LAS VEGAS – MMA fans love to play matchmaker and they love to decide where fights should be slotted on cards.
Sometimes, they might just be right. For instance, at UFC 155, fans on social media made a push for a bantamweight bout between Eddie Wineland and Brad Pickett to be on the main card instead of the closing bout on the FX-televised prelims.
Instead, a middleweight fight between Chris Leben and Derek Brunson opened the pay-per-view, and UFC President Dana White said after the fight he regrets that decision.
UFC 155 took place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Brunson (10-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) beat Leben (22-9 MMA, 12-8 UFC) by unanimous decision to open the main card.
"I love Chris Leben, personally and professionally," White said at the show's post-event news conference. "But tonight, I think I made a mistake putting him on the pay-per-view. I should have had him on the undercard. He's been off with personal problems for a while. He's had a lot of time off, and he looked slow tonight. I wasn't crazy about that fight. That wasn't my favorite fight of the night, that's for damn sure."
Leben returned after a yearlong suspension for violating the UFC's drug policy. And while some cage rust may be to blame, White wasn't thrilled with Strikeforce crossover middleweight Brunson, either, who was making his UFC debut.
"The other kid was looking at the clock like he was a 14-year-old waiting for school to get out the entire fight – looking at the clock," White said. "You're in the UFC your first time, and I wasn't very impressed."
White said another plan was in place for the pay-per-view's first fight. The original Leben matchup was against Karlos Vemola, who had to pull out with an injury. But he remained the pay-per-view's opener after Brunson came on as the replacement while a pair of "Fight of the Night" contenders in Wineland-Pickett and Jamie Varner vs. Melvin Guillard had spots on the FX preliminary card.
Despite Leben's loss in his return, and despite being less than thrilled with the fight as a whole, White said he and the UFC will continue to cast his support behind Leben, who twice has been suspended by the promotion for drug violations.
"Chris Leben loves to fight – there's no doubt about that," he said. "The biggest challenge in Chris Leben's life is battling his demons. We try to help him as much as we can. I love the kid."