In recent years, events based on personal vendetta or fans rallying behind fighters to get them into the big fight have been witnessed within the UFC. What used to be “the number #1 contender always gets the next shot” seems to be a thing of the past. Now, it appears like just about anyone with enough Twitter followers or a loud enough mouth can talk their way into a title fight whether it’s in their expected weight class or not.
Fighters used to be expected to settle into a weight class, take a fight in the shallowest end of the division, and true passion, heart, and determination will get them into the top ten of a division. A person used to have to prove themselves through a series of multiple fights and into a contender match up and that is not the case today.
Jumping the ladder is a common practice now within the UFC. Champions refuse to take fights they believe people do not deserve (whether they do, indeed, deserve it or not) or take fights based on personal animosities. Champions of the yester years did not care who their next fight was against back when there was a clear #1 contender that the UFC and fans agreed upon.
The talk of super fights and personal grudge matches seem to flood social media and MMA outlet sites rallying for these types of bouts. These are the fights for the fans, prizefights that hold no true value in individual weight classes or the overall sport. These super fights are generally the champion of a weight class vs. a top 10 or the champion of a similar weight class. These fights seem to over shadow true #1 contender matches: is this the future of the UFC?
Fighters train tirelessly day in and day out with one thing on their mind: holding the UFC gold someday. When a guy comes into the UFC, goes undefeated, and works themselves into the number #1 contender spot just to be overshadowed by fans asking to see another fight, it must be disheartening. The fighters make so many personal sacrifices for one fight in particular, only to be pushed back and watch someone else who is not the clear #1 contender get their shot at the title. Super fights do the same thing. A fighter works themselves into the #1 contender spot only to sit on the shelf while two champions or top contenders of different weight, size, and shape, battle with no true outcome other than making the fans happy.
Would the Bellator scheme be fitting for MMA? They have a bracket type system that defines a clear #1 contender and that fighter gets his shot at the champion. The knock to that system is at the end of the season, who ever loses that fight must start from square one and fight themselves back into the title fight. One more downside of this bracket is there is not a clear top 5 or 10 competitors in a weight division. Viewers also do not get to see the champion perform as often as most would like to see.
What is the best answer? That seems to be the million dollar question MMA companies and fans would like answered. If some of these super fights take place, will the way fights are determined go back to being the true #1 contender? The UFC is constantly changing and this aspect will be no exception.