Some of the best debates start with the words “What If”.
What if Michael Jordan had played in today’s NBA? What if Fedor Emelianenko had signed to the UFC? What if Mike Tyson had never gone to prison? In this new column, Katie Vega & Lee Brown explore and highlight some of the major what ifs in MMA that could have lead to drastic outcomes.
What if Ronda Rousey had beaten Amanda Nunes?
Lee: This is quite interesting as Ronda had seemingly decided to switch up her fighting style after defeating Bethe Correia at UFC 190. Ronda had been known to be a submission fighter and had some of the best arm bars. But her and her team made the conscious effort to try to make her a stand-up fighter. I do think if Ronda would have wrestled Nunes in a rematch, she may have fared a little better and possibly won. Winning would have set up one of the biggest trilogy fights in Women’s MMA. This would’ve solidified her as a bonafied star, instead of her career being scrutinized for being dominant against inferior competition.
Katie: Ronda Rousey is, and will always be a bonafide star, regardless of her last two losses. Not only did she open the door for women to fight in the UFC, she helped propel it to mainstream waters. Recency bias is a real, and stupid thing in MMA. People swear that Rousey was fighting lesser competition, but those women were the best at that time. Several top-10 fighters when Ronda was champion are still fighting at the top of the division today. If Ronda would have won that night, I do think we would have seen the trilogy with Miesha Tate and the rematch with Holly Holm before a trilogy with Nunes. We probably would have eventually gotten the Cyborg fight too. One thing is for sure, women would have been headlining PPVs more often if Rousey didn’t leave.
What if Conor McGregor had beaten Floyd Mayweather?
Lee: If Conor had beaten Floyd Mayweather, I think he would have never returned to a UFC octagon again. Winning, while making $100 million, would’ve had him chasing other boxing opponents which would have come with bigger paydays. Imagine Conor McGregor vs. Manny Pacquiao? It was rumored at one point in time, and that would’ve been another PPV blockbuster big money fight for him. Also, you would’ve had Dana White really jump into the world of boxing as a promoter. Conor showed himself well while in the ring with Mayweather, but his skills weren’t up to par with a top-5 all-time boxer.
Katie: Though Conor is huge today, he would have been even bigger (and richer) if he had beaten Floyd. Not only would that win have been big for MMA, a rematch would have likely been set up and would have brought in more dollar signs which is why I agree that he probably wouldn’t have returned to MMA right away. His return fight would also have not been Khabib Nurmagomedov. So if that fight didn’t happen, Khabib probably wouldn’t have been as big, or as importantly regarded in MMA. Conor would returned in 2020 instead, and who knows, maybe the trilogy with Nate Diaz would have happened for his first fight back since Khabib would have been retired already.
What if TJ Dillashaw was never suspended?
Lee: If TJ was never suspended and had to serve a two-year ban from the UFC, I think he had a chance to be the greatest bantamweight champion of all-time. Let’s remember, he was popped going down to 125lbs to fight Henry Cejudo. The reason I think he would’ve still been an all-time great is because he would only have been 33 years old and still in his prime. He was still putting on good fights companied with his speed and head movement. Although the division is stacked right now, it wasn’t when he was banned. So I could see him winning a few more fights… In his return fight vs. Cory Sandhagen, he looked good after missing two years. But I did notice his speed had dipped, even though his head movement was still there.
Katie: If Dillashaw was never suspended, his career would have ended with more celebrations and Hall-of-Fame worthy praises. But instead, his cheating was got in the way of what could have been a legendary career. But who knows, because after he lost to Henry Cejudo, Triple C went on to win the vacant belt when TJ was stripped. If a healthy TJ at his normal weight class showed up against bantamweight Henry for a title defense, things could have gone much differently. Whether he won or loss, it would have put Dillashaw in a position to continue defending against more 135ers, or eventually test the waters at featherweight.
What if Brock Lesnar was never diagnosed with Diverticulitis?
Lee: Brock Lesnar entered the UFC with much hype due to his super successful run in the WWE. Lesnar would lose his first fight to Frank Mir via submission. However, he would win his next two fights, including winning the UFC heavyweight title. A belt he would go on to defend two times… Lesnar was a big guy with limited skills in the octagon. I think he would’ve loss the title to up-and-coming heavyweights like Cain Velazquez, Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. Lesnar would have needed to drastically improve his skills to be able to compete against these well-rounded fighters. More importantly, the UFC didn’t have a heavyweight limit during his time. But now, heavyweights are allowed to weigh up to 265lbs, which may have been a problem for Lesnar.
Katie: Brock Lesnar debuted in the UFC in 2007, and was diagnosed with Diverticulitis in 2009. Whether or not he had it, I still believe he would have eventually gone on to lose against Cain & Overeem. However, who knows… Because it could have had a drastic affect on his body, power and cardio. So if it did, those bouts could have gone much differently. Even if he did get past them, the heavyweights would go on to evolve into faster, leaner big boys with diverse skillsets. Brock would have to play catch up, similarly to how he did when he held that UFC title. I do not believe he wouldn’t have returned to WWE in 2012 though. If he didn’t, that feud with John Cena would have never happened. That feud was important because it would go on to set up Brock to have one of his longest reigns as WWE Champion in 2014.
What did you think of the first MMA what ifs? Let us know your thoughts and what you think would have happened in these scenarios below…