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As the UFC started to grow and fighters would increasingly seek out the next big opportunity, interim titles had been a great way to get things moving forward for the champs that may have become more reluctant to fight or those who were off exploring opportunities in different divisions. When these bigger fights did come along, they were certainly amongst the favourite on these betting sites not on gamstop and had become a big draw, but now they’ve become a confusing prospect that often make little sense and only further confuse what is going on – so what changed?
In some instances, they would be arranged through a lack of patience as recently seen with the Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane fight – whilst current heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou had only won the title back in March, with the following planned trip to return home and enjoy a much needed vacation it seemed the UFC was unwilling to wait for the champ to return and set up a different title fight, but it’s hardly the long period of inactivity that used to fuel the desire for an interim title, and in some regards perhaps not the most sought after fight too, particularly when none of these fighters are yet to beat the previous champ in Stipe.
Previous fighters on the UFC roster, and former champs have commented on this with the former lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez, now a ONE Championship fighter, being outspoken on the matter by saying “We’re all part of the problem. When an interim title is given and the media makes a big fuss of it, and a fighter makes a big fuss of it, and the fans make a big fuss of it, an interim title has value. That’s the saddest thing that can happen in the sport.” It’s certainly something starting to be felt by fans, however, as long title reigns are always a bit more difficult these days when fighters are being stripped left and right and interim title fighters become something else entirely. Alvarez had also stated that he believes the interim titles are simply offered as a replacement for money – offer the main event spot and a high-profile fight, and you don’t need to pay the fighters more, something that’s certainly been hitting the headlines in recent months.
It’s unlikely that anything will change in the short term as UFC boss Dana White seems to be a fan of the current set-up, and in some regards it does seem to be working, but there’s certainly plenty of frustration growing amongst fans and fighters alike as interim titles continue to be a confusing prospect, and often give little other than a belt that doesn’t mean all that much.