The UFC cover curse has claimed two victims in the span of a week.
Despite entering his UFC 293 title fight as a significant 7-to-1 favorite, Israel Adesanya came up short and surrendered his gold to Sean Strickland in a lopsided defeat that stunned fight fans around the world.
A week later, flyweight great Valentina Shevchenko failed to regain the 125-pound title after her rematch with Alexa Grasso at Noche was controversially ruled a split draw.
Both fighters were revealed to be cover athletes for the EA Sports UFC 5 video game scheduled to be released on October, 27. Coincidence? Perhaps, but this is not the first time that a fighter has suffered a massive defeat shortly after seeing their mug slapped on the cover of the popular video game series.
For football fans in North America, all of this probably sounds familiar. The Madden Curse was something that had seemingly plagued players on the gridiron for years. It almost became an annual trend to watch how the latest cover athlete would see their career completely collapse. Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, and even NFL legend Brett Favre all found themselves suffering the wrath of the curse at one time or another.
Unfortunately, it appears the curse is not limited to one sport.
Are you Convinced That the UFC Cover Curse is Real?
Need some additional evidence? Welterweight fan favorite Jorge Masvidal was revealed to be the cover athlete for UFC 4 in 2020. That same year, he suffered a unanimous decision loss to then-titleholder Kamaru Usman. In fact, ‘Gamebred’ would not win another fight and announced his retirement in 2023 following a four-fight losing streak.
In 2018, Irish megastar Conor McGregor was revealed as the cover athlete for UFC 3. The Notorious’ would go on to suffer a fourth-round rear-naked choke defeat at the hands of UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov. McGregor has since lost two of his last three inside the Octagon and broke his leg in the opening round of a trilogy bout with Dustin Poirier in 2021. He has not returned to the cage since.
Ronda Rousey, who appeared in the UFC 3 artwork alongside McGregor, found herself on the wrong side of a 48-second knockout courtesy of Amanda Nunes after being announced as a cover athlete. She retired from the sport shortly after.
With the curse claiming Israel Adeanya’s middleweight title and Valentina Shevchenko’s hopes of becoming a two-time champion this year, is it just a matter of time before featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski, who will also appear on the cover of UFC 5, relinquishes his 145-pound crown?