Why Is the UFC OK with Some Superfights, but Not Others?

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2013

August 11, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; UFC host Joe Rogan (left) talks with Benson Henderson (right) after he defeated Frankie Edgar (not pictured) during UFC 150 at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Benson Henderson, the UFC lightweight champion, wants to fight Georges St. Pierre in the future, but UFC President Dana White is not having it.

As 2013 is setting up to be the year of the superfight, it is interesting to know why some fighters are picked for those bouts, and others are stuck in their own divisions. Henderson is the perfect example of why some fighters are left on the outside.

In a recent interview with MMAFighting.com, Henderson was adamant about being able to call out other top fighters.

"I want to fight in the biggest fights and against the best fighters," he continued. "Georges St. Pierre is one of the greatest fighters in our sport's history. Of course I'd love to fight him, and I think the fans would want to see that fight too. It would be an honor to go up against such a great competitor, especially with a title on the line.”

It was on UFC Tonight that White shot the idea of that down:

"That's not going to happen. He won just that title not too long ago. There are plenty of guys in the 155 division to defend that title against, and a possible fight with Aldo if he moves up to 155.”

Why is Henderson being immediately dismissed in the discussion of superfights? There are two major reasons. Dana White mentioned one, but the other went unsaid.

First, White is correct. Henderson is a new lightweight champion who has a plethora of fighters waiting to challenge him at 155 pounds.

Henderson has only fought Frankie Edgar and Nate Diaz for the title, and next up will be Gilbert Melendez. If he gets past Melendez, the winner of Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis seems to be next after that. Henderson’s got a full schedule ahead of him.

The three fighters always discussed on the topic of superfights are GSP, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. Those three men have practically cleared out their divisions, and have openings to take on the extra marquee bout.

However, the biggest reason Henderson has not been mentioned for possible superfights is left unsaid. He is not a draw.

Henderson is a fantastic and exciting fighter, but he has yet to connect with the fans that purchase pay-per-view telecasts. The UFC has begun trying to help his case by putting him on their largest platform, FOX.

When Henderson met Edgar in their rematch at UFC 150, the buyrate failed to crack 200,000. Numbers that low are not going to enthuse the UFC brass to put Henderson atop more PPV events. Superfights between Anderson Silva and GSP or Jon Jones will be potentially the biggest shows in company history. Henderson cannot come close to that right now.

The combination of the deep lightweight division and Henderson’s inability to excite the fanbase is why he is not in the discussion for big-money fights.

In another year’s time, perhaps he will have defeated the growing list of contenders in his division and fans will want to see him challenge for the welterweight strap in a superfight. He has everything fans should want in a top draw. After his second FOX fight, perhaps things will change for the lightweight champion.

Time will tell, but as of right now, Henderson is not in a position to be in a superfight.

He is not a superstar yet, and drawing power will ultimately determine the fighters who are selected for these huge fights. Fighters that can prove their ability to sell an event will move to the front of the pack for unprecedented paychecks in historic bouts.