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In Defense of the WAMMA Rankings

(I’m sure it looks great on the wall next to Fedor’s prized "Wizard of Oz" commemorative plates.)

As you would have noticed if you weren’t so busy watching videos of midgets fighting on the internet, “MMA Live” has begun incorporating rankings from WAMMA recently.  This has the guys from Bloody Elbow in a twist because they just partnered with USA Today to feature their “meta-rankings,” and because they generally hate WAMMA.

I’m one of WAMMA’s rankings pollsters, so I can understand some frustration and confusion with some of WAMMA’s moves.  Naming Shinya Aoki champion, for instance?  I love the Man in Tights as much as anyone, but he’s not the world’s best lightweight and everbody knows it. 

WAMMA seems intent on giving out fairly meaningless titles to the best fighters not in the UFC, and that’s kind of dumb but it’s also not really hurting anybody.  And just because WAMMA’s executives make some stupid decisions and appear in hilarious photos from time to time, it’s not any reason to invalidate the actual rankings, which the executives have nothing to do with.

For one, these rankings – whether WAMMA’s or anyone else’s – don’t affect much in the MMA world.  They have no power to compel any organization to make certain fights.  Rankings are subjective opinions that may or may not be complete bullshit.  But they’re fun, so we keep doing it.

If you want to decide how valid you think the rankings are, just look at the WAMMA rankings committee.  Aside from jokers like me, they’ve got guys like Michael David Smith from AOL Fanhouse, Steve Cofield from Yahoo!, Franklin McNeil from ESPN, and Denny Burkholder from CBS Sports, just to name a few.  These are people who know the sport.  And we have absolutely no contact with any WAMMA executives, and receive no feedback at all on our rankings.  We just write them down, send them in, and that’s it.

Now look at who Bloody Elbow polls to arrive at their meta-rankings.  For starters, there’s WAMMA.  Odd that they would include them, since their rankings are so flawed, but whatever.  There’s also totally kick-ass sites like Cage Potato, as well as SI, Sherdog, MMA Weekly, Five Ounces of Pain – the usual suspects. 

Then you’ve got sites like MMA4Real and MMA ELO, which even I’ve never heard of before now.  That’s not to say their rankings are any more useless and subjective than anyone else’s.  In fact, they’re probably just about as useless and subjective as anyone else’s.  So why, exactly, are these meta-rankings any more valuable than WAMMA’s?

It doesn’t matter to me who WAMMA decides to give Velcro belts or championship rings to.  That’s a decision made by their executives, and for the most part it seems as if MMA fans don’t really care one way or another about it.  But you can’t argue that the guys responsible for coming up with the actual rankings are biased or clueless (except for Ariel Helwani, who is usually out of his mind on PCP when he comes up with his rankings.  Please Ariel, help us help you).

It seems as if some people are taking themselves a little too seriously on this issue.  Any website’s rankings are essentially a fun, but ultimately meaningless game.  They’re a conversation topic.  And that’s fine, as long as you don’t talk yourself into believing that your rankings are the only ones that matter.


Cagepotato Comments

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slapjaw ackrite- March 30, 2009 at 11:40 am
fuck all the ranking systems everywhere. this is the only ranking system that counts, right here. no thanks necessary.

p4p top three:

1. TUF Guy - by flying overhand douche, he wins them all.
2. Scott Blevins - by spinning 'badtouch,ineedanadultoplata.'
3. Kenneth Allen - check sherdog, he's no joke.

Honorable mention: Cool!
Anonymous- March 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm
Brent Brookhouse has been going after WAMMA for some time now, it's nothing new and has nothing at all to do with them getting into USA today this week.

yeah man i am clearly waaaaay too cynical. this is all just a coincidence, i am sure.

really i dont feel like getting into some big argument about this because as has already been mentioned, none of it matters anyways since none of the promoters give a shit about any of these ratings. however stupendous some bloggers mathematical ranking system might be, it means dick compared to the unspoken ones made up in the heads of joe silva, coker, random japanese people no one has ever heard of, and so on
rh- March 28, 2009 at 1:47 pm
best piece I've seen from you yet, Fowlkes.

Anonymous- March 28, 2009 at 10:04 am
If you were put into links you would be a douche-sausage.
norremo- March 28, 2009 at 9:28 am
Yamma sucks! Stop being anti-UFC Ben (you duche bag) and boycott the Yamma Rankings.

They are meaningless, instead promote the UFC as the number one promotion around.
Trey J.- March 28, 2009 at 6:16 am
If wamma was being printed in the daily newspaper in every major city, would you still discount their rankings as fun and harmless? The real point here is they are completely misleading to the casual/novice fan who sees them. I didnt get the feeling that BL was arguing that their meta rankings should be on the show. It sounded like he was saying NO ranking system should be given any credibility and/or visibility when it does not properly recognize every fighter from every organization. As "subjective and useless" as everyone elses rankings are, they still try to fairly rank fighters from each weight class, regardless of the organization they fight in.
Aaron- March 28, 2009 at 12:25 am
Your defense of wamma rankings seems to be that they're meaningless and trivial.

Couldn't agree more. Except maybe with the word "defense."
NiggerNiggerNiggerNiggerNiggerWatermelon- March 27, 2009 at 11:40 pm
My comment was deleted.
JiMMA- March 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm
Oh snap, you best wipe that pie off your face Bloody Elbow!!


Michael W.- March 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm
So let me get this straight...using WAMMA's logic, the champions should be:

#2 Shinya Aoki - Lightweight (due to Penn being in UFC)
#11 Nick Thompson - Welterweight (due to Strikeforce not being WAMMA friendly yet)
#8 or #11 Jorge Santiago/Vitor Belfort - Middleweight (due to Mousasi moving to LHW and Lawler being affiliated with Strikeforce)
#9 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira - LHW (due to the UFC owning the actual top 205ers); and
Fedor - well, no real argument here...
Brent Brookhouse- March 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm
I think you missed my point. I have no problem with WAMMA's rankings...I have a problem with what they DO with the data from the rankings. If the point of the rankings is to show who the members of the ranking committee feel are best in the division, how can they justify saying that they would have sanctioned Lindland vs. Lawler for their undisputed title? Their own rankings didn't have those fighters in the top 3 at the time. The rankings only exist to try to provide them with an opportunity to make fights they can profit from.

The actual rankings are fine and dandy. It's just that they aren't USING them in a way that makes them worth anything.
jdavis- March 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm
"elbow complaining about wamma sounds like whining. they complain about not getting press passes to the ufc, get a deal with usa today, and then bitch about everyone more important than them that they arent paying attention. its like watching some autistic kid spin on the floor while screaming shit."

Brent Brookhouse has been going after WAMMA for some time now, it's nothing new and has nothing at all to do with them getting into USA today this week.

Rob Maysey at Fightticker had some good articles about WAMMA a while back, they are worth a read.
jdavis- March 27, 2009 at 5:31 pm
This isn't about rankings vs rankings or ranking systems vs ranking systems it's about a so called "official" sanctioning body. There is no such thing as BE rankings they are an average ranking from a lot of other different places and no one at BE is actually involved in ranking anyone(or USA today that I know of). Also BE isn't trying to make money off sanctioning fights due to those rankings like WAMMA is, your comparing some guys doing some math to get a average from around the internet to a for profit business that is trying to make money off the rankings they release.

No one's rankings are really any better than anyone elses because for the most part they are subjective to start with but WAMMA isn't a ranking body they are a for profit santioning body and have to be judged by that not just by the rankings they release. BE isn't attacking WAMMA because of ranking comparison they are attacking WAMMA due to the reasoning behind WAMMA's entire business plan and Brent Brookhouse has been doing that for a long time now. You have completly missed the point here with this article if you think it is just about rankings.
Anonyman- March 27, 2009 at 5:25 pm
LAS- March 27, 2009 at 5:22 pm
I agree with the posters who have noted that WAMMA is attempting to use its rankings to gain a foothold as a sanctioning body. To suggest that rankings are just fun and harmless is to completely overlook the interest WAMMA has in using its rankings for its own benefit. If WAMMA just wanted to make rankings for fun, they wouldn't be dumping money into belts, rings, and generally trying to make themselves ubiquitous with the sport.
Anonymous- March 27, 2009 at 4:34 pm
the sanctioning body thing is ridiculous anyways. like hearing about fighter unions. that abstract "everyone" wants it except they dont want it to really work. no one wants sanctioning bodies making whatever an unpopular fight might be mandatory instead of a popular but crap fight any more than they want mma fighters on strike. dont listen to anyone who tells you about either.

elbow complaining about wamma sounds like whining. they complain about not getting press passes to the ufc, get a deal with usa today, and then bitch about everyone more important than them that they arent paying attention. its like watching some autistic kid spin on the floor while screaming shit.
AJB- March 27, 2009 at 4:26 pm
Dude, you just implied that Franklin McNeil is a "knowledgable" person with regards to MMA. You should be fired from the rankings.
Dmonicideals- March 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm
I don't know WHY people wouldn't want a single sanctioning body for MMA. Then you wouldn't have to wait until The UFC buys whatever promotion is going out of business this week to see the mega fights like Chuck v. Shogun would have been 2 years ago, but now it doesn't mean anything more than who gets fired next.
Imbecile- March 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm
@ BF - "It seems as if some people are taking themselves a little too seriously on this issue."

Very true... they are the people that are creating fake belts based on useless rankings, and then asking everyone to care about it.

Your defense of WAMMA amounts to, "rankings are fun and useless, so why bother bashing WAMMA for making some of their own." Makes sense, and is pretty much true. Except that WAMMA's sole purpose is to inject itself as a relevant body in MMA, not a fun and useless time waster. They people bashing WAMMA didn't start this. WAMMA came and asked to be seen as relevant, and then proceeded to make themselves irrelevant through the rankings and belts they created. The critics were merely pointing out this irrelevance, and not understanding how WAMMA brought anything positive to the sport.

MMA fans have bashed MMA Weekly's rankings for years, and they do the same for Sherdog's, Bloody Elbow's, and any others. You will never get anybody to agree on rankings when there are many different leagues, and not every single top fighter has fought one another. Even if there was one league, and everyone had fought everyone else, it would still be confusing. But MMA Weekly, Sherdog, Bloody Elbow, and the others didn't make belts, advertise themselves as MMA's sanctioning body, and ask everyone to care about their rankings as though they represented something official. This article is more a defense of creating useless rankings just for fun than it is a defense of WAMMA. Every rankings have their critics, but WAMMA wants to use their rankings for more than just some internet fun, and that is why they take so much heat.

Anonymous- March 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm
Isn't the problem that WAMMA wants to become THE sanctioning body for MMA? It's one thing to say "WAMMA's rankings are just as pointless of anyone else's" but not everyone ranking fighters wants to become the sanctioning body to determine the champions in each weight class. As soon as WAMMA stops taking itself seriously, then we can go back to random fun of ranking fighters.
nippletwist- March 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm
my rankings are the only ones that matter.
Darkside- March 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm
Yeah, Fight magazines rankings have gone completely FUBAR, but whatever. It's not that big a deal anyways.
ItburnswhenIpee- March 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm
Rankings are meaningless when they're just 'rankings', but when they're 'meta-rankings', then they're the shit!
blown32v- March 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm
Rankings are fun stats to browse when you might not know about a fight in depth or the fighters in it to get a guage on what might take place. That's how I view it, and as long as Fedor is #1 in the HW class in all the rankings, I don't really mind, you will know a flawed method when Broc is infront of Fedor, more like, not a very valid ranking system with UFC bias pollsters.
Perdew- March 27, 2009 at 3:38 pm
they are called power rankings for a reason.