3 Reasons UFC Gold Is the Toughest Title to Win in Sports
The masses would undoubtedly disagree, but capturing a UFC belt represents the most arduous and time-consuming task in all of sports.
The UFC may not perpetually receive front-page attention like the NFL, the NHL, the NBA or the MLB. Popularity aside, climbing the proverbial ladder in each of the nine weight classes in the organization takes superior talent, dedication and intellect—a combination of qualities that athletes seldom possess.
If inking a deal with the UFC's a far-fetched proposition for most budding mixed martial artists, then winning a title seems nearly impossible.
Superstars like Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre take a calm, business-like approach to the Octagon, making even the most difficult tasks appear routine.
Here are three reasons winning a UFC title is the toughest task in sports.
Blending Multiple Disciplines
When the UFC spawned in November 1993, none of its fighters practiced multiple disciplines.
Royce Gracie proved through winning three of the UFC's first four tournaments that Brazilian jiu-jitsu, when pitted against any other singular combat art, typically reigns supreme.
The immense success experienced by other Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners, along with an influx of amateur wrestlers and judo players, forced the sport's early dominant strikers to integrate grappling into their games.
Several years later, fighters like Fedor Emelianenko and Georges St-Pierre began emerging with dynamic and multi-dimensional skill sets, immediately making the old idiom of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire a harsh reality for one-dimensional competitors.
Making the trek to the top of the mountain and trumping any of today's nine UFC champions (10 including interim champ Renan Barao) would require an athlete who has mastered several martial arts, a process that could take a lifetime to achieve.
Mixed Martial Artists Evolve Faster Than Any Other Athlete
Most players who flourished 15 years ago in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB could certainly hack it today in their respective sports.
However, if the fighters who thrived 15 years ago stepped in the Octagon today, those men would undoubtedly get shellacked by a much more evolved and refined brand of competitor.
Even the UFC champs from five years back, with the exceptions of Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, would struggle to maintain excellence if thrown in with the likes of Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez.
After all, in May 2008, other than Silva and St-Pierre, the UFC's champs were Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (heavyweight), Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (light heavyweight) and B.J. Penn (lightweight).
MMA Is Nonexistent in the Realm of High School and Collegiate Sports
Most aspiring athletes get the opportunity to begin mastering their respective sport through competing on high school or collegiate stages.
But for up-and-coming MMA fighters, the option to hone their crafts in high school or college unfortunately doesn't exist.
While youth MMA programs certainly have become more prevalent, a feeder system for major promotions like the UFC and Bellator MMA doesn't seem like a priority.
In the best-case scenario, budding prospects can travel a similar path to that of 23-year-old virtuoso Rory MacDonald.
Rather than forming a base with a singular martial art, MacDonald jumped directly into MMA training as a teenager under the tutelage of David Lea at the Toshido Fighting Arts Academy.
MacDonald eventually made the jump from Toshido Fighting Arts Academy to Tristar Gym in Montreal. There at Tristar, under the guidance of head trainer Firas Zahabi and the influence of teammates like Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald made the metaphoric jump from college to the pros.