Entertainment Value vs. Talent: Is the UFC losing its credibility?

Hot off the heels of one of the largest cuts ever made in the sport of MMA, fans, fighters and media alike have been discussing the move and questioning the motives of the UFC.

As the sport and its individual organizations grow, the talent pool becomes larger, the skill level increases and the bar that decides who has what it takes to be the very best and remain employed gets raised substantially.

The UFC has never had any single weight division contain higher caliber athletes than it does at this very moment. Everyone at Zuffa has always claimed that the UFC is where the best and most highly skilled fighters in the world can be found, which still holds true in many ways, however given recent events, that statement is slowly becoming a rather contradictory and hypocritical one.

The UFC’s interests and overall business strategy has recently seemed to take a substantial shift. Where they may once have had both feet in the “Skill” department, they’ve now taken one foot out and placed it firmly in the “Entertainment” department.

To give this argument some credibility let’s take a look at a few of the questionable events that have recently taken place:

Jon Fitch Cut

Much has already been said regarding this decision, however I still personally can’t get over how absurd and illogical it is. I may not personally know the inner workings or details involved with the decisions made at the UFC head office, but what I do know, is more than enough to conclude, that cutting one of the best Welterweights on the planet Earth is not a smart move if you plan on maintaining any credibility in the eyes of both fighters and fans.

Cutting someone from your top 10 completely diminishes your claim that the best fighters are in the UFC, because the reality is that you’ve just terminated a fighter who’s proven that he can defeat pretty much anyone in his division, from anywhere in the world, minus 2-3 elite opponents at the top of the food chain.

And why? Because he’s not exciting enough? Because he’s being paid too much and isn’t providing enough of a return on the investment? First off, choosing entertainment over skill is both politically and morally incorrect in every way, especially if you plan on maintaining any sort of credibility as an organization within this sport. Second, if he’s being paid too much, then don’t pay him that much! But at least give the athlete the option of fighting for less money before you decide to eliminate his opportunity to remain fighting for the biggest and most successfully lucrative organization in MMA.

Matthew Riddle Cut

This one is arguably even worse. The kid didn’t want to strike with a proven world class kick-boxer, so he did what any intelligent athlete with half a brain would do and decided to employ a strategy that would target his opponent’s flaws and weaknesses, grinding him down and using superior grappling to get the win. Now I could be wrong, but the last time I checked, victory has been the main goal in any sport since the beginning of time. Regardless Riddle was cut.

I’m sure at this point you’re frothing at the mouth to mention his recent positive test for marijuana, but again I don’t buy it. I’ll admit that in many places all over the world it is a prohibited substance and that those are the rules, but he fought in England where the UFC acted as their own sanctioning body, and so it was ultimately their decision whether or not to keep him.

The fishy part, is that Riddle not only has a medicinal license for marijuana use in Nevada, but he claims he stopped smoking 21 days prior to the fight, making the entire situation a non-issue realistically and one that should have been punished by no more than a slap on the wrist.

The saddest part? If marijuana wasn’t a prohibited substance, his two no contests would have been overturned, which means that this kid just got cut while on a four-fight winning streak. And that my friend’s is absolutely ridiculous.

Still disagree? Catch this.

Dave “Pee-Wee” Herman Stays

Dave Herman has lost his last three consecutive fights in the UFC, getting stopped via KO, TKO and a submission within the first two rounds of each fight. On top of all that, he tested positive for marijuana in his last bout. If that isn’t a recipe deserving of a release, then I’m not sure what is.

The first thing to note here is the inconsistency with which the UFC is displaying. We’re talking about a fighter who has proven on three separate occasions that he cannot compete with the heavyweight divisions mid-level fighters. There is no excuse for this kind of inconsistency, and it simply doesn’t make sense.

Leonard Garcia Stays

Garcia has consecutively lost four fights in a row. Exciting or not, that’s bad. And on top of it all, not only has he not earned a win since 2010 but his last three wins have all been by split decision.

No disrespect to Garcia, but in all fairness that is not an example of a skilled fighter or the decision of a credible company. This is a fighter I would expect to see in a lower tier organization putting on a show because their roster lacks the high level skill that the UFC has.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the question this all seems to leave us asking ourselves is, what are the UFC’s motivations? What are they looking for exactly? Because if you’re choosing to employ fighters with severely declining records simply because they’re exciting, then you’re straying far away from the original business model that got you to where you are today.

As Dana has said, nothing will ever be more exciting than real life, and I couldn’t agree more. So with that said, it’s odd that his actions have been proving otherwise. It seems like in some cases the company has been more interested in paying less for exciting brawlers than paying more for legitimately high-skilled mixed martial artists.

To conclude, I’m not saying that the UFC doesn’t have the most successful or highly skilled fighters, or that they’re even doing a poor job in any way. I’m simply stating that a company which once prided themselves on having and hoarding all the best talent in the world, is now so bloated and jaded with options that they seem to be losing sight of what sports in general have always been about. Competition.


59 Comments

  1. Avatar of turdcologne

    turdcologne

    March 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    The UFC is a business and it's about making money. It was either Dana or Lorenzo that said in an interview the main focus is selling paperviews. Without that, they're a losing entity. So, as soon as folks realize that entertainment comes before the talent, skill, record, etc., the sooner this argument comes to rest.

  2. Avatar of Mike Drahota

    Mike Drahota

    March 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Yeah but I doubt either Leonard Garcia or Dave Herman would sell any ppvs on their name

  3. Avatar of Brian Cox

    Brian Cox

    March 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Great freaking article, Bryan. Spot on.

    In particular, your comments about Fitch and cutting him (a top 10 fighter) in lue of allowing him the option of staying at a lesser rate, are bang on.

  4. Avatar of mmauk

    mmauk

    March 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    When it's come down to it, the balance between making fights for sporting reasons and business/ entertainment will swing either way from time to time. Sonnen fighting Jones is a business decision, if Jon Jones beats him and he ends up fighting Machida again instead of a super fight with Silva then that's a sporting one.

  5. Avatar of falcon4917

    falcon4917

    March 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    On another note. I dreamt last night that i was hanging out with Kos and Fitch at Fitchs house and Kos was a super nice guy and so was Fitch. They were both upset at Fitchs scenario with the UFC and just drinkin beers together. was pretty cool dream.

  6. Avatar of BeLikeWater

    BeLikeWater

    March 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I think with certain fighters like Jon Fitch it is more about bargaining power with there contracts, Once the fighter knows the UFC doesnt care if they have them on the roster it makes the bargaining of there contracts much harder for the fighter. The UFC would not want to pay Jon Fitch like he is still ranked #2 if he is declining on the ranks, i also think that the UFC has stated that more fighters will be cut so that the fighters go out there and put on a showrather then play is safe, that way the UFC has cheaper contracts and gets more entertaining fights.

  7. Avatar of KeithFarrell

    KeithFarrell

    March 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I would say no but cutting Fitch is an odd thing and I don't agree with that for sure but Fitch is probably the most notorious fighter in 20 year history of the UFC for not being exciting, so I guess trading in boring wins for risk-taking finishes (can still be done while dominating) all those years eventually came back to bite him when he stopped being a regular winner.
    I don't agree with the cut but that's the only sense I can make from it.

    I'm fine with Riddle being cut. He was winning but only mostly against low-tier fighters and then failed two drug tests in a row for the same thing. If he wants to be a UFC fighter then he needs to start acting professional.
    Pee Wee Herman may have got different treatment but to be fair to him his losses are against all top 10 guys and two of them were on very short notice, specifically against Big Nog in Brazil which is a incredibly tall order.

    Win fights while being at least fairly exciting and be a professional, do that and you should be okay in the UFC.
    If you tried to make your wins relatively exciting/fun or impressive then you will get some padding to fall back on if you lose a couple.

    • Avatar of Bryan Fontez

      Bryan Fontez

      March 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      You make some great points!

      You're definitely proving that this issue isn't Black and White by filling in all the Grey area.

      I agree with you but at the end of the day, you're still concluding that they're beginning to put more of an emphasis on entertainment than credibility/skill/talent.

      • Avatar of KeithFarrell

        KeithFarrell

        March 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

        Thanks and yea I think they are moving slightly more to that side of decision making but I guess it's just the brand evolving with their new TV deals, it will hopefully be figured out in a couple of years time

      • Avatar of Brian Cox

        Brian Cox

        March 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm

        @ Bryan

        I still hold to your original contention and without compromise. If you're cutting guys that can beat guys you are keeping, boring or otherwise, then something is wrong and the sport is taking a wrong turn.

        All that is required to defeat a wondrous, boring style like Fitch's is to beat it. That is all. If a fighter can't deal with Fitch, that's the fighter's problem.

        It's also Dana's fault. The (simple) solution to this problem is to be recruiting guys who can beat Fitch out of of top-ten. However, to "complain" him out of The Promotion, because the boss feels he's not exciting enough, to me, doesn't make any sense, it makes no business sense.

        Bottom line – The UFC can no longer claim to have the top-ten-best fighters in The World @ 170. Not and cut Fitch at the same time, they can't. Score one for Bellator, while doing nothing. Signed or un-signed to Bellator, so long as Fitch is not fighting anywhere else, Bellator can / could easily argue that they have at least 2 (spots 9 & 10) of those best fighters. As Fitch's departure means, that not only is his 9 spot gone, but the fighter ranked below him (Tarec Saffiedine) can't claim his spot either. Not rightfully. It also means that any un-ranked fighters can't be considered top-ten, until they advance to 8 or better. Subsequently, The UFC 170 rankings can now only (really) be considered a top-eight, not a top-ten. I don't see how it could be "legitimately" argued, otherwise.

        By cutting Fitch while he was still ranked in the top-ten, was a big mistake and has opened up a Pandora's box of problems within The Division, IMO. At least in terms of legitimacy. The question will become, how long will his shadow or ghost, loom. For until he loses or retires, he's #9 and that can't be just dismissed. He earned it. Entertainingly or otherwise.

        W – stands for Wipe-resistant .

        • Avatar of Bryan Fontez

          Bryan Fontez

          March 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm

          You've analyzed this like the inner workings of time travel lol.

          Good points though. Definitely get's complicated if you break it down to that level and take every detail and/or potential outcome into account.

          • Avatar of Brian Cox

            Brian Cox

            March 6, 2013 at 3:01 am

            @ Bryan

            I'd argue, that if you were Fitch's management and you were / are doing any less, then you would be / are doing your client a massive disservice. Dana said / paraphrased…let him test the open market.

            Okay, then the market should be tested as such, Fitch as a ranked, top-ten UFC fighter and until the market declares / proves him not as such, then The UFC must bare that burden of that free-market evaluation and regardless of its reflection, upon The Promotion. Negative or otherwise. As you stated, The Promotion could just as easily have offered / re-singed Fitch to a lesser (valued) contract and avoided the whole fuss / debate. Again, it was a poor business move on behalf of The UFC, IMO.

            From a negotiation / business POV it was a pretty simple decision. One which, IMO, The UFC blew.

  8. Avatar of UnderdogGreatness

    UnderdogGreatness

    March 5, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Baby Hitler and the UFC are just trying to send a message to those Lay-and-Pray artists in the UFC. As a result, Jon Fitch, the most boring fighter, and some other other fighters were cut. I have no problem with them cutting some of those safe fighters. Fighters fight for the UFC; Baby Hitler and the fertitta brothers sign the checks.

  9. Avatar of Wolfi

    Wolfi

    March 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I think that there is another side to this. There are tons of fighters that will never be champion without a doubt and unless a lot of Welterweights retire, John Fitch is one of those fighters. Fighters that are no title contenders do serve other roles in the UFC though, mostly gatekeepers, regional fan favourites (or villains) and entertainers and Fitch wouldn't do the UFC any good as either. He definitely isn't an entertainer and the UFC lost a lot of money recently by having lucrative contenders lose when they were one win away from a title shot. Overeem vs Velasquez would have been far bigger than Bigfoot vs Velasquez II and had Evans won impressively (or maybe even just won), he probably would be Anderson Silva's next opponent instead of Weidman.
    Underneath the entertainment side of the UFC, there is still the real war for titles going on and the true contenders get their chance eventually, they just might not always be first in line as they should be. I understand that the UFC would rather have GSP fight a lucrative contender than having the contender fight Fitch because they make more money with a GSP fight and the competitive aspect is satisfied either way because the contender either makes it or wasn't able to.

    I don't mind at all if the UFC keeps Garcia type fighters, clearly not all fights are meant to be relevant concerning the ranking.

  10. Avatar of Krogan

    Krogan

    March 5, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    This is not just a trend in the UFC but the world as a whole, short term capitalism is so incredibly detrimental to society in the long term. It is pretty clear that the UFC is a lot more concerned about getting ppv numbers for their next card rather then growing MMA as a whole and in turn making more money in the long term.

    To me this is exactly what happens when you undermine to sport itself by promoting a certain type of fighter, I really don't see anyway around the sport getting watered down, simplified and ultimately becoming more and more unrealistic and fake. Personally all I want to see is two guys fight with as few rules as possible and as little interference as possible from refs, judges and most importantly organizers.

    That being said I think the issue here is the scoring system, personally I think aggression and damage should be the only two factors that give points, not takedowns, not pushing up against the cage, not avoiding getting hit, not just holding someone down. I also think the round system is another big problem.

    • Avatar of Bryan Fontez

      Bryan Fontez

      March 5, 2013 at 10:53 pm

      I don't necessarily disagree. But I still think you can have all those things and still be exciting.

      I'm also the type of fan who is realistic and fully accepts that not every single fight is going to be exciting, just like not every game in any given sport is going to be exciting. You are bound to have moments of lull and boredom, it's inevitable.

      I wouldn't fight it. Or change the judging criteria necessarily. What I would like to see however, is experimenting with the yellow card system. Some form of punishment for a lack of effort to finish and win a fight. Reduce their purse by enough and you'll start seeing some aggression.

  11. Avatar of Evan Holober

    Evan Holober

    March 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Good read, Bryan.

  12. Avatar of IChokePeople

    IChokePeople

    March 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Honestly, I've never found the UFC or any other fight org to be credible for the simple fact that there are no real rankings. People have always got title shots because of popularity first and skill second. Lately all you have to do is yell loud enough and a title shot is in the bag. Cutting more talented fighters while keeping more entertaining fighters just deepens this. As long as I can learn from what I see I'll keep watching though.

  13. Avatar of codemaster

    codemaster

    March 5, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Good article, Bryan–and I agree with almost all you wrote.

    I think the subject if very germane since the changes the UFC have made will have a fundemental effect on the sport of MMA.

    When 'entertainment' value trumps merit, talent, skill, and records earned–then an insidious change begins to take shape which warps the sport.

    I don't watch the WWE, and I won't watch the UFC if it morphs into the UFE.

  14. Avatar of jacknmegfan

    jacknmegfan

    March 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    "He had a draw, then a loss, right, then a win, then a loss," said Dana trying to justify the cut of Fitch. "He's on a downward spiral." By his logic, Edgar (top 10 p4p) is on that same spiral since he has a draw, then a win, then 3 losses.

    White badgered Strikeforce for illogical matchmaking, women fighting, and freakshows….Now he's adopted their business model.

    Which leaves Gustafson saying, "Who do I need to lose to to get a title shot?"

  15. Avatar of highkick12

    highkick12

    March 5, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Fitch puts the audience to sleep instead of his opponent.
    The only shocker is that they didn't cut him sooner.
    They have the best mma fighters in the world so knocking their talent is stupid.

    • Avatar of asdf

      asdf

      March 5, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      If you can't deal with Fitch you shouldn't be in MMA. It's called "mixed" martial arts, not "who can swing and knock the other guy out first before he knocks you out". I'm all for exciting fights but if MMA wants to be taken seriously as a sport it needs, and i mean it really needs guys like Fitch and Mia etc. to show people what MMA is really about. You can win a fight without throwing a punch, to me that is quite a remarkable.

  16. Avatar of NCapone

    NCapone

    March 5, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    Fitch won 1 fight out of his last 4 and hasn't finished a fight in 6 years. He has had plenty of chances to make it to the top but couldn't. Whats the point of having him linger around the division any longer to put on boring 15 minute fights any longer. PLENTY of star worthy up and comers. Out with the old in with the new.

    • Avatar of Bryan Fontez

      Bryan Fontez

      March 5, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      What's the point? Well you've pretty much ignored the fact that he's one of the best fighters in the division.

      Is finishing fights the criteria for staying in the UFC? Because if so then GSP should be cut as well based on your extremely flawed logic.

      You haven't really thought this whole thing out very well.

    • Avatar of highkick12

      highkick12

      March 6, 2013 at 3:56 am

      I agree man, he had more than enough chances.
      If youre not an entertainer you better be a title contender, Fitch was neither.

      • Avatar of Bryan Fontez

        Bryan Fontez

        March 6, 2013 at 12:08 pm

        How is that right in any way???

        "If you're not an entertainer you better be a title contender"??

        Are you serious? Since when did just being a good fight become a problem? Based on your logic they should cut the entire roster!!

    • Avatar of falcon4917

      falcon4917

      March 6, 2013 at 6:24 am

      Fitch was inline for a title shot for a long time always being kept away by Dana and then the inevitable happened in that he finally suffered a flash KO in which he would likely destroy the same opponent more times than not. Then he destroyed one of the most promising fighters coming up and then lost a stylistic horror match against a 185er. He beat BJ in reality and even BJ knew that and vocalized it. It is not as clear cut as 1 win in 4 fights. In reality it's 2 wins, 2 losses with one of those losses being the type of loss GSP suffered.

      • Avatar of streethunter

        streethunter

        March 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        Thanks for pointing this out. Fitch never got a rematch with GSP even though he was beating everyone else and surely deserved it. He wasn't going to stay on a win streak forever. I'm bummed Dana has such good "reasons" to cut him. Dana says he can go win a few fights and then he might be brought back. Wonder what they will try to offer him. Great way to save money eh Dana?

  17. Avatar of kungfurule

    kungfurule

    March 6, 2013 at 12:13 am

    I think the real reason is that DW is kind of a douche bag and just doesn't like certain fighters bc they wont **** up to his titanic ego, remember fitch didnt want to give his likeness to the video game and DW is a vengeful prick just waiting no doubt for a chance to cut him. Sure some fighters deserve to be cut but the ones that are questionable often have some back story of clashing with bald baby hitler and his 'paperviews' :)

  18. Avatar of kungfurule

    kungfurule

    March 6, 2013 at 12:15 am

    what you can't post 's..uck' on here what kind of a fcking fascist bulls..hit is that lol

  19. Avatar of Cpt. Paranoid

    Cpt. Paranoid

    March 6, 2013 at 4:24 am

    It's the un-educated fan that is behind this. The UFC wouldn't be going down this path if it didn't make more money for them. So to reverse this trend, stop buying payperviews, stop buying fan products. The best example of the ignorant fans of today are the guys and girls that payed money to watch Lesnar fight. They are the same persons that pay to watch Indy500 just because of the crashes. MMA is so much more than brutal knock outs, blood and gore. To me a sweep can be as exciting as a knock-out.

    Most fans today have no interest of ever getting in the octagon themself. Back in the NHB days, almost every fan was a fighter that's something I miss. It was nice to watch fights with people that understood what it really is. I still watch fights with a group of old fighters, and always have great discussions about the fighters when we are trying to pick a winner. Before the Hendo Machida fight, we asked one of the girlfriends who she taught was gonna win? She picked Hendo because he has so pretty eyes. And that seems to be the standard of the fans now a days. So it's no wonder if the standard of the fighters are going down, when fans want fighters that have pretty eyes, not a great ground game. They like a fighter because he can trash talk not because he stops over 90% of take downs. It's all going so WWE, and me personally, I hate it!!

    If some one told me that they loved me when I was fighting and I asked them why? And the answer would be: "because of what you said to him or him at the weigh-ins". It would drive me mad.

  20. Avatar of Camelux3000

    Camelux3000

    March 6, 2013 at 5:25 am

    Excellent article .
    I agree with everything stated,well done

  21. Avatar of m

    m

    March 6, 2013 at 7:01 am

    The talent is the more important for my opinin

  22. Avatar of TheRealDeal

    TheRealDeal

    March 6, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Entertainment Value vs. Talent: Is the UFC losing its credibility?

    The answer to the question is a resounding YES!

    I am not sure if it should be stated as "most deserving talent" though, in all fairness…

    There are two schools of thought here. One is who deserves a shot at a title, the other is who should be cut……

    Sonnen versus Jones…most fans really want to see. Sonnen is a great fighter but certainly does not DESERVE the shot at the title, not at this time anyway.

    Same thing with GSP/Diaz. Diaz (great fighter) again, certainly does not deserve a shot right now. Grudge match for fans pleasure.

    As for not cutting fighters willing to bang and cutting far more talented grapplers, that speaks for itself.

    It's a sad truth, but MOST MMA "fans" would rather see two guys fight to the death with sticks and knives, than watch two talented grapplers in a chess match of positioning, endurance, and strength.

    The UFC is making every attempt not to become STALE in some fan's eyes. The truth is, as fighters continue to evolve there will be far more of what some call "bring" fights than those where you have two guys throwing haymakers. It can't miss, unless they change the rules.

    I personally do not support this and would rather see the best all around fighters and those who legitimately deserve their title shots, by wins and losses, not a popularity contest.

  23. Avatar of Def_tac

    Def_tac

    March 6, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Great article, I am glad someone has finally said it. The UFC is nothing but a bunch of money hungry traitors to the sport. I have said this in the past and saying it now. DANA and the UFC do not care about the fighters they only care about getting their money. The next headline will be UFC vs WWF…and let the pay per views begin. Bellator please do not sell out like this and stay true to what the sport of mma really is.

  24. Avatar of GianGiacommo G

    GianGiacommo G

    March 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Great article! did anyone read what Riddle said recently? totally agree with most of the stuff he said,good luck to you Matt!!!

  25. Avatar of apocalypse123

    apocalypse123

    March 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    It's been this way for awhile now, but more recently things have gone from bad to worse. Fitch has always been one of my favorite fighters and I get excited every time I see him fight. Not because I'm a casual shallow MMA fan, but because I respect the work, dedication, and time Fitch has put into his career and training. For someone to work that hard for that long and be booed because he's not trying to get in a fistfight with the guy is absolutely appalling. I hope Fitch ends up somewhere he can be well respected. Unfortunately the UFC just isn't appreciative of his particular talent.

  26. Avatar of clownshoes

    clownshoes

    March 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Matt riddle handled his situation like a clown and a punk afterwards… I wouldn't be surprised if he was mouthing off to the bosses at Zuffa before he was cut. The Jon Fitch thing pretty little weird to be sure, though. Leonard Garcia is a bum and deserves to be cut and so does Dave Herman, but I think part of this whole problem is the fact that the UFC probably isn't as well-organized internally as people expect that it should be. They probably recently came to the realization that they had too many fighters signed when they should have realized it a while ago when they bought StrikeForce.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply