UFC 272 is headlined by the long-awaited grudge match between former friends Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington. This is a rare UFC PPV that’s headlined by a non-title fight. Prior to 2011, the UFC had only 5 weight divisions. This UFC has grown significantly since that point and there are now 12 weight divisions.
With the amount of Champions today, if there’s a non-title fight headlining a PPV, it has to be a box office attraction and that’s what Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal is.
Let’s take a look back at 10 other non-title fights that headlined a UFC PPV.
After Brock Lesnar lost his Heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez, he was sidelined from action because of diverticulitis. It was unclear if Brock Lesnar would ever return to fighting. Lesnar underwent surgery in May of 2011 and had a 12-inch piece of his colon removed. He decided to come back to the UFC for another fight and signed to fight Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. This fight marked the highly-anticipated UFC debut of Alistair Overeem who was a Champion in multiple organizations. This was a rare UFC PPV that took place on a Friday night. Overeem finished Lesnar in the 1st round by TKO. Lesnar announced his retirement from MMA in his post-fight speech.
After Zuffa acquired PRIDE FC in 2007, two-division PRIDE Champion Dan Henderson made his return to the UFC. Henderson became a household name in the promotion. After finishing Michael Bisping with a highlight-reel knockout at UFC 100, Henderson became a free agent. Instead of resigning with the UFC, Henderson signed a contract with Strikeforce and eventually became the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion. The UFC acquired Strikeforce in 2011 and Henderson would return to the Octagon after finishing Fedor Emelianenko by knockout in a Heavyweight fight. Henderson was matched up against fellow PRIDE legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. This was a dream fight that many thought they’d never see. The fight surpassed expectations and is regarded by many as one of the greatest fights of all time.
When Rampage Jackson defeated Keith Jardine at UFC 96, Jardine’s teammate and reigning Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans was on commentary. After Rampage defeated Jardine, Rashad Evans got into Rampage’s face during the post-fight speech. This was the start of one of the biggest blockbuster rivalries of its generation. Rampage and Evans coached Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter against each other. This is widely considered the biggest season of the Ultimate Fighter ever as it featured an intense feud between Rampage and Evans and featured the likes of Kimbo Slice, Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub, and more as contestants. Evans would go on to defeat Rampage at UFC 114. This PPV was a blockbuster success, surpassing 1 Million PPV Buys.
When Anderson Silva shattered his leg against Chris Weidman at UFC 168, it was unclear if he’d ever return to action. After rehabbing leg, Silva announced that he would be returning back to competition. It was announced in July of 2014 that Anderson Silva would make his return to the Octagon against Nick Diaz. At the time, Diaz had just fought Georges St-Pierre and stated that he’d only come back to the Octagon for super fights. Anderson Silva was a super fight and Nick returned. Silva defeated Diaz in a 5 round fight. Nick Diaz took a 6 year retirement after this fight until he fought Robbie Lawler in September of 2021.
When Conor McGregor defeated Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight title, he immediately set his sights on Rafael dos Anjos’ Lightweight title. He wanted to replicate what he had done prior at Cage Warriors: Become a two-division World Champion. He wouldn’t get that opportunity right away, as dos Anjos broke his foot and withdrew from the fight. Instead, McGregor would move from Featherweight to Welterweight to fight Nate Diaz. On just 11 days notice, Diaz shook up the world by submitting McGregor. The world realized what many hardcore fans already knew, Nate Diaz was a superstar. It was a blockbuster rivalry and McGregor wanted an immediate rematch. They competed in a rematch 5 months later, with McGregor avenging his loss to Diaz by majority decision.
Royce Gracie is widely considered the godfather of mixed martial arts. When he won the first-ever UFC tournament in 1993, he inspired generations of fighters to start training in mixed martial arts. Gracie left the UFC in 1995 as an undefeated fighter that won 3 UFC tournaments. When it was announced in 2006 that Gracie was returning to the Octagon, it was a big deal. The godfather was returning to the home he built. Gracie was matched up against reigning Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes in a non-title catchweight fight. Though Gracie lost the fight, he showed tremendous courage by not tapping to an armbar that Hughes secured him in for a long time.
During his prime, Anderson Silva might have been the most talented fighter we’ve ever seen. He performed like no one before him or after him. While he was the reigning Middleweight Champion, Silva moved up to the Light Heavyweight division on three occasions to test himself. One of those occasions was against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Silva finished Bonnar with a beautifully timed knee to the solar plexus. Bonnar said that this was the most pain he had ever felt in his entire career. This would be the final stoppage win of Anderson Silva’s legendary MMA career.
When Jorge Masvidal broke the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history against Ben Askren, he became a superstar. Nate Diaz recognized Masvidal’s star power and called him out for a fight to find out who was the “Baddest Mother F*cker” in the game. The UFC liked the idea so much that they decided to make a BMF belt and have Diaz and Masvidal fight for it at UFC 244. This fight had the pageantry of a boxing event. The Rock made an entrance before the fight to tie the belt around the winner, Roberto Duran walked Masvidal out during his entrance, and Nick Diaz walked out Nate during his. The fight ended after the 3rd round after a doctor stopped the contest because of a big cut on Diaz’s face.
When Tito Ortiz battled Ryan Bader at UFC 132, he was fighting for his career in the UFC. At that point, Ortiz hadn’t won a fight in 5 years and was going to be cut from the promotion if he lost to Ryan Bader. To the shock of many, Ortiz dropped Bader with a punch then finished him with a guillotine choke. Ortiz was was ecstatic, doing his classic gravedigger celebration after finishing Bader. The following month, Ortiz stepped in on short notice to rematch Rashad Evans. Ortiz and Evans first competed in 2007 and went to a draw. Rashad Evans was a much different fighter heading into the rematch. He had his eyes on Jon Jones and the Light Heavyweight title and viewed Ortiz as a stepping stone. The rematch played out much differently than the first fight with Evans finishing Ortiz by TKO.
During Conor McGregor’s rise to the Featherweight title, he dominated every opponent he fought. One of those opponents was Dustin Poirier who McGregor finished by knockout in less than 2 minutes at UFC 178. This was the win that made a lot of people realize that McGregor was the real deal. Fast forward 7 years later, a lot had changed. McGregor had gone on to become a two-division UFC Champion and the most lucrative fighter in UFC history while Poirier still had a chip on his shoulder. When they competed in their rematch at UFC 257, many expected McGregor to make it look easy like he did in the first fight. Instead, Poirier became the first fighter in MMA history to finish McGregor by knockout. They signed for an immediate rematch 7 months later at UFC 264. Unlike the rematch, McGregor was angry headed into the trilogy and played mind games with Poirier. Unfortunately for McGregor, he shattered his ankle at the end of the 1st round which resulted in a TKO win for Poirier.