Future Fighters Must Challenge the Status Quo in UFC

Bleacher Report Correspondent IJuly 15, 2009

LAS VEGAS - JULY 11:  Georges St. Pierre celebrates his victory against Thiago Alves during their welterweight title bout during UFC 100 on July 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. St. Pierre defeated Alves by unanimous decision.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

With all the post-fight analysis and reaction penned to paper—yes, some major newspapers covered the event, like the New York Times—MMA fans are now compelled to contemplate and discuss the reality of the UFC and its proximity to mainstream coverage.

But the outcome of UFC 100 contains so much to deliberate, including Brock Lesnar’s public image, the status of the heavyweight division, and, yes, the few people scratching their heads at Georges St. Pierre’s domination over Thaigo Alves.

At the Soho bar and grill in Burnaby, BC, some thought, "How could Alves be taken down so easily? How could he not have landed any real significant shots?" Alves was supposed to be St. Pierre’s biggest challenge, but the fight was incredibly one-sided.

However, this fight was never going to be that close. St. Pierre is the co-pound-for-pound fighter in the world—tied with Fedor Emelianenko, according to Yahoo! Sports—and is highly skilled at wrestling, striking, and jiu-jitsu, while adhering to rigorous cardiovascular training.

Alves, being a bigger and more powerful striker, had a puncher’s chance. While that means he shouldn’t have been counted out—think Matt Serra—it’s usually safer to bet on those who possess the complete package and higher skill set.

Considering that the UFC has now reached its zenith though, there is the obligation for Dana White to realize he has set a benchmark.

Granted, UFC 100 was a rare occasion in which many renowned fighters culminated in the event; but the company illustrated it has become the utmost iteration of MMA—at least in North America, where the sport has blossomed.

And this is where the casual fan will misinterpret the parameters of that particular depiction.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a business. Mixed Martial Arts is a sport. The two should not be used interchangeably, but spoken in that order.

White and matchmaker Joe Silva always want to put on the best fights for fans and often do a great job, but at the end of the day they need to make a profit.

Their inexorable task is to maintain interest while capturing the imagination of more fans willing to invest in the sport.

If St. Pierre–Alves was advertised as five-round wrestling domination with little stand-up tactics and a few solid exchanges to show for it, fewer fans should dish out $40-50 for pay-per-view access.

Patrick Cote versus Rich Franklin wouldn’t be a close fight, so why was Anderson Silva–Cote billed as a tight matchup? Basically, the UFC had to deceptively dub these fights as blockbusters to sell PPV’s, whereas a fight like Rampage Jackson versus Dan Henderson sells itself.

Fans want to see fights that get finished, but not at the expense of entertainment; but close fights will always be more exciting than blow-outs.

Sometimes, it’s a fighter’s technique that affects the way in which White and Co. approach an event’s promotion.

Recall that Lyoto Machida, before he was handed the light heavyweight title against Rashad Evans, was not appreciated for his elusive, cerebral fighting prowess. Despite the fact that he has never lost a round or an encounter in any of his 15 fights, Machida only began to earn patches of respect after ousting Thiago Silva via KO at UFC 94.

A slated meeting at UFC 104 against Mauricio Rua will further determine the validity of boycotts against Machida’s style.

Matchmaker Silva, meanwhile, faces complications when fighters like St. Pierre and Anderson Silva have cleaned out their division and are forced to fight lower-echelon opponents in their respective weight classes.

That problem is present in the welterweight, middleweight, and it could be argued, in the near future of the heavyweight division.

So now is the time to fortify the company’s reputation as a predominant carrier of MMA, or risk degrading it.

As the extra digit added to future UFC events indicates just how far the company has progressed, it also suggests that the status quo must not remain.


This was written in collaboration with Cory Wright, a frequent MMA contributor to Sports Caddy.