The UFC, Past and Present

Sam HeganCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2009

LONDON - JANUARY 17:  (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) UFC president Dana White attends the 'Octagon' private view at Hamilton's Gallery January 17, 2007 in London, England.  The exhibition showcases work by photographer Kevin Lynch documenting the world of Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC) events.  (Photo by Claire Greenway/Getty Images)

I love Mixed Martial Arts and have watched with great interest since the first UFC way back in 1993. Now we are approaching UFC 100 in a sport many believed was dead on the vine as soon as it began.

Having belts in traditional Jujitsu, Judo, and Aikido I was extremely interested in all forms of hand-to-hand skills. I watched in complete awe at each bout. The first winner was the immortal Brazilian Jujitsu practitioner, Royce Gracie. The first of three wins in the original format.

The fans of MMA have seen a plethora of great fighters in UFC’s 16-year history, but I’ll always cherish those early multi-level tournaments and have wondered why the UFC has neglected that format. When a fighter has won a multi-level event, they had done something very unique.

The reasons I’ve heard has ranged from fighter safety all the way to marketing issues.

Having fought in full contact tournaments growing up, I will concede the safety issue. A single fight is taxing, and a layered tournament has a tendency to leave a contestant somewhat open to injury.

A marketing issue is more about the UFC making money and I can appreciate that as well, but I will always miss the early formats.

Now that the sport has become so popular throughout the world, why doesn’t the UFC offer both formats? I would love to see a tournament to find the absolute best talent from the ranks of amateurs before seeing them in a single match.

The reality series on Spike TV, “The Ultimate Fighter,” is about as close to the original concept going, so how about doing it as a complete tournament and not stretch it out for weeks at a time? Do a series of tournaments and have the winners fight in a single tournament at the end of the season.

I would much rather see that than the BS of who’s the bad boy this season. The almost scripted interpersonal conflicts might be good if you just want to see stupid attitudes, but all the strutting isn’t fighting.

So much of the interaction goes against how I was taught growing up doing martial arts. I don’t care if a fighter has a drinking problem or he is just a horse’s backside. It has absolutely nothing to do with real MMA.

I understand Dana White’s position, since he is being sold on the idea that seeing the mostly idiotic and thuggish antics of the contestants is great TV. The problem with that is it portrays the MMA fighter as a back-alley thug with little personal discipline. This concept isn’t making the UFC better, but the complete opposite.

I know some fans will disagree with my thoughts and that’s OK by me. It just goes to show how passionate the MMA fan is and that we all come from different walks of life and disciplines.