5 times UFC fighters tried to steal the limelight and failed

Marvin Vettori's face-off with Israel Adesanya for UFC on Fox 29
Marvin Vettori's face-off with Israel Adesanya for UFC on Fox 29
Sunderam Saxena

Getting a title shot in the UFC is a tough row to hoe. A lot of fighters think they are the best in their division only to be proven wrong. With championship status bringing a promise of money, fame, and glory, many UFC fighters have tried their luck against the best, only to fall short.

However, styles make fights. You could make the case for lower-ranked fighters jumping the queue and staking a claim at a title shot. Looking at UFC history, attempts at the same have often proven worthwhile, too.

These exceptions have, however, motivated lower-ranked fighters in the UFC to grab the limelight either by hook or by crook. In the past, a few fighters have tried to steal the thunder from their more deserving counterparts in their quest for gold.

5 instances where UFC fighters tried to steal the limelight and failed:

#5 - Henry Cejudo's cameo during Patricio Freire's interview

Henry Cejudo aka 'Triple C'
Henry Cejudo aka 'Triple C'

Henry Cejudo is a former UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion. In 2020, Triple C retired after defending his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz at UFC 249.

However, the announcement of his retirement was dubbed by many analysts as a ploy to make UFC president Dana White raise his pay. Nonetheless, the UFC vacated the bantamweight title two weeks after Cejudo's retirement.

'Triple C' is now on the lookout for a comeback.

In an interview with ESPN SportsNation, Henry Cejudo stated he would like to make a comeback and beat current bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling along with former champion Petr Yan at the same time.

“I would personally like to line up both, line both Petr Yan and Aljamain Curling Sterling Silver at the same time. I’d like to beat up both of them. You guys stay tuned, man. Triple C’s coming back! What’s up?” - Henry Cejudo.

He also teased a comeback further when he tweeted, "Catch me if you can," implying that the UFC needs to pay him if they want him to return.

However, the hype Cejudo attempted to build was met with no response from UFC president Dana White. Triple C looked for other ways to steal the limelight, albeit failingly.

ESPN's Ariel Helwani was interviewing Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire, the current Bellator featherweight and lightweight champion. Alongside 'Pitbull' was his coach Eric Albarracin. During the interview, Henry Cejudo kept popping up behind Eric, holding a life-size cut-out of Captain America.

With Ariel Helwani not reacting to Cejudo's repeated antics, the former UFC double-champ gave up, drawing flak on social media from MMA fans and the ESPN reporter.

Helwani took to Twitter and said that although he had not noticed Henry Cejudo on the screen, he found Triple C's desperation funny.


#4 - Marvin Vettori's cage-side appearance during Robert Whittaker's win

Marvin Vettori sitting cage-side (left) and Robert Whittaker (right) after defeating Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24
Marvin Vettori sitting cage-side (left) and Robert Whittaker (right) after defeating Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24

Marvin Vettori is hyped up after his recent win against Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 23. The number three-ranked UFC middleweight set the record for most takedowns in middleweight history after taking Holland down 11 times that night.

Following his win, 'The Italian Dream' claimed he earned his shot at a middleweight title bout against champion Israel Adesanya. Former champion Robert Whittaker is currently the number one contender.

Vettori, however, does not believe that Whittaker deserves a title shot as the Australian is not "that hungry." The Italian fighter said at the UFC Vegas 23 post-fight interview,

"I don't think Whittaker is that hungry. Like, he missed his shot after beating Cannonier, that was his shot and he blew it. I mean next week will tell a lot but he had his shot, he was the champ, he got knocked the hell out and I'm next. That's my chance and I don't even think he's gonna be as active but by October, I don't think he's going to be ready again."

Robert Whittaker fought Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24, with the winner most likely to receive a rematch against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

In his hopes of entering the limelight after watching Whittaker lose, Marvin Vettori sat cage-side at UFC Vegas 24. Had Whittaker lost, Vettori would have presented himself as the most deserving fighter to take on Izzy.

However, his attempt at stealing the limelight backfired as Robert Whittaker won via unanimous decision. Instead of getting a title shot, Marvin Vettori ended up getting trolled on the internet.


#3 - Conor McGregor offers Dustin Poirier a "charity fight" outside the UFC

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor

After his embarrassing loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018, Conor McGregor was not to be seen in 2019. In 2020, 'Notorious' fought a single bout against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. Desperate to get more fights and with the UFC not paying heed, McGregor decided to take matters into his own hands.

Speaking on the show DC & Helwani, Ariel Helwani spoke about Conor McGregor releasing Dana White's messages on social media and said that 'Notorious' was "begging" for a fight.

This infuriated Conor McGregor who decided to steal the limelight in his own way. On Twitter, McGregor proposed an exhibition bout with Dustin Poirier that would be promoted by McGregor Sports and Entertainment Limited.

The fight could never have happened, considering both McGregor and Poirier were bound by their UFC contracts to not engage with other organizations.

Additionally, Conor McGregor's desperation was labeled by Dana White as an attempt to steal Israel Adesanya's thunder. Izzy had KO'd his rival Paulo Costa at UFC 253 just two days before McGregor's tweets.

“When we’re about to do a massive fight—and Israel Adesanya broke a ton of records last week in a global, massive fight—the day before that fight, he starts announcing he’s going to fight this guy and that guy. It’s almost like stealing Adesanya’s thunder.”


#2 - Conor McGregor gets called out for clouding Amanda Nunes' win

Amanda Nunes (left) and Conor McGregor (right)
Amanda Nunes (left) and Conor McGregor (right)

In June 2020, Amanda Nunes defended her featherweight title for the first time against Felicia Spencer at UFC 250. It was a historic moment for Nunes, who established herself as the UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion.

However, 'The Lioness' saw her historic win clouded by McGregor's decision to retire from MMA, a move many MMA veterans found to be in bad taste.

Conor McGregor announced his retirement on Twitter on June 7, the day UFC 250 was taking place. After getting just 40 seconds of fight-time inside the octagon in a matter of two years, the Irishman decided it was time.

The announcement was yet another attempt by Conor McGregor to steal the limelight from the current champion. MMA veteran and former two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier condemned Conor's actions. DC said,

“I just wish Conor would pick better timing. Because it’s like these fighters are giving themselves and their all to everything, and every time he does something like that it completely takes the story. Before Amanda got to the back to be celebrated, it had shifted to Conor McGregor. It’s cool man like okay, you’re the biggest star in the UFC, everybody knows it. But could Amanda have had her moment a little bit?”

MMA analyst Joe Rogan spoke about Conor's announcement at the UFC 250 post-fight show and said,

"I don't buy it for a second. I think Conor McGregor is trying you to talk about him and you just did. What better way to get people to talk about him when there's a spectacular fight, filled with people dominating? What he did was just sort of hijack the whole situation."


#1 - Jon Jones tries to steal Francis Ngannou's limelight, fails miserably

Jon Jones
Jon Jones

Francis Ngannou defeated Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 to become the new UFC heavyweight champion, bringing his life-long dream to reality. The two fighters previously faced each other in 2018 at UFC 220. Despite Stipe Miocic being the underdog, he defended his title brilliantly against 'The Predator'.

When Francis Ngannou returned for the title shot after three long years, he displayed massive improvements to his game. One of the deadliest knockout artists in MMA, Ngannou was more composed and calculative. The 263-pounder even learned to defend takedowns, neutralizing Stipe's go-to weapon against him.

Finally, Francis Ngannou dethroned Stipe Miocic in a second round KO, with the world watching in disbelief.

However, witnessing all the action unfold from afar and waiting to steal the limelight was Jon Jones. The UFC's #1 pound-for-pound fighter and former light heavyweight champion, Jones instantly took to Twitter to tell the world that he was ready to take on Francis Ngannou.

The media took note of Bones' tweet and informed Dana White at the UFC 260 post-fight press conference. But Dana White doused the former light heavyweight champion's hopes of stealing the limelight. The UFC president first told the media that if he was Jon Jones, he would move down from the heavyweight division after watching Francis Ngannou win.

Laughing off Jon Jones' tweet, Dana White said,

“Listen, I can sit here all day and tell you, what's show me the money mean? I tell you guys this all the time. You can say you want to fight somebody, but do you really want to?” White said at the UFC 260 post-fight conference."

The response irked Jones, who instantly took it as an insult and asked the UFC to either release him or pay him his worth. While Jon Jones' tweets kept coming for a while, MMA analysts and pundits labeled it an attempt to price himself out of the fight.

Edited by Avinash Tewari
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