Do not get me wrong—I love the Ultimate Fighting Championship and mixed martial arts. I began viewing the sport in the mid to late 1990s. The early UFC’s "no holds barred," no weight classes, David vs. Goliath matches, were intriguing.
But over the years the UFC has become more mainstream, less underground, due to boxing-like regulations. The rule changes definitely had a positive impact on the sport as it has led to its increasing popularity. The problem is that the UFC’s production of fights and the compensation for fighters is sub-par.
Before Pride Fighting Championships was sold to its rival the Ultimate Fighting Championships last March, it was the most exciting MMA organization to watch. Pride events were showcased in large arenas like the Tokyo Dome to capacity crowds of 40,000 plus fans. Pride made fighters out to be warriors, and drums would beat.
They had more emphasis on the show aspect then just the fight. It was sort of like the WWE, but realistic. There were pyrotechnics, pre-fight ceremonies, and long fighter introductions. These elements made Pride events more dramatic and ultimately increased the mystique of the fighters.
For a while after Pride merged with the UFC there was a lot of debate over which organization was better. It seems that the rule changes between the two organizations allowed some fighters to be more successful than others. The transition between fighting in a caged octagon vs. a traditional boxing ring was just one of the major differences between the two organizations.
Mirko Cro Cop, one of the top heavyweights in Pride, struggled in the UFC, winning only one fight. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, arguably only the third or fourth ranked light heavyweight in Pride, became a champion in the UFC. Conversely, when top UFC light heavyweight Chuck Liddell fought in Pride in 2003, he was dominated by Rampage Jackson.
The UFC could learn from the Japanese and increase the production quality of its events. Otherwise, their product could lose some of its fan base to the International Fight League and upstart e-promotions like M-1 Global and K-1 Dreams.
These promotions will most likely garner the interest of the Pride Fighting fan. It is also nice to see that the UFC will not have as big of a monopoly on the sport. K-1 is nearly as powerful as UFC. These promotions have already lured big named fighters like Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko.
Another problem with the UFC is that its fighters are poorly compensated for their fights. At UFC 82 (a great fight card with equally great fights) the fighters were compensated between $3,000 to $170,000, according to wikipedia.org.
Andre Arlovski received $170,000, while his opponent Jake O’Brien received only $11,000. You would think with the revenue that the UFC is generating that it could compensate its fighters more, but they are not. If they do not change their ways, they will inevitably lose more quality fighters to other organizations.
Dana White (President and part-owner of the UFC), has made changes in the past, which have ultimately helped the organization become more successful. But in order to take it to the next level, he needs to continue to make changes.