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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.
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.