UFC Title Shots: Is It About What the Fans Want?
There seems to be no set method to the madness in making UFC title shots, and the powers that be must ask themselves the following question: Is it about what the fans want when setting up fights for the coveted gold?
I don't care what anyone says, the UFC needs to conduct itself more as a pure sport and not sports entertainment. It has battled too long and hard for sport credibility to now veer down the WWE path. A UFC title shot is something special and sacred, a mountain top not easily reached and should be dictated by the fighters' rankings and decided by knowledgeable top management.
The only way to keep the pure integrity, history and relevance of the UFC title is to have it protected and controlled by the top brass of the UFC and not subject to the whim, fantasy or flavor of the month of the self-serving masses. This is not the WWE folks, where wrestlers are successful based on the pop they get, the house they draw and then by their in-ring skill. The men in the UFC are serious athletes, who sacrifice everything to be at the elite level of fighting and earn that one big shot at UFC gold.
There must be a formula or official ranking in place that matchmakers, fighters and fans can look to to track and have an idea of who is the No. 1 contender to the title at any given moment. A close look at the title shots on the horizon show all kinds of different ways to land that big shot.
Do you think the UFC gives title shots to the right fighters?
At heavyweight the formula is right as we have a pretty clear-cut No. 1 contender in Cain Velasquez. He is right in line, the UFC wants it and the fans want it, and I would say that it is the perfect scenario for a legitimate title shot. The fans had very little to do with this one.
At light heavyweight you have the absolute opposite and the greatest case for why title shots should not be dictated by what the fans or masses want. Chael Sonnen is 2-2 in his last four fights, is coming off a loss and has not fought in the UFC light heavyweight division in six years. He is a career 1-2 in the division. Giving him a shot at Jon Jones sends a terrible message to educated, loyal fans and hard working and loyal fighters that it's not always about hard work and earning your shot. It sends the message that the title can be won by doing great interviews and spouting off at the mouth. Dan Henderson is the real No. 1 contender to Jon Jones' title.
UFC detractors have always said it is just like the WWE. Fixed and fake fights designed to entertain the masses and create stars. I have always fought that notion and stressed how very real combat sports are: real punches, real kicks, real submission locks and real fighters earning their way to the title with blood sweat and tears.
The landscape must be cleared up and a straight line must be drawn to the title. The shot should always go to the man who earned it through fighting and sacrifice, not showmanship and making the first phone call to Dana White. I am all about giving the fans the fights that they want to see, but when it comes to the title, the in-cage pecking order must trump all other factors.
If you want to maintain the prestige and integrity of the UFC title, it just can't be about what the fans want.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca's UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.
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