Like it or not, Zuffa practically has a monopoly on MMA. Zuffa brass owns the premier fighting leagues, the UFC and Strikeforce, and no other leagues will ever match their prestige or success.
It’s nifty to have a collection of world-class fighters battling one another within one supreme organization. However, this uneven distribution of talent presents trouble for fighters unlit by Zuffa’s prevailing spotlight.
Sadly, since Zuffa employs the best talent, fighters who forge careers away from Lorenzo Fertitta’s empire are discredited by fans. “Who cares about (insert beleaguered fighter’s) record? He was beating up useless cans in Japan,” an incredulous Sherdogger spouts daily.
It’s an unsavory notion that the careers of outstanding fighters should be trivialized. However, there is truth to be derived from this sentiment. I mean, who’s to say that terrific fighters like Shinya Aoki wouldn’t look so terrific if they had been pit against the “best in the world”?
Aoki holds recent victories over Yokai Sithoar, Satoru Kitaoka and Rich Clementi. The wizardly grappler would be tested by stalwarts like Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone and Frankie Edgar if he were signed by the UFC. Which list of fighters is more formidable?
That’s not to say Shinya couldn’t do well against UFC lightweights, but how can we properly rate his ability if he’s not testing himself against them? In the eyes of fight fans, beating Yokai Sithoar is like punching a paraplegic baby.
Fedor Emelianenko is another blatant example of fan scrutiny. “The Last Emperor” was bested in three consecutive Strikeforce bouts. In response, “Zuffa zombies” crapped on Fedor’s whole career. They fail to acknowledge the possibility that Fedor is past his prime or that he had a few rough nights. Since he didn't perform well under the Zuffa banner, Fedor's legendary accolades in Pride are trivialized by many.
Despite his failure in Strikeforce, is Fedor the greatest fighter of all time?
There’s only one way to block the onslaught of negativity upon scorned fighters: They need to prove themselves in the UFC. That’s it. Disbelieving fight fans won’t be sated until fighters who sparkle outside the UFC continue to shine in the big leagues.
What’s keeping standouts in Bellator and M-1 Global from boarding the UFC’s eminent ship? Pay is good, if not better, in organizations other than Zuffa. Also, some fighters don’t want to be displaced from comfortable surroundings and family overseas.
Cuban wrecking machine Hector Lombard recently signed with the UFC. Lombard has been coined as a "can crusher" by keyboard warriors on MMA message boards, a fighter whose career is fraudulent because he's been feeding on unworthy foes.
Perhaps Lombard grew sick of fight fans questioning his legacy. And if other talented fighters feel the same way as Lombard, they’ll have to sign their soul to Zuffa, too.