldn’t have been the first time a champion dictated their future fights. Much less one who’s defended their title ten consecutive times.

The tough thing about August, apart from competing with Mayweather-McGregor and the drama surrounding Johnson, is that it follows a stacked event calendar in July. Two PPV events, with two title-fights each, means several main event options are out of contention, along with others who aren’t available for various reasons.

This is all before a similarly packed second-half of 2017 for the UFC, with four PPV events over the final three months of the year. That means they’ll need plenty of title-fights and main event options available, and the promotion will already be stretching their top-tier resources. A similar situation gave the UFC headaches earlier this year, when they ultimately decided to push-back UFC 208 from January to February. That PPV event followed a six-week stretch to close-out 2016 which featured three PPVs, and six title-fights.

In addition to the fact that any PPV event (headlined by Mighty Mouse or any other UFC champion) would struggle to draw a week before Mayweather-McGregor, the promotion doesn’t have the financial risk generally associated with canceling one of their premier events. Instead, they’ll likely be making more money thanks to Mayweather-McGregor, making the decision to change dates all the easier to make.

Of course, the move has an impact on the promotion’s discussions with Johnson as well. Now, a local PPV event where the champ could get the shine he deserves is gone. Replaced by a boxing spectacle and forgotten as background noise to a much bigger show. How that plays in negotiations for his next bout remain to be seen, but it seems is though things may have shifted in the UFC’s favor.

While the move makes sense, those of us hoping for a Mighty Mouse celebration in the Northwest this summer are bummed. With Mayweather-McGregor stealing the spotlight from everyone, it’s hard to blame the UFC, while also being happy that Johnson won’t be overshadowed in his historic opportunity. Here’s hoping the added time leads to a mended relationship between the promotion and Johnson, and the Northwest can get their Mighty Mouse main event PPV sometime in the near future.