The Problem With a Dominant MMA Champion
Everyone loves to watch an athlete dominate in their sport. Whether it be Jordan in basketball, or Gretzky in hockey, being able to say you were there to watch that player own their sport is a memory that few will ever forget. Such as it stands with the UFC today, as we’ve watched Anderson Silva rule over the middleweight division and Georges St. Pierre lay claim to the welterweight title for years; people of today’s generation can say they were there to see it. Now we have started to see Jon Jones dismantle opponent after opponent with utter dominance, making three of the UFC belts at home in permanent residences.
MMA, or boxing for that matter, has an inherent weakness in it, however that is not so evident in other sports. A dominant athlete in the sport of MMA can actually take away from the excitement, thereby robbing viewers from optimal excitement.
How is this so? Well, any MMA promotion has a pool of athletes that is substantially smaller than any other sport – especially if we’re so bold as to break each weight class into separate “leagues”, as the NFL would be to the CFL. When one fighter within any particular weight class starts to dispatch opponents with the greatest of ease there is less excitement and build-up for the fight. Think about how much one would enjoy watching the same team win the world series year after year. The Yankees may always make the play-offs, but they definitely don’t always win the World Series.
Where does all of this come from? Recently, Dana White announced that the winner of the Shogun vs. Brandon Vera fight of FOX 4 would be awarded with a shot at the light heavyweight title, currently held by Jon Jones. For the educated MMA fan, there is nothing that could be less inspiring than the prospect of either of these fighters going up against Jones. Shogun was defeated by Jones with the greatest of ease last year, and Brandon Vera has not been a legitimate contender for more than four years (Vera is actually still only the UFC by default, but that’s another story).
After some dismay at the aforementioned match-up, White announced that the winner of Machida vs. Bader could potentially be awarded a title shot against Jones; again, this is a less inspiring match-up.
A similar problem exists at welterweight with Georges St. Pierre and middleweight with Anderson Silva. For a number of years no legitimate contender has existed for either opponent. As much as the UFC tried to hype “Silva v. Okami” or “GSP v. Koscheck”, fans had little excitement for either fight – we all knew what was going to happen before it did.
This all underscores the problem with over-promotion of the UFC. With so many fights happening every month, the UFC brass is pressured to put out championship matches every month. With only eight divisions there are only so many fights in a year that can be put on, and only so many contenders that can be introduced.
Fewer events with deeper cards is what the UFC really needs. Back in February I argued about why the UFC was become supersaturated with events (I was not alone, obviously), especially with the deal between the UFC on Fox. The answer? Going back to the roots of the promotion could help to re-vitalize it, but then again, it may be too late for that at this stage in the game. The UFC has already promoted itself to the hilt, and now has a certain expectation to maintain. While I don’t know what the answer is, hopefully a compromise can soon be found – before the top fighters in the UFC are no longer the crowd pleasers they once were.
… and that is the last word.
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