A few months ago, I wrote an editorial for The MMA Corner about how crucial the UFC’s 20th anniversary show could be to the promotion. I talked about the significance of such a milestone event, proposed a big-time venue and even threw out a few helpful recommendations for the featured bouts of the night. To be honest, I was extremely excited at the possibility that the UFC would set up a massive card to celebrate it’s 20-year existence in November.

Then, as the months passed, the UFC started filling out its fight cards for the second half of the year. Although plenty of awesome fights were announced, including a couple of exciting title bouts in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, they were all booked before my target date of November. Instead, the UFC opted to give the UFC 167 main-event slot to welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who will look to defend his belt against top contender Johny Hendricks at the anniversary show.

In reality, a main-event fight featuring one of the greatest champions in MMA history isn’t a bad way to headline a major event. St-Pierre is a legit MMA superstar, and although Hendricks may not be the most well-known challenger that the UFC could throw at the champion, it won’t be too difficult for them to market him as a potential spoiler. After all, no one outside of the MMA community had any idea who Chris Weidman was as recently as three months ago. A few hundred (really good) promotional spots later, Weidman was being treated as a very real threat to Anderson Silva, despite having never beaten anyone of consequence. Obviously the hype behind Weidman was real, but even if he had been blasted by Silva in 30 seconds, the UFC did its job by making people believe that Weidman was a true threat to win in the weeks leading up to the fight.

If the UFC can make Weidman look like a killer in a few highlight-reel-filled commercials, imagine what the promotion can do with the footage of Hendricks destroying Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann with his brutal punching power. Throw in some footage of Joe Rogan hyping Hendricks’ wrestling abilities, and there’s no doubt that people will believe that GSP is in serious trouble when he makes his way to the Octagon this November.

Still, the UFC doesn’t seem like it’s going to put much emphasis on the anniversary angle (if any at all), but there’s really no reason to devalue such a historic event unless the promotion can’t make a card to live up to the hype. Even though GSP-Hendricks is a fantastic fight, it doesn’t quite feel like it’s a main event of high enough quality to headline what should be one of the biggest shows in UFC history. St-Pierre is definitely worthy of the headlining spot and Hendricks has done more than enough to deserve his shot at the belt, but “Bigg Rigg” just doesn’t quite possess the star power to make this fight feel truly special for the casual fan. Hendricks will feel like a threat, but he won’t quite be a superstar, which is what the UFC needs.

There’s a simple solution to this problem, and while the UFC may not want to waste more star power on an event that already features its most consistent pay-per-view attraction, the promotion needs another title fight to make an anniversary show worth promoting. With most of the other champions locked onto other fight cards at the moment, there is only one real option for the UFC if it wants to start stacking the UFC 167 fight card: Demetrious Johnson.

The UFC has been reluctant to throw Johnson in a pay-per-view headliner thus far, choosing to let the flyweight division find its wings on Fox instead of the traditional numbered events. This hasn’t been a bad strategy, especially considering how much the 125-pound division needs to grow. “Mighty Mouse” has been a fantastic champion over the last year, but the division is still in its infancy at the moment, and the lack of top contenders for Johnson is starting to become a bit of a problem.

With no obvious title contender for Johnson, whomever the UFC decides to throw in the cage with “Mighty Mouse” is likely going to be a relatively unknown fighter, which would be a hard sell on anything other than free television. Throwing that fight on the same card as a highly anticipated GSP fight will only help add some exposure to the division, and if the flyweights can put on a show in front of a large pay-per-view audience, it will strengthen their chances at headlining their own pay-per-view card in the future.

Even though the GSP-Hendricks and Mighty Mouse-Fighter X match-ups don’t exactly scream “fight card of the year” (in fact, the UFC will deliver a better one-two punch a month later with Weidman-Silva 2 and Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate), it’s a very solid start to making a card worthy of being an anniversary event. Throw in a few other intriguing fights—Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson, Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler—and suddenly this is one of the biggest fight cards of the year.

I know it’s a pipe dream at this point to think the UFC is actually going to do anything memorable for its anniversary show, but with a possible solution staring directly in the face of the promotion, it’s hard to not hold out some hope that this card can still be great. This show isn’t going to be on the level of UFC 100, and it may not even be as anticipated as UFC 168 a month later, but it would be a shame if the UFC didn’t make UFC 167 feel at least a little special. After all, there’s only one 20th anniversary and a milestone event would be a nice gift to the fans that have stuck by the promotion for the past two decades.

Photo: Demetrious Johnson (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.