MMA Access: A Difference of Opinion – UFC Title Shots
By Christopher Jester
The UFC are changing their perspectives on how fighters are given or earning title shots and it has raised a curious debate from the fans, media, and more. The difference in opinion is obvious. One perspective will shine a light on the business aspect of it. The other will focus on fighters deserving a title shot. The latter opinion was well pointed out in Paige Berger’s article on Ricardo Lamas – which can be read here.
By now, everyone should have heard the news that Anthony Pettis has been granted a title shot against reigning UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in August. Where the debate arises is that Pettis is another lightweight fighter to leapfrog in front of other worthy contenders in the featherweight division. This isn’t happening just in the featherweight division, however. Chael Sonnen from middleweight to light heavyweight to face champion Jon Jones, and Frankie Edgar dropping from lightweight to featherweight to face Jose Aldo are just a few examples. If Rashad Evans did not lose to Antonio Rogerio Nogueria at UFC 156, he would have earned a title shot against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Simply put: it is happening all-over the UFC.
This is where it gets tricky. Each division has someone who can be considered a top contender. The issue is, the UFC and the fans disagree. Or it could be that the UFC is looking at it from a different standpoint. The fans see their favorite fighters rattle off win after win and acknowledge that it is opportune for them to challenge for the belt. Let’s take Paige Berger’s point in her article for an example. She credited Ricardo Lamas winning streak since his debut in the UFC. He is 4-0 in the UFC as a featherweight and has defeated other top contenders such as Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki, and Erik Koch. An even more brilliant point that she pointed out is what it could do for the UFC as they expand into Mexico and Latin-American countries.
All good points. Except for one thing. Ricardo Lamas is not yet a major draw for the UFC. Potentially he could be. Especially if the UFC places him in another FOX fight against someone like “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. But look at all the recent contenders who have been given title shots off losses or division changes: Chael Sonnen, Frankie Edgar, Nick Diaz and Anthony Pettis. Every single name on that list is a major draw with huge fan followings. So perhaps, the UFC is appealing to the fans; albeit it to fans who follow fighters who can make them a ton of money.
Giving these contenders shots over more worthy contenders may not make much sense from a ranking perspective, particularly since the UFC just instituted their own ranking system, but it does spotlight the marketability of those fighters. Get it while they are hot, as they say, and this is exactly what the UFC is doing. Chael Sonnen has never been more popular since his fights against Anderson Silva. Nick Diaz has always been a fan-favorite and a major draw. Frankie Edgar is the storied comeback kid, and Anthony Pettis is the former WEC lightweight champion whose striking is must-see TV. As much as the UFC’s stance on title shots may be loathed, it does offer a slight bit of weight to why they insist on doing it.
This article is not here to argue for either side of the debate; it is simply to illustrate the diverging views. Because in reality, it is hard not to cry foul when rising fighters and worthy contenders get screwed out of title shots. However, in the business world the almighty dollar rules. And the fans have to remember the UFC is a business first. The more marketable fight will win out the majority of the time, and this perspective appears like it is here to stay at least for now.
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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