Pride Fighting Championship became renowned for its world-class tournaments. Strikeforce is getting lots of praise for its World Heavyweight Grand Prix. Bellator has made a name for itself by relying on a tournament structure built into seasons.
So why does the world leader in MMA, the UFC, not do tournaments?
With how many amazing fighters they have, the UFC could put on some of the best tournaments of all-time in any of their weight classes. But the UFC is No. 1 for a reason, and they have decided that tournaments are not the way to go.
Let's countdown five reasons why they are right:
5. Getting Everyone Together
In order to have a tournament, you have to have all the top competitors in a single weight class fight within a couple months. That isn’t currently the case for any weight class, so fighters may have to sit out for very long periods of time waiting for everyone to get a clear schedule.
You can’t have them fight anyone during this period because if they lose you have to change the schedule, re-seed and do it all over again. They just have to sit on their hands and wait.
You have to have alternates for a tournament. How many times do you hear about an upcoming UFC fight getting changed because of an injury? It happens on virtually every single card.
So at any stage of the tournament, you can have someone else jump in, and who obviously isn’t considered as good since he wasn’t seeded in the first place. This is a lose-lose situation because you either have someone come in and win who hadn’t been facing the same level of competition to get there, or you have them lose and someone looks like they got an easy fight to move on or win.
3. Flukes and Freak Accidents
Unfortunately, it happens that people sometimes win fights in outrageous fashion. Think of freak accidents like Fedor Emelianenko once losing to a cut only 17 seconds into his fight or Randy Couture getting cut on his eyelid of all places.
Or even worse, what if a fight ends in a disqualification?
If this happens in the opening round of a tournament, for every round thereafter fans will grumble about what “could have been” if it weren’t for some fluke in favor of the winner. And if you think putting on a rematch will work, go back to reason No. 5.
2. No Rematches Allowed
Fighters can not only win in freak accidents, sometimes they manage to get judges who seem to know nothing about mixed martial arts or have fights so close to call that everyone ends up unhappy.
The UFC has been able to do rematches for this in the past, like for Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua or Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. They would have their hands tied in a tournament.
And let’s not forget the dreaded draw. If there is a draw in the middle of a tournament, what in the world do you do? Pick straws? Flip coins? After their initial lightweight tournament ended in a draw between B.J. Penn and Caol Uno, the UFC was so unnerved that they temporarily scrapped the whole weight class!
1. Wiping Out a Division
Without a tournament, you have one champion who can theoretically face seven or more guys in succession. This is literally years worth of matchups.
When you throw together a tournament instead, you take all these matchups and throw them away for a few months worth of entertainment. Then, when it is over, you have a champion with no one else to face except low-tiered fighters.
Why would he want to fight people who lost in the tournament? Look at Bellator Fighting Championship for example. They exclusively do tournaments, and when their champion is crowned, he has to sit out for a year or fight in other organizations for non-title bouts, with Bellator sweating that he won’t lose the whole time.
Bellator doesn’t have the depth of talent to have their champions do title fights while eight other guys try to battle it out for contendership. The UFC actually has enough talent to possibly do this for some weight classes, but they are still losing a lot of matchups by having their title contenders all remove each other within a few months.
Tournaments as an idea are possibly the most fun thing in MMA. Taking an unbelievable roster of fighters, matching them up in dream fights and seeing who the best is once and for all is just something that fans love to think about.
But the devil is in the details and tournaments are just not very practical when all is said and done. While UFC tournaments would be fantastic, they should remain just that: a fantasy.