Trading pictures – UFC 215 misplaced its main experience, however how much did fans actually care?

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As notable as the fights that did happen at UFC 215 in Edmonton on Saturday night is the one that didn’t. After a main event scratch and a UFC record put on pause, retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to debate how much it really matters.

Downes: Ben, there was a rumbling high atop Mt. Xyience this week. The MMA gods demanded a sacrifice, and we lost the main event for UFC 215. Ray Borg contracted an undisclosed viral illness and was not cleared to fight champion Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title. Borg has repeatedly said that it had nothing to do with his weight cut, but I think everyone is a bit skeptical about that.

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Trading Shots: UFC 215 lost its main event, but how much did fans really care?

About Shots:

I’m not interested in Borg’s medical diagnosis. He missed out on the biggest opportunity of his career, and we’ll see if he can recover. Rather, I’m curious as to what this means for Johnson.

Earlier this week, many people were talking about what him breaking the consecutive UFC title defense record would mean. Even though the fight never happened, I think we got our answer. Did fans miss out on a chance to witness MMA history? Or did they respond the same way to a “Mighty Mouse” main event cancellation as they’ve long responded to his title reign – with a collective shrug?

Trading Shots: UFC 215 lost its main event, but how much did fans really care?

Fowlkes: First of all, how could anyone say with total certainty that a “viral illness” had nothing to do with the weight cut? If weight cuts can weaken your immune system (and they can), then isn’t it possible that it contributed to the severity of the illness? If anything, the insistence that it was definitely not weight cut-related – nope, no way, despite the fact that he’s missed weight twice in the recent past – only makes me more suspicious.

But I digress. Your question was whether or not people cared about the possibly historic title fight being scratched. The rumor is that roughly 500 or so ticket-buyers went and got their money back, so there’s at least a few people who care. At least one Buffalo Wild Wings location scrapped plans to show the event. Like Thomas Jefferson said, “As B-Dubs goes, so goes the nation.”

Personally, I felt let down, but mostly because I wanted Johnson to go ahead and get his record so we could move on and find him some more meaningful challenges. I did not expect this to be a competitive fight. I expected Johnson to truck Borg, then hopefully consider fighting a bantamweight, because clearly we are all out of fun stuff for him to do at flyweight.

What I’m admitting here is that, basically, I already felt the record was his. There wasn’t much drama here for me. I kind of just wanted to witness the moment. Since that moment has been delayed through no fault of his own, it feels even less dramatic.

My question is, what’s the UFC going to do now? Because rebooking this fight seems like the least exciting option, even if I can’t think of a better one at the moment.

Downes: Good thing you never decided to be an attorney. That was one of the worst defenses I’ve ever read, and I have to deal with you every week. If rumors and one anecdote about a Buffalo Wild Wings are the best you can muster, that should be indicative of the level of disinterest we have here.

The UFC doesn’t have a lot of options going forward. It didn’t want to give Borg a title shot in the first place, so I can’t see him getting another chance now. Even though UFC President Dana White was so concerned about a doctor’s clearance when Amanda Nunes decided to drop out of UFC 213, I don’t think he’ll cut Borg any slack. We all know Johnson wants the record, so let’s take a look at the flyweight rankings.

1. Joseph Benavidez
2. Henry Cejudo
3. Ray Borg
4. Sergio Pettis
5. Wilson Reis

Not exactly an embarrassment of riches, is it? Pettis is the natural choice here. What other option is there?

Regardless of what we think of the title defense record, it means something to Johnson. Therefore, he should be able to stick to his guns and not be forced to move to another division. It may not be exciting in the same way a bantamweight fight would, but that’s the current landscape.

It feels like we’ve been having the same argument about Johnson for years. Why can’t he get over? Can the flyweight division produce stars? Has the UFC done a decent job promoting him?

It’s odd that this level of dominance and competitive brilliance can be ho-hum. The man was on the cusp of what should be an impressive record, but your interest in it amounted to “I hope he does it so we can do something else.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. If you’re not interested in someone’s fight, how can you be interested in them in general?

Do you really think a bantamweight run would re-energize the interest in Johnson? MMA fans aren’t exactly known for changing their minds.

Fowlkes: You’re always telling me I shouldn’t be a lawyer. You’re like some kind of anti-guidance counselor, warning me away from professions I never considered.

But fine, may it please the court, let me go ahead and clarify. A main reason the record didn’t interest me too much was because it seemed like a foregone conclusion. I know it’s a fight and anything can so forth and so on, but Johnson was as close to a sure thing as you could find on this card. There’s not a lot of drama in watching an 8-1 favorite win.

Mostly that’s a consequence of how he got to this precipice of UFC history in the first place. You don’t reach 10 straight title defenses without cleaning out a division to some extent. If you’re a good, proven flyweight, chances are that Johnson has beaten you already. Watching him work his way down the ranks in search of fresh meat was bound to get less and less competitive, and therefore less interesting.

So yes, I do think a run at bantamweight would help him. I also think the UFC should pay him extra or at least give him points on the pay-per-view for stepping up to that challenge, since 10 pounds is a pretty big deal when you’re a flyweight.

I understand why he wants this record. I think he deserves to get a fair crack at it. But once that’s over, let’s see if we can’t find something else for the pound-for-pound best fighter to do with his talents, if only to find out how great he truly is. I rest my case, your honor.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) defeats Tim Elliott (blue gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) fights Tim Elliott (blue gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) fights Tim Elliott (blue gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) fights Tim Elliott (blue gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) defeats Tim Elliott (blue gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) competes against Henry Cejudo (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) knocks down Henry Cejudo (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Henry Cejudo (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Henry Cejudo (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Henry Cejudo (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 5, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) and John Dodson (blue gloves) during their flyweight title bout at UFC 191 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Johnson won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY

Sep 5, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) during his flyweight title bout against John Dodson (not pictured) at UFC 191 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Johnson won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY

Sep 5, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) and John Dodson (blue gloves) during their flyweight title bout at UFC 191 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Johnson won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY

Sep 5, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) after defeating and John Dodson (not pictured) in the flyweight title bout at UFC 191 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Johnson won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY

Sep 5, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC president Dana White puts the championship belt on Demetrious Johnson (red gloves) after defeating John Dodson (not pictured) in the flyweight title bout at UFC 191 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Johnson won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY