3.) Looks Are Valued More Than Skill:
Another aspect of why the UFC is becoming more like the glitz-and-glamour, the appearance-based focus of the WWE is their insistence to promote fighters because of their looks rather than their MMA records or skills.
This has been seen most overtly in the cases of UFC lightweight Sage Northcutt and women’s strawweight Paige VanZant. Both fighters got off to incredibly hot starts in the UFC against lesser competition who allowed them to look good in fighting in addition to looking good for the camera. The UFC took notice of this, and being a business, correctly began to push the two aesthetically pleasing martial artists with a major promotional shove.
It was going well for a while, but things sort of hit the skid when both Northcutt and VanZant started losing. Northcutt seemed to get his ground game exposed after submission losses to Bryan Barberena and Mickey Gall, yet it was strange to see him featured much higher on the card than Barberena was at UFC on FOX 22.
After a three-fight win streak to begin her UFC career, VanZant was battered and submitted by current champion Rose Namajunas. She rebounded to knock out Bec Rawlings in her next fight, but was again submitted by Michelle Waterson and has not fought since. She’s set to return at the newly-created women’s flyweight division in January, but after a taste of stardom with a run on “Dancing With The Stars,” VanZant’s drive to become a UFC champion may or may not be waning.
Both Northcutt and VanZant have found some sort of success in the Octagon, but when they get finished after receiving a massive promotional push, it only serves to make the UFC look silly. For example, Northcutt was featured in a commercial with dominant UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson this year. Johnson is considered the most peerless champion in the UFC and arguably the best pound-for-pound-fighter in the sport’s history. Even though the jury is still out on the young “Super Sage,” there was no clear link between the two fighters, Northcutt was just there for his looks.
They may help sell UFC events to a more mainstream audience, but mounting losses and a commensurate lack of promotion for other more winning fighters make the UFC seem like they’re focused on the wrong thing for their fanbase.