twitter google

Is the UFC Enough for Mixed Martial Arts?

For years I have been one of the people who have been saying Mixed Martial Arts needs more than just the UFC to take that proverbial next step.

However, as the biggest night in the sports history nears, I find myself reconsidering my position on this subject and asking, “Does MMA really need anything other than the UFC to prosper?”

It has been my argument for many years that more organizations providing competition with the UFC the better it will make the sport overall. But if you look at the history of sports, that’s not necessarily the case.

What competition does the NFL have? The NBA? MLB? Golf, tennis and NASCAR – with a couple of minor exceptions here and there – have all of its stars competing under one major organization.

None of those sports appear to be struggling from the lack of “competition.” As a matter of fact, having all of their best competing against each other has helped those sports thrive into the huge sensations they’ve all become in this country.

Now let’s move to boxing. OK, what killed boxing more than anything besides the corruption in the sport? It was all of the different promotions creating 100 different championship belts, therefore making it almost impossible for the top fighters to compete against each other. Does the name Fedor ring a bell?

So would it really matter if we only had the UFC? When a top fighter like Fedor, Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, etc is fighting for another promotion, what are MMA fans always saying? “I hope he signs with the UFC soon.” So, as far as fans go, wouldn’t it be better for us if all the great fighters were under one promotion to begin with?

Now, obviously this argument is more complex. Tito Ortiz and others would argue that this would hurt options for the already underpaid fighters. That maybe true but I’m looking at this purely from a fan’s perspective and from that point, perhaps the Strikeforces and Afflictions of the world are just watering down the sport.

If you ask me, I would much rather see their top fighters in the UFC, watch the best fight the best and be done with it. Seriously, what are we really accomplishing by having Fedor in Affliction and Nick Diaz in Strikeforce?

Like I said, this is a recent change in philosophy for me that happened when I was thinking about the new UFL football league. I have worked in the NFL and covered both college and pro football. Nothing will ever compete with either sport, so even trying is futile.

That scenario shifted my thinking to the UFC and how the company is celebrating the historic UFC 100. Strikeforce is a nice little promotion. Affliction has Fedor and a solid heavyweight division. But aren’t these guys just delaying the inevitable?

The UFC has become a giant and in my opinion taking them on in the world of MMA is becoming almost as much a losing proposition as other football leagues challenging the NFL.

Perhaps it’s time for others to step back and let the survival of the fittest take its course. Let the UFC have all the best talent and give the fans the best fights between the best fighters in the world. Instead of having a few different promotions, let the UFC become the NFL of Mixed Martial Arts. Would that be such a bad idea?

One final point I want to make clear. I am not suggesting we do away with regional MMA and things of that nature, just like I wouldn’t suggest getting rid of Arena Football. I am talking about any promotion in direct competition with the UFC. Regional MMA is an asset because it’s a tool to help young fighters get experience and become good enough to someday fight in the UFC.

In my opinion, promotions like Strikeforce are fighting a losing battle. They may stick around for a few years but in the end, they simply don’t have the money or the resources to compete with the UFC. All they are really doing is paying a couple of fighters above market value to keep them away from Dana White.

So as the UFC approaches its 100th event, I would like to hear your feedback on this topic. Do you feel MMA needs multiple promotions like I did for years or do you feel the UFC can survive as one power league like the NFL or NBA?

When we hit UFC 200, where do you think the sport of Mixed Martial Arts will be at that time?

I’m starting to think when people refer to Mixed Martial Arts as “UFC,” they really aren’t as misinformed as I once thought they were.

21 COMMENTS
  • jeepsrule says:

    I agree with your stance on this. My number one complaint has been that when fighters are fighting for multiple organizations they are more likely to be injured or fighting at less than top form. On the flip side of the coin is fighter pay. How does a fighter make a living without fighting numerous fights for multiple organizations? If the UFC becomes the NFL/NBA/ect of the sport possibly a minimum pay scale be used, $25,000 per fight?

  • Guy Gaduois says:

    Yahoo! sports doesn’t think anything but the UFC is needed. This week, they changed the tag from “MMA” to “UFC” and all MMA org related stories are found under that header. The aftermath of this weekend will be interesting to note in the development of the sport. It is apparent that there will be many first time viewers this weekend and Monday morning, I would bet good money that barring Michael Jackson’s resurrection from the grave or Obama dropping money from airplanes during a flyover (less ridiculous than the current stimulus; at the least the money would get somewhere), the UFC will be a top search among search engines. Not MMA, but UFC. If we haven’t already seen the tipping point, I think UFC 100 could be it. Everything else will be Canadian Football to the “NFL status” of the UFC.

  • Angry Mike says:

    To me, part of the purity of MMA is it’s competitiveness. The rules are comparatively simple, and the winner is the athlete who competes most successfully. No agencies or bureaucrats to decide who can compete or how they can compete. That same purity and competition should play out in the marketplace in the business of MMA. (And every other business, but that’s a different subject). There’s always room for other orgs, but they have to choose the right market niche. A full frontal assault against UFC is a stupid choice for a fledgling org. A bit like an amateur trying to bull rush GSP or Anderson Silva. Orgs like Strikeforce can succeed if there’s enough demand for MMA and if they figure out how to stay out of UFC’s way. And from the fighters’ perspective, multiple orgs are in their best interests. The fighters in Affliction are there because they’re making more money, basically. Good for them; I hope they all make even more. The higher the paychecks, the more gifted athletes will move into the sport. Competition is good for the fans, the fighters, the sport, and the orgs. who do it best.

    PS @ Guy: Unfortunately there’s no more cash for a money drop. It would have to be more hot checks that will be covered by subsequent generations. Indentured servitude or economic slavery, basically.

  • Snoop Dogg says:

    Well I use to agree but not anymore. Affliction has put on 2 awesome shows and is about to top UFC 100 with there Trilogy show. Strikeforce has been around the block a time or 2 and are just starting to get some fame. Both of these promotions are some serious competition. WEC is very popular but pretty much is the UFC and Dream keeps the hardcores entertained. I believe we need the other promotions to follow all of your favorite fighters and get to know the rising stars.

    If you are not internet savy you would never know about any of the UFC undercard fighters. All of a sudden the UFC tells you there fighters are good and you have no choice but to believe them. Other orgs will help the UFC by being sort of a minor league or a place to go for a somewhat fallen fighter to regroup. I feel more then 1 major organization is needed so long as there isn’t 20 big time orgs I think we will be fine.

  • Guy Gaduois says:

    Angry Mike – what do you think about the arena itself, octagon/cage vs. roped ring? I’ve wondered if the UFC’s success will make (for US audiences) MMA in the ring seem ‘less legitimate’. The uniform code / generally accepted rules of MMA are now faced only with the venue as the most striking difference in matches, cage or ring. I wonder if Affliction’s utilizing the ring hurts them or helps them because it doesn’t “conform” to the UFC?

    Also, politically, if we can see the Gov’t wasting our money, how come we can’t stop them? I’m an active writer/caller to my elected officials and it is worse than pissing into the wind. Heartbreaking.

    Good post. And you don’t seem very angry.

  • ceegee says:

    Umm,

    Captain obvious reporting here.

    This is already the case. You are comparing other sports in their “perfected” stages, not where they started out, to the relative “youth” of MMA. The “perfection” you desire is just a matter of time. That is unless Obama passes a law that makes all other MMA franchises illegal around the world. (Not a farfetched possibility especially if the UFC is getting any stimulous money.)

    The sooner this happens, the better it will be for the fighters, just as when the other sports were consolidated into their respective mega franchises, giving agents and advertisers more leverage.

  • anomie42 says:

    Comparing the UFC to other American sports organizations is not relevant. There are major points of difference that are not addressed when comparing the UFC to the NFL, MLB, etc…. Most importantly within each of these other organizations teams have separate owners that have a stake in the overall league, but also are competing for the top talent in an effort to win. Fighters within the UFC are more like general contractors. Unfortunately, teams like ATT or MFS can get blacklisted by a single organization, so banding together is not an option. Further, all the other major sports organizations have players unions and Zuffa would not take kindly to fighters organizing. Another issue that I have is that Americans think that the only leagues that exist are in America. Although the quality may be lesser, there are leagues in other nations such as Japanese Baseball or European basketball which athletes can participate in; hence the need for DREAM or Sengoku. Lastly, if MMA needs one major organization, can someone please explain to my how soccer/futbol became the world’s largest sport because there are dozens of leagues for it?

  • ace328 says:

    I think MMA will thrive eventually with only 1-2 major orgs but Zuffa can’t currently afford to employ all of the top fighters in the world or they aren’t willing to spend that much money. We’re doing fine with Strikeforce, Affliction, Dream, and WVR and I believe all will be around for a while except Affliction.

    The only way the UFC will be able to become the “NFL” of MMA is if the players create a fighters association and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with their employer. Every other major league in North America already has this.

  • madiq says:

    [quote]What competition does the NFL have? The NBA? MLB? Golf, tennis and NASCAR – with a couple of minor exceptions here and there – have all of its stars competing under one major organization.[/quote]

    NFL – NCAA football, CFL, AFL, UFL
    NBA – ULEB, FIBA, NBL
    MLB – Central/Pacific (Japan) Leagues, West/East (Cuba) Leagues
    Golf (PGA Tours) – Challenge Tour, Nationwide Tour
    Tennis (International Tennis Federation) – Association of Tennis Professionals
    NASCAR – Formula One, CART, IndyCar

    So I’m inclined to disagree with your point, sir.

    However, if your point is that mainstream, casual fans in this country value simplicity, and to better cater to those fans, it’s easier if sports consolidated its talent into one organization, rather than confuse them with nuance, I see it and agree. However, PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES don’t necessarily benefit under that system; they need Competition and Collective Bargaining. I think that hardcore fans would be far more accepting of the UFC’s hegemony if they felt that the UFC would abandon its strong-arm, “dog-eat-dog” tactics, and deal with athletes the way other “big time” sports entities do. (Or, of course, if the fighters themselves ran the UFC.)

  • FrankW says:

    I completely disagree.The analogy does not fit. WAMMA is to MMA as the NBA is to basketball.The UFC is to MMA as the The Lakers is to basketball. All the players cannot play on the same team.If every A list fighter fought for the UFC, it then would have a bigger monopoly and quality would go down.Inspite of Microsoft’s excellence and innovation, anti-trust laws prevent it from total market control.Google is stepping up to challenge it as I type. The same is true with wireless providers.
    It is a firm’s goal to maximize profit by lowering costs and increasing revenue.This is what Dana white is about.Every NBA team is about the same but if not for competition from other teams, players would not make good money and the games would not be competitive.These guys risk life and limb and should live and retire wealthy. The UFC has blocked all efforts to establsih a governing body for obvious economic reasons: profits.

    With other quality MMA organizations making good money, the investment capital will increase greatly.More research and development(R&D) will be done and the sport will grow faster. Dana is the only one doing all the investing in (R&D) marketing and sanctioning because he is making the most money. Spread the wealth,share the expenses and the fanbase will expand faster.
    The conclusion is that we should not expect DW to cooperate with the competition but other firms need to be able to challenge the UFC’s dominace in order to ensure that market forces remain at work.

  • edub says:

    The thing is I think this would already be the case if the “minimum” amount of money per fight was paid to fighters.

    Just turn the UFC into the MLB. Pay the fighters what theyre worth.

    Great points(especially the one about soccer) though Anomie even though i dont agree with you.

    To Madiq: Almost every org you listed is like a “minors” version of the heir apparent(except: formula one/indy car to nascar considering theyre different cars). Eventhough there is great level of play in all the orgs you listed for most of the part they are a step below the “major leagues”.

  • drdsanders says:

    Most of the pro organizations mentioned have players unions. The sport of golf has many successful organizations. Is the Masters even a PGA event?

  • madiq says:

    But being “like a minor league” is not the same as BEING a minor league. Every organization is entitled to make money, appeal to its niche, and attempt present the best product it can. Nobody is trying to get the UFC to go out of business, but there’s a difference between wanting the UFC to prosper as the location where the best fighters fight, and wanting them to ACQUIRE the top talent, exercise full control over these athletes, and prevent other companies from surviving and thriving.

    People say that they’re fans of football, of basketball, of baseball, of tennis, of golf, and other sports, not NFL, NBA, MLB (the term didn’t even exist until the 90’s), ATP, PGA, or any other initialism for the sport’s dominant organization. The sport of Mixed Martial Arts can have its “UFC,” just like the sport of professional football has the NFL, but the reasons those sports are where they are is BECAUSE of competition, not in spite of it. The NFL merged with the old AFL, the NBA merged with the ABA, the NL and AL agreed to have its teams face off at the end of the season. Why then, are people opposed to the idea that the UFC, if it is to end up being the Worldwide Standard for MMA, will need to continue evolving, while it meets the challenges that competing organizations have to offer?

    The sport of boxing might benefit from a UFC-type organization, or it might not. On one hand, it would be a simpler way to sell the sport to fans. On the other hand, the natural consequence would be that boxers themselves would lose unless they organized. This is because once the brand is bigger than the boxer, the brand can demand a larger share of revenue. A system like that makes it hard for another Muhammed Ali to present himself; it’s more likely that its next big star would be a LeBron James type, a slick, corporate-backed, athletic pitchman whose athletic talents are exceeded only by the zeal with which the organization and its partners push him down our throats. Would that be a good thing? Who can say?

  • edub says:

    Damn good post Madiq.

    I guess it comes down to whether sport keeps evolving, and bringing in more money.

  • Angry Mike says:

    @Guy

    Yeah, I’m getting a bit old to be really angry. More like cranky or irritable. Neither sounded as good to me as Angry, though

    Personally, I don’t care for the ring. There’s different schools of thought, I guess, but I really dislike the stand-ups or restarts when fighters on the ground get tangled up in the ropes, especially when the cagey fighters intentionally tangle up just to get a re-start. Also, the ring skews the action toward stand up and away from grappling and wrestling and gnp. It appears to me that take-downs are easier once you’ve backed your opponent against the cage. I enjoy the stand up wars, but the other styles and techniques keep the “mix” in mixed martial arts.

  • metalmulisha says:

    Is the UFC enough for mixed martial arts?
    Obviously a rhetorical question because any sane MMA fan would and should say NO!

  • Hitman Hartnell says:

    Any wrestling fans remember when WCW was bought by Vince McMahon? Any and all creativity just died. The competition between the two companies on monday nights was pretty intense and the fans were the ones to benefit, not to mention the wrestlers themselves. If the UFC were the only promotion, I can only see that benefiting White and the Fertittas. All the banned clothing companies would be pretty much screwed and even the ones that arent banned would still take a hit.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    First I would like to say Angry the UFC and the cage skews the fights way, way to wrestling (Koscheck, Couture, Hamill, Carwin, Henderson, Valasquez, Hughes, Sherk, Ortiz etc to name a few) the transition from a guy who has never done a martial art and only ever wrestled to being a UFC fighter or even champ is about 1 year by the Randy and Lesnar scale and that should not be. The ring evens it out so not every fight that involves a wrestler is dictated by where the wrestler wants to be (standing or on the ground). Personally I wouldn’t award points for a takedown unless it did damage ie a good slam or throw. MMA is not wrestling it is a fight and you should not win a fight based on your ability to control a guy without attempting to finish, and when I say finish I don’t mean putting your head in a guys chest and delivering little elbows hoping that you will open a cut because it is the only chance you have of finishing an opponent other than just wearing him out. MMA should be an even battle between all and according to what I see in the UFC it isn’t, it is very wrestle heavy.

    Now to this article No way in hell do I want Dana White and co to be dictating what happens in all of MMA.
    And since when have the worlds best boxers not been able to face each other?. If the UFC let Lesnar fight Fedor it would happen…it is the UFC that stops it! remember Randy trying?.
    You say should the others step back…they just started stepping forward! I am all for multiple orgs as long as they cross promote, just like most other orgs seem to be doing. The UFC is the odd one out!.
    I like the ring, I like knees on the ground, I don’t like elbows causing cuts to end a fight, I like the idea that you can’t USE the CAGE to win a fight all the time, so to be honest I would prefer if the UFC stepped back and let others take all the best fighters. Maybe then we wouldn’t have Dana and the UFC preventing fights from taking place.

  • stevefiji says:

    You’re kidding me? Is Sam still involved here? Finally…. this site presents a voice with an actual clue. Affliction worst of all, but all these major promotions that have gone head-to-head with the UFC, and the support they are given here is generally inane. One set of belts, one true champion of the world, survival of the fittest… as easy a concept to understand, defend and promote as there could ever exist. All the anti-UFCer’s who call me a Dana nuthugger, I call them simple, flawed creatures looking for fake controversy to feel important.

    I want the best to fight the best. In the long run, the fighters will get all the compensation and benefits due to them, just like the NFL, the PGA, the ATP and with every other major spots organization. It just takes time, and the UFC is still a relative baby in terms of size and years. Talk to 1960’s football players or even early 1970’s baseball players, they got hardly anything… it will come and if we get to see the very best in the world square off ‘mano-a-mano’ then it will come even faster.

    The UFC is worth about a billion, maybe more with a speculation cherry added on top to the existing cash flow. How many single clubs in baseball, football, soccer, etc are nearly worth that or more? How much are those individual leagues in their entirety worth? People need to relax about the all the growing pains… 80%+ of the best fighters in the world fight in one organization. Someday soon it will be 95%. Once Fedor retires, the other organizations ALL lose credibility for they have no real claim except as a place for castoffs, losers, upstarts and the occasional rebel. No Don King, Bob Arum… No 10 world title organizations and 25 weight divisions. Too many silly bastards out there just don’t know how good they’ve got it.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I just want to say how come when everyone talks about boxing they bring up the worst aspects? “25 weight divisions” “Don King, Bob Arum” etc. It is a simple, flawed creature looking for fake controversy to feel important.
    Do not standardize MMA under the UFC!!!!
    Unless they use rings AND cages, have a ranking system (no Lesnar and Randy going for titles because they are popular, you have to earn it), allow knees on the ground, do not let the fight stall on the ground, get rid of Don White…I mean Dana King, stop elbows on the ground (it’s all about cuts), stop loading cards with (shitty) TUF fighters and have 205+,185-205,165-185,145-165 and 0-145.

  • Patrickk says:

    I completely agree. A man should be a man, and a child should stay in a child’s place. Let the UFC be the big boss man, and make your money with the little guys in MMA and stop focusing on trying to stop the UFC. Let the UFC monopolize the top-tier markets so it will open up some big bucks for these guys. So when the little guys make it to the UFC they will be making $50,000 per fight regardless if they are on the undercard or the main event.

    It just makes sense.

    And the little guys aren’t really little, I just used them like that to describe how much bigger the UFC is talent-rich wise, connections-wise, how big of an organization it is, and how much pull it has in the mainstream industry.

LEAVE A COMMENT!

You must be logged in to post a comment.