How will we remember Germaine de Randamie’s UFC title reign? As the weirdest, and maybe the worst

In the storied history of weird title reigns, Germaine de Randamie’s brief time as UFC women’s featherweight champ may go down as one of the weirdest.

So that’s nice, a little piece of MMA history for her to stick in her back pocket. It’ll go well with the other piece of history she owns: being the first owner of the newest UFC title, even if, in retrospect, she seems more like a squatter who was swiftly evicted.

Officially, de Randamie’s time as champion lasted just a little over four months. She defended the belt not at all, and refused even to consider a fight with the division’s obvious top contender, Cristiane Justino, arguing via her management that a “known and proven cheater” like “Cyborg” shouldn’t even be in the UFC, much less fighting for a belt.

Perhaps sensing how unpopular this decision would be with the company brass, de Randamie’s manager also said she was “willing to wait and see if the UFC will strip her belt before making her next move.”

Turns out that sounded like a great idea to UFC executives, who announced on Monday that de Randamie (7-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) had been stripped and the newly vacant title would go up for grabs at UFC 214, where Justino (17-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) meets Invicta FC champ Megan Anderson (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in the July 29 pay-per-view co-headliner.

As for de Randamie? In all likelihood she’ll return to the women’s bantamweight division. Chances are she’ll never get another crack at any belt with the initials “UFC” on it unless she personally retires every other fighter in the weight class, but that’s the bed she’s made for herself. What else did she expect, honestly?

This is a shockingly bad career decision on de Randamie’s part. In one non-move, she’s managed to alienate both fans and the UFC, while giving up her title literally without a fight. If the goal for a fighter is to win fights, build a legacy, and make money (not necessarily in that order), there’s no worse way to handle your business.

Part of the problem is the messaging. Immediately after de Randamie won the women’s 145-pound title with a little help from some questionable tactics and friendly judging, she was asked about a potential fight with Justino. That’s when she remembered her injured hand, which may or may not need surgery. It was only later that she seemed to get deeply concerned about Justino’s history of failed drug tests.

That creates a pretty clear narrative, and it’s one that most fighters seek to avoid. It’s never a good look when fans think you’re avoiding a certain opponent. It’s an even worse one when you’re the champion, and the certain opponent is the only person in the division who most fans care about.

That’s the other way de Randamie managed to screw this up. You’re looking for a big money bout as a female fighter, one that will help you capitalize on your status as the defending champ? As long as both Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano are off pursuing other interests, “Cyborg” is the best hope you’ve got.

But de Randamie didn’t want that hope or that money, apparently. She must have not wanted the title, either, since she clearly knew that refusing to defend it against the most logical and lucrative contender would have swift consequences.

That created the rare environment where the UFC could strip a champion without upsetting anyone outside that champ’s inner circle. Of course, the promotion still managed an unforced error in its statement explaining the decision, all thanks to one last sentence that could have easily been left out:

“UFC maintains that any champion is expected to accept fights against the top contenders in their respective weight classes in order to maintain the integrity of the sport.”

Ah yes. The integrity of the sport. We can’t have that undermined by champions who don’t face top contenders. Not unless, as in the cases of Michael Bisping and Conor McGregor – both of whom have held their titles longer than de Randamie without facing any top contenders – there’s more money in it for the UFC that way.

What the UFC really means here is that this is a decision it alone gets to make. It can decide when to let champions fight non-contenders, or even non-MMA fighters. It can also decide when to pressure champions to ignore contenders in favor of opponents from outside their divisions, as it did recently with Demetrious Johnson.

Fighters don’t get to make that call, apparently, which in some other instance might open the UFC up to criticism for its own inconsistency. Fortunately for the promotion, here’s an instance where de Randamie messed up so badly and obviously that it overshadows anyone else’s mistakes.

So there’s another thing to add to her legacy. I don’t envy anyone who has to carry that around for the rest of her career.

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source link