The MMA Industry Needs Unity
What is the one thing that’s holding Mixed Martial Arts back in terms of being the sports powerhouse that we all know it can be? Indecision. When you look into the future, don’t your eyes glaze over with the mere thought of a title fight between, say, Emelianenko and Mir like mine do? Whether you like him or not, don’t you get tired of seeing the high-profile fighter of the day waste precious time waiting to choose his next business move? (Talking to you, Tito) These are all great questions, but they all stem from a lack of cohesion between the decision-makers of OUR beloved pastime. I guess the atom bomb of a question you’re waiting to hear me ask is this one… Who is gonna step up and become the NFL of Mixed Martial Arts!!!?
Think about this, why is martial arts as a whole not as big a franchise as many other mainstream sports? It lacks a bigtime…. What I mean by that is that there is no NFL for fighters. Tito doesn’t like Dana White, so he’s not going to fight for UFC anymore. Fedor fights Sambo, so he’s stuck away from many of the biggest names in his weight class. Our sport has gotten huge in these recent years, but we’re already seeing instability due to lack of cooperation and communication between “leagues.” I’m sorry, I’ve played baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and Rugby in my days as a young guy who thinks he’s unbreakable, but I’ll defend MMA all day as my sport of choice.
However, there’s a problem that it shares with Rugby that, in my opinion, really holds the both of them back. It’s not coverage or a shortage of dynamite athletes, it’s the lack of an upper-echelon level of competition where fighters can transcend contracts and style-based boundaries and really find roots so that their talent can soundly be judged. Rugby is a sport played on a professional level in almost every country, so it has an excuse, but don’t you think we need to nip this before we get to that level? Do you think Brock Lesnar can truly be happy with his cross-over success as long as he hears constant rumors of Fedor’s prowess, who is, contractually unable to fight him?
These rumors have a way of festering until great fighters are condemned to the island of misfit contracts, where they’ll be scarcely remembered, except for bill-collectors with kids to feed. All this hype around a bout that can’t happen can end with both fighters being left and forgotten. Do you know why men like Joe Montana, and Johnny Unitas, and Bubba Smith are still sports icons? It’s because they fought their way to the NFL and used their talent to stay there where they were always showcased and in the spotlight. They retired fat and rich, but more importantly, remembered for their contributions to the sport. Do you remember when Joe Namath had to quit to the Canadian Football League because he threw hail-marys when the NFL said you could only use fly-patterns and button-hooks? Or when Jerry Rice really wanted to play against Troy Aikman, but his contract wouldn’t allow it and he quit to coach high school track in Boca? Me neither. That’s because the NFL has a united set of rules and any player, if he plays hard enough and wants it really bad, can end up going to the big show. If he makes it, he isn’t forgotten after a few months of inactivity because he’s waiting to play a team that might be better. All the best teams are already there and why? Because it’s the big show and you don’t get there unless you’re the best. That is what we need for MMA.