MMA is still in a period of relative infancy compared to a lot of sports. While the first real MMA event took place in 1993 at UFC 1, we didn’t really start to see true mixed martial artists emerge until maybe 10-15 years ago. Given the novelty of MMA, we’ve had a real opportunity to watch the sport refine itself from a jagged stone into a polished piece of jade – and despite what anyone tells you, it really has been the UFC that has taken it to this point.
That said, there have been a number of blunders along the way. While these blunders could be looked at as “growing pains”, some of them have put a bit of a tarnish on the sport. Here’s my take on some of the biggest mistakes, both in and out of the ring to-date, in no particular order…
UFC 33: No one can really be outright blamed for the general suckage of this event; on paper it looked like it was going to epic. A big return to pay-per-view for the UFC, Tito Ortiz headlining the card (who was the biggest name in MMA at the time) – what could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters the event ended up being the worst still to this day. Every fight was slow and sluggish, and almost all were decisions. Worst of all, no one at the UFC actually planned for the possibility of this, and as such the card ran over the time given by the pay-per-view networks and those who tuned in were robbed of the final minutes of fight between Ortiz-Matyushenko. This one still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
The UFC Allows Chuck Liddell to Continue Fighting: It wasn’t Chuck being knocked out by Rampage Jackson in vicious fashion that should have signaled the end of his career, realistically, it wasn’t even his subsequent loss to Jardine. It was that the UFC allowed him to keep going after he fought (and defeated) Wanderlei Silva. Liddell v. Silva was the fight that many of us had begged to see for years, and when it finally happened no one was disappointed – especially not when Chuck exited the ring with his hand raised; this fight should have been Chuck’s swan song. In all fairness, I could see a re-energized Chuck wanting to comeback for one more. Enter: Rashad Evans… the fight ended in one of the ugliest knock-outs in history. If that wasn’t enough of a sign, a TKO by Shogun should’ve been. It took a KO from Rich Franklin to finally put Chuck into retirement. Never should a fighter of his age at the time (nearly 40) been allowed to re-enter the octagon after two straight devastating KO’s. It put a slight tarnish on a legendary fighter’s career.
The Non-Earned Title Shot: Nothing soils the sport of MMA more than when someone is awarded a title shot based solely on the merit of their marketability. While this seems to be a phenomenon that is the new reality in the UFC (e.g. GSP v. Diaz, Jones v. Sonnen, Aldo v. Edgar), it is something that has been going on for years now – lest anyone forget UFC 68 when Randy Couture was awarded an instant title shot against Tim Sylvia. Nothing degrades from the credibility of growing sport more than this kind of a farcical idea. Athletes don’t need to even have talent this being the case, realistically – it’s just about selling fights!
Ronda Rousey Headlining UFC 157: While I’m not against women’s MMA (as I have re-iterated many times), I really can’t see the headlining match between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche generating massive pay-per-view buys – and even if it does, I promise you the next women’s MMA event won’t. This aspect of the sport is just too new for the heavily skewed male demographic to buy into as the sole driving impetus for them to watch UFC 157. An event headliner should be the bait to get people in. Women’s MMA should have been a slow transition in, get people used to it as co-main event or Fuel/FX headliner – not stick it in their face and make them like it. Mark my words.
The Dana White vs. Tito Ortiz Boxing Match: This was just a joke from the start. In 2007 Tito Ortiz was set to return to the UFC; the one condition – he and Dana White Fight in a boxing match. There was a ton of build-up to this event, and even a TV special. The event was sanctioned by the NSAC, all set and ready to go. In the end it was “cancelled” and never happened. All that build for nothing – the only thing the UFC got out of this was a bunch of pissed off fans.
The Circus Comes to the UFC: At one point, the UFC thought that it would be fun to sign on a bunch of names to the promotion that would make a for a good laugh. James Toney, Kimbo Slice, Brock Lesnar all signed on – for no other reason than to sell events. Again, I understand this is part of the sport and how important marketing is, but it kind of takes away from the credibility of the UFC and MMA in general. Fortunately for the UFC, Lesnar actually managed to turn out to be a solid fighter – but, Toney and Slice were both horrible.
The 2012 UFC Fight Calendar: I know I am going to catch heat for this one, but I stand by my decision. I don’t care what anyone says, there were too many events in 2012. Ratings dropped, fighters were injured and events suffered, I don’t think anyone can really deny the negative impact the saturated calendar had on the sport. It’s about quality, not quantity. As a fan, I liked having so many events to watch, but also as a fan I found myself less engaged with the sport. The sample of one (myself) aside, this just was not a savvy marketing decision.
That’s my piece of mind. There are other blunders that didn’t make my list here, but these are the one’s that have stuck out in my mind as a fan. All-in-all there has been more good than bad, and I am sure there will be more goof-ball problems along the way… but, as long as the events and the sport stays true this is one fan that will be around for some time to come.
Follow me on twitter: @lastwordmark
Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/deskounlmtd/3627975489/”>dankos-unlmtd</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>