Josh Gross
Tuesday January 19th, 2010

Last week I wrote that mixed martial arts' long-term health and viability is rooted in ensuring the best fighters meet in competition. My recipe included co-promotion, which prompted an active discussion with readers via e-mail. Many of you agreed that something needed to be done. Some didn't. Here is a sampling:

I would love it if the UFC had the exclusive monopoly of the MMA sport, but that simply is never going to happen. There will always be people jumping on the gravy wagon that White and the Fertittas build up, and that is a sad fact of life (more sad to them than us), but a fact indeed, so let's get on with it. Have the UFC fighters kick everyone else's butt and soon enough co-promotion could start dying of self-inflicted wounds. --Claude Brooks, San Diego

I'd be more than content if there was one platform for big fights. But there isn't and I don't see the sport headed in that direction. Just the opposite, actually. So, if every major fight won't happen under one house, how will they get made, right? That's the question worth pondering.

Regarding promoters "jumping on the gravy wagon that White and the Fertittas" built up, I don't see it the way you do. New promoters, If successful, only help to expand the sport while giving fighters outlets to compete and make money. None of that is bad.

While I think you have raised valid points in regards to co-promotions, I do believe that co-promotions could lead MMA to what boxing has become today. And while I understand politics play a role in either scenario, it appears to me that by attempting to broker deals between different promotions will generally end badly (i.e M-1 Global/UFC, Golden Boy/Top Rank). I do believe that as fans we deserve to see the best fight the best, but I think that it could be possible that a single entity can form an organization that runs MMA universally, much like the current mainstream sports organizations (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). ... As a fan since the beginning I certainly hope the first year of this new decade ushers in the golden era of MMA. --Terence, Fresno, Calif.

OK, forget co-promotion for a minute. How's this for a proposal: the World Mixed Martial Arts Classic.

Every two years, eight (or 16) champion and at-large fighters from different organizations gather for a single-elimination multi-event tournament put on by a new, separate entity, one established promoters would need to support for this to work. Seeding would be based on rankings and other factors (which I haven't put much thought into).

The basic idea provides a platform for these fights to happen without asking branded MMA organizations to engage in practices they see as counter to their business models.

Take the lightweight division as it stands now for an eight-man bracket (champions represented in parentheses):

1) B.J. Penn (UFC) vs. 8) Willamy Freire (Shooto)

4) Tatsuya Kawajiri (at-large) vs. 5) Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce)

2) Shinya Aoki (Dream) vs. 7) Benson Henderson (WEC)

3) Eddie Alvarez (Bellator) vs. 6) Gray Maynard (at-large)

That's off the top of my head, and of course it can be tweaked a million different ways (Kenny Florian or Frankie Edgar instead of Maynard or Kawajiri, for example). But I'd certainly watch with great interest; and it's safe to say the winner would be regarded as the undisputed No. 1 lightweight in the world.

Seems to me this would work across most weight divisions, with 205 a likely exception since UFC has locked up so many top light heavyweights. It would allow promoters to run their operations independently of everyone else. It doesn't detract in any way from established promotional brands. And it pays respect to the principle of determining who's best. I'm not saying it'll happen, but the idea is fun to kick around at least.

A tournament like this would be akin to the UEFA Champions League. Or, better yet, what baseball is attempting with the World Baseball Classic.

You hit the nail on the head with co-promotion. Co-promotion is the only way we get to see Mayweather fight Pacquiao. Oh wait, co-promotion killed that event, as well as boxing in its entirety. I guess historical evidence is not your strong suit. --Johnathan Sproul, St. Petersburg. Fla.

Come on, Johnathan. Over the long course of boxing history, it's a tested model that put some of the biggest names in the ring against one another. Like I wrote, it's hardly perfect, but it has its merits. Anyhow, I'm betting Mayweather and Pacquiao fight before the end of the year.

I was hoping to get your opinion on who would give B.J. Penn the best possible challenge at lightweight and welterweight. I know you said on a few occasions you'd like to see Shinya Aoki and Penn go at it, and while I definitely think there is plenty of merit there I believe it comes from a sporting perspective (No. 1 vs. No. 2). A majority of MMA enthusiasts consider Aoki behind only Penn at lightweight. While I think his resume supports this, as well as his skill, I think he would get trounced by Penn. --Chris, Bakersfield, Calif.

Believe it or not, people in the know tell me Frankie Edgar is the toughest fight for Penn. His wrestling, boxing and -- most importantly -- speed and quickness could present problems for B.J. I don't really see it, especially on the grappling end of things, but that's what these folks suggest.

(To offset Edgar's speed and quickness, Penn's camp plans on utilizing featherweights to spar with the UFC champ. Rudy Valentino, Penn's longtime trainer, said he'd love to bring in a guy like Urijah Faber.)

I'm not sure styles matter all that much against Penn at 155. He's that good -- and comfortable -- in all aspects of the sport. And at lightweight, he's going to be in shape. It's different at 170. He could box with just about anyone, but wrestling is a problem. Plus he's forced to carry extra pounds, which slows him down and makes his stamina an issue. Against opponents that cut down from as much as 190, it's a problem.

Give me Penn vs. Aoki just because, and Penn vs. Fitch or Koscheck at 170.

I'm pleased to see someone call out the decision making of WEC to give Faber the shot over Brown. It's clearly a decision about the salability for pay-per-view versus putting the best vs. best on. --Coop

WEC general manager Reed Harris told me marketability was a factor in Urijah Faber getting the next fight against Jose Aldo over Mike Brown. He also said he didn't like quick rematches (forgetting, perhaps, that Faber was given a rematch against Brown after one easy fight against Jens Pulver).

After my article was published, WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby expressed his displeasure about the notion that factors other than testing champions against the toughest challengers was involved in the decision to put Faber in there. Had Raphael Assuncao won, he would have had the shot. If neither impressed, maybe even Manny Gamburayan.

In no way am I suggesting Faber is Kimbo Slice. Obviously he's one of the few featherweights capable of defeating Aldo. It's just that Brown is 2-0 against him (both in championship fights) and the whole thing seems out of order. That said, Brown is apparently fine with waiting his turn, so I won't worry about it too much.

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