The announcement of the UFC 230 headliner was met with disbelief throughout the MMA community on Tuesday — and not in a good way.
Considering all the speculation that surrounded the event, with possibilities ranging from a title fight in a new weight class to the return of Jon Jones, a matchup for the vacant flyweight belt between Valentina Shevchenko and Sijara Eubanks was something of a letdown. After all, Shevchenko had already been booked to face Joanna Jedrzejczyk, a more established opponent and a former champion, at UFC 231 on Dec. 8 before the change.
“Because we moved it sooner, Joanna wasn’t ready for that fight,” UFC President Dana White said in an interview with ESPN. “Valentina doesn’t care. This girl will fight tomorrow. She wants to fight every month.”
It’s currently unclear if Jedrzejczyk will challenge the winner of the bout at a later date.
“It’ll be up to her . We’ll see what Joanna wants to do. If she wants to do that, we’ll do it,” White said.
For its first two trips to Madison Square Garden, the UFC has held blockbuster main events. UFC 205, the promotion’s debut in the Big Apple, was headlined by a lightweight championship clash between Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor. Last year, Georges St. Pierre returned from a four-year hiatus to challenge Michael Bisping for the middleweight crown at UFC 217.
While Shevchenko has challenged for a title at bantamweight, Eubanks is not very well known to the casual fan. The Camp Springs, Md., native emerged on Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” making her way to the finals to set up a showdown with Nicco Montano for the UFC’s inaugural 125-pound strap. Unfortunately, Eubanks was forced to withdraw from the bout due to a failed weight cut. She won her official Octagon debut in June to improve to 3-2 as a pro.
For his part, White seems happy with the efforts of the promotion.
“Eubanks, if she’d have made weight, she’d have been the champion or at least fought for the championship,” he said. “And there’s no doubt Valentina is the baddest girl around at 125 right now. It was the fight to make. I’m just glad we could pull it off this soon.”
White added that steps were taken to ensure that Eubanks will be able to make it to the Octagon for this particular title fight.
“We made sure that Eubanks was on weight,” White said. “So Sijara is close to weight and Valentina is a beast and wanted this fight. It’s a fun fight.”
A fight that seemed to be more intriguing to the masses was the possibility of Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier competing for a title at 165 pounds. Both fighters essentially announced that it was a done deal on social media. White, however, says it was never a consideration. As it stands, Diaz and Poirier are scheduled to meet at lightweight.
“It’s all just talk,” White said. “First of all you make 165 pounds, you’re gonna start pulling people from the 170-pound division. Then you’re gonna see a lot of people from 170 and 155 that couldn’t win a title at 170 and 155 jumping to 165 to fight for a title there. It doesn’t make sense. We’ve always kept it simple…We have enough weight classes.”
White also hinted that UFC 230 is still a work in progress. Whether that means preliminary filler or another marquee matchup remains to be seen.
“We’re still working on fights for that card,” he said.