In the 20 years mixed martial arts has been in existence, the UFC has been the premier organization in the sport.
Every other promotion that has popped up over that stretch—and there have been many—have all jockeyed and competed for its own share of the market.
Some had the moxie to challenge the giant and ultimately faded away into bankruptcy, obscurity or both, where others held on long enough and showed enough promise to eventually be purchased by Zuffa and brought under the company's umbrella.
That said, smaller outfits staked regional claims and became content with putting on shows with whatever caliber of talent it could get its hands on.
Jeff Aronson had a much different vision, and his Titan Fighting Championships promotion is flourishing because of it.
With the UFC established as the king of the proverbial mountain in MMA, every other major organization on the landscape has been in a race to establish the No. 2 position.
Strikeforce held that slot until it was eventually purchased and dismantled by Zuffa in 2013. And Bellator has spent a fortune trying to prove it can compete with the most successful company in the sport. And that is where Aronson's approach differs from his peers.
The Titan CEO isn't interested in competing with anyone, and the methods he's using to operate his business are avenues other companies wouldn't dare to try.
Where other outfits are directly tied into the UFC and are currently serving as "feeder leagues," Titan FC has found a working balance that puts the focus on the best interest of the fighters competing under its banner, all the while providing an environment where fighters are proud to step into the Titan FC cage to test their skills.
"The only person I'm competing with in this sport is myself," Aronson told Bleacher Report. "I know it sounds cliche, but I mean it 100 percent. I don't even pay attention to what the other guys are doing. I know I'm going out there and signing the best prospects and free agents that are out there.
"And I'm putting together great fights. I am completely open to dialogue with the fans. If there is a fight that fans are excited to see between two guys that are out there, I'm going to try to do everything in my power to make that fight happen.
"I have no problem with trading talent with other promotions as well. If you have a guy and can't fight him but I can, I have no issue getting him a fight. I also have no issue going forward with doing cross promotions with other organizations as well.
"If World Series of Fighting wants to put on a show where they go head-to-head with Titan in every weight class, I'm thrilled to do it. If Bellator wants to do the same thing, I'm thrilled to do it."
"I don't view these guys as competition. I want to give the fans the best experience they can have," he added. "I know I have guys on my roster that are absolutely fantastic, and those organizations have great guys as well. So why not put together a show eventually where we showcase the best of the best?"
Should the UFC come to call on a fighter currently signed to a contract with Titan, as was the case with veteran striker Ben Saunders, the "Zuffa Out Clause" Aronson includes into every Titan contract allowed "Killa B" to return to the Octagon.
Aronson isn't interested in forcing fighters to stay in a situation against their will because he knows the negative energy that creates around his company. Instead, he's created an environment where top talent is eager to sign on the dotted line. And when fighters are motivated to their full potential, the Titan frontman knows they will come to put on one hell of a show.
"I think the most important thing in this industry that has been lacking for a long time is following through," Aronson said. "I'm not putting anything on any of the other promotions out there, but when you say you are going to do certain things and you don't do them or go and do the opposite of what you say you are going to do, it creates negativity. We had this situation with Ben Saunders last week.
"That was a last-minute thing, and he was scheduled to be in our main event, but Ben got the opportunity to go back to the UFC. I got behind it, actually helped get that done and let him out of his contract with Titan so that would be possible.
"I had every opportunity in the world to stop that from happening, but why in the world would I block someone's future that they've been working for years on? He's been working for years to get back to the UFC, and why would I stop him from achieving that goal? I just wanted to help give Ben this incredible opportunity, and kudos to him because we got it done."
"Since my regime has taken over Titan, we've given all the fighters the "Zuffa Out," he added. "If they come calling, I allow the fighters to go to the UFC, and I help facilitate the transition. But it's different to say you are going to do it and then actually do it. That is the one thing we've done and it's something fighters are grateful for.
"Ben himself came out publicly thanking me and the promotion for getting behind him and allowing him to fulfill his dreams. To be that kind of conduit to helping someone achieve their dreams is just priceless to me."
In addition to changing the way business flows inside the cage for his promotion, Aronson has also been aggressively working to bring more spotlight to his product. The promotion secured a deal with CBS Sports for its Titan FC 27 event back in February. And to reward the company for a successful showing, CBS Sports has moved this Friday's card for Titan FC 29 up into its 10:00 p.m. ET slot.
While the event's billing is lined with solid matchups, Aronson is especially excited for the main event he's put together for Titan FC 29. The premier bout on the card will feature two UFC veterans in Mike Ricci and George Sotiropoulos, who are both determined to blaze a trail back to the sport's biggest stage.
Aronson believes the pairing has the potential to be something dynamic, and he believes Ricci and Sotiropoulos will put on a show for the fans in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Friday night.
"I love the fight between Mike Ricci and George Sotiropoulos, and I'll tell you why I love it," Aronson said. "Mike Ricci is a guy who went on The Ultimate Fighter, was secluded from the outside world, fought a weight class up and he absolutely demolished everybody in that house. He had 'Knockout of the Season' against Neil Magny, and Magny is a legitimate UFC welterweight.
"I think Ricci is one of those guys that when he fights to his true potential, he is an absolute assassin. He could very well be a top-10 lightweight in the UFC if he gets his head the right way and he performs the way I know and have seen him perform. If you watched his fight against Jorge Gurgel, he just absolutely destroyed Gurgel. No one has ever done that to Jorge before.
"In George Sotiropoulos, you have a guy who is set up for the perfect Cinderella story. Here is a guy who was one or two fights away from fighting for the UFC lightweight title, but then he lost to Dennis Siver. Then he went on a skid and had some injuries.
"I try to tell people all the time there is absolutely nothing wrong with losing a couple of fights in the UFC because you are fighting against the best of the best from all over the world in every fight. Losing is going to happen. Maybe you need to fall back and get hungry again. Guys do that and do incredibly well. Look at Anthony Johnson, and that's proof what second chances can do."
"Sotiropoulos is that veteran. He's at that pinnacle, and he's fighting this young lion in Ricci," he added. "I think these two are going to go in there and prove who is the best. I think this is just an amazing fight on so many different levels."
As the MMA game rolls on, Aronson will continue to set his sights on pushing the Titan brand to new heights.
He refuses to rest on past accomplishments and is a believer in the adage that a company is only as strong as its last show. This rings especially true in the cutthroat world of MMA promotion, and Aronson is consistently looking to improve his product and the team around him that will ensure Titan's best foot is put forward every time out.
"My goal is to keep waking up every day and putting on a better show than I did last time," Aronson said. "I want to make sure our production is better than the show before. We brought in Erik Talent who has produced and directed shows for the UFC and Bellator. He's now running Titan shows.
"We've brought in Rhett Butler to do the back of the house. I brought in Tim Schultz as our in-house counsel and my long-term business partner and friend Lex McMahon from Alchemist to serve as the COO of Titan.
"My vision is to be that promotion that is out there that every fight fan in America is waiting for that next card. My guys are UFC ready. They are battle tested. There are no fluff fights or tuneup fights.
"These guys are going in there and getting the best matchups possible with a promotion that legitimately cares about them. I think that makes a huge difference with the fighters and the fans because we actually listen. I think that makes a huge difference between Titan and anyone else that is out there right now."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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