Crushing news broke out yesterday that Joseph Duffy, the main event attraction for UFC Fight Night 76 in Dublin, Ireland, had to pull out of the fight due to a mild concussion. The news comes just a week after its co-main event, a heavyweight bout between Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell, was cancelled because of Miocic getting hurt. With both main and co-main event getting cut, the UFC has allowed ticket buyers to refund their tickets and the event is all but guaranteed to take a massive loss financially.
The “injury bug” has long been the primary antagonist for matchmaking and a constant wrench in the plans of the UFC. This year alone, there have been 34 main event or co-main event changes due to an injury, according to Mike Bohn of MMAjunkie. And in the last two years, there have been at least three main events drastically altered due to a last minute injury. Below are some notorious injuries that derailed UFC main events at the worst possible times:
Kevin Randleman gets whacked by the floor (UFC 24, 2000)
Randleman had a brief UFC career with a lot of memories — both good and bad. He won the UFC heavyweight championship against Pete Williams when UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten vacated it. The former NCAA Divison I wrestler was looking like the UFC’s newest star as he was set to make his first title defense in Louisiana as the main attraction.
In what could only be described as a freak accident, Randleman slipped backstage while warming up and hit his head on the floor. He was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion. The worst part is this happened during the broadcast and before social media, hence all the pay-per-view buyers and fans in attendance were not notified until after the end of the show.
Renan Barao’s weight-cutting fiasco (UFC 177, 2014)
Weight cutting and the dangers it presents to the fighters’ long-term health has been another scrutinized issue in the sport. This was never more apparent during UFC 177. Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao was scheduled his immediate rematch against new champion T.J. Dillashaw who had just beat him up for his title in what was one of the biggest championship upsets in MMA history. The card itself was already being hit hard by injuries whittling the event down to nine bouts from the usual eleven.
On the day of the weigh-ins, news broke out that Barao had been pulled out of the bout for an accident while making weight and newcomer Joe Soto had taken his spot instead. Barao apparently fainted and hit his head in the bathtub and had to be taken to a hospital. Fortunately, Dillashaw was willing to fight the last-minute replacement and salvage a card that barely drew over 125,000 PPV buys and a total gate of $700,000 unlike a certain champion down the list.
Aldo’s controversial broken rib (UFC 186, 2015)
In this same year, the last-minute injury bug struck involving another Irishman, though he was on the opposite end of the bad news. The UFC’s most hyped title fight involving UFC featherweight champion and pound-for-pound king Jose Aldo and the fastest-rising MMA superstar Conor McGregor had to be postponed as the champion was struck during practice and fractured a rib. The news of Aldo’s injury broke out just over two weeks before the fight and there was question of whether he would pull out or compete. Even with x-rays depicting his injury, there were mixed opinions on whether Aldo was really able to physically compete and if he would go through with the fight.
In the end, Aldo would be forced to pull out and former two-time title challenger Chad Mendes would step up on short notice. While McGregor stayed on the card and the event was still a rousing success — 850,000 PPV buys and 7.2 million gate — months of promotion, marketing and drama between Aldo and McGregor fizzled out in anticlimactic fashion and one could only speculate how much the event would’ve really done had Aldo not been injured.
Jones infamously refuses title fight after Henderson’s injury (UFC 151, 2012)
Sept. 1, 2012. The date of the first ever cancelled UFC PPV in the company’s 20-year history with Zuffa. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was set to defend his belt against former two-division Pride champion Dan Henderson. Jones was MMA’s biggest rising star at this point and “Hendo” was a living legend and their fight alone was expected to carry an otherwise lackluster PPV.
One week prior to the fight, Dana White broke news that Hendo had injured his MCL and had pulled out of the fight. Desperately, White offered Jones a replacement contender in Chael Sonnen, but the champion and his camp turned it down. The event had to be cancelled and a frustrated White blamed Jones’ longtime coach Greg Jackson for advising the champion not to take the fight.
There was widespread criticism spread throughout with many fans and fighters criticizing Jones and Jackson for refusing to take the fight and saving the card while many blamed Dana and the UFC for creating such a shallow PPV that it was unable to handle the loss of any major fights. “Hendo” was also criticized for not speaking up on his injury when news surfaced he had been hurt three weeks prior to the announcement.
To this day, UFC 151 would serve as one of only two UFC events (UFC 176 being the other) to have been cancelled and a grim eye-opener on the frailty and unpredictability of MMA matchmaking.