Dana White had plenty to say on Thursday, as a barrage of new announcements flooded out from the UFC 131 press conference. Needless to say, the biggest MMA organization in the world is refusing to rest on its laurels.
Firstly, the promotion head announced that the era of three-round main events as we know them has come to an end. In a surprising, but extremely intelligent move, the UFC has decided to shift all headlining bouts to five round affairs, regardless whether or not a title is on the line. The idea has long been brought up and mulled over, though it was not clear if it would ever come to fruition.
This choice will prove to be wise, if only for the sole reason that it reduces the impact that the ringside judges -- and the state-commissions' archaic scoring system -- have on the sport. As strange as it is to say, bad decisions are expected in MMA. The phrase "never let it go to the judges" is widely repeated, and accepted, purely because said judges tend to be rather horrible at their job. At this point, it seems like almost every card is littered with one or two of these bizarre outcomes. As far as fight fans are concerned, the less chances for the judges to make a difference, the better.
Though, it should be noted that this policy only affects main events that have yet to be finalized within the organization. Thus, Phil Davis' UFC 133 headlining bout with Rashad Evans will stay a three-round affair.
White's second primary announcement indicated that the organization will be significantly growing in size once more. The voice of the UFC suggested that the promotion will be adding a 125-pound flyweight division "really soon", possibly by the end of 2011.
The announcement comes on the heels of the UFC's recent addition of the featherweight and bantamweight classes. This newest weight class will push the ever-evolving number of divisions within the organization up to eight, and heavily increase the amount of high-profile fights available to produce.
However, a fairly demanding challenge will come in building the foundation of a division from the ground up. When the featherweight and bantamweight classes were introduced, the UFC had the luxury of importing entire ready-made rosters from the now-defunct WEC. No such advantage exists for the harder-to-come by 125-pound class. Thus, the organization will be forced to work overtime to create and promote a division of their own construction.
When asked how a champion will be determined in the brand new weight class, White did not reject the sentiment that the most prudent route would be to hold a grand prix for the belt. A tournament would likely do wonders, introducing a myriad of new fighters to the fan base, while simultaneously drumming up significant excitement in the spectacle.
Also disclosed during the press conference was the fact that Nick Diaz has officially vacated his Strikeforce welterweight title in order to face UFC champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137 in October. This move was expected, as the organization generally does not allow cross-promotion. It is significant to note, however, that this represents the first time the oft-troubled Diaz is officially a UFC fighter since leaving the organization on relatively bad terms in late 2006. No announcement has been made regarding the available Strikeforce title.
Lastly, White announced that fan-favorite Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson will challenge Jon ‘Bones' Jones for the UFC light heavyweight belt at UFC 135 in Denver, Colorado on September 24th. Jones, fresh off a destruction of former-champion Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua, was forced to withdraw from a planned UFC 133 bout against Rashad Evans due to ligament damage in his thumb. Other planned bouts for the card include a welterweight tussle between UFC hall of famer Matt Hughes and TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez.
‘UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin' will be held on June 11, 2011 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. The event is headlined by a heavyweight number one contender match between Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin.