UFC boasts No. 1 fighter in seven of eight divisions after WEC merger
It's good to be Dana White.
Not only is the UFC president continuing to expand the reach, scope and status of his mixed martial arts promotion -- which last week grew by two weight classes to seven -- he somehow helped resurrect the career of a flatlining politician (see Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., whom White campaigned for leading up to Tuesday's election which swept a wave of Republicans to Washington).
No matter what side of the political spectrum you find yourself, credit goes to White for once again backing a winning proposition. Reid, as it happens, is the most high-profile American politician ever to sit cageside for a mixed-martial-arts event, though it's difficult to believe White's use of the UFC brand to rally for the Senate Majority Leader was altruistic. While the UFC isn't Big Pharma, it's pretty big business these days, business that finds itself operating more and more within the halls of Congress. When you're actively lobbying D.C. for protections from pay-per-view piracy, or to keep UFC from falling under something akin to a federal boxing commission, having a politician like Reid on your side is better than the alternative.
There's always the one that got away, of course, and in the political sense White's whale is MMA gadfly Bob Reilly, who is poised to retain his seat in New York's 190th Assembly District so long as he doesn't lose two of every three absentee ballots counted on Nov. 10. Reilly's opposition to MMA has made him the face and voice against the regulation of the sport in New York, something he pointed to during the campaign as a reason his constituents should pay him the respects of re-election.
In due time, has been the UFC's mantra.
For now, White can get back to focusing on promoting great fights, which he should do plenty as WEC's featherweight and bantamweight divisions assimilate into the UFC. The addition of two weight classes has given the UFC the No. 1-ranked fighter in seven of this list's eight categories. The lone exception: 125 pounds, which isn't part of the UFC's program and likely won't be in the next year or two. With the addition of over 70 fighters from the WEC and a decrease in the number of total events promoted by Zuffa beginning next year, there will be a purge across all divisions. Prior to the move, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva had an average of 40 fighters per weight class to work with. Roster spots will be an even tougher commodity now as the mean moves from 40 to 28 per division to keep the roster size consistent. Expect a bloodletting at 155 over the next few months.
It's possible a moratorium on the number of mixed martial artists from the same camp will be put in place, such as it was when manager Monte Cox handled multiple UFC champions and offered a regular pipeline for fighters into the UFC. Unless fighters who train together are willing to compete against one another. Otherwise, difficult choices are looming for trainers like Greg Jackson and camps such as American Top Team and American Kickboxing Academy.
That will sort itself out like the heavyweight division did last month when Cain Velasquez dominated Brock Lesnar to capture the UFC title. Well deserved, Velasquez moves to No. 1 in a suddenly wide-open field.
Welterweight saw the most action in October, as Jake Shields returned to its ranks at No. 3, Carlos Condit moved up, Martin Kampmann moved down, and Dan Hardy moved out.
November marks the beginning of the end for WEC with the first of two closed-for-business events in 2010. Watch the bantamweights. In December, WEC champ Dominick Cruz fights Scott Jorgensen for the UFC title. But before then, on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas, we'll see the debut of Urijah Faber to 135 against Takeya Mizugaki, a clash between Joseph Benavidez and Wagnney Fabiano, and a rankings-impacting affair featuring Damacio Page and Demetrious Johnson.
Two days later, the weak UFC 122 lineup in Germany is headlined by an important middleweight eliminator pitting Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami.
On Nov. 20, the UFC returns -- like I said, it's good to be Dana White -- with a telling light heavyweight battle. Quinton Jackson is back after losing to Rashad Evans in May to take on another former UFC champion, Lyoto Machida, who also fell in May, by knockout, against Mauricio Rua. On the same card, B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes meet for a third time at 170 pounds.
November is no Brocktober, but for White and his agenda it's already off to a flying start.
Dominick Cruz (16-1)