UFC president DanaWhite has often said that one of his major goals is to turn MMA into the biggest sport in the world. Part of that, he says, is to make it so that the same way people do MMA in North America is the same way that it is done in Europe, and in Asia, and everywhere else in the world. It's called standardization.
It's hard to argue that White has been anything but a huge help to the growth of mixed martial arts as a sport. On the other hand, White's overwhelming success at branding the UFC has been at the cost of greater standardization, specifically when it comes to the MMA battleground known as the Octagon.
Boxing rings simply aren't designed for MMA. The fighters get caught in them, the fighters sneak away using them, and the frequent pause-resets in the ground fighting take away from the overall spectator experience.
The eight-sided-cage is a nearly perfect stage for MMA contests, holding multiple advantages over the other possible Hexes, circular cages, square cages, and YAMMA Pits that have surfaced over the years.
The Hex was simply ridiculous. Circular cages work pretty much exactly the same as an Octagon. Except that they're just a little bit harder to construct and assemble. One of the good things about the Octagon, is that it is very easy to copy. In principle, that should make it easy for people around the world to reproduce it.
Square cages are a bit better than boxing rings, but can still lead to some awkwardness when the fight goes into a corner.
YAMMA Pits, despite their kind of insane genius, are the most-difficult to construct, and look gimmicky.
Other polygonal cages are fine, but if you've ever been to an even that uses a pentagon, then you know that it just isn't the same.
The octagonal mat and cage design are trademarked by the UFC owners, which prevents other fight promotions from using them without permission. UFC management has been protective of these property rights.
To this day, other fighting organizations are using pentagons, hexagons and circles out of fear or stubbornness in relation to the UFC's current ownership of the Octagon.
The recent episode of the Simpsons incorporated a "Septagon," although according to the greek polygon naming series, it should have been called "The Heptagon."
Zuffa needs to let go of the trademarks on Octagons, and really get serious about bringing everything in the sport to the mainstream.
You don't see little league baseball played on a baseball "ruby" before moving on to the baseball diamond of the major leagues, and the same thing should be true of MMA.
I suppose there might be some comparisons in auto racing, and a few other sports, but if MMA is really ever going to be the biggest sport in the world, it needs to have uniformity that is currently being denied by the UFC.
On the other side of the issue, fans, fighters, and other fight promoters need to express a similar desire for standardizing the Octagon. Other promoters probably feel like doing so would be to admit UFC supremacy.
They would be right, but let's face up to the fact that the UFC really has won. The Octagon will probably be the standard for the foreseeable future, and to deny that is simply delusional.
A week ago, Dana White admitted in an interview that there has been some discussion within the UFC management about making the Octagon smaller.
In my opinion, this is another mistake. The goal of using a smaller Octagon would presumably be to prevent people from being elusive, and helping the more aggressive fighter catch the backpedalling ones.
The possible unintended side effects might include giving an advantage to wrestlers like Randy Couture, who already find a lot of success by using the cage to wear down opponents while avoiding both strikes and submissions.
Besides this possible drawback, it's not like elusiveness has really been a problem so far in the history of the UFC. The UFC's most-elusive fighter, Lyoto Machida, has turned into a huge star, while most other UFC fighters are content to stand and bang like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.
Logistical issues make smaller cages necessary for events in smaller buildings, but there should still be standard sizes.
Right now though, while the UFC is contemplating shrinking the Octagon, the truth is that the Octagon should be growing around the world, if only the UFC would let it.