Lets be honest MMA isn’t what it once was. I would say it’s evolved for the better. We have sanctioning bodies who’s primary goal is to make sure fighters are safe. Many new weight classes have evolved from the old days. Women are getting in the cage. All in all the sport has grown for the better. But when a sport evolves so does the money wrapped up in it and the business surrounding the sport comes out.
Fighters get managers, agents and PR people these days to help them steer their career in the right direction. That being said, managers have a lot to lose if a fighter they represent, takes a loss in the professional ranks. A single loss can set a fighter back months if not longer. So fighters, a manager truly believes in, are set up to never take a loss. This takes away from the fans. This also takes away from the sport, because if you enjoy going to local fights you will never see the elite fighters put to the test or even fight top notch competition because they are set up to win. A lot of promotions aren’t going to want you to know this, but it’s true. I have had promoters tell me they know who is going to win every fight before the fights take place.
The list of fighters that have made it to the UFC that weren’t ready for one reason or another is an ever growing list. Now not every fighter cut from the UFC is cut because the fighter isn’t ready, many are because a fighter is on the decline, or just can’t cut it with the new up and coming talent. But for this article I want to focus on the guys that weren’t ready. The guys that have had the road paved for them to get there. Well they get there and then what? I will say that promotions like RFA, Titan and, and other large regional shows are turning out to be the way for these guys to get there and know they are ready. The promoters take more control over the fights, have access to a greater amount of fights and more skilled fighters.
Now let me throw in another twist. Bellator. With them letting Eddie Alverez out of his contract this may change, but from what I am told the way the Bellator contract is set up they have complete control. And it’s because of this that they will never be able to compete with the UFC. The UFC at this point, is the sport! The UFC is the dream of every fighter out there. And any fighter that has aspirations to fight in the UFC will avoid Bellator because once they commit they are stuck. Is this good to grow the sport? In my opinion not really, they won’t be able to become competitive by growing with the younger kid so in order for Bellator to make a big swing at the UFC they would have to sign away several top athletes from the UFC and lets be honest that’s not going to happen.
So how do we as fans encourage a change? Step 1- I think it starts in the amateur ranks, I see way too many kids customizing fights in the amateur ranks and making the jump before they are ready. In my opinion I don’t think an amateur should ever go pro after a loss, there is a reason they lost, and it means they aren’t ready, the competition is only going to be more difficult at the pro level. Step 2 – These pro’s need to be taking tough fights, there is a difference between a bad matchup and a tough fight. Step 3 Up and coming fighters, guys and gals, need to be fighting in the “Minor leagues” those smaller regional promotions we spoke about earlier. This is the best way for these fighters to know they are ready, and the best way to rate their readiness, because now you can trust their record.
So, is the business of MMA destroying the sport? No, but it is changing the direction the sport is heading. The sport will evolve and the fans that love it will follow. Whether it be putting fighters in uniforms or which fighters make it all the way, it is and always will be a business. I’m sure many more “business” decisions in the future will alter the path of Mixed Martial Arts again. But only time will tell.