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5 Oz. Feature: Six Fighters in Need of a Promotion

As the boom of mixed martial arts promotions and shows continues, one fact has become more and more apparent: Zuffa and the UFC are the gold standard, both in show production and fighter talent. As a result it can be sometimes painful to watch fighters of superior talent fight in promotions lacking the roster depth to fully test their abilities.

In the wake of the EliteXC show the newly crowned welterweight champion is a staunch reminder of the challenges that face a top ten fighter when fighting outside of the UFC. The talent discrepancy between the top 10 fighters in a weight class and the rest of the division can be daunting when trying to match-make. The 63 second drubbing Jake Shields laid on Nick Thompson is a repercussion of being an elite level fighter outside of the UFC.

Fighters who show elite-level ability can outgrow the competition around them very quickly in some promotions. If they want to take the next step forward as a fighter, both competitively and financially, then they need to make the move to the UFC. It’s a harsh reality of the mixed martial arts landscape for those not in the good graces of Zuffa. The step up in competition that Zuffa can provide brings legitimacy and respectability. Combined with the increased marketing and exposure the UFC can bring to the table, it results in sponsorship money that can far exceed a fighter’s purse.

After watching Shields win on Saturday evening, it got me thinking about who else in mixed martial arts would benefit from a move to the UFC or the WEC. Below is a short list of fighters, one from each major weight class, who are in dire need of a move to Zuffa:

Wagnney Fabiano 145lbs (WEC) – Fabiano is the current IFL featherweight champion and is on a six fight win streak, none of which have gotten out of the second round. With the IFL apparently selling to Zuffa and Uriah Faber almost cleaning out the featherweight division, they need Fabiano almost as much as Wagnney needs them. With the proper showcase fight and the Zuffa promotional train behind him, a Faber-Fabiano super fight could eclipse the numbers that Faber-Pulver put up earlier this year. At 33 years old Fabiano needs to make this move now while he is still at his peak physically.

Gesias Cavalcante 155lbs (UFC) – “JZ” has developed into one of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division. After two successful tournament runs in the K-1/HERO’S promotion, he finally stumbled against Shinya Aoki in the first round of the DREAM lightweight tournament. There were rumors of pre-existing injuries that may have influenced his lackluster performance against Aoki, but the loss does not change the fact that he is one of the elite at 155lbs. He has fought most of the major competition in Japan and faces career stagnation if he continues on his current path. He already has a strong connection to Zuffa and the UFC considering the majority of his American Top Team members are already signed to the promotion. If he signed with Zuffa there would be no end to the blockbuster matchups.

Jake Shields 170lbs (UFC) – Jake Shields is in the unenviable position of being the best fighter in the world at 170lbs NOT in the UFC. Zuffa has a monopoly of talent in two weight classes and welterweight is one of them (light heavyweight being the other). Jake has cleaned house over the last four years in the 170lb division, going 11-1 in that span. The few remaining respectable competitors left for him to fight pose no real danger to him. He faces a competitive crossroads soon, with a stalled career on one side and a chance to prove he is the worlds’ best on the other.

Paulo Filho 185lbs (UFC) – A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu prodigy who built his reputation demolishing opponents in PRIDE, Filho has a gaudy 16-0 record but has had his ups and downs. He has had multiple issues in his career, from problems with his weight cutting to depression and chemical dependency. Filho sometimes looks bored and disinterested in the ring, but when he is focused is one of the best fighters in the world and possesses the tools to give Anderson Silva all he can handle. While he has stated several times he has no interest in fighting his friend and training partner for the UFC title, he needs the move up in competition. Zuffa cannot keep the 185lb division in the WEC stocked with suitable talent for a fighter of his ability. If he wishes to stay ranked in the top three in the world, Filho will have to push for a move.

Rafael Feijao 205lbs (UFC) – The 205lbs division is the showcase division in the sport, where the most talent resides. And the UFC has a monopoly on it with the current consensus top ten being under contract to Zuffa. Feijao has the skill and belongs with that group. His physical gifts are evident every time he steps in a ring or cage. He has dominated everyone put in front of him, his one loss being a DQ due to illegal kick. He is young in the sport, but is in the best situation possible having two world champions as coaches in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Anderson Silva. His ground game is exceptional and his stand up gets more and more dynamic under the tutelage of Silva. He is strong enough to fight and win at both 205lbs and Heavyweight. I can’t help to feel that given EliteXC’s lack of depth in the light heavyweight division and his dominance of the current roster there, he is being wasted. His upside is unquestionable and he would only make the best division in the sport even better.

Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva 265lbs (UFC) –
Having a tumor removed from his pituitary gland in 2007 has enabled “Bigfoot” to come down in size just far enough to take the heavyweight title in EliteXC. His surprising size, agility, and athleticism are currently causing havoc with opponents in EliteXC. In a time when the best heavyweights in the world are migrating to the deep pockets of Affliction, Silva should be a coveted commodity by the UFC. He has legitimate top-ten talent but is lacking the competition to showcase himself. In the UFC’s most anemic division he would be a star and an instant threat to Nogueira’s reign as champ.

  • I agree with all the names mentioned would be great in the UFC but I think the sport is on the verge of a major change. Fighters already at the top with belts (smaller promotions) are going to want major money and non-exculsive contracts (which is were the sport should go)

    Take Bigfoot Silva for example…. just crowned the EXC HW Champ
    He is in a great position to fight for the WAMMA belt. He may not be in everyones top 10 HW but since he is not locked into the UFC (slavery) Contract he might get some good fights.

  • Nick Travaglini says:

    I actually think its going the opposite direction. EliteXC is hemorrhaging money and lost their leaders. Dream is on the verge of losing their TV deal and possibly closing for good. They can’t even pay their current fighters, ala Nick Diaz. Affliction is already asking fighters to take a pay cut after their first promotion.
    The UFC and WEC are the only stable ground right now and They will be the place of choice to fight for most. For better or worse, they continue to control the market.

    I guess only time will tell which of us is right. Thats what makes it fun!

  • marc says:

    I agree tony. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Fedor vs Bigfoot sometime before the end of 2009 if both can hold their titles. That kind of fight is why WAMMA was founded.

  • smoogleton says:

    I’m no math expert, but that is only six fighters. And the title is pretty misleading, six of these fighters already have promotions behind them. If you’re saying you don’t care for competition and just want them all in the UFC, thats another thing entirely

  • LiuLang says:

    It’s a play on words champ. Promotion, as in, a need of a promotion to bigger and better things. The whole point is that the guys named are getting very close to the end of any credible competition in their respective orgs. Hey, if they want to Frank Shamrock their career, they can remain a big fish in a small pond or they can try and seek out the best fights to see how good they really are. And in search of bigger paydays of course.

  • Rich S. says:

    that’s a nice list..
    you pretty much hit the nail on the head with all of them..

    i really think Dave Herman should move up to WEC, because he just MAULS whatever opponent EXC has to offer..

    we saw in his last fight, it got to the point to where he was so confident he was about to KO the guy, he just started trying random axe-kicks, and spin-kicks and whatever else.. it’s ridiculous when you have a guy so skilled in all areas of the game in there just ripping through chumps..

    i think he should go 205 [because, he’s a small HW, IMO] and make the move..

    he’s soooo agile, and speedy, yet powerful..

    i think he’d to just fine in the WEC’s LHW division..

  • patrick says:

    You think Dave Herman should drop to Light-Heavyweight??? Good Lord man the guy is 6’5″ and if i’m not mistaken he weighed in for his fight with Ron Waterman at about 235-240lbs. Now i’m no expert in cutting weight (understatement of the year) but i think trying to cut 30 -40 lbs would be kinda dangerous. I think the guy has a very bright future fighting in the heavyweight division of any organization. Rich S. i hear you but i think he could stay where he’s at (HW) and give alot of these UFC( and Affliction) big names a run for their money.

  • Jesse says:

    herman is the only legit challage to big foot silva..
    he would beat him i think ..
    elitexc is lame though

  • sved says:

    how about this EliteXc and DREAM co-promote so that they have a major blockbuster event every other month so if each show has a good event every other month it could have say

    Feb-Dream GP LHW + Featherweight
    March-Exc on CBS
    April-DREAM GP LHW round 2
    May–Elite XC best HW’s
    June-DREAM GP round 2 Featherweight
    July-Elite XC- Best Womens competitors+Best Middleweights
    August-DREAM- GP Final 4 in both Div
    September-Elite XC primetime on CBS
    OCtober–Exhibition show w/ Tournament Finale DREAMGP
    Nov–EliteXC-contenders all #1 and+ #2 contenders faceoff in every div
    Dec–NYE show for DREAM the best from around the world face off in super 4 hour special
    DEc–EliteXc special highlights+ best of the best interviews/BEst subs of the year Best Ko’s of the year

    Jan–REpeat w/ different weight classes…

    this way the 2 diff promo’s won’t collide w/ their scheduling and they could carve a nice niche for themselves as the de Facto #2 promo
    by sharing competitors and allowing all of the diff fans the world over to see the talent….

    better flexibility and better Fan $upport!!!

  • Rich S. says:

    patrick, you’re right..
    i didn’t take into consideration that he’s 6’5.. but i knew he weighed in around 245..

    i was just saying that because the WEC doesn’t have a HW division..

    come to think of it..
    I’d love to see him in the UFC..
    at first, i thought the UFC’s HW division would be too much for him to handle..
    but, now that i think of it, there’s not many guys in the HW division that could give him problems..

  • Al Sick says:

    I agree with this completely. All of these fighters are in a position to be superstars, but because Zuffa owns a monopoly on talent in those divisions (save Afflication), their careers are in danger of becoming stagnated if they haven’t been already. JZ, Feijao, Pezao, and Shields all would have major impact in the UFC. All of these guys are talented enough to contend for the UFC’s belts. While I feel that someone with good takedown defense can be problematic for Filho and Faber is the man at 145.

    I would also add Gilbert Melendez to the list. He is at a crossroads in his career to an extent having loss 2 of his last 3 fights Going to the UFC would definitely be a new start with plenty of chances to prove himself as a top contender at 155. Melendez would also be a nice fit as a promotional tool for the UFC’s continued expansion into Mexico and other Latin American countries.

    Ultimately, to maximize the potential to have a legacy in mma, these fighters need big name competition and proper promotion, both of which are controlled by the UFC, the veritable Evil Empire of MMA

  • champ says:

    yeah, elite xc is a joke compared to ufc. i mean, kimbo???? whatever!

  • Mike says:

    These guys NEED the best fight available. they dont NEED zuffa.

  • ryan says:

    a lot of you are missing the point!!!!
    yeah the ufc is the big dog but they fuck us the fans by not giving us the best matchups possible they have there guys and are worried about them losing, which to me is not a big deal to lose to a top fighter.
    look at anderson silva we all know how tight he is and they but him in there with irvin
    come on they are just bending us the fans over an old freezer in the backyard and raping us
    i love mma and really pull for these other promotions (non-zuffa owned)
    i know about their lack of depth with their fighters but at least they try to put on exciting matchups not like some of the horse shit that i pay $55v to see on a ufc PPV
    as a fan i just want to see the best fights i don’t care what organization puts them on !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ryan says:

    also CHUMP i mean CHAMP
    nobody is sayin that kimbo is a top HW and if they are they don’t know shit.
    but he is an exciting spectical to watch
    you need to watch fighters and take them for what they are as a fighter
    not what organization they are in

  • ryan says:

    the only weight classes that the ufc has on lock is LHW and WW
    their HW is not deep
    MW not deep
    LW not deep

  • Juicehead says:

    @ Ryan- You need to buy a clue. You talk about people missing the point, but you don’t even know what the point is. The point of the article is that these fighters are running out of elite competition to fight against that would make for an exciting matchup. Without the fighters, there are no exciting matchups for other promotions to host. That is why they need Zuffa, to have better matchups and exciting fights. Your hate for Zuffa discredits any shot at a point you were trying to make. Fans like you make me not read forums and not want to read comments on well written articles like this one. Please crawl back under the rock from which you came from.

  • Nepal says:

    I agree with a lot of what you said. I would add Condit to the Shields conundrum even tho he was decisioned by Shields. Both of them would do well moving to the UFC.

    I don’t agree with GZ tho. He’s definitly a top 55’r and I’d like to see him fight the top 55’rs. Therefore I do NOT want to see him in the UFC. The only top 10 55’r in the UFC is BJ. Even Sherk hasn’t really beaten anyone significant other than a teenaged Karo. Guys like Aoki, Gomi, Hansen, Kawajiri, Ishida and the newly invented 55 superstar Alvarez are far superior to anything seen in the UFC except BJ of course. Actually I’ll consider that Sherk could possibly beat some of those guys but we’ll never know due to no UFC cross promo’s.

    Another one I disagree on is Bigfoot to the UFC. Affliction would be a better choice since that’s where the top Heavies are hanging these days. I would expect Affliction with their particular model (presupposing they don’t go belly up) to continue to attract good talent. Maybe Bigfoot to the UFC first to as a stepping stone to the top fighters.

    OK, one more point, so really I only agree with half of your post. Honestly as long as Dream stays solvent, their 185 division is stacked. It’s better than the UFC’s at the top end. UFC has Hendo and Anderson but below that, it gets a bit more murky. Look at the 85’rs in Dream. My god, Dream 6 is going to be amazing. These 4 guys, Mousasi, Jacare and Manhoef are incredible and have a far better chance of knocking off Anderson than anybody in the UFC. Not to dismiss the 4th guy Galesic but I think he’s not quite on the other 3 guys level. Anyway, Dream would be a better location than UFC for Filho.

  • ryan says:

    i din’t even read the article i am just saying what i feal in response to the other comments that i have read
    and son you need to cash in your welfare check and order HDNET and other channels that carry mma and not just watch the ufc i can see you sitting at home jerkin your gurt to a picture of dana white

  • ryan says:

    watch one dream card from top to bottom as a whole the fights are much better to watch than the ufc
    i order every ufc event because there is one or two fights i want to see and the rest of the card is littered with horrible match-ups and fuckin commercials the rest of the time and they don’t even use the entire time slot
    they could air all the prelim bouts (i know they do 1 or 2) but they don’t want to show the garbage that usually goes on
    once agian just want the best isn’t that what we deserve

    also have been to live events in japan and the ufc in the US and well i will stop there
    if the ufc stepped up their game then they really could destroy these other organizations but everyday more and more people relize their bullshit games (do to dana white)

  • Juicehead says:

    @Ryan- you just capped off your ridiculous comments with the perfect punctuation. You are commenting in a comments section of an article you didn’t even read. Go back to watching TUF reruns and studying for your driver’s liscense test. Leave the MMA talk to the grown ups.

  • ryan says:

    JUICE i actually started out by stating that i din’t even read the article
    i don’t have to watch tuf reruns, all i have to do is order the card this weekend i can see rob emerson WOW ben saunders SWEET
    and a bunch of other guys that are no different than watching ring of fire or king of the cage
    like i said only two good fights GSP/Fitch and K-flow verses an overrated huerta

  • BigSteve says:

    I hate to say it but i agree with Nick the UFC is the only stable ground they already have a stocked 170 and 205 division if they can stack the talent like that in the rest of the weight classes then the monopoly becomes a great thing for the fans but who knows what it does for the talent.


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