Grading the Top-10 Non-UFC Promotions

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

Grading the Top-10 Non-UFC Promotions

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    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Now that MMA has picked up in the mainstream world, we have seen numerous promotions on the rise. With the addition of MMA on Fox, CBS, NBC and other channels, the sport is gaining more widespread exposure.

    The UFC is the outright No. 1 promotion in the world. It dominates the pay-per-view market has the best TV deal and boasts the strongest roster in the world.

    But what about the best of the rest? Let's take a look at the 10 best non-UFC promotions and grade them based on roster, presentation, TV deal and other intangibles.

BAMMA

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    Paul Daley (bottom) has fought for the British promotion.
    Paul Daley (bottom) has fought for the British promotion.Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Roster: B-

    Production Value: B

    TV Deal: B- (AXS TV)

    BAMMA used to be the undisputed king of MMA in the United Kingdom. It's now arguably second to Cage Warriors, which you will see later down the line on this list.

    That being said, BAMMA is still a great company. It produces top stars from the U.K. and showcases established stars like Paul Daley.

    BAMMA tends to have exciting fights, especially for fans of striking because of the U.K.'s stronger ties to the stand-up game as opposed to wrestling. The promotion presents a nice-looking product that fans in America and around the world can enjoy.

    The reason for a lower grade on the TV deal as opposed to others on AXS TV is because of the tape delay, as BAMMA is in England. In the USA, we either get it earlier in the day or on tape delay, which allows for the chance to catch spoilers.

    BAMMA is still one of the best organizations around, especially in Europe. If it continues to build on guys like Scott Askham, it can be a great launching pad for more British fighters in the future.

    Overall Grade: B-

One Fighting Championship (One FC)

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    Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    Roster: B

    Production Value: B+

    TV Deal: B- (Pay-per-view)

    Remember not long ago when the Asian MMA scene was on the decline due to the death of Pride and the downfall (but not extinction) of Pancrase and Deep? Now, we have One FC, which has sort of resurrected the Asian MMA scene, especially in the South Pacific.

    One FC has quickly built a viable MMA promotion for fighters who struggled to get noticed in Asia. Guys from places like the Philippines, Guam, Indonesia and other smaller Asian countries now have a prestigious home to hone their craft.

    Not only that, but top Japanese fighters are coming over to keep their names alive. Guys like Shinya Aoki, who is considered one of the best fighters out of Japan, have chosen this company to fly their flag.

    Then add that top bantamweight Bibiano Fernandes and Ben Askren bolster the roster, and you have a legit crop of fighters.

    The only problem is all of the shows are pay-per-view despite the fact some of the cards are not pay-per-view quality. For instance, last week's show had a handful of recognizable fighters, and you were still expected to pay to watch it.

    That won't hurt the grade that much. One FC is a fine promotion that will continue to put on great shows in the future.

    Overall Grade: B

Titan Fighting Championships

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    Mike Ricci (right) headlined the Titan FC return show.
    Mike Ricci (right) headlined the Titan FC return show.USA TODAY Sports

    Roster: B-

    Production Value: B

    TV Deal: A- (CBS Sports)

    Not long ago, many MMA fans thought Titan FC was finished. It hadn't put on any shows and seemed to just die off.

    Now, under new ownership and with a recharged roster and sweet TV deal, Titan FC is back and better than ever.

    CBS Sports has given the company the platform, which in the company's return, has looked pretty good. It has great announcers in Stephan Bonnar and Firas Zahabi, which only adds to the production value.

    The promotion has decided to sign a bevy of both up-and-comers and UFC veterans. However, it has eschewed signing over-the-hill UFC veterans like Bellator has; instead, Titan FC recruited young guys on the rebound who could return to the UFC someday like Mike Ricci and other familiar faces.

    If it can one day finagle its way onto the network CBS station like WSOF is doing on NBC in the near future, that would increase the grade even more. Big things are coming from this company, as it jockeys for position in the top five.

    Overall Grade: B

Cage Warriors

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Roster: B-

    Production Value: B

    TV Deal: B (MMA Junkie)

    As stated earlier, it appears as if Cage Warriors has overtaken BAMMA as the top promotion in England. There are reasons for that.

    Cage Warriors, which hosts a number of hot prospects and top talents from all over Europe, has a great partnership with top MMA website MMA Junkie, which exposes it to common fans. On fight day, all you need to do is go online and watch the crystal-clear stream.

    The promotion also has great talent; it developed such UFC stars as Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred and Niklas Backstrom.

    It also doesn't just confine itself it to the United Kingdom as BAMMA tends to do. Cage Warriors is always going to the Middle East and Scandinavia and even has ventured into Russian territory.

    All in all, this company is one to really get excited about as it continues to improve.

    Overall Grade: B

Bellator

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    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Roster: C+

    Production Value: B

    TV Deal: A (Spike TV)

    In all honesty, Bellator used to be better. It was the home of exciting up-and-comers and top prospects who were looking to make names for themselves. 

    Bellator created stars. It had Hector Lombard, a ravenous killer on the feet with insane knockout power. It had Ben Askren, a dominant wrestler who rarely found himself in trouble.

    Now, it is the home of over-the-hill, disgruntled fighters.

    The whole Eddie Alvarez contract situation really opened the eyes of fighters. They started second-guessing a trip to Bellator, as it could keep them out of the UFC if they decided to make the move there.

    The tournament format was niche and something different that fans could flock to. But now it seems like fighters can earn title shots without going through the tournament system that has been heavily advertised since the company was created.

    That being said, Bellator does have a sweet TV deal with Spike TV, which is owned by media juggernaut Viacom. The platform to showcase the product is winder than almost all MMA companies outside the UFC.

    If it can get over trying to make old stars new again and fix its tarnished image, perhaps Bellator can pull its grade back up to the "A" range.

    Overall Grade: B

World Series of Fighting

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Roster: B

    Production Value: B-

    TV Deal: A (NBC Sports/NBC)

    WSOF puts on exciting shows. That's almost all I have seen since I began watching its shows from the minute it opened its doors. The company also has a leader in Ray Sefo who comes off as likable every time he appears in public.

    In addition, it has a roster of top, non-UFC fighters who are still either in their prime or around there like Rousimar Palhares, Yushin Okami and Jessica Aguilar.

    The one knock I do have is the commentary, which can be hard to listen to at times. Bas Rutten is funny and can make viewers laugh with his quirkiness, but Todd Harris drags down the fights at times.

    That isn't a huge deal, though. The really big deal is that WSOF has a TV deal with NBC Sports and now NBC, which gives it a huge boost over the rest of the competition.

    If Bellator isn't careful, WSOF will easily replace it as the No. 2 show in town behind the UFC. 

    Overall Grade: B

KSW

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Roster: A-

    Production Value: A-

    TV Deal: C (Online stream)

    I know I harp on this a lot, but MMA in Poland is hot right now. How hot, you ask? Well, KSW runs a sold-out show almost every time it hosts a card, pays its fighters well and has produced some amazing Polish talent such as Mamed Khalidov, Karol Bedorf, Marcin Tybura and Michal Materla.

    The company also proves that its fighters are legit. KSA constantly has them fighting UFC veterans and top free agents in the sport, especially as seen in Khalidov's fights.

    The production value is phenomenal. The lighting, presentation and even the Polish commentary, if you can understand it, are commendable.

    The big problem is access to the online stream. If fans can't see the product around the world, it's hard to get recognition.

    With that problem aside, KSW will continue to be a top MMA organization if it can retain its stars. Hell, even strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski, who is an attraction for reasons mostly other than fighting, is a top draw at this point.

    Overall Grade: B+

Legacy Fighting Championship

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    Daniel Pineda (left) got name recognition in LFC.
    Daniel Pineda (left) got name recognition in LFC.USA TODAY Sports

    Roster: B-

    Production Value: B+

    TV Deal: B+ (AXS TV)

    Legacy FC is always putting on great fights. That is because the fighters, who believe in their leader Mick Maynard, put on a show and constantly search for the finish—something fans pay to see.

    Much of the roster is made up of local talent, although Legacy FC has been able to sign top prospects as well in the form of Henry Cejudo, Thomas Almeida and Michelle Nicolini. The roster could be better, but it is a regional company that is building up its territory.

    A lot of MMA promotions use AXS TV as their platform, but it seems like Legacy FC is on there more frequently than the others. This allows the company to keep its name fresh in the eyes of viewers.

    Overall Grade: B+

Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA)

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    Pedro Munhoz (left) was a champion in RFA.
    Pedro Munhoz (left) was a champion in RFA.USA TODAY Sports

    Roster: A-

    Production Value: B+

    TV Deal: B+ (AXS TV)

    If there is an official feeder organization to the UFC, RFA is that company. Just look at the recent UFC signings, and you'll know that.

    Brian Ortega, Johnny Case, Pedro Munhoz, Zach Makovsky and James Krause are just a few of the names who have used RFA to boost their stock and then jump over to the world's largest MMA promotion. There is not only that connection, but the RFA uses the trademark Octagon, showing that it has a connection to the UFC.

    Ed Soares is the fierce and powerful leader who uses his connections as a manager to get these top fighters in his promotion. A lot of them come from Black House, which is home to many of his clients.

    RFA also has a deal on AXS TV, which reaches many homes with the right cable package. It also has the regular announce team of Michael Schiavello and Pat Miletich, which never hurts either.

    Overall Grade: B+

Invicta

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    Alexis Davis was on the Invicta roster before the UFC.
    Alexis Davis was on the Invicta roster before the UFC.Uncredited/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Roster: A-

    Production Value: A-

    TV Deal: A (UFC Fight Pass)

    Invicta FC is alive and cooking and in better shape than it has ever been. That is because it will gain more exposure through its deal with the UFC to broadcast on UFC Fight Pass. 

    The all-women promotion is home to the best female fighters in the world who don't fly the UFC flag. Invicta is the reason women's MMA has exploded to where it is now and why the UFC has 135-pound and 115-pound women's divisions.

    Invicta president Shannon Knapp is also a leader whom fans can get behind because of her cool demeanor and great promotional skills. She has ensured that fans are priority No. 1 and have given them what they want to see throughout her tenure as president.

    The Fight Pass deal is also significant because Invicta was stuck on the online pay-per-view system, which failed multiple times. The demand was so high that the system would crash, and Knapp would have to make the stream free, killing revenue.

    Even after the UFC ransacked it for talent in both the 135 and 115-pound divisions, Invicta has been able to recover and sign some of the best free agents available.

    Women's MMA is here to stay, and Invicta is very much responsible for that.

    Overall Grade: A-