I understand that women’s MMA isn’t exactly there yet, but bear with me.
We are living in the Golden Age of mixed martial arts right now. The UFC set the all-time record for pay per view sales last year, and barring some cataclysmic string of injuries like the one that hampered 2009’s final quarter, it will break that record again this year (I told you fallow fields would produce a harvest). The WEC sold over 200,000 PPVs for one of the best cards in recent memory, and the UFC is about to air its second card on Versus, reinforcing their second major cable channel outlet and increasing their viewership to Canadian shut-ins that can abide their hatred of Gary Bettman. We’ve witnessed two million-plus PPV events in the last sixty days, and for the first time ever, the recognized champion in every single weight class (be sure to pick up a copy of USA Today next week and check out the rankings that yours truly contributes to on behalf of the Jackals) will be under the Zuffa banner.
No bullshit “Monday Night Wars” drama. No competition for free agents. No rival promoters on different networks, each talking up their stable as the deepest in the land. The arguments for co-promotion – so popular and prevalent after the utterly cursed UFC 108 card, headlined by Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva, that ended up kicking ass anyway – have been completely and utterly refuted by today’s landscape.
1. “We won’t get to see the best fight the best!” This was laughable at face value, but if you needed to see it in action, go here and start drawing lines. Everyone with “UFC” can fight each other, and everyone else (assuming, you know, none of the things that always happen during co-promotion or fight negotiations happens) can fight each other. Which seems easier – those desolate, interesting few coming to the UFC, or every guy in the UFC leaving so we can truly see where they rank? All of the dream match ups – all of the super fights – are more possible and probable with one organization holding all the top talent. Fedor’s loss only underscores this.
Pay special attention to the Dog House Boxing article I linked to – the writer concludes by imploring his fellow followers to stop hoping for The Most Obvious Fight In The History Of Mankind and just cover what the promoters deign to give them. I say fuck that! I say it with as loud a voice as I can muster! We, as fans, must demand that promoters kowtow to our needs, and we must evolve those demands in accordance with the evolving needs and wants of our sport. Blindly hyping sub-par match-ups and encouraging others to shell out money to the corrupt bastards that run boxing is the last fucking thing that sport needs, and the last fucking thing we need to start doing as MMA fans.
2. “Fighters will get paid less!” The UFC’s payroll has gone up consistently. Reality has demonstrated that fighters that leave the UFC on the basis of money either come back (Randy, Tito) or end up regretting it (I bet Tim Sylvia, by now and including endorsements, would have made more sticking with Zuffa than the $800,000 he made to get drubbed by Fedor – maybe not Arlovski, who made an absolute mint fighting Fedor, but Zuffa did try to resign him). Endorsements always mean more when viewership is concentrated and interested enough to buy a PPV, the marketing machine behind Zuffa fighters is unmatched and, oh yeah, Strikeforce didn’t even make a fucking bid for their best fighter.
3. “They’ll start putting on shitty cards because they can!” Another Chicken Little argument rendered absurd by the passage of time. These cards are absolutely silly stacked with top twenty talent, and they have divisional relevance, which is just the shit. MMA has never, ever, ever been this good, and it’s only going to get better.
4. “Dana White is an asshole!” Fuck it, you might be right – but I don’t give a fucking shit and neither do 95% of MMA fans.
Just take a step back and look at where we’re at. I wasn’t here for the Dark Ages, but for the love of Christ, I can’t imagine how some of the concerns you read about today would have been received back then. 300,000 buys for 108 a concern? Having only a dozen or so fighters as millionaires is terrible? The possibility that a rival promotion’s belt holder might leave them, sign with the UFC, run through the division and take the belt is worrisome? Come on, people. Get some sunshine on your shoulders. If you’ve ever played Civilization III, you know what you do during the Golden Age – you sit back, consolidate, make money and enjoy the ride.