The best fighter in the world, not in the UFC, is fighting for the best organization, that is not the UFC this Saturday night. Fedor Emelianenko makes his return against former Pride and UFC fighter Fabricio Werdum. With its deal with CBS and Showtime as well as its stable of fighters, Strikeforce has proven to be the current silver medalist when it comes to MMA. However it’s a pretty significant gap between the two. The question is would the UFC even be in trouble if every other organization teamed up?
Dana White has compared the landscape of MMA to football, saying the UFC is the NFL and the rest of the organizations are leagues like the CFL and Arena. I’m not sure it’s that bad, but let’s take a look.
For the purpose of this hypothetical let’s say Strikeforce combined fighters with DREAM, Bellator, and Sengoku. (Not the WEC due to their connection with the UFC.) Therefore if these 4 companies joined forces they would have access to their entire stable of fighters and television rights. CBS, Showtime, NBC, FOX Sports Net (Comcast SportsNet), Telemundo, and HDNet would all carry fights for this combo organization.
The UFC meanwhile has Spike, Versus, and pay-per-view. You would have to admit the potential is there for this rival group, however the UFC is so closely related with Spike since its Ultimate Fighter Season 1 and 10 subsequent seasons as well as free cards it puts up the ratings. Despite the major networks, it may not be enough unless they significantly add dates to their yearly schedule. If they were able to put on weekly cards during the week a la Bellator, but with a much deeper roster of fighters than they may have something.
Speaking of the stable of fighters, what would it looks like? The UFC is so deep that they can put on at least 1 full 10-11 fight card per month and sell them easily. Some of the fighters outside the UFC are not CFL or AFL type players though. Here are the Top 10’s in each weight class following the merger.
UFC vs. The World
UFC: Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Roy Nelson, Cheick Kongo, Gabe Gonzaga, Mirko Cro Cop
The World: Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Brett Rogers, Andrei Arlovski, Alexander Emelinenko, Jeff Monson, Pedro Rizzo, Tim Sylvia, Shamil Abdurahimov
UFC: Shogun Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Rampage Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Jon Jones, Forrest Griffin, Randy Couture, Rich Franklin, Thiago Silva
The World: Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal, Gegard Mousasi, Babalu Sobral, Keith Jardine (free agent), Ricardo Arona, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Mike Whitehead, Marvin Eastman, Christian M’Pumbu, Anthony Ruiz
UFC: Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Nate Marquardt, Yoshirio Akiyama, Demian Maia, Alan Belcher, Wanderlei Silva, Yushin Okami, Michael Bisping
The World: Jake Shields, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Jorge Santiago, Hector Lombard, Jason Miller, Ronaldo Souza, Cung Le, Scott Smith, Kaz Misaki
UFC: Georges St. Pierre, Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Paulo Thiago, Dan Hardy, Matt Hughes, Ricardo Almeida, Martin Kampmann, Matt Serra
The World: Nick Diaz, Paul Daley (fighting for Impact FC in July), Karo Parisyan (free agent), Marius Zaromskis, Jay Hieron, Nick Thompson, Hayoto “Mach” Sakurai, Evangelista Santos, Lyman Good, Joe Riggs
UFC: Frankie Edgar, B.J. Penn, Kenny Florian, Gray Maynard, George Sotiropoulos, Joe Stevenson, Takanori Gomi, Clay Guida, Tyson Griffin, Sean Sherk
The World: Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Jansen, Josh Thomson, JZ Calvancante, Pat Curran, Roger Huerta, Mizuto Hirota
By my count I got the UFC with a 4-0-1 edge when it comes to most talented fighters per weight division. That is amazing. Maybe Dana is closer with the NFL analogy than I thought. The moves the UFC have made to bring in fighters like Rampage, Anderson Silva, Shogun, The Nogs, etc. have been huge for the continued success of the UFC. According to many reports Jake Shields could be on his way over as well as Ricardo Arona.
But this exercise proves what kind of challenge the rest of these organizations are up against. Not only does the UFC do the best job marketing their events and fighters, but they simply have the best fighters in the world. Sure there are guys like Fedor, Overeem, Shields (for now), Nick Diaz, Alvarez, and Melendez out there, but how many fights do they have available to them? Even if you combined all the talent in the world (as I just did) the UFC still overpowers them. Incredible. I still enjoy watching Strikeforce, DREAM, Bellator, etc., but the UFC is truly the varsity of MMA.