Let me start by saying I am big supporter of what Affliction pulled off in their first event and have always been a passionate fan of the UFC. From UFC, Affliction to EliteXC to you name it there is no doubt about the deep talent that exists in each organization and that MMA as a whole is a rocket of momentum.
As they handed Fedor the heavyweight belt at the end of the Affliction event in Anaheim and declared him the “only” and “true” “world” heavyweight champion I couldn’t help but question the validity of that claim while dodging the exploding confetti.
After watching Fedor toy with Tim Sylvia it would be hard to argue that he is not the best in the game today. He’s just that good… but that’s not my point.
The rise in popularity of the UFC was based on a single premise – let’s take everyone and anyone in the mixed martial arts field as well as just your everyday tough guy and put them in a fight. See who wins. Have ONE champion. End any debate. It was the allure that brought millions of people to the sport of MMA and at the same time had them bored with boxing. Quick, can you name the heavyweight champions in boxing today? There is more than one and that is one more than anyone cares about.
The UFC went from one champion to multiple title holders in various weight classes. That was a logical decision and a must if it was ever going to become the mainstream sport it is today.
Taking it to the next level of having multiple champions across different organizations creates confusion for the average fan and moves away from the unique and successful proposition that kicked off the UFC – a single champion.
The second and perhaps more objective reason for having one organization is economics. Time after time it has been proven in mainstream sports that it is extremely tough to generate the dollars required to support multiple organizations. Anyone remember the World Hockey Association? They had someone named Wayne Gretzky before folding to the NHL. How about the American Football League? Eventually consolidation in football was the only conclusion when the NFL and AFL combined for the first Super Bowl. Why do we think the UFC and Affliction would be any different?
The upstart organizations all kicked off with the same model – sign a big name to big bucks. Joe Namath signed a record contract with the AFL, Bobby Hull did the same with the WHA and the fees raked in by the top fighters at Affliction Banned were a good indication of where things are heading. Then eventually, economics catches up with them and the consolidation talks start.
Eventually, what the MMA fan wants is a sustainable mainstream organization with one true champion. That’s what MMA was all about at the start – bringing everyone together from the various disciplines to a single fight. Let’s see who is the best. Simple.
I’m still going to watch and attend every UFC and Affliction event possible but for the good of the sport long term – one organization, one champion please.