On the last Happy Hour (a free one, by the way) I mumbled my way through a rant about how the UFC seems to be mishandling the next generation of fighters. I didn’t do a very good job at explaining myself, but fortunately Jordan Breen has put together an article that hits the nail on the head:
However, the design for the UFC (or WEC for that matter) is at odds with the true development of prospects because the entire business is built around funneling fighters toward the top to fight for titles. Fans are already debating how Velasquez fares against elite heavyweights. Worse for fighters, it’s often in Zuffa’s interest to risk pushing prospects quickly in the off-chance they’re able to develop like as B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre or Brock Lesnar, which gives the promotion another star.
The most bizarre truth about prospects developing within the UFC is that early mediocrity is a blessing in disguise. If you impress fans and the brass from jump street, you’re going to get fast-tracked, and likely to your detriment. If you can manage to win as sterilely as possible, you’ll actually get to face a greater number of opponents, different stylistic tests and you’ll evolve into a better fighter because of it.
Jon Fitch is now a top-three welterweight, and he owes much to the fact that his first two fights in the Octagon — a clear-but-lukewarm decision over Brock Larson and a second-round tapping of Josh Burkman — weren’t that enthusing. After he finally got a televised PPV bout with Kuniyoshi Hironaka in his fourth bout, he had to grind out a decision in an unremarkable performance. This forced him back into the prelims against the likes of Luigi Fioravanti. All the while, Fitch worked on his skills, rounded out his game and got to test his developing abilities against sturdy but beatable opposition.
I feel like I could write another 3,000 words easy about how it isn’t utopian to think Zuffa could profit from prospects fighting five times a year against handpicked, but well-selected opponents, and how there is card space to support this. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for some other up-and-coming fighter, I’ll have another day soon to write those words.
Personally I think the UFC needs to quit it with their retarded revolving door roster and start picking who they bring into the promotion more carefully instead. If they had half an ounce of confidence in the fighters they draft, they should be willing to give them all a fair shake before throwing them out of the organization. That means newbs should not be facing prospects who should not be facing contenders. Seems like a pretty simple concept to grasp, but for some reason we’re still seeing newbs versus contenders on a regular basis.
Obviously, the UFC needs to channel people up the title ladder. But at the speed they try to push most guys it’s no surprise that even a large percentage of the solid prospects brought in keep washing out.