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Dear UFC | Is there a Plan B for Johnson vs Borg?

Demetrious Johnson reacts after defeating Tim Elliott during a mixed martial arts flyweight bout Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

Is Will Brooks on thin ice? 

Plenty were excited to see Will Brooks’ UFC debut last summer. A dominant champion with Bellator MMA, Brooks was expected to follow in the footsteps of those who came before him to further the notion that elite-level talent did, in fact, exist outside of MMA’s premier organization.

Things didn’t exactly go as planned.

Brooks struggled in his debut against Octagon veteran Ross Pearson, just barely edging out the English fighter to kickstart his UFC career in underwhelming fashion. He followed that initial victory up with just the second loss of his professional career, dropping a third-round TKO to another beatable opponent in Alex Oliveira. Then came a first-round submission defeat to former featherweight contender Charles Oliveira, a loss that wasn’t accompanied by the natural excuses featured in the one before it of an overweight opponent or a costly broken rib.

The former Bellator champion is now 1-2 inside the Octagon and is in dire need of a victory to turn his struggling career around. Featured on the main card in each of his first three walks to the UFC cage, Brooks is now on the preliminary portion of the night, a telltale sign of how far he’s dropped in the eyes of his promoter.

It’s unlikely he’d be cut after three straight losses, considering the company’s history in holding onto struggling fighters whose potential outshines their recent shortcomings. Still, a third straight defeat, especially one against Nik Lentz, would dig Brooks into a hole he likely couldn’t imagine when signing on to compete in the UFC in 2016.

Could Conor McGregor actually be next for the interim champion?

It wasn’t all too long ago that interim championships were a fairly simple concept in mixed martial arts. Created solely out of a dire need for championship progression whenever the actual titleholder is incapable of defending the crown (typically due to injury), the interim title is unified with the actual title to create a unified championship at the earliest possible convenience.

That may not be the case in this instance, as UFC president Dana White previously indicated he wasn’t sure if the winner of UFC 216’s interim championship contest would be automatically next for Conor McGregor upon his return to MMA. It certainly didn’t help that rumors surfaced of a potential trilogy fight between McGregor and Nate Diaz, leapfrogging the future interim champion altogether.

And while McGregor had also previously admitted to being most interested in a fight with Diaz, he has since stated he will not make a decision about his return bout until after the interim championship is decided.

We’re not entirely sure what to make of that at this point. It’s difficult to imagine McGregor would go from fighting Floyd Mayweather to a virtually unknown fighter in Ferguson or Lee, making Diaz the most plausible option.

Is there any backup plan in case Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg falls through?

UFC 215 provided the world’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter with a bit of unfortunate irony. After publicly declining the opportunity to face former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw for his potentially record-breaking title defense for fear of seeing the fight fall through altogether, Demetrious Johnson’s desired opponent withdrew from the contest… seeing the fight fall through altogether. Johnson was initially concerned Dillashaw, never having fought at 125 pounds, would miss weight and eliminate the possibility of an official title defense. He instead chose Ray Borg, who’s previously missed weight twice. Borg was reportedly dealing with an illness just days prior to UFC 215, not a weight issue.

While somewhat rare for a champion to accept a fight against a different opponent after a last-minute injury/mishap, it’s not clear if Johnson was given the option to face anybody else with just a few days to go. Then again, the only other flyweights on the fight card were Henry Cejudo and Wilson Reis — a pair of 125-pound contenders Johnson has already defeated on his historic run.

There will be two other flyweights competing at UFC 216, coming in the form of Matt Schnell and Marco Beltran. Neither man would pose much of a threat to Johnson if given the opportunity, but would that option even arise if something were to happen to Borg this time around?

 



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