The first few months of UFC pay-per-views are taking shape, with several high-profile title-fights on the way. What’s left for UFC 261 in the spring?
Following a March with two PPV events, the available options for title fight main events at UFC 261 are as slim as they have been for any UFC PPV in a while. That’s because the slate of title fights and main events the promotion is utilizing to begin 2021 includes the likes of Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya, Stipe Miocic, and more.
Likely taking place in late-April or early-May, UFC 261, like much of the promotion’s 2021 calendar, doesn’t have a venue or location yet. There also haven’t been any announced or reported bouts for the fifth UFC PPV of the year just yet.
Despite the lack of options, the remaining title fights Dana White and Co. could lean on for UFC 261 are intriguing. It also gives them the opportunity to get creative, should they feel the need to force an interim belt or non-title fight into the main event.
Before we get to who’s available for UFC 261, let’s rule out some obvious options.
First, the main event and co-main event fighters from UFC 257 turning around for another fight in April seems fairly unlikely. So, victors Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler can probably be ruled out. Plus, it’ll likely take some time for the promotion to figure out what they want to do with the lightweight title picture. After the results from UFC 257, and the current status of champion(?) Khabib Nurmagomedov, things are a bit murky. We can’t forget about Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira, either.
The same goes for the winner of the recently announced welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in February.
Several other high-profile title fights have been announced for UFC 259 and UFC 260, both of which are set to take place in March.
At UFC 259, five titles will be in the building. Headlining the card is a champion-versus-champion fight between middleweight title holder Israel Adesanya and light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz, for the 205-pound belt. Then, in the co-main event slot, women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes will defend her 145-pound title against Megan Anderson. But, that’s not all, as Petr Yan is slated to fight Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight title on the same card.
At UFC 260 later that same month, Francis Ngannou gets his deserved rematch with champ Stipe Miocic in the main event. While in the co-main, Alexander Volkanovski fights Brian Ortega in his first non-Max Holloway featherweight title fight.
That’s a lot of gold on hold for the promotion in the first few months of the year. But, there are still some intriguing options available for the UFC if they decide to get creative, or just force an interim title on the card.
Women’s strawweight fights aren’t usually in contention for UFC PPV main events. But the promotion loves Weili Zhang, and have a fan-favorite and former champion in Rose Namajunas ready to go as her next opponent. Carla Esparza is apparently the backup plan, but we’d all rather see Zhang-Namajunas this spring. It’s a big match-up, and one that would fit well atop a UFC PPV.
Another women’s title could be fought for at UFC 261, but its chances of being in the main event are slim. While flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko is among the greats in the sport, the division is still growing. There are a few interesting options available though, like former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade, and flyweight veterans Joanne Calderwood and Lauren Murphy.
The fight that looks most likely to main event UFC 261 is a rematch between flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. The duo fought to a draw at UFC 256 in one of the best fights of 2020. UFC President Dana White said he expects the rematch to take place in April or May, giving UFC 261 a chance to host a potential Fight of the Year candidate.
Then, there are the interim belts. If the promotion is desperate, they could force an interim title fight from either middleweight or light heavyweight on to the card. Depending on what happens between Adesanya and Blachowicz earlier in the year, and what their future plans are, Robert Whittaker competing in a middleweight title-fight could be a thing. Although less likely, finding a way to get Glover Teixeira a light heavyweight title fight, interim or not, in 2021 would be something to behold.
Jon Jones is out there, too. But, from the sounds of it, he’s waiting for the winner of Miocic-Ngannou 2, and will debut in his new division later in the year. Could we see the surprise return of either Nick or Nate Diaz? Probably not. But UFC 261 is a couple months away, and coming to terms with that duo generally seems to take a bit longer than that. But hey, we can dream, especially after USADA’s recent changes to marijuana restrictions.
While there aren’t as many options as normal for the UFC, that doesn’t mean the fights available aren’t interesting. It sounds like Figueiredo-Moreno 2 is the early favorite, with a couple of women’s title fights, or interim belts, as other options for the promotion. Either way, the UFC is starting strong with their 2021 PPVs.