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Making the Case for other Organizations

Posted by mmaplayground Wednesday, May 27, 2009 12:00 AM



John King

The debate between which was better, PrideFC or the AFC, once reigned dominant on the internet’s mixed martial arts boards. Now, years after the demise of PrideFC, the boards have steadily become more and more quiet. Conversations occasionally spring up about whether or not fighter A or B would do well in the UFC, but the range is not the same as it once was. Barring any conversations involving Fedor Emeline, there is a certain passion markedly absent from the posters involved in the rare debates. Clearly the UFC has won the battle for supremacy within the Mixed Martial Arts market, but is that a good thing? Many would argue to the contrary, but rarely have their reasons been elaborated upon in clear format.

One of those reasons, and quite possibly the one that presents the most danger to MMA, is the threat a monopoly presents to those talented fighters attempting to make their way onto the world stage. Talented fighters like Eddie Alvarez, Josh Barnett, Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti, Josh “The Punk” Thomson, Jake Shields, and many others who, though they may reside in the U.S., remain unknown to the casual U.S. fan. Certainly their skill sets have warranted their presence in the UFC, and yet they remain outside of the organization. Each fighter has their own reasons for not fighting in the UFC, but does that satisfy the craving hardcore fans have to see dream match-ups like GSP vs. Jake Shields, Josh Thomson vs. Frankie Edgar, or many others? Let us not forget, we’ve still left out names of talented fighters who are non-U.S. residents- Shinya Aoki, Joachim Hansen, Alistair Overarm, Gegard Mousasi, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Fedor Emelianenko, and many others. The potential for dream matches seems limitless, but without these other organizations, the salivating you’re experiencing now when considering your opportunity to view these fights would never happen. These fighters would mean nothing, because they would be lost in a sea of men clamoring to earn their way into the lone organization at the top of a crowded hill- the UFC. Those UFC fans who view this as a good thing would suggest that only the best make it into the UFC as a result of this mosh pit at the bottom of the hill. What they don’t realize is that much like the NFL, the NBA, or MLB it is inevitable, especially in the case of those who grow up in the slums of Brazil or the darkest corners of Europe, that some would fall through the cracks never to be discovered. Besides that, where does the mosh pit take place if there are no other organizations within which to house it? At small shows at your local casino? Talk about widening the cracks. Those cracks are where other organizations like Dream, Affliction, Strikeforce, and even the much despised EliteXC act like safety nets to catch these fighters. Hardcore UFC fans may bash these other organizations and call for their demise, but in doing so they’re ignorantly destroying the very sport they love.

On that note, when does MMA become about a product instead of the actual fighters? We’ve already witnessed the unstoppable UFC promoting machine establish counter programming to Affliction and EliteXC events. (Which, thanks to Tivo have been relatively unsuccessful, and actually more helpful to the fan.) One thing that has been successful for the UFC, however, has been the airing of fights on UFC Unleashed that showcase fighters in other organizations losing to UFC fighters. Though it is an intelligent marketing strategy, all sides are not always equal. That fighter could have been in a slump at that time, but is now riding a 10 fight win streak. In a perfect world, those other events that the UFC counter programs put on good shows and interest is drummed up in the fighters competing. The UFC signs said fighters, and the interested they’ve accrued from the fans in other organizations leads to huge pay per view sales when dream fights like Alistair Overeem vs. Brock Lesnar finally happen in the UFC. Only, in the real world events play out more like this hypothetical situation- Alistair Overeem fights and absolutely destroys Brett Rogers in Strikeforce. Hundreds of thousands of fans watch on Showtime, and interests are created for Overeem vs. Lesnar. UFC attempts to sign Overeem, but Overeem wants better compensation than the UFC is willing to offer. The UFC justifies their low offer because though hundreds of thousands may have seen him compete in Strikeforce, there are still a significantly larger number of millions of UFC fans that have not. Each side weighs their bargaining power vs. the other, and eventually the sides cannot reach an agreement. The dream is killed, and ultimately the fans lose. Those who would disagree with this article may claim that this paragraph actually makes the argument for one lone organization stronger, but those folks should challenge themselves to look at it from a different point of view. As was mentioned earlier- when does it become about the product instead of the actual fighters? If a promoter had all the marketing power, budget, production value, and TV time in the world, the argument can be made that, through pure saturation, a stable of sub par fighters could appear to be superior to all other fighters on the market if the strategy for promoting them is a cut above the other organization’s. This has certainly proven to be the case up to this point by none other than The Last Emperor- Fedor Emelianenko. Holding 8 wins and no losses over 6 former UFC champions, is there really any doubt that Fedor is the greatest heavyweight on the planet? Really? REALLY? Come on now. Yet, due to the UFC’s superior marketing machine, many are shaking their head now while reading this. Holocaust deniers.

The UFC has shown that they’re more than willing to compensate fighters who do well within their organization, but a fighter has to earn his way to that paycheck while making beans. Along with making beans comes eating beans. With that comes eating ramen. Working another job. Time away from training. Poorly funded training camps. The inability to hire a strength and conditioning coach. All of these create a funnel that leaves the current “cream of the crop” at the top. Not always because they’re the cream of the crop, but because they have access to better equipment, better training, better treatment in rehabilitation from injuries, and better nutrition. Simply because they have the funds to support those needs. That dominant champ becomes the face of the organization, and those who have the ability to beat him are left working another job at the bottom instead of honing their abilities to dominate the champ. Unless, of course, you’re BJ Penn- who was raised in a wealthy family capable of supporting your training on their own. Other organizations provide fighters a chance to prove themselves, and while they may not make more money than they would in the UFC, the wins they garner over semi-known competition in those other organizations provide them with that ever-important bargaining power at the contract negotiations. It gives these fighters a chance to create their own destiny, instead of having their fighting abilities limited by the small paycheck they receive for putting their health on the line every day of a sub par training camp.

Though the passionate PrideFC vs. UFC arguments have disappeared, it is now more than ever that fans should be passionately fighting for the existence of these other organizations. If it is the sport of MMA that you love, not the organization of the UFC, it would be wise to consider the arguments made herein. As a fan of the UFC, but more importantly as a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, they should provide reason for you to support all Mixed Martial Arts organizations. This kind of competition creates a better product at all ends of the spectrum, and though we may not always get our way because of the competition, (Fedor in the UFC!) at least we are still provided with the opportunity to see great and talented fighters from all over the world showcasing their skills.

(The opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of this website in general, nor it’s webmaster. They are solely the views of this writer)

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