The UFC's Most Wanted List
There is no doubt that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the gold standard for MMA organizations. One of the reasons it is the premiere league in the sport is because it has the most talented group of fighters collectively in the world.
The UFC management is in a constant search around the globe for talent. Ensuring that each division has a laundry list of quality fighters to challenge their employees is a never-ending process.
Does the UFC have all of the best fighters in the world under contract? The answer is no and they never will. However, the ultimate goal is to have as many as possible and present the best product possible to the fans.
If we take a step back and comb through the other premier MMA organizations around the globe you quickly find that there is plenty of top tier talent scattered all around.
There is a quality group of lightweights in Japan that are desirable. DREAM has found their niche by featuring arguably the best crop of lightweight fighters in the world. Is the grass really greener in the UFC for them?
In Japan, DREAM's lightweights are household names already, receive major endorsement deals, fight in front of thousands of hardcore fans on a regular basis, and get to participate in Grand Prix tournaments.
Coming to the UFC would essentially be somewhat of a career regression. It would be like starting over. It would also be a culture shock coming to the United States, a move away from friends and family, and an adjustment to fighting in an octagon-sized cage.
Takanori Gomi in the Japanese-based World Victory Road organization should be lumped into this group as well.
There are simply too many factors and too much risk in making a drastic move. It may not be worth the time or effort for the UFC to try to persuade these fighters that the UFC is where they need to be.
Affliction MMA is another formidable organization that should be taken into consideration when compiling a list, and there are some other less known organizations that should be glossed over as well.
After completing an exhausting search what if you had to narrow the list to five fighters that the UFC should make a run at? Who would you chose and why?
Here are the five I would want above all others:
Affiliation: Affliction MMA
TGMMA Ranking: #1 Heavyweight
MMA Record: 29 - 1, 1 no contest
This is a no-brainer. Fedor is arguably the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world and quite possibly the best of all-time.
In a sport where a split second mistake can cost you a match he has not lost in just under eight years. His twenty-six straight wins are unparalleled and will likely never be challenged as the sport of MMA moves forward and we see more and more parody.
A move to the UFC for Fedor would mean an instant classic bout with UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture. It would also present other intriguing matchups with the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Rogueira (for a fourth installment), Fabricio Werdum, Cheick Kongo, Gabriel Gonzaga, Frank Mir, and Brock Lesnar.
A decision to sign Fedor comes down to one thing and one thing only: money. Fedor needs the UFC more than they need him and that is the ultimate trump card at the negotiating table.
He's going to be a great fighter no matter what organization he is fighting for but if he wants to take his career to a whole new level, and be recognized as the face of MMA in mainstream America, then he needs to succumb to the UFC and their vaunted marketing machine.
Can you imagine what the UFC would turn him into? He would be a God-like figure with unlimited intrigue and mystique.
2) Jake Shields
TGMMA Ranking: #2 Welterweight
MMA Record: 21 - 4 - 1
The UFC would be a place where he could challenge himself against top level fighters on a regular basis as opposed to once every couple of months in EliteXC.
With rumors of EliteXC's financial troubles the UFC would also provide him and his family with financial stability.
There is no doubt that Shields would be easily marketable as well. He's a good looking California kid who's still only 29 years old and his resume is as impressive as any fighter at 170 pounds in the world.
His list of victims includes Yushin Okami, former Bodog Fight welterweight champion Nick Thompson, Mike Pyle, current WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit, and former Shooto middleweight champion Hayato Sakurai.
In 2005, he also beat current UFC employees Diego Sanchez at the ADCC World Championships and Jon Fitch at the Gracie Open Superfight Championships, however, neither counted towards his professional MMA record.
Shields' grappling and jiu-jitsu are his biggest strengths. He was an All-American wrestler in college and is a black belt in Gracie jiu-jitsu under Cesar Gracie.
Shields has expressed interest in the past in fighting at 185 pounds as well and possibly challenging Robbie Lawler for his EliteXC title. This would lead one to believe that he is not satisfied taking on one mediocre opponent after another at 170 if he's willing to go up in weight.
The real question is whether or not he will get fed up enough to leave EliteXC all together and head for greener pastures in the UFC? The UFC should make him an offer he cannot refuse and make the decision easy for him.
3) Eddie Alvarez
TGMMA Ranking: #2 Lightweight
MMA Record: 15 - 1
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