Monday, December 29, 2014

The UFC started with no weight divisions. Women's MMA started with no divisions at all, before debuting with 135. 115 was added next, with the idea that fighters at 125 could move down or up, creating depth.

In his latest blog, “Magical” Ray Elbe details why the next division added should be 145 featherweight.

1. You can build the division
Influential commentators, hype filled promotional videos, and aggressive media blitz make it easy for everyday fans of Mixed Martial Arts to discover and relate to new athletes. Knowledgeable matchmaking allows promotions like the UFC to give fighters with ‘star potential’ a platform to win, and when it is done on television, the audience begins to follow the champ.  This formula has been used time and time again to replace ‘aging’ stars with fresh up and coming talent.  The same strategies used to build a fan base for fighters like Conor McGregor and Demetrious Johnson can be used to establish an entire division.  It only took one season of the Ultimate Fighter to successfully build the UFC Strawweight division – a season that saw 43% of the cast with less than 5 professional fights, bring a revival to a lagging TUF ratings, and all participants being rewarded with UFC contracts at the end of the season.

2. If you build it they will come
Few people realize Ronda Rousey was the first American woman to ever medal in the Olympics for Judo when she won a bronze at 155lbs division in 2008.  Following her exciting run in Judo however, it took Ronda Rousey almost 4 years of MMA competition before she was finally able to make the 135lb weight limit, now set as the WMMA limit for the UFC.  With other Olympic athletes like Edith Bosch, and Natalia Vorobieva nearing the end of their grappling careers, an option of earning a sustainable income from competing in MMA for the world’s largest promotion, could influence them to focus on MMA training instead of a career of coaching once they finish their Judo and Wrestling careers respectfully.  Other athletes from Muay Thai, K-1, and other combat sports might consider crossing over once they realize the opportunities fighting for the UFC can present.   With a lack of opportunity for WMMA, we have already watched several legends such as Becky Levi, Erin Toughhill, Erica Montoya, Debi Purcell, Jennifer Howe, and Gina Carano retire, simply because there was no stage for them to showcase their talents.  If the UFC builds the Women’s MMA featherweight division, the fighters will come.

3. Declining PPV Sales
At the end of the day the UFC is SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT.  Sometimes it is not all about being ‘the best’ in the world, which is why you see fighters like Kimbo Slice,  CM Punk, and James Toney getting their shots in the UFC with little to no actual MMA experience on their resume.  The blockbuster PPV sales set by Brock Lesnar are what this sport needs in order for it to continue to grow.  With the decline of PPV sales, there is one fighter on the market who has been able to build a fan base large enough to ‘move the needle’ so to speak, and that fighter is Invicta Champion, StrikeForce champion Cris 'Cyborg' Justino.  Very few people have been able to build the type of fan base she has established without the help of the UFC Marketing/Hype machine.  Cyborg has the type of marketing power to carry an entire women’s league named Invicta, and to bring eyes to a sport like Muay Thai, which has traditionally been almost non existent in regards to press/media coverage when she competed for Lion Fight.  A marquee matchup against Ronda Rousey would break PPV records in regards to WMMA.  With the decline of PPV sales, it only makes sense that the UFC would give a legit legend to MMA an opportunity to showcase her skills.

4. Why give the competition ALL THE MARKET SHARE?
With the UFC ‘refusing’ to introduce the featherweight division for WMMA into their organization, rival promotion BELLATOR has very quietly started signing many of the top 145lbs fighters in the world including Julia Budd, Marloes Coenen, Treta Nogueira, and Annalisa Bucca to exclusive contracts.  With other top talents such as Pannie Kianzad, Gabriela Holloway, Elaina Maxwell, Amanda Lucas and Arlene Blencowe still fighting on the regional shows, the UFC would be smart to attack the market share before Bellator owns the division.  With a plan to share fighters with Invicta FC, similar to what they did when they introduced TUF 20, the UFC could essentially pull the rug out from Scott Coker and company before they ever get a chance to build an audience.

5. The UFC is where the best fighters are supposed to compete!
With the UFC buying rival promotions such as PRIDE FC, StrikeForce, and WFA, the reality is the majority of the best fighters DO FIGHT for the UFC.  While there are a few names like Ben Askren, and Shinya Aoki competing outside the organization, most fans have witnessed the lack of success when champions like Hector Lombard and Eddie Alvarez finally made their way into the Octagon.  With no women’s featherweight division in the UFC, the truth is the top female fighters in that division are not in the UFC, they are in Invicta and Bellator.  With the addition of the 145lbs weight division, the UFC would finally get an opportunity to see arguably the best P4P female fighter on the planet, Cris Cyborg compete for the best promotion in the world.

Read entire blog…