PRIDE and The UFC went head to head for years trying to become the preeminent organization in the world. Zuffa and the beasts of Las Vegas won that fight, and have kept a chokehold on the competition every since. Startups like Affliction/DREAM/EliteXC have appeared with big pockets, and have subsequently left the business with them empty (at least the promotional side). However, promoters are still trying their hand at this risky business and some have are having a bit of success. This article will be detailing some promotions that show promise, some that seem to be treading water, or are probably on their way to Dana's rumored grave yard located at Zuffa HQ.
ONE Fighting Championship
The heir apparent to PRIDE and DREAM in Asia (although DREAM continues to stay afloat somewhat), ONE FC is the place for mixed martial arts in the eastern part of the world. They have run 9 events since late 2011, and have drawn both good numbers and adequate praise for each card. Its roster of fighters might not compare to the other promotions shooting for #2, but it is the main promotion for Shinya Aoki and Bibiano Fernandes (2 guys who have been in and out of the top ten for a few years).
Although it doesn't have a roster of burgeoning prospects or the money to lure top tier draws, ONE FC's location and ties to the Asian community (as well as its other promoters) should keep them in business for at least the considerable future.
World Series Of Fighting
If this article would have been written 3 months ago I'm not sure if the WSOF would even be in the conversation. They had a few UFC castoffs, and some kickboxers who are never going to be anything great in mma. Their TV deal, while being a center piece for the organization, wasn't bringing a good amount of viewers in. The live shows weren't bringing in a high amount of spectators, and I'm sure Ray Sefo and the other investors were feeling a bit nervous. Some questionable cuts by the UFC changed that beginning in March.
Aaron Simpson was brought over, and was thought to be the next title challenger for the WSOF welter weight division. A couple months later one of the greatest welterweights of all-time, Jon Fitch, was signed to be the face of WSOF. The problem is they ran into Josh Burkman. After Jordan Mein ended Josh's three fight win streak back in 2011, he had rattled off 3 straight wins. While beating former UFC fighter Gerald Harris was a great accomplishment he wasn't supposed to beat Aaron or Jon. He stopped both in the first round.
Now the WSOF suddenly has a fighter to build around, a viewership base that has grown with every show, and packed audiences that very well could be showing up because of the UFC castoffs that probably should still be fighting there. This business is fickle so them folding sooner rather than later wouldn't be a surprise, but as of right now they appear to be headed in the right direction.
Number 2. This is the biggest opponent to Zuffa's reign at the top of fighting. Bellator not only carries big name draws like "King" Mo Lawal and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, but they also carry to of the best fighters in all of mma in Pat Curran and Mike Chandler. Their tournament format provides a different perspective to the UFC's model, and it has produced some exciting nights of fighting (even when the people competing aren't necessarily good fighters). A lingering problem for them tends to be the thought that their contracts aren't in the fighters best interests though.
Their former #1 fighter Eddie Alvarez is currently involved in a lawsuit with the SPIKE owned property. He's not the only fighter to have problems the promotion in this regard either. Tyson Nam was locked into his non-compete clause after knocking out Eduardo Dantas last year in a show that wasn't even promoted by Bellator. Jonathan Brookins complained that he was barely able to complete on the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter, because of a finished agreement with Bjorn Rebney's promotion and the list goes on. While the UFC has had some similar problems in the past, they aren't trying to get to the top level of competition, Bellator MMA is. Their new show "Fightmaster" isn't half bad either.
The death of Strikeforce earlier this year set the rest of the fighting world back in terms of competition for Zuffa's crown jewel. However, there is viable competition taking place in more places than one right now and it doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. And since there is no UFC fighters' union at the moment, that's a great thing for the athletes competing in mma. As always Lowkickers, let me know what you think in the comments section!
Renato "Babalu" Sobral retired in the cage after his fight Wednesday night. Sobral wasn't exactly a legend, but he was at one time a top tier light-heavyweight in mma. Babalu's list of conquered foes includes Chael Sonnen, Pele', Jeremy Horn, and Robbie Lawler. He was also the first person to defeat Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
He'll receive no parting words from the UFC, no send off on the larger level of fighting so I decided I'd tell him thank you here. I was never a huge fan of him, and I thought he held on for a few years too long in his career. However, I always respected him. From 2002-2006 he was unbeaten, and was one of the most feared men in combat sports with his mixture of high paced grappling and submissions. He was a great fighter at one point in his career.
So thanks for the memories Babalu, you were always entertaining.