The UFC, and MMA in general, is still very early in its infancy and the growth has been continuous over the last 10 years. The proof is in the pudding as they say, as the UFC was originally purchased by the Fertitta Organization, Zuffa Inc, in 2000 for $2 million dollars. The Fertitta’s and Dana White grew the company into one of the strongest sports businesses in the world and eventually sold the company in 2016 for $4 billion dollars.
Each week we watch the UFC broadcast their fights on FOX, FOX Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and Pay Per View. At one point in time, you could only watch the UFC on PPV but now, the sport is pretty much available on any cable network TV source on one of the major FOX channels. The company recently raised the price of their PPV and have stated that the past year was one of the best year’s in business and the growth is continuing to trend upwards in a positive manner.
As a sport that is continuing to grow each year, some negative light will always come along with the overwhelming growth of the company. The negative light for the UFC is currently and has always been, their flawed ranking system.
Each week, the UFC releases its weekly rankings that include each division, as well as the overall pound for pound rankings. The problem with the UFC rankings is the fact that they really mean nothing to the UFC.
When the UFC is putting together championship title fights, they are more interested in putting together fights that spike the interest of ticket sales vs. being competitive and giving the fight to the #1 contender.
A perfect example of that situation is in the UFC’s Flyweight Division. Their current champion in the division is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and the #1 contender in the division is former title challenger Joseph Benavidez. Benavidez is currently on a 6 fight win streak but the UFC is more interested in putting on a fight between Johnson and current UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw.
From the UFC’s standpoint, Benavidez has fought for the UFC Flyweight Title on 2 separate occasions, 3 times if you count the WEC event, so why would they want to give the flyweight another shot at Johnson when he has already lost twice? From Benavidez’s standpoint, he is very much deserving of the title shot due to the fact that he only has 4 losses in his 29 pro fights and they are only to two fighters in current champ Johnson and former Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz.
If you look at the Bantamweight division, you find that current champ TJ Dillashaw has flat out refused to fight the #1 contender, Cody Garbrandt, even though he is the former champion and has a rematch clause in his contract? Now, just think about that, what would another sport be like if the champion refused to play the challenger, who deservingly made their way up to the top team behind the champion?
What would happen if the New England Patriots refused to play the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL? What would happen if the LA Dodgers refused to play the Houston Astros in the MLB? What would happen if the Golden State Warriors refused to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA? The fact is, it simply would not happen and that is the one thing that the UFC is missing in their ingredient for success.
Then there are times when an injury plagues a fighter and puts him on the sidelines and completely disrupts the rankings. Take for instance, the UFC’s Middleweight Division. Back in November, George St. Pierre defeated Michael Bisping for the UFC MIddleweight Title. Robert Whitaker had already defeated Yoel Romero in a interim UFC Middleweight Title Fight so in all reality, Whitaker should of fought St. Pierre for the Middleweight Title.
Well, that didn’t happen because St. Pierre went back to the Welterweight Division. And that left Whitaker vs. former UFC Middleweight Champ Luke Rockhold, but once again, Whitaker got hurt and needed to pull out of the fight. So the UFC reached out to Yoel Romero, who remember just lost to Whitaker, to take on Rockhold for the UFC Interim Middleweight Title.
To make matters even more confusing, Romero knocked out Rockhold and now, the UFC is setting up a rematch between Whitaker and Romero for the UFC Middleweight Championship…..but didn’t they just fight?
The bottom line, there needs to be a way for the UFC to develop a different structure for rankings and stick to the rankings but that would not make them as entertaining or sell tickets. Let’s face it, they are really a mixture between a sport like boxing and an entertainment like WWE wrestling. They are reliant on selling tickets and drawing interest and therefore they must put on the fights that people want to see and that creates the hype of selling tickets and pay per views.