Posted 12/13/2013 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

A Short History of UFC Special Conference Calls

The UFC will host a conference call today at 2:20 p.m. ET. Conference calls aren’t unusual for the UFC; they host one for nearly every major event.* The UFC, however, announced this one last night, and it features President Dana White and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Rumors surfaced prior to UFC 167 that St-Pierre, 32, was considering calling it quits. His awkward, rambling post-fight interview didn’t address those rumors so much as fuel them on. St-Pierre had scheduled a press conference today in Montreal, apparently to discuss his future. Two days ago, White said St-Pierre wasn’t “making any announcement.” Now there’s an official UFC conference call.

* – Or used to. The UFC conference call was once reported en masse, with MMA Twitter accounts lighting up with updates. That is rarely the case now. The conference call has largely given way to the pre-fight press conference during fight week.

These special or emergency conference calls aren’t unusual, though they happen infrequently, and they typically involve big news. While we wait for St. Pierre’s news, enjoy a sampling of the UFC’s prior offerings:

-Randy Couture returns to fight Brock Lesnar (September 6, 2008): In the fall of 2007, Couture left the UFC, attempting to loophoole his way out of his fight contract in order to pursue a big-money fight with Fedor Emelianenko. A year of legal disputes led nowhere, and the UFC enticed Couture back into the fold with a big-money fight against Brock Lesnar just over two months later at UFC 91. Couture lost the belt, but the fight drew over one million PPV buys.

-Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos will coach The Ultimate Fighter (January 11, 2011): Lesnar would defend the belt against Frank Mir at UFC 100, drawing a still-UFC-record 1.6 million PPV buys, and Shane Carwin at UFC 116, good for another 1.1 million buys before dropping it to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121, and, yes, another million PPV buys. Less than three months after the Velasquez fight, the UFC announced that Lesnar, along with dos Santos, would serve as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC hoped Lesnar’s massive drawing power would breath new life into the stale show. It didn’t.

-Brock Lesnar pulls out of UFC 131 following second bout with diverticulitis (May 12, 2011): Lesnar and dos Santos failed to draw big ratings as Ultimate Fighter coaches, but the UFC still got a big-time PPV to promote out of it, right? Wrong. Lesnar deals with diverticulitis, a life-threatening intestinal disorder. The condition had already pushed back Lesnar’s title defense against Shane Carwin in 2009. Following surgery and a change in diet, Lesnar thought the worst was behind him, but the disorder popped up again following taping. The UFC replaced Lesnar, poetically, with Carwin.

-Georges St-Pierre pulls out of UFC 137 bout against Carlos Condit (October 19, 2011): This one is strange. The UFC lines up St-Pierre to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 137. Diaz no-shows two separate press conferences. The UFC swaps Diaz and Carlos Condit, who was originally scheduled to fight B.J. Penn. On October 18th, St-Pierre pulls out of the event with a knee injury. The next day on a conference call, the UFC announces Condit is also off the card, making Diaz and Penn the de facto main event. No one apparently tells Diaz about it (according to Nick Diaz), who finally shows up 45 minutes into the call. From there it was your typical Nick Diaz show: a defensive, rambling stream-of-consciousness on career regrets, having to fight a friend in Penn, and a lack of reverence for the Strikeforce belt.

-Georges St-Pierre injures ACL, needs surgery (December 7, 2011): St-Pierre’s knee injury failed to stabilize, forcing a visit to orthopedist Dr. Sebastien Simard. An MRI revealed St-Pierre tore the ACL in his right knee along with a minor tear in the meniscus. The injury required surgery, forcing St-Pierre out of the rescheduled bout against Condit at UFC 139. Condit, not wanting to wait ten months for St-Pierre to rehab, agreed to a fight with Diaz at UFC 143 for an interim welterweight title.

-UFC 151 cancelled (August 23, 2012): Jon Jones was scheduled to make the fourth defense of his light heavyweight title reign at UFC 151 against Dan Henderson. A little over a week out from the bout, Henderson informed White about an injured knee. A trip to the UFC doctor revealed a ruptured MCL. White scrambled to find a new opponent. He found one in Chael Sonnen. The only problem? Jones wouldn’t fight Sonnen on a week’s days notice. On the subsequent conference call, White went apoplectic. He called the decision “one of [his] all-time lows.” He felt “disgusted” with Jones, noting (almost assuredly falsely) that the UFC has “never, ever had a fighter refuse to fight someone.” Greg Jackson, Jones’ trainer, was a “sport killer” for advising his fighter to refuse the fight. Jones would go on to fight Vitor Belfort at UFC 152.

Mike Fagan