Let’s be honest, all fighters who achieve success sooner or later start to be matched with the UFC. This happened with Fedor Emelianenko, Vadim Nemkov and many other leaders. And most importantly, the fighters themselves from other leagues, as a rule, are not against this opportunity. And only a combination of circumstances leads to a promotion change not being possible.
But why change anything? After all, in other leagues individual fighters can be paid even more. It’s about the popularity of Dana White’s creation. This is precisely the position that Joe Rogan recently took. According to the distinguished commentator, fighters who do not compete in the UFC are wasting their careers, since simply no one is looking at them: all eyes are directed at the UFC.
“I don’t want to disrespect other organizations. There are also very good fighters there, but I often think they are wasting their careers. Because I see these elite fighters fighting in Bellator or PFL and I’m like, “Hey guys, no one’s watching.” And if you are the UFC champion, then you are the first,” Rogan recently said, defending his opinion.
You can agree with Rogan or you can try to argue. To begin with, let’s start from the opposite. After all, this announcer works for the UFC and may not be entirely objective.
Words about the careers of fighters are perceived more acutely. You need to understand that the league athletes compete in is really important, but a lot in terms of legacy depends on the athletes themselves. Fedor Emelianenko did not compete in the UFC, but can we say that he wasted his career? In no case!
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The promotions themselves are not standing still at this time. And if everything is more or less stable in the UFC, then other sports organizations are taking different measures. A recent deal that comes to mind is the Professional Fighters League (PFL). We are talking about the acquisition of Bellator. Rumors about this have been around for a long time, but the event was officially announced at the end of November. As a result of the agreement, which received numerous epithets (epochal, great, colossal, etc.), Bellator will become part of the PFL, but will continue to operate and hold tournaments under its auspices.
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The greatness of an agreement comes from the terms and conditions that were agreed upon at the time of its conclusion. And that:
a large-scale “Champions vs. Champions” tournament, in which Bellator title holders will fight the PFL Grand Prix winners; the ability of fighters to carry out boxing fights (Francis Ngannou already fought with Tyson Fury, and we continue to hear about this confrontation now); the famous blogger Jake Paul should hold a debut fight according to the rules of mixed martial arts; the creation of a Super Fight division in which the fighters will receive 50% of the PPV income; Invite pop culture figures.
A few more points could be mentioned, but these five already speak clearly that the PFL intends to seriously increase recognition and interest by attracting new viewers.
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Everything seems to be pretty good. But let’s imagine what Rogan would respond to this. And Joe would probably turn to the numbers, which, as we know, don’t lie. If we take the top 10 fights from the point of view of Pay Per View (a payment system for sports broadcasts), it turns out that the first two places are occupied by boxing matches (Floyd Mayweather – Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather – Conor McGregor) , and the top 3 is completed by the famous confrontation McGregor with Khabib Nurmagomedov, which took place within the framework of the UFC. In total, the top 10 includes five UFC fights and five boxing matches. In this classification there was no room for fights from other leagues. Furthermore, there was no place for fights from any league other than UFC or boxing, not in the top 20, not in the top 30, not even in the top 100 or top 200. The difference is terrifying: Bellator’s best-selling fight (Muhammad Lawal and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) grossed 100 thousand sales. The fight between Khabib and McGregor – 2.4 million.
You can also check out lists of the best fighters according to some of the most authoritative resources that cover MMA: MMAJunkie, Sherdog, and ESPN. So, in the list of ESPN’s top 10 fighters, regardless of weight class, there are usually representatives of the White promotion, and the top two have only one non-UFC fighter: MMAJunkie has Demetrious Johnson (ONE Championship ) and Sherdog has Patricio. Freire (Bellator).
Of course, first and foremost, the league is about the wrestlers who perform in it. But we must not forget the figures who play “secondary” roles for its prosperity. Marketing, medical staff, ring announcers, the commentators themselves. Here you can remember Rogan himself. Joe is not just a commentator. He is a person who speaks harshly on current issues, skillfully criticizes and from time to time meets with stars, prominent politicians and businessmen. Rogan has an audience that goes far beyond sports fans, and millions of users listen to his podcasts. And this person does not work in PFL, nor in Bellator nor in ONE, but in the UFC!
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Some might mention Francis Ngannou, mentioned above, as a brilliant fighter who left the UFC. But let’s be honest, Ngannou went to the PFL not for the fame (he got it in the UFC), but largely for the money. Francisco took a long time, trying to reach an agreement. But it didn’t work out and the Franco-Cameroonian star decided to start a new chapter. The brilliant fighter Derek Brunson recently left the UFC to go to the PFL. But again, whatever the reason for the league change, it’s worth keeping in mind that Brunson wrestled in Dana White’s promotion for over 10 years. A huge period of time during which the athlete’s best years fell. Now Derek is 39 years old. Will he be able to deliver the same brilliant performances as before? The question is rhetorical.
You can go deeper into the topic of the money question. Jake Paul himself tirelessly criticizes the UFC for, in his opinion, low salaries. But first of all, not everyone agrees with Paul. And secondly, UFC is like a renowned and authoritative director that aspiring actors dream of reaching. Once he notices you, your career will take off. The same goes for fighters. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that other leagues are raising fees largely because of the UFC, in order to somehow confront this monster favorably.
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Will any league be able to surpass the UFC anytime soon? Hardly. White and his team not only have great fighters at their disposal, but they also skillfully handle them, like a chess player with his pieces. To challenge this system, it will take more than hiring former fighters from the UFC itself. The PFL’s current move is a great start. But it is impossible to call it a check for the UFC, or even more so a checkmate.