After a card that featured no title fights and two headline bouts that turned out mediocre, the door is open for new Ultimate Fighting Championship stars to emerge.
Heavyweight Travis Browne and welterweight Rick Story took advantage of the opportunity with victories at UFC 130 on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
Both say they’re ready for the brighter spotlight that comes with success.
"If you’re not ready for the (public relations) and you’re not ready for the fame, you’re in the wrong business," said Browne, whose devastating knockout of Stefan Struve was the No. 3 top play on ESPN’s SportsCenter. "You don’t sign on the dotted line with the UFC unless you want that. It’s part of the job. That’s like being a police officer and saying you don’t want to carry a gun. That would be stupid."
Story, 26, scored a major upset over Thiago Alves, his sixth straight win since losing his UFC debut, and feels he has arrived as a title contender. He drew Alves as an opponent because he called him out, so he decided to try it again by asking for a bout with Jon Fitch, the No. 2-ranked welterweight in the world.
"I think I’d match up really well. I believe I have really good takedown defense and really good scrambling skills to be able to keep it on the feet. I think I have the power to put it to him, so stylistically I think it’s a great matchup for me," Story said. "Jon Fitch has great control, great wrestling, but I’ve seen him get clipped before. He’s up there and it will get me that title shot quicker."
One matchup Story doesn’t want is a rematch with fellow contender Jake Ellenberger. Story defeated Ellenberger in 2008, before either was in the UFC.
Now they both find themselves among the top contenders, but Story doesn’t see the need to fight again.
"I fought Ellenberger before and I beat him pretty handily. It would be a step back for me just because I dominated him," he said. "He’s going to need a couple of wins to (earn a rematch)."
The unbeaten Browne, 29, isn’t as concerned with who he will fight next.
"There’s so many interesting matchups coming up (at heavyweight) right now," he said. "Honestly, as a fighter, you always want to progress in your career. I don’t want to call somebody out and then they lose and then I’m like, ‘Dang it’. That’s why I’m kind of leaving it up to (the UFC). Let’s see how the fights fold out and I’ll be waiting."
One title shot did appear to be settled Saturday as UFC president Dana White said Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has earned a shot at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones by way of his main event decision victory over Matt Hamill.
It was far from a spectacular performance by Jackson, but apparently enough for the former champion to get another shot at the belt.
"I don’t think anybody can deny — no matter what his performance was tonight — he’s one of the top two or three guys in the world. Period," White said.
The potential holdup could be a left hand injury Jackson says he suffered several months ago. He will see a doctor Tuesday and if his hand is indeed broken, the title shot could instead go to Rashad Evans or Lyoto Machida.
Evans has a fight scheduled against Phil Davis on Aug. 6, but White said Evans would be willing to turn around almost immediately for a shot at Jones should he emerge victorious and healthy.
Jones is also on the mend, so the time frame for his next defense is in flux anyway.
The UFC returns to Las Vegas on Saturday for "The Ultimate Fighter" finale at The Palms.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509.