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The UFC’s “Biggest” Problem

I remember when I first started contributing to this blog, my first article was entitled, “The UFC’s “big” problem”. That article was written just after Randy Couture’s retirement, and it took a look at how the UFC’s heavyweight division was lacking any real star power.

Well it has been a little over three months since that article, and I have to say, the problems got a hell of a lot worse.

Let us just take a look at the reasons why the heavyweight division is in the state it is in.

Randy Gone.

Obviously the big one and pretty self explanatory. The UFC could’ve had absolutely no challengers to the heavyweight crown, but if they were still to have Randy as champ, people would still be interested in the heavyweight championship. He is probably the most well-liked and respected UFC fighter of all time and while he was around there would always be interest.

Whether or not you agree with Couture’s reasons for leaving is irrelevant because the fact is he is gone. It would have been a monumental task of replacing Couture when they had time to prepare for his retirement but “The Natural’s” sudden “resignation” has left the heavyweight division without a promotable heir to it’s championship.

Interim Madness.

This is related a great deal to Randy Couture leaving. The whole retired vs resigned contract mumbo jumbo has resulted in Dana Whitesetting up an interim title for an indefinite period of time. The theory being that if the UFC continues to offer Couture fights and still maintains that he is the UFC heavyweight champion then it will activate a clause in his contract that will stop him from getting out of it in October.

Dana White has stated he plans on keeping the interim title for as long as he needs to. Even though the Interim title is basically the real thing, it still technically means the holder of that belt is only the number one contender to the heavyweight crown. That’s not exactly a stigma you want attached to a division for however long this Couture vs. UFC debacle continues.

Lack of Marketable Fighters.

This one is also pretty self-explanatory. The only really marketable fighters the UFC has in the heavyweight division are Brandon Vera and Andre Arlovksi. Vera suffered an unfortunate loss to Tim Sylvia and has to work his way back up the ladder and Arlovski appears to be on the outs.

Aside from the those two you’re pretty hard fought to find another one.

Tim Sylvia is a public relations nightmare who charges fans for autographs, craps himself in fights, and then bases his fighting style around his size being able to squash his opponents offense and then he does the bare minimum to scrape a decision.

Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera has not really been promoted at all. In the promos for his upcoming fight with Sylvia, Dana White and Joe Rogan spend the whole time speaking about how he looked terrible in his fight against Herring. Unfortunately, the majority of American fans don’t appear to be very appreciative of Nogueira’s style either. Big ‘Nog pulls guard a lot and unless he is constantly exploding onto submissions the crowd can become a bit restless. Also the fact that he has been demolished by Fedor Emelianenko 2 and a half times doesn’t really give him credibility as the “Number one in the world” if he becomes the heavyweight champion.

Gabriel Gonzaga looked to be gaining fans when he demolished Carmelo Marrero and then knocked out Mirko Cro Cop with the head kick that was heard around the world but now after consecutive losses he has definitely lost a lot of his lustre.

Cheick Kongo has the look of a heavyweight champion and was well on his way to a shot against then champ Tim Sylvia when his weak ground game was exposed by Marrero and he was derailed periodically. A win over Cro Cop helped him to get back on track, but eventually he is going to come up against another ground specialist who could make short work of the Frenchman, so it probably wouldn’t be wise of the UFC to put all their effort into marketing Kongo.

Lack of Decent Challengers.

Forget marketability, right now the UFC is struggling for decent contenders. On February 2, the Interim Heavyweight champion will be crowned and either Nogueira or Sylvia will walk away with the belt. Though they may not be the most marketable, they are the two fighters worthy of fighting it out for that belt. However, once a champ is crowned… what then?

Dana White has said that Fabricio Werdum will get the next shot which basically says it all right there. Werdum went 4-2 in Pride, where his major victory was a submission win over the stand up specialist Alistair Overeem.Other than that he didn’t really beat anyone of note and when he stepped up in competition he lost. In the UFC he is 1-1, after having lost to Arlovski in a slow paced fight, where he showed his inability to control the pace of a fight and then his victory at UFC 80 was probably the least exciting fight on the card over Gabriel Gonzaga. I wasn’t really impressed with Werdum, he merely took advantage of Gonzaga who loses steam faster than a relationship with Hilary Clinton. He looked very open and definitely not ready for a title shot.

It begs the question however who is ready for a title shot? Andrei Arlovski is ready, but it appears he doesn’t want to renegotiate his contract. Brandon Vera, as mentioned before, lost his last fight and has to work his way back up. Gabriel Gonzaga just lost. Heath Herring just lost. Jake O’Brien hasn’t beaten anyone of note and is as boring as bat shit. If Brock Lesnar beats Frank Mir… he won’t… but if he does, he still will only have two fights and he isn’t ready for either of the two 30 fight veterans, not to mention the fact any State Athletic Commission might not even sanction it.

It appears that the only the only other two viable options are, Frank Mir if beats Lesnar and Kongo if he beats Herring. Still it was only recently that a State Athletic Commission wouldn’t sanction a match between Mir and Sylvia because they thought there was too much of a skills difference. Kongo on the other hand is probably most deserving if he gets past Herring, which isn’t a guarantee but it’ll still be a little hard to stomach Kongo as a contender after his fight against Marrero still lingers…

Lack Of Any Emerging Talent

There’s a lot to be said for “The Ultimate Fighter” as a breeder of young talent when you look at the up and coming talent in the heavyweight division. Even the middleweight division with its thin list of contenders, still manages to promote legitimate title match ups because it has younger talent working its way up. A lot of that talent were featured on “The Ultimate Fighter 4,” which in my opinion gave the division a new lease on life, because the general audience was exposed to 8 middleweight fighters and the fighters they fought which at least gave the division a foundation.

“The Ultimate Fighter” has only featured heavyweights once. Lightweights have only been featured once as well, but the whole 155 lbs. division was put on hold for so long that they had time to build up enough talent to sustain themselves. It also has to be said that the Heavyweight season of TUF was a joke with the majority of the competitors dropping to light heavyweight and the rest being not up to UFC level.

“The Ultimate Fighter” and the UFC Fight Nights neglect of the heavyweight division in my opinion has almost directly contributed to the division being pretty much completely void of up and coming talent. When Eddie Sanchez is being talked about as a prospect there is definitely a problem.

Brock Lesnar has the chance to be promoted into something huge but I seriously think he won’t get past Mir, which will definitely hurt his appeal. The recent addition of Shane Carwin at least appears to be a step in the right direction, but apart from them, the cupboard seems pretty damn bare.

To sum it all up… the division is pretty damn screwed. My suggestion would be that once they crown an interim champion on February 2nd they should delay any challenges for a period of time to give the division time to come up with a few more names and then they can take it from there. Because right now the division is just full of no names and no hopers.

  • Rln says:

    “Lack of Marketable Fighters” – I think the fact that Lesnar is co-headlining a ppv in his first UFC match speaks to his marketability. Something tells me that the UFC has a better understanding of it’s market then you do, no offense.

    Go through the top 50 heavies in Fightmatrix’s rankings ( and count up the number of legit people that are marketable. Kharitonov*, Overeem, Rothwell, Aleks* and Paul B. are the only ones that stand out too me. It paints a pretty scary picture of the entire division.

    *I’m not even 100% sold on these 2 because of their lack of English skills.

  • The UFC needs to bring in some of the former Pride guys, Pride had a wealth of heavyweights… whether any are top quality is hard to say but still its better than nothing. Get Mark Hunt, Sergei Kharitonov, get Alistair Overeem from Strikeforce, Roman Zentzov, hell even Ricco Rodriquez could try to get beack to the top. I’m glad to see Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar are jioning the stable but they are not enough, especially Lesnar who is untested.

  • mike wolfe says:

    Just thinking out loud here, but how about we let the fighters you’ve named get into the octagon and fight it out to see which is the best. Then the UFC can award the belt to that guy. The guy who beats all the other guys will probably attract fans, because guys who consistently win fights usually attract fans and become marketable. Since we all like to watch big guys fight, we’ll enjoy the fights. Meanwhile, other fighters will come along to challenge the guy who won the belt. Problem solved.

  • Dan says:

    The problem with the heavyweight division is that it has fought itself out. Dana White, in my opinion, has for the first time in the history of him running the ufc made a bad move, and it all comes back to Randy. Dana panicked and set up the interim belt, then is throwing everyone and their brother at it. There does not have to be so much movement around the belt. Let them highlight their up and comers and they will become marketable. I completely agree with the author when he says they should suspend any title fight until they can market new people. Heavy weight is the hardest weight class to fill anyways, simply because there are less people walking around that are that size. Ben Rothwell is the only real free agent that they can go after too, as i doubt either Emelianenko brother is going to come in after Randy leaves, and Barnett is no longer a real threat. so the only option is to wait on the title, and develop mir, lesnar, carwin, get arlovski back, and pray for some talent to emerge in some lower shows.

  • Ed says:

    Let Chuck and a few of the bigger Lt Hvywts move up the way Randy toggled between divisions. Chuck would crush all of these guys, so would forrest, rampage, probably even Jardine.

    If Arlovski, Randy and maybe Tito all leave within a short period of time, the UFC could be suddenly faced with real competition if M1, XC or HD picked them all up. I’d watch M1 if these guys were there plus they already have Fedor.

  • andrew says:

    i guess no one is proofreading this stuff, eh?

    “could of”, and “would of”, should actually read “could’ve” and “would’ve” if the writer wanted to use the contracted forms of “could have” or “would have’ which, it seems, is what was intended.

    the misspelling of definitely (spelled here, “definantly”) should be caught by any type of spell check.

    i stopped reading after “definantly”, so who knows what other mistakes there are, but for pete’s sake, if you’re writing for a site that is run by a journalist, smarten the fuck up.

    after all, it’s only your credibility.

  • Kelvin says:

    The UFC HW division will be just fine…it’s no worse now than it was when AA was KTFO all those cans…if fighter’s like Tito(who I personally feel is not a top 10 fighter anymore) and AA goto another organization…they will be able to have about one big fight…then what? Will these org’s be able to pay them what they are currently making in the UFC? Doubtful because none of these org’s get the same PPV buyrate as the UFC.

    However, I can see it now…Ortiz goes to another org…beats some can then attempts to call out the UFC about fighting their champ(who would destroy him just like Liddell did twice).

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Andrew, what’s with the disproportionate anger?

    Also, did someone break the caps lock key on your keyboard?

  • Nate says:

    I agree with comments #1 & #2, well said.

    Andrew, you are correct, the writers here should have better mastery of english. You obviously care about the site and want the writers to improve, so that is commendable. I’d rather get more articles than correct ones though, that is why I visit.
    Still, I am left with wanting to tell you to shut up.

  • Andy says:

    I haven’t heard Dana’s infamous quote “we’re gonna get them all” in quite some time. The more time that passes the more I’m sure Josh Barnett won’t sign with them either.
    The UFC is definitely a strong brand but do we really know how fast the sport is growing, you really have to keep up with the up and coming talent, I think in a few years the talent will start catching up with the UFC. Just look at the mens olympic basketball team. They seemed immortal when they first started playing the pros, now it is clearly obvious that the world is catching up with the United States basketball talent. Will the UFC’s current system still work in 10 years?

    By the way guys, I don’t care if your spellings a little off, I come on this site to read great articles written by knowledgable people. The content is what keeps me coming back. Keep up the good work!

  • metro says:

    I know that this will just get shot down and it’s probably too far in, but lets look into doing a grand prix of sorts to determine who will fight the winner of the interim belt. Pick 8 guys (Kongo, Mir, Cro Cop if he’d stay heavy, Vera, Arlovski if they can reach an agreement, Werdum, Herring and Gonzaga. Let them fight it out over 4 events to determine the contender. This will give credit and some backing to the next interim title fight and help to sort out the division. As much as I prefer all of the other divisions, I think the UFC should provide more face time to the heavies. And yes, a few fights could turn into rematches of bland fights, but when its a grand prix situation I found that some fighters are more inclined to finish to avoid too much damage.

    The other reasons I like grand prix style is that there is less time for fighters to prepare and neutralize their opponent, so they tend to be more oriented to offensive battles (standing and ground) PLUS throughout the tourney, it sets up other matches for the defeated fighters (that was a bad matchup for x, I bet he could have dropped y and made it to the final) to gain a valid standing in the division.

    Oh yeah, Lesnar is out as there would be no way he’d be allowed in with his fight resume, feed him some noobs for a while and get him some experience (a la Kimbo) and then see what happens. In a perfect world this GP would have Barnett, and Hunt in there too at the very least, but work with what you have and go from there.

  • Danny says:

    why would’nt the SAC sanction a fight between mir and sylvia due to skills difference?

  • Kelvin says:

    “I haven’t heard Dana’s infamous quote “we’re gonna get them all” in quite some time. The more time that passes the more I’m sure Josh Barnett won’t sign with them either.”

    Well…other than the HW division he pretty much has them all(top fighters)…save Gomi, Mach, Shields, Melendez, Fedor, Barnett, Alexander E., Overeem…and maybe a few others…

    Also, with the recent acquisitions of new talent(Shane Carwin, Lesnar, etc) I think the UFC is doing a pretty good job of keeping up with new talent. However, lately alot of the ‘new talent’ or ‘hyped’ fighter’s have not lived up to those expectations inside the octagon for whatever reason…

    Soa Palelei, Per Ecklund are prime examples…

  • Evan says:

    The spirit of blogs are to have a relaxed and open journalistic atmosphere where readers expect to get a lot of fresh news and can debate topics with the author of a piece. Perfect grammar, like on forums, are not to be expected. This isn’t a magazine or a site like

    Nonetheless, if you’re going to debate them on grammar you should really have double checked your own post beforehand as it is full of its own errors. Red marks ahoy!

  • ctownhood says:

    I think like boxing, at times, some weight classes will be down, while others are hot. If you look at the various MMA organizations, there are only a handful of what I would say are legitimate HW fighters.

  • Jeremy says:

    The whole Couture-Fedor-Arlovski situation has hurt the UFC heavyweight division, without a doubt. Those were matchups that could have potentially sustained the division for the next year or so. And as Sam mentioned allowed the divison to build itself up underneath them.

    Unfortunately the UFC will now have to give their younger heavyweights higher profile matchups perhaps before they are ready or proven. Guys like Lesnar, O’Brien and Carwin are certainly some of the better prospects in the divison but definitely should be given more time to develop but probably can’t be now. Besides coming to terms with Couture, Fedor or Arlovski there isn’t alot that can be done right now. The divison will have to have someone emerge like a Lesnar or O’Brien as legit right now, maybe with wins in their next matches that will happen. Certainly is extremely up-in-the-air for the division right now, but that is pretty much that case with heavyweights in fighting in general.

  • Kelvin says:

    O’Brien a prospect? Shit, I’d rather see Eddie Sanchez…lol

  • andrew says:


    no hostility indended. sorry if i stated myself too strongly for you.

    and no one has broken my caps lock key, informal writing on the net (i.e. comments, emails) are usually done in all lower case letters in order to keep things, well, informal. had i really been meaning to get all angry, or make some kind of Serious Post i would’ve capitalized a few things.

    anyway, “The UFC could of had…” still needs to be fixed to “could have” near top of the post.

  • andrew says:

    just to clarify, i love this site. i read it every day, and really appreciate the work done that goes into it. i was just trying (perhaps too sarcastically) point out some bad english. i’m not trying to be Mayor Of Grammar or anything.

  • Sam Cupitt says:

    “Smarten the fuck up”

    Thank you Mayor Of Grammar.

  • gip says:

    in the last year the ufc has added big nog, crocop, herring, werdum, lesner and brought back couture for 2 fights. the hw stable looks pretty good to me. sure they don’t have every guy but they have most of them. hope to see aa stay.

  • Rln says:

    Here’s more evidence of the UFC’s confidence in their next big star –

    If there is any truth at all too it, it’s completely insane and speaks volumes about the heavyweight division.

  • andrew says:

    If Sam Cupitt can explain to me why “smarten the fuck up” is incorrect grammar, while explaining why “Thank you Mayor Of Grammar” is correct grammar, I will pay him $100. I stand by my word. Sam Caplan has my email, and I’ll answer it.

    Simple grammatical, spelling, and syntax errors are always, and easily forgiven, but outright wrong, and incorrect use of the English Language when writing for a website that gets this amount of traffic, should not.

    Sam Cupitt wrote “could of” and “would of”, because he didn’t know that when we speak “could’ve” or “would’ve”, while they may sound to his ears the way he originally wrote them in words, in reality, they are contractions of “could have” and “would have”, as anyone who has made it past 7th grade knows.

    Some may say this is an idiotic point to argue, and i’ll accept that, but if I were writing for a website run by a well respected journalist, a website that is viewed by more than just hardcore mma fans like you and I, (i.e. those that come from CBS…) I’m damn sure that I would have more respect for myself as a writer, Sam Caplan as the main guy, and to my fellow mma fans that were reading what I wrote, to at *least* run a simple spell check before posting something that would be seen by so many, but that’s just me.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Andrew, if you respect the site, could you try to be a little more constructive in your criticism and a little less snarky?

    Seriously, we’re all doing the best we can here. Mistakes happen. If people won’t to help by pointing them out, I’m all for it. But corrections can be pointed out without attitude.

  • andrew says:

    honestly, i do respect your site! this is why i’ve said what i’ve said.
    i sincerely apologized earlier for my initial sarcasm, (tried to be funny…failed) and i tried to tone it down again later in a third post, but i think that when sam took a shot at me, i had to respond, so i did.

    as i’ve said, i have great respect for the amount of work everyone puts into this site. i know it’s very difficult, and things happen on the fly. i tried to make a point being a bit sarcastic, and it didn’t work, i apologize again.

  • Sam Cupitt says:

    It’s not incorrect grammar, I said thank you Mayor of Grammar because you said that you “might of come off a bit too sarcastic” and because of that you didn’t want to sound like the Mayor of Grammar. I was just calling you Mayor Of Grammar because you obviously had every intention of saying what you said, so I gave you the title you obviously wanted.

  • Sam Cupitt says:

    Also if you were writing for Five Ounces of Pain, you would realise that when you are writing a post like I just wrote… which was huge, you make errors. Then you would also realise that you are using WordPress, which possesses the shittiest grammar and spell checker known to man.

    I did use the spell check I did, and it highlighted nearly every word I wrote in red. Even words like end, and if were highlighted. So I went through and changed all the ones that stuck out. If I missed one I am human, if you want to point that out to me fine. If you tell me to smarten the fuck up while you do it and mock my education, I will tell you to get the fuck down from your high horse and shove your grammatical lessons up your arse.

    You sir, are a grammar Nazi.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Apology accepted. Let’s move on.

  • Luis says:

    Your tone is very negative and you fail to pose a real solution.

    “crown an interim champion on February 2nd they should delay any challenges for a period of time to give the division time to come up with a few more names”

    Instead of disparaging every heavyweight in the UFC, how about you sit long and hard and think of a real solution instead of being such a hater? Every fighter is marketable. Anything can be marketed. The whole art of marketing is based on perception. Why would it be so hard to create fiction?

    And why build an entire division on one guy? A great 45 year old fighter?

  • Andy says:

    Well…other than the HW division he pretty much has them all(top fighters)…save Gomi, Mach, Shields, Melendez, Fedor, Barnett, Alexander E., Overeem…and maybe a few others…

    Thats a lot of fighters! No he does not pretty much have them all. The UFC has most of the top fighters, but look at the world lightweight rankings, I can see 2 ufc fighters ranked, the rest are fighting in other organizations or are in Japan probably going to sign with M1 (thats just my opinion). Look at Andre and Tito, two big name fighters probably going somewhere else. Isn’t Arlovski from Belarus, former Soviet Union? I think Andre vs. Fedor would be an awesome fight and UFC will never do that one.
    No Dana you’re not gonna get them all! You never will! There are too many good fighters! If the UFC had them all we would only see our favorite fighters fight once a year because every fighter needs their turn to fight. This sport is just too big for one organization so stop hating on all your competition because UFC is the biggest.

  • MoreThanUFC says:

    Where can I watch the two fights where Fedor demolishes Nog?

  • Jj says:

    “Jake O’Brien hasn’t beaten anyone of note and is as boring as bat shit”

    “When Eddie Sanchez is being talked about as a prospect there is definitely a problem.”

    I 100% agree with both of these statements, I about shit when I saw that Sanchez made the main card at 79. I don’t know if your right about Lesnar though, and I really don’t understand why you don’t think athletic commissions won’t sanction him? You think that because he is a NCAA champion he is not on the same skill level?

    “Smarten the fuck up”

    Thank you Mayor Of Grammar.

    then I read that quote and I think it is the best of them all.

    Keep up the good work Mr. Cupitt. I love the content and am usually interested enough in the article to not overly criticize minor spelling errors.

  • d2tmfg says:

    Pay the fighters, not the establishment. I don’t care if the cage/octagon/ring says UFC OR TNN for that matter, pay the fighters! After an MMA fighter becomes a champ, or a big name in the sport, they should be compensated like boxers. How many boxing matches have you seen fighters get millions? Now, haw many MMA fighters get that same respect? These fighters are estblished as fighters, heroes, and products by name. The shirts should have the fighter pic on the front and back with little tiny letters that say ufc on a sleave or somthing. The UFC needs to stop premoting itself so dang much and start promoting the reason whey we watch,,,,,,,,,the fighters. Once they figure this out, they will have plenty of big names in the buisness. How many times have you seen the name “DON King” on a boxing ring floor or on a tee shirt? Does the name “Golden boy productions” mean anything to you Dana? This is the road MMA fighters are soon to go with in the future. Then, the UFC will have to deal with managers of the fighters for the big names. PAY THE FIGHTERS! Just like entertainment wrestling back in the Hulkamania day’s, can you come up with a dream MMA fight in you mind? It can happen Dana, if you “PAY THE FIGHTERS!” UFC endorsments, 7 figure pay, a % in DVD sales and rights to all footage that containes the fighters fight’s, Action figure dolls, bonus for PPV events, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ then I can guarantee you could get Tito, Frank, Cung Lee, Tank, Pedro, Nick Diaz, hell even Royce for that matter. You can have the glory days of the UFC back like when you had the Lions Den, Gracie Jujitsu, and the up and comming styles all being put to the test. The fans should be supporting there favorite fighters, not there favorite promoter! The big names are still active, but they fight for other promoters, who in fact promote the fighters! Now if you will excuse me Dana, I need to find my SHOWTIME T-Shirt before I watch the may weather fight to show “Pretty Boy Floyd” my support…….O yea! They don’t make one!

  • d2tmfg says:

    Sorry for the miss spelled words guy’s, I was getting passionate about the subject.


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