Interim belts… what are they and do they mean anything?
Originally introduced to keep a division moving along as the champ was unable to compete for an extended period of time, they have somewhat lost their value and meaning over time as their usage has been abused to facilitate the commercial needs of the UFC.
The interim belt has become something of a superficial holder to provide fighters with assurance that they aren’t just hanging around.
Take the featherweight division for example, McGregor, who has yet to defend his belt is now entering into his second bout since winning the title, on the same night that his two main competitors at featherweight are duking it out for the interim belt no less, which makes little to no sense unless you view the interim title as a sort of promise ring given by Dana White to keep José Aldo and Frankie Edgar from throwing anymore tantrums while Conor has his fun and reaps in the money.
UFC 197 is another example, booking in Ovince St. Preux to replace Daniel Cormier to face Jon Jones was a good call by the UFC as it should provide Jones with a stern test after a year away from the octagon, but for the interim title?
Really? It may be argued that Jones is the rightful holder as he never actually lost the belt in the octagon, but if you are to look at the interim belt for it’s original purpose then it is a blatant injustice to Cormier’s standing within the division, whose recovery time from his current injury is estimated to be anywhere from 4-6 weeks, meaning multiple title defences could yet take place this year.
It seems that the UFC now use the interim title as a means of keeping an event relevant in the case where unforeseen events occur, such as DC’s injury.
However, the interim belt does hold some meaning and purpose in today’s UFC that keeps it from being entirely irrelevant, for without it, who knows when McGregor would make a return to the 145 division to defend his status as champ.
And herein lies the true meaning of what the interim belt means; it provides accountability.
In reality anyone can be offered the next title shot, but how many times have we seen fighters being promised this only for it to be offered to someone else.
The interim belt provides accountability in that the holder is the indisputable number one contender, not just in the eyes of the UFC, but more importantly in the eyes of the public. Although it has taken on a gimmicky persona as of late, it does look after the best interests of the fighter who is next in line to face the champ.