UFC 127 Fight Card: Does the UFC Favor Its International Talent?

Darren WongSenior Analyst IFebruary 26, 2011

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22:  George Sotiropoulos spas during an Open Workout ahead of UFC Sydney 127 at Star City on February 22, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Mark Nolan/Getty Images

If you're a fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, there is a certain advantage to being born outside of a major UFC market nation.

If you're an elite fighter born in a growing market like the UK, Germany, Australia or someplace where the UFC would like to expand like China, you'll get treated a little differently.

The fighters on this weekend's UFC 127 card are a good example of this. Take, for example, Michael Bisping, George Sotiropoulos and Zhang Tie Quan.

Bisping has fought a lot of great fighters, but outside of that list, his record is also a bit padded with wins over the likes of Eric Schafer, Elvis Sinosic, Jason Day and Charles McCarthy. His upcoming fight against Jorge Rivera itself is seen as a pretty good matchup for him, as well.

That's not to say that Bisping isn't an elite fighter, because he is. But it should be easy for people to tell that the UFC is trying to pad his record a bit in hopes that his Octagon success will lead to growth of the sport in the UK.

Unfortunately for the UFC, although Bisping is still very well-liked in the UK, there has been a bit of a backlash.

Many people in the UK have expressed frustration when Bisping is featured as the headliner for fight cards in the UK.

These fans want to see a UK card featuring the true greats of the sport regardless of nationality, and while Bisping is very good, he's no GSP.

As a result, some British fans feel as if Bisping is being forced down their throats.

On the other hand, what these UK fans fail to understand is that it makes little business sense for the UFC to waste a big star like St.-Pierre in a small market. Using a fighter like Bisping in the UK is a far more efficient use of resources.

The same goes for a fighter like Sotiropoulos.

Sotiropoulos may have eight consecutive wins in the UFC, but his first four wins were over George Roop, Billy Miles, Roman Mitichyan and Jason Dent. Hardly a murderer's row of opposition.

After winning a seventh straight fight, most UFC fighters would be in line for some sort of title eliminator against a top-five fighter in the division. Instead, the UFC held back and gave him another favorable matchup against Joe Lauzon.

This weekend's fight against Dennis Siver was made once again to highlight Sotiropoulos without giving him a test that would be overly difficult.

Now at this point, some of you might be thinking, "Hey, if the UFC favors its international stars, then why are they feeding Dennis Siver, a German, to Sotiropoulos?"

Well, there are two main reasons. First, you've got to break some eggs to make an omelet. Siver happens to be that egg.

Secondly, Siver gives the UFC a much more palatable outcome should Sotiropoulos lose. This way, the UFC guarantees that at least one of its international stars will have a high-profile win.

Which brings us to Zhang Tie Quan, a fighter with no UFC victories to this point.

The UFC's careful treatment of Zhang backfired quite badly in Zhang's last fight when he was beaten by Danny Downes.

Downes looked completely atrocious in a loss to Chris Horodecki, and so a Zhang win seemed about as sure of a thing as you can get under the Zuffa banner.

Now he faces a 20-1 fighter in Jason Reinhardt, but what should be noticed is that educated commentators still believe that this is a preferential matchup for Zhang.

It will be interesting to see how the UFC handles Zhang in the future, because even if he wins tonight, there simply aren't enough easy fights in the UFC.



The UFC treats international stars, and for that matter, all of its draws, with more care than winning fighters who don't have the same star quality, or ability to draw an international audience.

That's why people say mixed martial arts isn't a pure sport.

Still, UFC matchmaking remains conscionable for the most part, as even big international stars like Michael Bisping are eventually matched up the other elite fighters in their divisions.

What always remains to be seen is how these nations will feel afterwards, when they realize that their national heroes aren't truly superstars like Georges St.-Pierre.

Will nations like Australia and England be happy having elite, but not truly great fighters?

They'll have to be because there simply aren't enough GSPs to go around.

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