By Jason Moles
Time has a unique way of changing how we live. From communicating with friends to conducting business, from diagnosing illness to differentiating gender — almost every facet of life has changed in the past 50 years. But you don’t need to wait half a century to see change. Eight years ago we didn’t have Twitter, the Harlem Shake, or weight divisions under 155lbs. (including women) in the UFC. With each new staple of life, we’re forced to replace things formerly deemed “must-have.” (Beeper, anyone?) Other things outlive their usefulness only to die a cold, miserable death in the desolate wastelands of obsolescence.
Mixed martial arts is no different. The sport isn’t immune to the ravages of time, nor is it capable of escaping the inevitability of certain aspects becoming passé. For example…
UFC Fighters with Part-Time/Full-Time Jobs
A quick glance in the rear-view mirror and you’ll see just how far we’ve come in the short life of MMA as we know it. Rules, regulation, fighter pay, and health benefits have all improved since the birth of “Ultimate Fighting” in 1993. In the age of DVR and skipped commercials, sports offer advertisers what no one else can — a holy grail overflowing with viewers in real time. Sooner rather than later, companies like Zuffa will be an even more attractive destination for blue chip sponsors and marketing agencies to plug their products.
This influx of cash, combined with political pressure from the outside and dissension from within, will pave the way for a much needed hike in the UFC fighter pay scale, and the death of paltry fight purses. From there on out, all fighters will be able to pay their bills and provide for their families doing what they love and that alone. There is one caveat, though: UFC hopefuls will need to spend every free second fighting or training for fights if they ever hope to be competitive in the Octagon.
UFC Fighters with Less Than 10 Professional Fights
Chris Weidman and others like him are a dying breed. Not because of anything they do in their fights, but because of their inexperience. Walking to the UFC prep point for the first time at UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann to face Alessio Sakara, “The All- American” was riding a five-fight win-streak. Oddly enough, he was also undefeated. It wouldn’t be long before he did the unthinkable by dethroning pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva to capture the gold in only his tenth professional bout as a fighter.
With every day that passes, the next generation of mixed martial artists are growing more skillful, adapting to the sport the way an arctic fox does to survive the frozen tundra. The game is changing before our eyes. Soon, so will our expectations. In order to pull in the numbers needed to satisfy FOX and their partners, Dana White and Joe Silva won’t be able to pass off virtual unknowns as fighters worth tuning in to see. *Cough* John Moraga *Cough* Instead, men and women will need to present an impressive resume featuring a list of fantastic finishes. They’ll need to have an established fan base built upon years of toiling outside the premier organization…which is going to become, considering the next item on our list, more difficult than getting Nick Diaz to show up for an interview.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. TUF jumped the shark about the same time Dana lost his hair. Zuffa’s Trojan horse into mainstream consciousness, and subsequent acceptability, has been in need of an appointment with Dr. Kevorkian years ago. Fight fans around the world are sick and tired of the sophomoric shenanigans in the house, and no gimmick, no matter how original, is going to change that. Dana White and Co. may still have a weekly reality show ten years from now, even if only to accommodate television networks, but you can bid this particular one farewell. Let’s all hope he does an MMA version of ‘Jackass.’ Oh, wait.
Niche MMA Promotions
(Photo via Sherdog)
Companies like Bellator MMA and Invicta FC are prime examples of niche MMA promotions. One caters to your desire to see fighters enter a tournament to earn a title shot — as opposed to guys just talking their way into the main event or selling wolf tickets — while the other gives you a fresh serving of young women going at it like wild animals. But what happens when you get your fill? You walk away from the table and find a nice spot to nap. The only problem is that such a narrow product doesn’t make for an incredibly sustainable business model; their greatest strengths are simultaneously the source of their greatest weaknesses. Fans will get angry that a fight they really want to see doesn’t come to fruition because of the chaotic nature of tournaments, just as they’ll eventually grow bored with fight promotions that only focus on women, or only focus on potheads.
As the saying goes, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. For the time being, mid-level promotions like Bellator and Invicta are good venues for young fighters looking to gain some experience, but it’s only a matter of time before they become another notch in Dana White’s belt.
As I said above, mixed martial arts is ever changing. Those fighters that don’t keep up will be bleeding all for naught the rest of their career. Don’t get me wrong. You can become quite successful as a one-trick pony (see: Ronda Rousey), just don’t expect it to last longer than a Randy Couture marriage. Back in the day, a guy could stumble off the barstool and go win a professional cage fight. Today, if you don’t have at least a six-week training camp you automatically turn down title fights (unless your name is Chael P. Sonnen) because the competition is just so fierce. Similarly, you can wear championship gold and be as one-dimensional as the words on this screen in today’s MMA, but that ship just won’t sail in the years to come.