For years now I have been enamored with the concept of a draft in professional sports. Having come from a fantasy sports background (as both a writer and a hobbyist), I’ve participated in my fair share of drafts. I am also what I would described as a recovering NFL Draftnik, in that I used to spend hundreds of dollars on NFL Draft Previews (such as Mel Kiper’s) and then proceed to spend an entire weekend watching every single pick of the NFL Draft on ESPN.
While I’m not as obsessive about the NFL Draft as I used to be, I am still drawn to it and have been spending a lot of time online looking at mock drafts. The idea of building a franchise through new talent is a concept that holds great intrigue to myself and many other people.
So I got to thinking, what if MMA had a draft? How would the current talent pool in the sport be dispersed? If every fighter in the world was suddenly declared a free agent, what order would they be selected in?
From there, the idea was born to conduct what I am taking the liberty of calling the “5 Oz. of Pain MMA Fantasy Draft.” This is not a top ten pound-for-pound list; we’re going to pretend that through an act of god, every fighter in the world has been declared a free agent and that six different promotions have agreed to acquire the rights to each fighter through a universal draft.
The six regular staff members of 5 Oz. of Pain have gotten together and each is acting as a promoter of its very own mock MMA promotion. We are conducting our draft via e-mail and are providing analysis with each pick as we build our imaginary promotions from the ground up. When each round concludes, we will then post the results with analysis so that you can read and react.
A common question will be what criteria will we be using when making our selections? In short, the answer is that there will be no criteria. In order to make this as realistic as possible, there will be no guidelines placed on the selection process (other than that the order of selection must be honored). In the real world, it would appear as though all the major national promotions have their individual philosophy when it comes to the kind of product and brand it wants to promote. There are promotions that are looking to promote MMA as pure sport while there are promotions that focus on the entertainment aspect. There are also promotions that seek a happy medium and want to promote MMA as both entertainment and sport.
Which is the best philosophy to subscribe to? That’s up to you. While we won’t be keeping score of this fantasy draft, readers are encouraged to comment on the picks being made and the logic behind the picks that will be provided. When the draft is over, we will post the complete rosters and ask our readers to vote on the promotion they think has the best roster.
The first two rounds of our little experiment are now available. Who have the gang at 5 Oz. selected? Click below to find out.
ROUND 1 –
1.1 Adam Morgan: Georges St. Pierre
Analysis: I’ll take GSP with the first pick because not only is he arguably the best pound for pound MMA fighter in the world right now, he’s also extremely marketable. Fans of the UFC already know him and love him, so he already has an established name. Even better, he actually speaks English which puts him a notch above Anderson Silva in my book.
Why would I want Brock Lesnar, who is largely unproven in the sport? Sure, he can draw pay per view buys, but for how long and against what kind of competition? I don’t want to have to hand feed competition to a guy and put him in main events when he shouldn’t technically be main-eventing.
So that’s why you pick a guy like GSP and put on great fights from the start. No cans for GSP, he fights the best in the business. As for Liddell, you may very well see him in the next YAMMA Masters Fight with how old the guy is. GSP is young, talented, marketable, and has proven himself in the sport against fantastic competition. Xtreme Cage Gladiator Challenger Combat Ring Series (XCGCCRS) is about putting on great fights from the beginning, not nurturing future stars and catering to old ones.
When making the first pick it comes down to youth, talent, and marketability, and GSP has all three. He’s a star you can build around.
1.2 Mike Huckaby: Chuck Liddell
Analysis: Chuck Liddell is a massive draw, perhaps the top draw in all of MMA. He’s a former champion and he’s three of the four top Nevada gate draws in the state’s history. He’s in MMA’s deepest division and he still has several fights left in him. Top champion, future Hall of Famer, top draw, and he bags the top models in the game. Chuck Liddell is my main attraction and the rock I will use to crush all of you with my promotion.
1.3 Ram Maramba: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Analysis: What a weird position. After those two guys, there are a million different directions I could go. If they can’t market Silva, I can’t either. B.J. Penn and Urijah Faber are interesting choices, but you may as well be starting from scratch. Both are marketable and have some name value already, but the casual fan has no idea who either one is. Both their skills and styles would appeal to fans, but again, they’re square one guys. Slice and Lesnar have the names, but they’ll be high-maintenance after just a handful of fights. Slice in particular has the potential to fall of a precipice with one loss or even one bad outing. There’s also the X factor of him never facing even a trace of adversity in the cage, who knows how he’ll respond in a rough patch? Lesnar has boundless potential, but he’s old for a rookie. There are way too many unknowns to put all my eggs in his sizable, questionably-tattooed basket.
The safest pick would be Rampage Jackson, a marketable champion-level fighter with a gregarious personality. My fledgling promotion, Super Deluxe Tribute Ram Bam Fight Fiesta, needs a face people can relate to and that’s Rampage. All aspects of the fight game have to be considered, and he scores high where it counts. Outside of a winning and exciting style, I want a guy who knows how to promote, produces sound bites and doesn’t mind talking a little good-natured trash leading up to a fight.
Just like most fantasy guidelines, I’d complement my roster with a couple more big names then fill the rest of the slots with guys who accomplish smaller objectives. Only instead of stolen bases or innings pitched, I’d focus on marketable personalities to make up for highly-skilled fighters who have the personality of cardboard.
I can’t fault Morgan for taking GSP, who will impress you with his performance, but I question if Frenchie can relate to the casual fan. One look at those tidy whities and high-kicks and you may have more people thinking Emma Peel than purebred asskicker. Liddell would’ve been a flawless choice in 2006, but he’s a case study for someone who could drop off the face of the Earth after a few bad losses. A loss to Keith Jardine makes no difference to fans of “Entourage,” but the producers take notice and may pass on him the next time around.
1.4 Matt Cava: B.J. Penn
Analysis: Rampage was my original choice, which got sniped by Ram. However B.J. Penn is an excellent choice to build my league around. Penn is in his prime (29-years old), is a titleholder in two weight classes, and can talk smack when he needs to. His skill level far surpasses everyone else in his division, and he can dominate any opponent he faces.
1.5 Sam Caplan: Brock Lesnar
Analysis: I believe that while the lighter weights are carrying the sport right now, in order for MMA to go to the next level it needs an exciting and viable heavyweight division. During it’s prime, boxing was built around its heavyweights because seeing athletic big guys throw leather is what captivated the masses. So I’m going to build my promotion around heavyweights and the signature star of my next promotion, which is called “The SAMMA,” will be none other than Brock Lesnar
Lesnar gives my promotion strength in the area in which an MMA promotion needs to be the strongest in: television. If I want a network TV deal, I’ve got a fighter whose popularity and notoriety transcends MMA and I’ll happily build my pitch around him. And in the long run, the biggest revenue stream in MMA is pay-per-view and Lesnar has already proven to be viable in that area. Morgan, GSP might be a better pound-for-pound fighter but you know he’s not doing bigger buyrates than Brock as long as the opponent selection is good. Chuck Liddell? Not a bad choice, but your “rock” is 37. I give your promotion a year and half, Huck. Lesnar is only 31 and has plenty of years left.
So you say I’m choosing spectacle over sport? I say you’re wrong. Lesnar might not yet be a top ten heavyweight fighter but he has all the tools needed to be the number one heavyweight in the world once he gets enough pro experience. His credentials as a former NCAA heavyweight champion makes him legit. Question this pick all you want, but you know when it comes time to shell out $39.95 ($49.95 if you want to see the big man in HD!) for the first-ever SAMMA pay-per-view, you’ll do it.
And SAMMA will market Lesnar properly. He won’t be allowed to go anywhere near a fighter with black belt level jiu-jitsu until his fourth or fifth fight. We’re going to put him in there with semi-high profile heavyweights that Lesnar will steamroll so that we can build and market him for the MMA machine he has the potential to become.
1.6 Sam Cupitt: Frank Shamrock
Analysis: Most of you guys probably just spat your coffee out or whatever you are drinking at this time but the guy is the best marketer in the sport outside of the UFC. If I’m starting a new promotion I need a way to get the word out. TV deals are few and far between but Frank has a way of getting anyone he comes in contact with pumped for a fight.
Shamrock isn’t also just a fighter, he can provide commentary for events and once he finishes up in the sport he could probably help lead the marketing team in hyping up future fights.
Add to all that the fact Shamrock has a grudge against every other human in the sport then it makes for interesting viewing for everyone of his fights.
ROUND 2 –
2.1 Sam Cupitt: Tito Ortiz (first pick: Frank Shamrock)
Analysis: Sure he’s probably hes got one foot in show biz right now but I think that’s only because he feels he doesn’t get enough say with the UFC. If I have both Frank Shamrock and Tito Ortiz then I already have a huge fight between two guys who know how to sell a fight and who are well known to the public.
This fight is probably the biggest non-UFC fight out there right now and seeing how my other writers have basically split up the rest of the marketable UFC fighters out there then I doubt they’ll be able to make a match-up as big as this.
2.2 Sam Caplan: Fedor Emelianenko (first pick: Brock Lesnar)
Analysis: Wow, Shamrock in the first round? I didn’t know we were drafting commentators. If that’s the case, I would have taken Mauro Ranallo number one.
Seriously though, it looks like my fellow 5 Oz. staffers are drinking the Dana White Kool-Aid because I can’t fathom another reason as to why the best pure fighter in the world would drop this far?
Is Fedor the pound-for-pound number one fighter in the world? Not right now, but after a couple of wins over some respectable competitors he’ll easily regain that spot. Is he a big star in the U.S.? Not yet, but that’s only because he’s never been marketed to the North American market on a consistent basis. With a strong promotional presence behind him, I have no doubts that Fedor will gain traction with mainstream MMA fans in the U.S. and Canada.
This pick falls in line with my strategy to build a great heavyweight division. Again, people love to see the big men fight but Fedor is not your typical big man, as his technique is beautiful and he doesn’t gas out after a couple of minutes. I also think Fedor can be positioned as a tremendous adversary to my number one pick, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar isn’t ready for Fedor for right now, but after two-to-three more fights, I think people will think otherwise.
If built up properly, Lesnar vs. Fedor could be one of the biggest pay-per-views in the history of MMA. It’s a fight so big that I’d have them fight at least twice; once in the U.S. and then once in Japan. That’s right, I just went global with this pick. Can any of my fellow promoters say the same thing?
My only concern with this pick is having to work with his management. But I think we can see eye-to-eye. If we don’t, I may not be SAMMA’s promoter for very long, and it won’t be because I will have resigned.
2.3 Matt Cava: Anderson Silva (first pick: B.J. Penn)
Analysis: Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Silva is the second guy on my roster that can potentially win titles in two weight classes. Surgical striking and overwhelming skill describes both my first and second round picks.
2.4 Ram Maramba: Randy Couture (first pick: Rampage Jackson)
Analysis: This reminds me of my baseball nerd days when I drafted Eddie Murray going into his first season with the LA Dodgers. He was over 30, crossing over to the NL and was as cantankerous as ever. He was mediocre in his debut season but I hung on to him and he blew the doors off the next year. I’m taking the same risks with an older but still productive guy in Captain America. I don’t need 500 ABs out of him, all I expect is two good fights then a seamless transition to a role he knows well, commentator and ambassador of the upstart SDRMFF promotion to the proles. Couture’s a unique figure who’s equally as valuable in a suit as he is in board shorts.
Two talking heads are better than one and the face and voice of my organization is set for the here and later with Rampage and Randy. Beauty of it is they’ll never fight each other, which is a plus a small stable. Caplan, I hope you have a crack surgeon who specializes in cybernetics on staff who can put Lesnar together after Fedor drops, guts and capes him. I don’t care if Lesnar is in his 200th fight. Unless he trains everyday wrestling water buffalo and an ungodly Severn/Dekkers hybrid, a competitive match is not realistic in such a small timeframe. Part of his appeal is as a freakshow and if he loses that luster is gone. You better draft Little Superstar in the 3rd, ’cause you’re gonna need a big top attraction when Brock is tits on a boar after one big PPV.
2.5 Mike Huckaby: Forrest Griffin (first pick: Chuck Liddell)
Analysis: Fine, Ram pretty much just destroyed my entire draft as the strategy was to get Liddell and then get Couture followed by a quick grab of Wanderlei Silva just three picks later. Well that’s dead. I was actually going “just not Couture, just not Couture” as the last pick was announced as everyone has done in some type of fantasy draft in their lives. Anyway, I wanted a marketable American fighter as we need money from the start and it was down to Rich Franklin or Forrest. Forrest is growing in talent by the day training at Xxtreme Couture and the sky is the limit. Where as with Rich Franklin, great as he is, Anderson Silva is the limit.
2.6 Adam Morgan: Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson (first pick: Georges St. Pierre)
Analysis: This may be overvaluing a guy who only has two pro fights under his belt, but he has name recognition and star power that will draw people to either buy PPVs, watch him on TV, or buy a ticket to see him. He’s a great rags to riches story that can appeal to the casual fan and he appeals to the hardcores because of his involvement with some of the sport’s legends as far as his training is concerned.
A few more fights for Kimbo and a little more tutelage under Bas Rutten and Co. and he will be ready to take on some real heavyweight competition. Kimbo will be an extremely solid addition to the undercard of St. Pierre main event no matter who he’s fighting.
Caplan, I hope you don’t have a heart attack at age 31 from having to deal with Fedor’s management. Your company will be bankrupt in a matter of months with the kind of money they’re demanding.