Helwani: I want to be realistic with this choice, otherwise I’d go with something like Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3 or Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou. Obviously, they aren’t doing those fights in July because ufc 251 the pay-per-view main card is already set, and there’s no way they are giving those away for free. Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa is another perfect international fight, but again, it’s not happening in July (though it was discussed). So, while it sounds like they are close to making this fight happen later this summer, I am going to ask to expedite the rumoured but not yet officially announced Brian Ortega vs. Chan Sung Jung grudge match. Jung must defend Jay Park’s honour once and for all! Jokes aside, it’s been almost two years since we’ve seen Ortega fight, and his last fight was for the title against Holloway. I’m curious to see how Ortega looks these days, and I think Jung deserves a title shot if he wins. Plus, the backstory is just too much fun.
Murphy: Mackenzie Dern’s grappling legend was built all over the world; she owns a stack of IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) gold medals from Mundials and other elite jiu-jitsu tournaments. Abu Dhabi, though, is the site of maybe her greatest upset, a win over nine-time world champion Gabi Garcia in the Absolute division at WPJJC (World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup). Given the region’s love for jiu-jitsu — and Dern’s legacy in the sport — it would be great to have her represented somewhere on the four Fight Island shows.
Dern absorbed only seven significant strikes in her first-round kneebar win over Hannah Cifers last month. Dern told Daniel Cormier in the postfight interview she wants a short layoff, returning to the Octagon at some point this summer. I don’t know if I have a specific matchup in mind. Any unranked strawweight grappler against whom Dern can show she is ready to climb that steep divisional ladder makes sense, including Randa Markos or a Montana De La Rosa rematch, among others.
Okamoto: We did a panel a little while back about building your fantasy Fight Island main card. And I had a featherweight fight between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez on mine. I don’t think that fight is going to be anytime next month, but I’ll still use it as my answer. I want to see that fight. Book it. Fight Island, Las Vegas, anywhere. I need to see it.
Wagenheim: I have no reason to believe that either Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje or Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa is in peril, but I’ll cite those must-see fights anyway because they are the only two championship matchups I see on the horizon that cannot be replaced. Neither has a Burns-type Plan B. For UFC title belts to mean something, matchmakers must book those fights and not stray from them.