The UFC is a business. Sports are a part of the entertainment industry.
Those are the two biggest reasons why winning is not everything for the UFC.
And why that’s okay.
Many in the hardcore MMA fanbase would love the sport to be based on wins and losses solely. In an ideal world, that would be how title shots are determined.
We do not live in an ideal world.
The UFC has to sell tickets and pay-per-views, and wins alone do not translate to sells. That is the harsh reality.
The shining example of this is Jon Fitch. The longtime world No. 2 in the welterweight division could not get a shot at the championship.
Why? Because MMA fans, in general, were not excited by his grinding style.
Fitch’s decision-laden road did not make him a household name. He was not a draw that fans wanted to spend money on a pay-per-view to see fight.
The other side of the coin is a fighter receiving a title shot that he may not have earned.
Look no further for proof than Chael Sonnen receiving a title shot against Jon Jones. Why did he get the title shot against Jones? Not because he talked his way in to it, but because when Jon Jones turned the fight down for UFC 151, the fan reaction was loud.
The uproar over Jones turning down the fight against Sonnen showed the UFC that there was significant interest in this matchup. If there has been one thing the UFC has always tried to do, it's to give fans the fights they want to see.
They have to protect their bottom line because they are a business. If a fight, no matter how lopsided, is demanded by the fans, then they have to find a way to try and make it work.
That is why it is important for fighters to step out of their comfort zones in the cage and connect with the fans.They have to sell themselves to the audience, as well as win.
The UFC has to sell tickets and pay-per-views. They need fighters at the top of the card to help. It's just basic business.
Was Randy Couture the top contender in the heavyweight division at UFC 68? No, but his value to the UFC and the card could not be overstated. Sometimes the challenger will not be the top contender.
The entertainment business is all about the consumer.
Fans want interesting matchups just as much as they want fights between the top two in a division.
That is what the UFC brings to the table the vast majority of the time. Come April 2013, that will be what they bring with Jones versus Sonnen.
No matter which way you slice it, that fight will be interesting and fans will buy it.
Winning has never been everything in combat sports, and it never will be.
The UFC has to perform a balancing act between sport and entertainment. It is just the business they are in.
There's nothing wrong with that.