With two titles up for grabs on Saturday, UFC 181 isn’t short on storylines. One topic that’s been swept under the rug is the fact eight of the 22 athletes competing this weekend have been out of action since at least March – several for much longer.
That’s a pretty long break anyone, particularly for fighters who don’t get paid unless they perform.
Welterweight champion Johny Hendricks has been nursing a bicep injury after capturing the vacant crown with a win over Robbie Lawler in March. Lawler has since won twice to earn a rematch.
In the co-main event, lightweight champ Anthony Pettis will also be making his first title defense when he meets Gilbert Melendez. Pettis had his knee scoped after beating Benson Henderson in August 2013 to win the hardware.
Melendez, meanwhile, was out fielding (and accepting) an offer to leave the UFC in favor of Bellator MMA. However, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta stepped in to save the day at the 11th hour to retain the sought-after free agent’s services.
The former Strikeforce champ has been inactive since beating Diego Sanchez in October 2013.
Todd Duffee (pictured) had the longest hiatus of the crew. The once (and possibly still) promising heavyweight has been riding the pine since TKO’ing Philip De Fries in December 2012.
The 28-year-old Duffee was out after being diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner syndrome, a rare nerve disorder which can cause pain, numbness and loss of motor function.
Moving on down the bout order, Abel Trujillo hasn’t worked since knocking out Jamie Varner in February, Raquel Pennington and Francisco Rivera have been sitting the sidelines since March, and Josh Samman returns after beating Kevin Casey in April 2013.
And there you have it, the walking wounded (and one intense contract standoff) are finally getting back to work. Now, how far away is Christmas break again?