Do Fighter Rankings Matter in Mixed Martial Arts?

eCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2009

Fight fans familiar with the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts, or WAMMA, follow their independent fighter rankings hopefully a true MMA champion may be crowned in each different weight classes.

The goal of WAMMA remains simple: Promote the integrity, legitimacy, and longevity of the sport. WAMMA's rankings system disregard a fighters' specific organization and rely solely on knowledgeable journalists who vote for which fighters deserve the top spots in the sport.

Despite the presence of many Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters listed in WAMMA's rankings, the UFC still refuses to recognize WAMMA as a legit sanctioning organization, ignores their nonsensical fighter rankings and meaningless title holders.

Clearly, the best fighters in the world—Brock Lesnar, B.J. Penn, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson—all compete in the UFC. However, WAMMA ranks these fighters much differently than their UFC counterparts.

With a win over "The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine, Rampage Jackson looks next in line for a UFC light heavyweight title shot versus current champ Rashad Evans. WAMMA ranks Jackson third, behind an undefeated and second-ranked Lyoto Machida, and four spots higher than Jardine, whom Jackson fights this weekend at UFC 96.

No wonder why UFC disregards such fans' rankings system: They want to control what fighters fight whom and not what fighters the fans or any other outside sanctioning bodies wielding any power in what fights take place in the UFC.

This is not to say that fans don't want to see these fights because, as fans they want to see the best fights with best fighters in the world inside the Octagon.

However, fans should not simply support the fighters UFC push, nor should they unconditionally accept the fights UFC set up, at least not without first expressing their valid opinions on what's best for the sport.

The more organizations that arise, each with their own rankings, their own titles and their own acronyms, may soon send the ever-popular sport of MMA down the depressing path followed by professional boxing where multiple fighters hold different titles from different organizations and mutiple weight classes, and no one gives a damn about your sport any more. 

After defeating the legendary Randy Couture, Lesnar now serves as the de-facto UFC Heavyweight Champion, with Frank Mir serving as an Interim Heavyweight Champion in the UFC.

The two fighters face off in a much anticipated rematch to crown an undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion. The fight, scheduled for UFC 98 in May, pins the UFC's top two heavyweights in a fight fans must see since Mir beat Lesnar via a knee-bar submission back at UFC 81, amidst two unwarranted stoppages called on Lesnar.

As strange as this sounds, WAMMA ranks Lesnar the fourth best heavyweight in all mixed martial arts, two spots behind Mir, with three Affliction fighters—Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski— all ranked ahead of the current UFC heavyweight and lightweight champions.

Emelianenko serves as the WAMMA Heavyweight champion, with Shinya Aoki its lightweight champ, both facts few MMA fans dispute yet the UFC debunks.

The need for a single rankings organization seems obvious in a sport such as MMA, but with the UFC refusing to recognize WAMMA, what influence does their system yield?

Will more groups like WAMMA soon sprout out with their own fight rankings and worthless title holders, or will UFC remain the supreme ruler in the land of MMA?

Just this week, WAMMA released its inaugural female rankings, with popular fighters Gina Carano (7-0) and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos (6-1) sitting atop the heap tied for the No. 1 ranking in the featherweight division of women's mixed martial arts.

"Female MMA has experienced tremendous growth in recent years but many of the sport's top women athletes are still being overlooked," stated WAMMA Rankings Committee Chair Sam Caplan.

"With these rankings, WAMMA hopes to help bring greater awareness to the depth that exists in female MMA. We also hope that these rankings are used to create championships in multiple weight classes, which will in turn create bigger opportunities for female fighters."

With Tara LaRosa (16-1) and Megumi Fuji (16-0) also named topped women warriors in the super bantamweight and bantamweight division respectively, women's MMA may finally be making inroads in the testosterone-driven, UFC-dominated world of ultimate fighting.

In addition to an outright refusal of WAMMA rankings, UFC President Dana White also contends his interest in employing female fighters and scheduling female fights in the UFC seems rather unlikely until enough skilled women fighters prove they can attract fans and compete at the highest level, just like their male counterparts.

A match between WAMMA's top two ranked female featherweight fighters may draw enough interest from die-hard MMA fans to the most casual observer. Unfortunately, UFC, the most popular MMA organization in the world, currently has no female fighters on its roster.

They obviously missed the boat on women's MMA when Strikeforce signed Santos and scheduled her to battle Hitomi Akano in April, yet hope exists as Carano remains unsigned.

Regardless of the UFC's stance on professional female fighters, a possible showdown between Santos and Carano may be the one fight that helps put women's MMA on the map and forces White's hand in accepting the legitimacy of both WAMMA and women's MMA.