As we count down the days to enter the new year, the MMA aficionados will look forward to the next couple of days. Not only will we be treated to MMA goodness, courtesy of RIZIN FF and their two absolutely stacked cards, but we also get to see Cyborg facing arguably her toughest challenge in the UFC so far.
2017 has been a phenomenal year for the MMA fans, as well as the MMA promotions. From Bellator MMA pulling out all the stops to sign some of the biggest names available, to the UFC putting on dream fights for the fans, there has certainly been no dearth of talking points this year.
Saying that, we take a look at the five defining moments of 2017, which shaped up the MMA world.
Honourable mention – Arjan Singh Bhullar signs with the UFC
Back in 2012, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was bullish about entering the Indian market. The leading mixed martial arts promotion leaves no stone unturned, while sizing up a market, and analysing its potential. They came to the logical conclusion that, given time and effort, India could become one of the biggest markets for the organisation.
However, for whatever reason, that did not come to fruition. The Indian fans had to wait for five more years, to see a fighter of Indian descent in the UFC. Arjan opened doors for the first Indian – born UFC fighter, Bharat Kandare, which has led to the promotion seriously scouting talents from the sub continent.
In the macro scheme of things, this might seem insignificant. However, Arjan’s entry into the UFC opens one of the biggest markets in the world, for UFC to get into.
#5 Ben Askren retires from MMA
The former Bellator MMA Welterweight Champion, and the ONE Welterweight Champion is considered to be one of the best pound – for – pound fighters on the planet, and arguably the best fighter outside of the UFC. Askren is also well known for his grappling, and his style of shutting his opponents down, often taking very less damage.
Askren had also beaten current contenders in Bellator MMA, such as Koreshkov and Lima. Ben signed with ONE Championship in 2013, and has since dominated the welterweight division. The former champion has never been defeated in his professional MMA career, and retired with an unblemished 18 – 0 – 1 win – loss – draw record, with the only ‘No Contest’ coming against Luis Santos in April 2015.
Askren’s retirement was a major talking point in the MMA world, with many expecting Ben to compete in the UFC at some point. However, the grappling phenom was happy to hang up his gloves, but has left the door open for a super – fight with the UFC welterweight title holder, considering all the stars align.
#4 Jon Jones gets flagged yet again
Jon Jones is considered by many to be the greatest pound – for – pound fighter of all time. The former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion has laid waste to his opponents for years, defeating legends such as Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Shogun and Belfort.
However, Jon could not overcome one particular adversary in his life – himself. If there was anyone that was standing in his path, it was him. JJ’s party – lifestyle, and his affinity towards living a fast life led to his undoing on multiple occasions.
After the hit – and – run debacle, Jon spent a good year trying to gain the trust of his fanbase, and more importantly, getting back into UFC’s good books. With UFC facing the majority of the backlash stemming from Jon’s antics outside the cage, the promotion was facing a dilemma about promoting Jon once again.
However, it all seemed to be going well; Jon came back and put a vicious beating on Daniel Cormier, taking back his throne. That was until Jon once again failed the dope test, this time getting popped for an anabolic steroid. In an all – too familiar sight, Jones was stripped off the title, and has been suspended by the UFC.
#3 Bellator MMA’s historic MSG card
2017 has been a monstrous year for Bellator MMA. From signing some of the top prospects/ fighters available in the free market, to overseeing some outstanding fights, the promotion headed by Scott Coker made a lot of right moves.
But something had to be done, in order to truly signify these changes. That came in the form of the Bellator NYC card, where the promotion put on a historic PPV card in New York. Emanating from the iconic Madison Square Garden, the Bellator 180 and Bellator NYC cards featured high – profile title fights, and also some of the most legendary figures the sport has ever seen.
Fedor Emelianenko faced Matt Mitrione, while the likes of Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva and Lorenz Larkin fought in featured fights. Aaron Pico, the highly touted prospect was welcomed to Bellator MMA with a defeat, while Brent Primus won the lightweight title from Chandler.
As the lights faded at the end of the night, Bellator MMA took some major steps, and ended the year on a high, thanks to the momentum they rode on following the NYC card!
#2 Georges St – Pierre comes out of retirement
It took a year for GSP and UFC to come to terms, and for both parties to reach a middle ground. So when the former UFC Welterweight kingpin officially signed on the dotted line to fight Michael Bisping, the MMA world watched with baited breath. Would the former pound – for – pound greatest fighter on the planet be able to take his place on the throne? Or would Bisping show the world that GSP had lost his mojo?
The highly anticipated fight delivered, and Georges St – Pierre proved that he still has what it takes to hang with the best in the promotion. GSP’s return also brought back the ardent fans, who had stopped watching the product over the past couple of years.
The former middleweight champion’s return has undoubtedly been a defining moment this year in the UFC — and in MMA.
#1 Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather erase the line in the sand
There cannot be a debate as to what takes the cake. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor finally did the biggest cross – over fight since Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki. For years, the boxers and MMA fighters have been teasing a fight between each other, but no one really believed that the two worlds would ever collide.
However, just the money involved in a potential fight between McGregor and Floyd forced both camps to make it happen. Dana White and the UFC had to shake hands with Showtime, and the result was one of the biggest PPV attractions in combat sports history! While the revenue generated through PPV sales and live gate was only second to Mayweather – Pacquiao, their fight has undeniably changed the way combat sports will be perceived going forward.
Whether we like it or not, the McGregor – Mayweather Jr. saga has opened doors for potential cross – over fights going forward, and has revolutionised the way combat sports will operate in the future.