Fighter rankings have been a key point of discussion, contention and scrutiny in the MMA community for several years, whether divisional or pound-for-pound.
In fact, it's a literal science for just about any combat sport, as world rankings play a major part in tournament bookings, pay-per-view cards and title shots in various promotions.
Now, the UFC has announced that it's teaming up with FightMetric to do its own, official, in-house rankings for every single one of its weight classes. Moreover, the MMA media will be a key contributing group, with 90 members submitting event-by-event votes.
But will that be a conflict of interest for fighters, managers, press and the UFC itself?
How will future fights and contract negotiations be affected if athletes know exactly where the UFC places them in the pecking order?
There are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered—but if this system is done right, it could benefit the sport in several important ways. Read on as we cover five key reasons why an official UFC rankings database could actually work.
Several MMA publications have their own form of rankings, complete with specific criteria that weigh how each fighter is valued against others in their weight class.
But figuring out who's really the best can be a problem when different websites and news groups rank different fighters in the top spots.
It's especially a problem in pound-for-pound MMA rankings, where the argument generally shifts between Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones, depending on how impressive they've looked in recent fights.
But with the UFC and FightMetric collecting all the data and settling the final score, there's simply no room for argument. Even if a random website has its own idea about who's the best in each division, it simply can't stand up against the UFC's sport-wide aggregate database.
While many hardcore MMA fans can likely rattle off rankings for dozens of fighters off the top of their head, the same can't be said for casual viewers.
Any self-respecting "keyboard warrior" won't hesitate to tell you where in the 265-pound division someone like Mark Hunt or Antonio Silva might fit, but the average person might think that Brock Lesnar is still one of the top three heavyweights in the sport.
With official UFC rankings, the best fighters in each weight class will worry a lot less about that kind of confusion or anonymity.
Between promotion, advertisement spots and programming on Fox, FX and Fuel TV, you can bet that someone like Alexander Gustafsson will be constantly labeled with a clear number that tells you he's the fifth-best fighter in his division.
That's important to make a name stick, as well as give viewers a bit of critical matchmaking context.
Since the UFC doesn't make revenue and salaries publicly available, it can be hard for many fighters to get their fair share on contracts.
Just look at talents like poor Benson Henderson, who was being underpaid enough as a champion that a free agent like former Bellator star Eddie Alvarez was offered more than three times his old salary just to sign with the UFC.
Now, inner-company rankings will at least put a spotlight on higher-ranked UFC fighters who aren't paid as much as those who are lower in the system.
That could additionally benefit those coming into the UFC fresh from the regional circuit or other organizations, since rankings combined with disclosed salary amounts could give MMA managers a ballpark figure to work with on negotiations.
By far, one of the best things about a widespread, aggregated rankings system is that the top fighters are placed higher on the list with more votes.
That makes it far less likely that some joker would do something like ranking Nick Diaz above Carlos Condit or arguing that Gilbert Melendez is the No. 1 lightweight in the UFC.
Moreover, FightMetric's input should also provide some balance based on its own extensive database of fighter attributes.
With 90 members of the MMA media contributing to the same voting poll, the truly elite fighters in every division will get a fairer shake against their counterparts, making the overall system far more legitimate than any single website could be alone.
As noted in its official press release, the UFC will be making a point to re-tabulate its official rankings on UFC.com roughly 24 hours after every single live event.
That not only means the major PPVs but also smaller shows on Fox, FX and Fuel TV.
Think about it—no more waiting for updates, and a new source for news after every event as fighters rise and drop in the rankings.
That's a majorly important element, since the UFC's various broadcast partners and programming hosts will need that data as soon as possible for commentary and analysis.
While that likely will be a strain on contributors, it could do a lot to benefit the sport.
Moreover, the assistance from media members and the FightMetric team should make the UFC rankings look more professional to viewers, fans and talent/agents in other parts of the sports media as top fighters become branded by the UFC as No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and so on in their weight class.