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UFC's legacy of rematches continues
Some rematches are all but automatic to schedule in the fight game.
A disputed decision. A no-contest due to injury. Just good old fashioned public outcry.
UFC president Dana White said Saturday’s redux between lightweights Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar that headlines UFC 150 in Denver came about a different way: an extreme lobbying effort.
“I was like, ‘I’m not going to give you this fight again. I want to see you move down (in weight) or do other fights,’” White said. “I was trying to talk to his wife and his parents. They were all on his side. They teamed up on me in New York one day and I (said), ‘I’ll see you guys in Denver.’ That’s how the show worked out.”
UFC 150 marks the 20th time there has been a rematch for a title in the history of UFC and this will be Edgar’s fourth, following rematches with B.J. Penn (UFC 118) and two against Gray Maynard (UFC 125 and UFC 136). Rematches tend to be safe bets for promoters, who can gauge both the public interest and entertainment value in the wake of the last bout.
“I know it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be fast-paced,” said Edgar, who lost via unanimous decision to Henderson at UFC 144 in February. “Fighters like Ben and myself are going to go at it. That’s inevitable.”
Lobbying is fairly common — even for the champs who may not necessarily want to fight a former opponent again. White sat down with heavyweight titleholder Junior dos Santos last week before UFC on FOX 4 in Los Angeles and he asked to fight Alistair Overeem, who has taken several verbal jabs at dos Santos of late.
“He said, ‘I have nothing but respect for Cain Velasquez. I like him as a person and a fighter and I think he deserves a shot at the title, but I don’t want to fight him,” White said. “He said, ‘Alistair Overeem is a punk. He’s got a big mouth and he said lots of bad things about me. I want to knock him out now.’”
White hasn’t settled on the next opponent for dos Santos, who acquired the belt via a first-round knockout of Velasquez at UFC on FOX in November. Overeem is currently suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission until at least Dec. 29, when he’s eligible to reapply for his license after he was flagged for elevated testosterone levels. The suspension rules out any domestic fights for Overeem until he’s cleared and it’s very unlikely the UFC would allow to Overeem to fight overseas either.
There are several factors promoters weigh when it comes to to setting up a rematch, Strikeforce president Scott Coker said.
“It’s tough,” Coker said. “When a guy loses, the first thing he says that he wants to fight the guy again. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself the questions: Is there still some magic and will people love to see that fight? If I’m hearing from the public — or within my inner circle — that people want a rematch, you’ll make it happen.”
Not everybody, however, is pleased with these bouts that have Roman numerals attached.
“Frankie always has to have a rematch,” said Melvin Guillard, who takes on Donald Cerrone in the UFC 150 co-main event, at Thursday’s news conference. “He has to keep fighting. There are other guys out there to fight. For the UFC to know our division is so stacked, why aren’t other guys stepping up?”
The same combatants, however, don’t always mean the same type of fight. Just asked Matt Hughes, who has been in six rematches where a belt has been on the line — including his initial rematch with George St. Pierre at UFC 65 in 2006.
“GSP was a much different fighter in that first fight than he was in the second and third,” said Hughes, who fought St. Pierre a third time at UFC 79 in 2007. “He had a lot of time to develop. He came in mentally stronger, physically stronger and better prepared. There weren’t too many fights where I didn’t start off well and wound up winning. In those last two fights, GSP set the pace in the first round and won both (the rematches).”
Since the first Henderson-Edgar fight was six months ago, there wasn’t time for an overhaul.
“The fact is that I’ve seen him for 25 minutes,” Edgar told FOXSports.com. “I've seen what he can bring to the table, but he's also seen what I can bring to the table. We have a good feel for each other. The tricky part is the adjustments.”
Henderson told FOXSports.com that along with his grueling training regimen — complete with four-a-day workouts — that training for this fight is more about fine tuning.
“The big part is that you have to do your thing,” Henderson said. “You’re working on your fundamentals and making your holes smaller. I leave the game plan up to my coaches, who break down the tape (on Edgar).”
A close — or dubious — outcome and the two could very well see each other for a third time, something that’s happened five times for titles in UFC history already.
“I’ll defend my belt against whoever they put in front of me,” Henderson said. “It just plain doesn’t matter who I’m facing.”