The UFC likes to go big for their annual pay-per-view during International Fight Week. Given their packed slate of PPV title fights throughout the first half of 2021, what’s left for UFC 264 in July?
One would think, with multiple events hosting three title fights, that the PPV main event options available to the UFC come the midway point of the year would be slimmer than normal. But, due to the predictably unpredictable circumstances of professional MMA, the promotion has more than a few suitable match-ups for UFC 264.
Taking place July 10 at a yet to be announced location and venue, UFC 264 has a couple of reported fights. As of this writing, Ryan Hall will fight Ilia Topuria, and flyweights Jessica Eye and Jennifer Maia will face off.
What about the main event? The UFC’s PPV schedule is taking shape, and UFC 264 is the next such event looking for a fight to put on its poster. One option stands out from the rest, but the promotion could go a few different directions for International Fight Week 2021.
We were to be treated to five title fights in the month of March. That was cut to four with the loss of Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega from UFC 260. While a turnaround in July for any of the defending champions isn’t out of the question, UFC light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz said he’d like at least six months off before defending his belt against Glover Teixeira. Whether or not that remains the case should a fight offer come remains to be seen, but the promotion has plenty of other options to utilize in the meantime.
It’d be surprising to see the victor between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 returning to fight in July (depending on how it goes, of course). Either way, it’s seemed like the Jon Jones heavyweight debut for the belt is something the promotion has put on their schedule for the latter part of the year.
Coming back to fight again in July following UFC 261 in late April wouldn’t be crazy. But we’ll put all three of the champions who emerge from the event as unlikely to fit atop UFC 264. Sorry, winners of Kamaru Usman-Jorge Masvidal 2, Zhang Weili-Rose Namajunas, and Valentina Shevchenko-Jessica Andrade.
We can more comfortably rule out the fighters competing in title fights at UFC 262 in May and UFC 263 in June. That means no International Fight Week bouts for lightweights Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira, or flyweights Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno.
It initially sounded like the trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor could land at UFC 262, along with the recently vacated lightweight title. Now that the belt is spoken for, and fewer fighters are available, a landing spot later in the summer seems to be the plan. As they did earlier this year, the duo could easily main event a PPV without a belt, and International Fight Week makes as much sense as any other landing spot for Poirier-McGregor 3.
There’s also the bantamweight rematch between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling. The controversial first contest adds some heat to an already great match-up. Whether or not the promotion sees it as a main event for UFC 264, or if both fighters are ready to return to action by then, remains to be seen. Either way, it’s an option right now.
So is Alexander Volkanovski’s featherweight title-bout with Brian Ortega, right? Initially slated for UFC 260 in March, the bout was scrapped due to COVID-19. You’d imagine that, by July, the duo would be ready to go. But trying to predict the future of both MMA and COVID at the same time has proven to be a fool’s task for anyone who’s tried. We’ll go with a hard maybe for Volkanovski-Ortega headlining UFC 264.
We shouldn’t forget about Israel Adesanya, either. He’s still the middleweight champ after all. All he needs is an opponent. Following an April with several high-profile middleweight match-ups, he’ll have one soon. If they’re ready by early-July, and the UFC wants to rebuild their superstar image of Adesanya as quickly as possible after his loss to Blachowicz, a main event during International Fight Week could do the trick.
Amanda Nunes has already fought twice on International Fight Week PPVs, doing so in 2016 and 2019. Like Adesanya, she’s waiting for a contender, with the likes of Julianna Pena, Aspen Ladd, and Valentina Shevchenko potentially in the mix. After Nunes’ slick victory at UFC 259 in March, the promotion said they wanted to have her return quickly. Is July too quick? Depends on who you ask. As of now, she’s an option.
There’s no shortage of high-profile main event options for UFC 264 this July for International Fight Week. But, when Conor McGregor is available, it’s hard to imagine Dana White and Co. going another direction. If they do, for whatever reason, having Israel Adesanya, Amanda Nunes, and more as back-up doesn’t hurt.