The UFC has embarked on having its own official fighter rankings in 2013. Needless to say, fan reaction on social media came swift upon the first release of the UFC Fighter Rankings. Positive and negative.
The rankings do offer pros and cons for the UFC.
The clear pro of the rankings is that it gives fans a clear look at who the contenders in the divisions are. However, the guidelines for voting are not as clear.
Rankings were generated by a voting panel made up of media members. The media members were asked to vote for who they feel are the top fighters in the UFC by weight-class and pound-for-pound. A fighter is only eligible to be voted on if they are in active status in the UFC and a fighter can only appear in one weight division at a time.
There is no mention of how to weight recent wins, activity or lack thereof, or anything else. It states that media members are asked to vote based on how they feel. That can cause some ambiguity.
Albeit, with the litany of votes making up these rankings, they do average out. There will always be individual votes to nitpick at, but that comes with the territory.
The immediate con seen is that the rankings do not make much difference right now. As sports are entertainment, the emphasis will always be on putting on fun, interesting fights.
Yes, Nick Diaz is currently ranked No. 3 at welterweight, but he is getting the title shot because it's what fans want to see and not based purely on merit. If that were the case, it would be Johny Hendricks taking on Georges St-Pierre for the championship.
That makes the rankings superficial at best.
What is the biggest pro that can come out of these rankings? If fans buy in to the rankings quickly then the Hendricks' and Chris Weidman's may not be passed over for title shots in the future. Fans will look at the rankings and begin to demand the top-ranked fighters get the title shots. The contenders will constantly be in high demand.
That will change the current con in to the biggest pro possible. That has to be the endgame for the UFC.
If that comes to fruition, then MMA will lose some of the entertainment aspect of its current matchmaking and focus on being a true sport. The No. 1 contender will receive the title shot the majority of the time.
Timing, injuries and other unforeseen setbacks will always rear their ugly heads, forcing other match-ups to take place.
Match-ups like Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen will become less likely. Marketing will still play a part, of course, but the rankings will enhance those hardworking, top-ranked fighters who are not adept to cutting interesting promos on the microphone.
That can be the biggest gain seen from the rankings.
Rankings are fun to look at, but as of right now there should be no weight put behind them from fans. The UFC is a business and they will put on fights that fans want to see, regardless of rankings.
Perhaps that will change in the future, but as of now, the rankings are merely a cosmetic addition to the company.
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