According to UFC detractors, the UFC is far behind the curve when it comes to co-promotion.
But the truth is, while co-promotion makes absolute sense for other organizations, it makes no sense at all for the UFC.
Strikeforce, Dream, and M-1 Global have all done co-promotion to some extent or another, and recently Bellator has entered the co-promotion discussion with talk of a possible bout between their champion, Eddie Alvarez, and Strikeforce's champ, Gilbert Melendez.
Looking at the co-promotion picture this way, it seems like everybody else is cool with co-promotion, and that it's only the management of the UFC holding back the possibility of unifying belts and generally bringing about a new golden age of MMA.
On the other hand...
Co-Promotion Just Makes Business Sense For Everybody Else
Contrary to the idea that other promotions efforts at co-promotion equate to altruism, the truth is that co-promotion just makes sense for these promotions.
Consider these three examples of co-promotion:
Strikeforce and M-1 Global: Signing Fedor
While this co-promotion occasionally looks quite unfavorable for Strikeforce, they certainly didn't sign Fedor for the fun of it.
Signing arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time boosted their profile tremendously, and was basically the single signing that morphed them from the most successful regional promotion into a perceived competitor to the UFC.
Strikeforce and Dream: Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki
This fight just made business sense for both sides.
At the time, Strikeforce was running out of potential marketable bouts for Gilbert Melendez.
Aoki was one of the few top lightweights outside of the UFC, and so the match was one of their best options.
As far as losing potential marketability is concerned, the risk was simply far less than the reward. Aoki was considered the No. 2 lightweight in the world, and so the possibility of improving Melendez's credentials far outweighed the risk of Melendez losing.
Dream was okay with the bout as well, because they needed to keep Aoki happy while he was waiting for another fight. Aoki wanted to fight in America anyway, and since Dream was having trouble putting together fight cards at the time, the fight with Melendez was a way for Dream to keep Aoki busy.
Dream wasn't too worried about Aoki losing because when it comes to Japanese MMA, if it didn't happen in Japan, then it didn't really happen.
Japanese fans weren't going to care about any loss that occurred outside of Japan anyway, so there was little risk involved, even though the reward was basically limited to keeping Aoki happy.
Co-Promoting With The UFC
The UFC is by far the biggest and most successful brand in MMA. As such, co-promoting with the UFC could only raise the profile of smaller organizations. Co-promotion would help legitimize them, and bring them more attention than they could possibly get otherwise.
Why Co-Promotion Makes No Sense For The UFC
The UFC has virtually nothing to gain, and everything to lose by co-promoting with other organizations.
As already stated, co-promoting with other organizations helps them and raises their profiles.
Co-promoting with other organizations cannot really raise the UFC's profile any higher than it already is.
All that co-promotion would do is help build up the competition.
Take the case of Fedor Emelianenko as an example:
Fedor vs. The UFC
Fedor's management, M-1 Global has said that any co-promotion would involve shared risk, and shared reward, with M-1 Global paying for half of the advertising costs, and receiving half of all revenues for potential co-promoted events with the UFC.
On a surface level, this might sound fair, but it's absolutely ludicrous when you break down the numbers further.
The UFC brand has proven value, while Fedor's value as a commodity remains questionable.
Affliction Entertainment co-promoted two Fedor Emelianenko fights with M-1 Global, and weren't able to gain enough momentum to stay in business.
While Emelianenko's marketability (or lack thereof) isn't solely to blame for the demise of Affliction Entertainment, his own drawing power certainly wasn't enough to save the promotion.
Compare that to the UFC, where Brock Lesnar has become perhaps the biggest Pay-Per-View draw in the entire sport, and is guaranteed to make the UFC millions with every in-Octagon appearance.
A 50/50 revenue split for M-1 and the UFC makes zero sense whatsoever for the UFC, not only because it would give money to the competition, but also because it is completely unfair when you consider what both sides bring to the table.