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Interim Title At UFC 189 Makes No Sense, But It Makes Dollars

Written by Tom Ngo
July 5th, 2015
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UFC Jose Aldo

When the UFC announced they would conjure up an interim featherweight title for Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes to play for at UFC 189 after champion Jose Aldo (pictured) was forced out of Saturday’s heavily hyped showdown against McGregor with a broken rib, Aldo referred to it as a “toy belt” that the victor could show their drunk friends one day.

According to Aldo, that interim strap means nothing more than the replica one that any drunk can buy off UFC.com for $449.95.

In 2013, the UFC created a “title defense clause,” AKA the Dominick Cruz clause, so an injured champion wouldn’t create a logjam in his division due to inactivity. The UFC would either strip the champ, like they did to Cruz, or manufacture an interim title, as in Cain Velasquez’s case last year.

Stripping Cruz made sense because never-ending injuries prevented him from defending his throne for over two years, and then he suffered another setback just before his announced return at UFC 169. The promotion showed more sympathy towards Velasquez because he just missed all of 2014, so they made an interim trophy for the heavyweight division.

The UFC made a business decision in Aldo’s situation.

There’s no disputing the injury bug has forced Aldo to withdraw from his fair share of fights, but “Scarface” has defended his title seven times since getting promoted from WEC champion to UFC king in April 2011. That’s nearly two title defenses every calendar year, the average among most UFC champions.

If Aldo was able to keep Saturday’s appointment with McGregor, that would put him on pace to compete one more time before year’s end.

Furthermore, Aldo put his belt up for grabs twice in 2014, so it wasn’t as though he was inactive last year.

So why is Aldo getting heat when he was forced out with a legitimate injury and he’s been just as active as every other UFC champion?

The reason the UFC was forced to create an interim featherweight title was because they spent millions to promote UFC 189. Prior to Aldo’s injury, UFC president Dana White predicted the show would be one of the promotion’s most profitable by garnering more than one million pay-per-view buys and grabbing $7 million at MGM Grand Garden Arena’s gate.

Having a Mendes vs. McGregor bout as UFC 189’s main event without gold at stake wouldn’t justify those kind of numbers. Sure, White could have promoted the co-main event between welterweight champ Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald to top billing, but neither of those athletes offer much in terms of pre-fight pizzazz.

Plus, UFC 189’s money train left the station long ago so it could still achieve the lofty numbers White predicted. It does a lot for the McGregor brand if he’s the featured attraction in one of the UFC’s most successful events. And we all know how much the UFC loves to push its latest meal ticket.

So Aldo’s right on this one, the interim belt means nothing because it wouldn’t have even been created if the UFC hadn’t invested so much money into this event, which happens to be preceded by International Fight week in Las Vegas.

Oh, and Reebok also officially kicks off their six-year, reported $70 million endorsement deal at UFC 189.

The stakes are high at UFC 189, and no interim title wouldn’t offer as much sizzle. Unfortunately for Aldo, he’ll have to live with another 145-pounder donning a belt in the division where he’s served as its lone ruler because of it.

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