With mixed martial arts taking a back seat to boxing this weekend, it's a good time to catch up on emails on a range of topics. Also, I moved apartments this week and haven't had a chance to write much. Not to worry, things will pick up next week with
The best mixed martial artists must fight one another. There's a lot wrong with the business of boxing, but the bottom line is top fighters, who maintain much more control over their careers than many of their MMA counterparts, can, and do, clash if they so desire.
The idea was cultivated that the best always meet the best in MMA. Unfortunately, that's not quite true. If you're a mixed martial artist fighting under a UFC contract you know tough matches are waiting for you -- including thsoe against the very best in the game from time to time -- but Zuffa does not control all the greats. No one does, nor will they. Not in an individual sport like this.
That's a problem since the UFC refuses to co-promote. In reality, it can get away with it. The UFC stable is very deep and talented, and
Odds are we'll never see
So back to your original question: Does the answer reside in sanctioning bodies and mandatories? Doubtful. As a practical matter, the UFC won't recognize a sanctioning group. They've ignored WAMMA and would likely do the same to similar groups. (Perhaps this isn't bad thing. The entry of sanctioning groups -- if there's one, there will be more -- will lead to titles that mean nothing and, inevitably, shenanigans. File under "doomed to repeat," please.)
What to do, then? While fans generally feel powerless in these situations, it's always been my position that you possess much more control than you realize. If a big enough group makes itself heard, and they're amplified by the media echo chamber, even the most powerful promoters could be held accountable. Remember, fight fans don't want politics to get in the way of a great bout.
Lots of great fights to be made, including
I'm going to bend your rules and mention five fights I'd pay money to see. I'll rank 'em for you as a matter of compromise, and you'll notice Silva and Emelianenko are mentioned more than once.
A win for Nogueira finally delivers the recognition he deserves from casual MMA fans. Nogueira has waged war with enormous heavyweights during his stellar career, and he continually found a way to pull out amazing submissions. However, wear and tear from a decade's worth of pounding might be too much for him to overcome against a physical freak like Lesnar. (Incidentally, I don't mean to discount
Maia might not be there yet, but give him two or three more fights and the Brazilian might have the right game to give Silva problems. He's the best jiu-jitsu based fighter I've seen in a long time -- a mixture of suffocating control, precision and execution. Can he get it to the ground? If he does, he's got as good a shot as anyone. But Silva is Silva, and he'd be a hefty favorite in the UFC middleweight title clash.
Kid-Faber was the fight hardcore fans wanted to see. With Urijah taking a tumble, the battle of the little big men now pits Yamamoto -- an explosive, athletic and, unfortunately, injury-prone striker/wrestler -- at his true weight against the best bantamweight in the world. Torres' length and subs would be issues for Kid. They're problems for anyone. But he could offset those with speed and power.
Fedor-Barnett is the heavyweight fight I've wanted to see for quite some time. Stylistically and physically Barnett poses real threats to the best heavyweight in the world. But if the Russian loses to Andrei Arlovski in January -- and it could really happen, though I'm saying it won't -- a bout between the "Pitbull" and Barnett could be as competitive. Just not as compelling.
With No. 1 pound-for-pound on the line, who wouldn't want to see it? Anderson walks around at 215 pounds. Emelianenko fights at 230. Height and reach favor Silva. Power in the clinch and grappling scenarios go to the Russian. Speed, believe it or not, is a toss up. Emelianenko is a decent favorite if I'm booking the fight, maybe 3-1, but if we're talking dream matchups, this is at the top of my list.
HDNet Fights CEO
Just this weekend alone on HDNet there's the M-1 Challenge (surprisingly good fights, broadcast by the entertaining and informative announce team of
UFC does very well, though there's a lot of money paid out that isn't made public (which it should). For instance, Couture received pay-per-view bonuses, which can be significant. If the reported numbers are correct, and UFC 91 sold between 700,000 and 800,000 subscriptions, Couture made somewhere close to $1.5M in bonuses alone (that's if my math's right and no one has ever accused me of that before).
Under terms Couture revealed during a press conference in October 2007, his PPV bonuses breaks down like this:
100,000-175,000 buys: $1 per buy
175,000-300,000 buys: $1.50 per
300,000-330,000 buys: $2 per
330,000+ buys: $3 per
The debate over ancillary rights and their worth is raging right now. UFC and managers/fighters are at odds over who gets what and for how much. With the perception lingering that there are few options outside the UFC right now, Zuffa is pushing hard to obtain rights that could be used in every layer of merchandising, including video games.
Some fighters, like Couture, fought to retain their rights. That could pay off big time for "The Natural," as Couture signed an exclusive agreement with EA Sports for an MMA video game. Not many guys have the leverage he does, but these are things he fought for back in 2002 when