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 Ultimate Fighter 8 finale on Dec. 13 (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET).
Would MMA benefit from having sanctioning bodies similar to boxing to establish rankings and mandatory matchups?-- "Big" Al Preston, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
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 Dana White has, and will, put together more monster fights than anyone else. But he can't put ALL the fights together. Thus, some of the game's top talent across all weight divisions are on the outside looking in for now.
Odds are we'll never see Randy Couture-Fedor Emelianenko, for example, because the UFC actually fought to ensure it didn't happen under terms they couldn't control. That's not sport. When promoters work to prevent fights -- important fights -- MMA moves into murky waters. The prevailing principle should always focus on determining the best. There's no good reason to think differently, unless it would negatively impact your wallet -- and I'm not convinced a co-promotion would.
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.
I am curious: If you could match-up any two fighters in the world, what fight would you like to see most?-- Jeffrey, Toronto
Lots of great fights to be made, including Georges St. Pierre-Anderson Silva, which I understand is in the works and has the potential to be the biggest fight UFC can promote in 2009, presuming GSP gets past B.J. Penn in January. Since you mentioned it, I'll preclude it in my list -- though it belongs near the top, for sure.
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.
5) Brock Lesnar vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
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 Frank Mir, who fights Nogueira on Dec. 27 for the right to battle Lesnar, but we've seen that clash already. Plus I don't think "Minotauro" will lose to the former UFC champ.)
4) Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia
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.
3) Miguel Torres vs. Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto
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.
2) Fedor-Arlovski winner vs. Josh Barnett
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.
1) Fedor Emelianenko vs. Anderson Silva
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.
I know HDNET has broadcast deals with Dream and K-1, but is the K-1 Dynamite!! show going to be broadcast on HDNET or anywhere else in the states?-- Billy, Wichita Falls, Texas
HDNet Fights CEO Andrew Simon told me it's "possible," which is more than he usually says. Makes me think it'll end up on the network.
Just this weekend alone on HDNet there's the M-1 Challenge (surprisingly good fights, broadcast by the entertaining and informative announce team of SeanWheelock and Jimmy Smith -- not the ex-Jacksonville Jaguar); a Maximum Fighting Championship card pitting welterweights Paul Daley and John Alessio; and the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals, which, while not MMA, should be a fun watch.
I never hear anybody questioning the payouts for these huge UFC events. Did Lesnar and Couture make $700,000 combined? The payout for all fighters was about 60 percent of the gate. Who is getting all the pay-per-view money? What about the money from Spike? Not to mention clothing, action figures and the video game money. These fighters are getting taken advantage of. These paydays are way too small. Please let me know what you think?-- Bob Crawford, Jerseyville, Ill.
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 Jeremy Lappen and PeterLevin represented him. You think Couture's glad he didn't let those rights go?