Saturday, 23 July 2011

MMA Prophecies part 2, Dedicated Divisions in MMA


A look into the many possible futures of MMA.
Prophecies translated by Andrew McGuigan.

“Up from the bickering masses shall rise a new kingdom, content to feed the monster the tasty new meat, and in return dine well on its tough and well seasoned leftovers. Both the monster and the new kingdom shall grow fat feasting on fame whilst the masses continue to fight over scraps.”

Dedicated divisions in MMA

Where are we now?

Too many fighters get cut from the UFC only to find themselves out of the TV spotlight and looking for fights regional shows.
Too many fighters lose valuable career months being caught up in contracts that stop them from competing for rival organisations.

Conflict between promotions gets us nowhere as a sport. Affliction vs UFC, Strikeforce vs UFC… all just creates bickering, and the belittlement of great fighters by promoters- just because they don’t fight for their organisation.

This helps no-one, it’s not good for the sport and only fuels fan vs fan forum trolling.
Put aside all pointless promotional loyalty, and think about it from the perspective of fighters, fans, and the future stability of MMA. Nobody wants to see a potential promotion battle that ends with only one survivor.
This is not good business.

How will this change?

The time is right for a dedicated two tier league system of MMA.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that one day an independent promotion might rise above the minnow shows. They would recognise the potential profit available in becoming a none challenging, dedicated 2nd division, working with rather than against the UFC.

Nobody could forsee that the Zuffa might look to set this up themselves via the purchasing of Strikeforce.

If it can be acknowledged that the UFC have the largest world foothold in MMA (the most shows, most countries, widest world TV coverage) then they are the League One of MMA. Strikeforce would obviously be League Two, and will become the definitive second place promotion under the UFC, whilst still being owned by parent company Zuffa.

When all the big Strikeforce stars have ended their current contracts and those willing have been signed to the UFC, Strikeforce could act as the recruiter and tester of upcoming fighters from regional shows. If you prove yourself after a couple of fights, then you’re off up into the UFC.
Dana also now has a retirement home for all out of contract UFC fighters who for one reason or another are still exciting to watch but have no place in the UFC top ranks.

If the idea of Strikeforce being League Two fills you with anti Zuffa-shill rage, please feel free to place an imaginary organisation as the League Two promotion. It doesn’t matter, all bias aside, they are the logical second place promotion.

This is not just a case of ‘Why can’t we all just get along.’ This is not Co-promotion, or an attempt to look down on League Two fighters either.
Championship football teams in England are supported with no less passion than Premier League teams. It is simply a necessity in a sport that is expanding quickly, that there is a more logical structure to the two biggest shows.

There has to be a more dedicated step below the UFC and above regional shows, and there are numerous benefits in having a definite league one, league two approach.

Great for the fighters: revolving doors at the bottom of the UFC and the top of Strikeforce. Two separate organisations commentary teams could actually mention and compliment the other’s fighters without it being perceived a threat to personal business. An agreement between promotions regarding smooth contact transitions means fighters would keep food on the table. Short two or three fight contracts would enable regular re-evaluation and allow a constant revolving door between leagues.

Great for both organisations: The UFC has a constant supply of winning fighters who have proved themselves in League Two, who are known to fans. Strikeforce have a constant supply of fighters who there just isn’t room for on UFC rosters. Fighters that have not peaked yet, or have already peaked but still have a lot of exciting fights in them. League Two will also showcase the exciting new stars who are on their way up.

Great for the fans: Instead of struggling together, two separate organisations could streamline a fighter’s career path and put more energy into MMA expansion.

Likelihood and timescale?

Prior to Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce, a co-operative two promotion league system was unlikely to ever happen. Competitive companies rarely cut through the red tape for the benefit of the public, and it was very unlikely that Strikeforce would voluntarily accept the role of the League Two underdog.

The truth will be revealed over the next two years when the Strikeforce contracts with Showtime and individual fighters expire. Will Strikeforce be completely absorbed and shut down? Will they keep the show running as Strikeforce or change it to ‘UFC1’ and ‘UFC2?’

Now that Zuffa own both promotions they can place a wall underneath themselves as protection from future competitors. With Zuffa fed contracts, no upcoming promotion will be able to touch Strikeforce's talent pool, and therefore will never get within reach of threatening the UFC.
It is the ultimate barrier against future competition.

Andrew McGuigan

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