The old fashioned among you and those who take the UFC’s tag line of ‘as real as it gets’ in the wrong fashion might be under the impression that the best way for a mixed martial artist to get a title shot at one of the most prestigious belts in the business is to professionally go about the business of winning fights, building a solid case as the most credible sporting contender in your division.
How wrong you are.
You see, mixed martial arts is all about viewership figures and bottom line takings, and it’s far more important to have people interested in your supposed personal rivalry with an opponent, as this generates headlines, interest and thus television and pay per view ratings and at the end of the day, dollars for yourself and the promotion.
Such naive concerns as sporting legitimacy, or the fact that other fighters have worked hard for years to put together winning streaks in the hope of earning a title shot, should not even enter your consideration.
So, assume you lost your last fight. What are you to do to keep your title ambitions on track? Well, first of all, claim that you won that fight, whether you tapped out or were rightly adjudged to have lost on points as defined by the judging criteria of the sport, the truth is a malleable thing and what actually happened isn’t nearly as important as how loudly you state otherwise.
If possible, while claiming you were robbed of a righteous victory by something as febrile as a submission or proper application of the rules, it’s important to be as offensive as possible, especially towards the fighter who’s just beaten you (thereby cheapening their victory) and the fighter who’s belt you are aiming at.
If you can be funny whilst being offensive, this works doubly well. However, you need to be confident in your material if you wish to attempt this, otherwise standard tactics of calling everyone else ‘scared’ tends to work quite well.
This has the double edged effect of making your loss out to be a moral victory and also pisses off the incumbent champion, so that they will want to beat you up so badly, they’ll make demands to the promoter that they fight you instead of the guy on a winning streak.
The next thing to do is to embark on a sarcastic campaign of social networking assaults, be it by poorly filmed YouTube videos showing you spilling your vitriol, or epic displays of trolling on Twitter. This has the effect of further antagonising the champion as well as gaining viral attention and further media interest for your rivalry.
Once this rivalry is perceived as being real and entertaining, your promoter will see nothing but dollar signs in such a match, and will attempt to milk it for all it’s worth, perhaps placing you in a high profile television slot in the lead up to the fight but certainly using your supposed rivalry to drive pay per view buys.
Do not feel in any way ashamed of using these tactics, because at the end of the day you are doing your company and all of MMA a service by making people talk about the sport and surely the more people who talk about MMA online, watch MMA on TV and buy pay per views the better for everyone?
You are practically a Saint in this business, a righteous crusader, sorely wronged and altogether deserving and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I mean, it’s not like you are stealing opportunities from hard working fighters and subtly damaging the credibility and long term viability of the entire sport? Not at all!
So my friends, step away from those tedious game planning sessions and take up your microphones and your video cameras. Forge your route to the title in months rather than years, with spit and vitriol rather than sweat and blood. Go forth and succeed!
Disclaimer: the above is very much intended as satire and Kumite does not intend any offence by the use of examples or images.
I think my point is pretty clear here. Title shots should be earned through winning streaks and the only time this should not be the case is in the event of a rematch or a late injury causing the next most suitable contender to step up and save a card.
Irrespective of rivalry or potential box office, properly planned title shots should not be given to fighters coming off a loss, and especially not to fighters who haven’t competed in a given weight class for years.
Furthermore, title shots should not be given to fighters who have recently been banned for failing drug tests or for civil criminal misdeeds. While I would not end a fighters career for such misdemeanours, they should not be rewarded with the tacit support of a credible sporting organisation.
Such practises are an affront to the concept of MMA as a legitimate sport. You don’t see a nation contesting the FIFA World Cup Final having been eliminated earlier in the competition because ‘it’ll be a better match’ and you don’t see a golfer competing on the last day of the Masters having missed the cut because he’s got a grudge against the guy in the lead.
If MMA is to thrive and continue to progress into the mainstream, it needs to remember that it’s titles must mean something. They should be held by, and defended against the best fighters available at a given time, not the fighters who talk the best trash.
Of course, when a fighter combines a winning streak with a compelling personality, this brings a perfect storm which is ideal for all involved.
Booking for rivalries rather than sporting credibility is short sighted, and diminishes the sports legitimacy. All MMA promotions should strive to keep their belts meaningful, to the point where a title match is a box office draw independently of the fighters involved’s personalities, because they are fighting for the title and that means they are the BEST.
People watch Wimbledon because its the best Tennis competition in the world, not because Andy Murray hates… well everybody.
People watch top notch golf events, top football, rugby, basketball and whatever damn sport you like events because the person who stands tall at the end of the day, is the best in the world in their class.
MMA should be no different because if our major promotions fail to realise that ‘As Real As It Gets’ should be more than a catchphrase, I fear we’ll one day be tuning into the Ultimate Entertainment Championship…