- THE CURSE OF THE MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

November 10, 2005
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by Mick Hammond, MMAWeekly.com
With the sport of MMA still be relatively young, it would be hard to believe that it could actually have what could be considered “a curse.” Baseball has had its share with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs among others, the NFL has dealt with a Madden Video Game related curse, where every player on the cover from 2000-2004 was injured for the season, and the NBA, well, the NBA has the LA Clippers.

For MMA the closest thing to a curse would be the UFC Middleweight Championship. The title since its inception back in 2001 has only been defended successfully once, and those whom have held the title have had their share of bad luck after losing it. Rich Franklin hopes to break that curse at UFC 56 against Nate Quarry, but as history tells us, this could very well be the apex of his reign and it could be all downhill from here.

But that’s yet to be determined, what is for sure is the history of the title. When Dave Menne defeated Gil Castillo four years ago to be crowned the first ever UFC 185lb Champion; he became the first victim of the possible curse. Menne would lose the belt in his only defense to Murilo Bustamante, a fighter that ironically coming off a loss in his last bout.

After losing the title Menne would have mixed results, going 9-4 since, never defeating an opponent with a better winning percentage than a 52% winning percentage.

Bustamante to his credit would be the only fighter to date to successfully defend the title. After beating Dave, Murilo would defeat Matt Lindland at UFC 37 before getting caught in a contract dispute that would keep him shelved for over a year. After returning to fighting, for Pride FC, Murilo would go on a three-fight losing streak.

Murilo has however turned things around winning his last three fights, but with his losing streak that only puts him at .500 since beating Lindland. Bustamante himself has a bit of history to make in Pride later this year against Henderson for their 183lb Championship, so he can end speculation of a curse if he takes that belt, but that’s another story for another time.

From between May 11th, 2002 and February 4th, 2005 there would not be no title defenses of the championship. The belt remained in limbo for nearly three years seemingly never to find another holder. But that would change on February 5th as Evan Tanner defeated David Terrell to be crowned the first UFC 185lb Champion since Bustamante.

But for Tanner the seemingly cursed title would fallow him as well. Like Menne, Tanner would never successfully defend the title as he was beaten by Rich Franklin at UFC 53. Since losing the belt to Rich, Evan has fought once, losing a match many felt he was winning against David Loiseau. Winning that is until cuts would cause the fight to be stopped, making him the second straight former champion to lose his first bout after his only defense.

And now things fall on the shoulders of Rich Franklin. Should he defeat Nate Quarry he could take a big step forward in disproving the possibility of a curse on the belt. If he loses however, it would be yet another in a long line of coincidence that has seen the title change hands just as quickly as it was ordained to its last holder. Then things would fall unto Quarry, who would become the 5th different Champion in 6 matches.

While it still may be too early to say there is a definitive curse on the title, there is a lot of history to suggest that there may indeed be the beginnings of one, but as with any curse, it can be reversed given the right circumstances. At UFC 56 where things lead for the UFC Middleweight Championship will be decided in the octagon between two of the best 185lb fighters in the world.

Where they take it is anyone’s guess, but for their sake they should hope that history doesn’t continue to repeat itself. Lest yet we could be looking forward to yet another year where the curse continues to make the 185lb title the most burdened title in MMA.

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