Next March will mark seven years since the UK was the host of a major UFC Pay-Per-View card.
UFC 286 has been confirmed as the numbered event at London’s O2 Arena on March 18. Leon Edwards will headline with a three-fight fight against Kamaru Uman.
It is the perfect venue for the biggest night of MMA on UK soil. In 2016, Michael Bisping, the last numbered card in these shores defended his middleweight title with a five-round fight in Manchester against Dan Henderson.
So much has happened in the years that followed, so what was the UFC landscape like back then? Who were the biggest stars and where are they now.
Dan Henderson (left) defeated Michael Bisping when the UK last saw a numbered UFC Card
It makes sense that you start with the main show. Manchester Arena was rocking after a crowd that had consumed a day and a night of booze. They stayed up until the wee hours to support the US television audience.
Bisping had become the first British UFC champion. He was awarded a title defense against Henderson who had previously knocked Bisping out cold.
Bisping fought back in his usual style to win a decision. He survived a heavy early knockdown. It was Henderson’s final fight, and he retired. Georges St-Pierre went on to lose.
He Kelvin Gastelum gave him a bad knockout. He then took up his position as an analyst and pundit at the UFC.
Bisping was up until this year the only British fighter to have won the UFC belt
The promotion is no longer home to any of the co-main events fighters. Gegard Mousasi won via head kick TKO against Vitor Belfort. He then left the UFC to join Bellator where he became champion.
Belfort, however, would only win one fight and leave after Lyoto Machida’s brutal front kick KO in his last bout.
He Evander Holyfield was also knocked out in exhibition boxing.
Gegard Mousasi (right), but not Vitor Belfort are still under contract.
Leon Edwards fought for a sixth time in UFC 204’s prelims.
It’s been quite the journey that ‘Rocky’ has taken since those early days. He Albert Tumenov was submitted to the fight. He had previously been defeated in his first bout with Usman two years before.
Next year, the story will be complete. Edwards will be the headliner against the ‘Nigerian Nightmare,’ and enters as the champion on home soil.
He He has won every contest he has been in since UFC 204. He was then crowned Britain’s second UFC champion in remarkable fashion, with the instantly recognizable head kick KO by Usman.
Leon Edwards submitted Albert Tumenov at the UFC 204 prelims back in 2016.
Edwards defeated Kamaru Usman to win the belt. They will fight again.
Jimi Manuwa defeated Ovince St. Preux on main card. The heavy-handed Brit retired in 2019, following four consecutive losses. St Preux is still an active UFC fighter. However, he has not won two consecutive bouts in the UFC since 2017.
Paddy Pimblett, Molly McCann, and Molly McCann took centre stage this year. Both won in fine fashion on the O2 Shows in March and July, respectively.
They are highly likely to be featured in UFC 286 next month, but where were Next Gen fighters back then in 2016?
Pimblett was the new Cage Warriors champion and made a name of himself on the domestic circuit.
McCann had only fought in MMA professionally four times. She He would sign for UFC two years later. Through a rollercoaster of ups, downs, and finally enjoy an amazing 2022 with 2 sensational knockouts.
Pimblett is the co-main UFC 282 event this weekend. He has emerged as a major UFC star and remains undefeated.
Paddy Pimblett, (pictured) has emerged to be a UFC star who is unbeaten in the organization so far
The UFC itself was going through a major transition in late 2016, the last time the UK hosted an event pay-per-view.
In the strongest sign that the company would be an international giant, it had just been sold for $4billion in that summer.
Dana White was still the UFC president, but it was the year that the Fertitta brothers cash in and walk away with an amazing profit after transforming the organization.
In the five years since, the balance of power has changed significantly in the cage.
Conor McGregor, fresh from his win in Nate Diaz’s rematch, was back in October 2016.
Conor McGregor was at the peak his powers He had taken revenge on Nate Diaz, and was only a month away of his career-best performance in the demolishing Eddie Alvarez to become UFC champion at two-weight.
He has only won once, beating Donald Cerrone, and he broke his leg last year in a second defeat by Dustin Poirier. His return is scheduled for next year, and it is highly anticipated that he will be back.
Demetrious was the pound for pound king back in 2016.
He Alexander Volkanovski topped that pile four more times before he left to join ONE Championship. In October 2016, the Australian hadn’t even been to the UFC.
There were other big names still in the fray. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the No. 1 contender at lightweight, would go on to be a formidable champion and retire undefeated two-years later.
Ronda Rousey was already on the decline of her career, still reeling from the Holly Holm knockout. She was also preparing for the last fight in UFC, the demolition against Amanda Nunes that December.
Israel Adesanya was one of the UFC’s most prominent stars. He was dethroned recently as middleweight champion. But he was still pursuing his career in MMA.
Israel Adesanya (pictured), was fighting in China back when he was still making his way.
He He was fighting in China and had less then a dozen victories on his CV.
Nunes and Stipe miocic are the only UFC champions who were still at the top in 2016.
The landscape has changed dramatically both inside and outside of the octagon since the UFC’s last numbered event in the UK.
Next March will be a celebration for the emerging British talent, notably Edwards, who will be determined to follow in Bisping’s footsteps and secure a glorious first defense of the title on home soil.