By Richard Hunter
SACRAMENTO (105.3 THE FAN) — When I arrived at The Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento Saturday night, I already knew that UFC 177 was going to be one of the most chaotic events in the promotion’s history.
The card had seen its’ co-main event flyweight title match rescheduled for Las Vegas weeks before the event in California’s capitol, causing the lightweight attraction between “Ultimate Fighter” winner Tony Ferguson and Team Alpha Male veteran Danny Castillo to be elevated to co-main event status.
The fact that neither of them were ranked in the top 15 of the division made it a very unusual position for two fighters who were not at least veteran superstar names, and it put a lot of pressure on both of them to show that they were deserving of the distinction. With that being said, utter catastrophe didn’t strike until 24 hours before the fight at the weigh ins.
With just a few hours to go until main event bantamweight title challenger Renan Barao was set to step on the scales to make the 135 pound limit, complications with his weight cut saw him rushed to the hospital and scratched from his rematch with champion T.J. Dillishaw. Just like that, UFC 177 lost its’ main event.
To further complicate matters, there was only one other bantamweight fight on the entire card, and it involved two fighters opening the prelims in their UFC debuts. One of those fighters was Joe Soto who, despite his lack of experience in The UFC, had held a title outside of the organization. He was offered the spot to replace Barao in the main event, and all of a sudden there was a guy headlining the card who arrived in Sacramento thinking he was fighting early enough in the evening that he would be in a cage side seat by the time the main event began.
I got to the arena, was handed a press kit with a front cover of a poster promoting a fight that no longer existed, and that’s about the time that The UFC’s production truck caught on fire.
The prelims got off to a slow start, offering only three fights in the first two hours due to the Barao situation and a missed weight cut by another fighter. However, once the main card began, all got right with the MMA world. Four of the five fights on the main card were finishes, and Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo fought to a split decision on the judges’ scorecards that was competitive enough to do right by itself as a co main event.
I asked Tony Ferguson if he believed the fight was as close as the judges scored it:
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
When it came time for the main event, Joe Soto took the champ Dillishaw four and a half rounds before getting knocked out in the fifth. Although he was shut out on the scorecards up to that point, Soto was a game opponent who was understandably commended by the champion for such an effort on 24 hours notice.
I asked T.J. Dillishaw if his formula for defeating Soto would’ve been the same had he fought the scheduled rematch against Barao:
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Perhaps the happiest man in the building Saturday night was The UFC president himself. Dana White isn’t afraid to fire back at his critics, and White had faced plenty of criticism in the week leading up the fight due to the reshuffling of the card. I asked White after the fight if that collective criticism had short changed the faith that UFC fans had in the company’s ability to consistently deliver a quality product:
(Photo by Jayne Russell/Getty Images)
Further, I discussed with White that in T.J. Dillishaw, he not only has a fighting champion, but one that is willing to risk a comfortable lead on the scorecards to achieve an exciting finish for fans:
Dana White repeatedly remarked Saturday night how happy he was to have UFC 177 behind him and now he’ll have a busy September to focus on, with a “UFC 178” pay per view, three “Fight Night” cards and the premiere of the new “Ultimate Fighter” season, all within the next 30 days.
Follow @RichardHunter on Twitter at for breaking news in mixed martial arts, as well as live tweets from UFC events.
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