Yesterday on a conference call with media, UFC President Dana White expressed his interest in eventually holding an Ultimate Fighter World Cup featuring winners from a variety of international versions of TUF, as well as the American champion, with one competitor eventually emerging from the bunch as the true owner of the show’s designated label.
Coordinating a worldwide tournament is a commendable goal and one possible to achieve albeit not anytime soon. Filling the brackets requires one country per slot and the sort of expansion required to increase from one to four Ultimate Fighter seasons, let alone eight or sixteen, takes time of the multiple year variety.
However, just because the UFC is unable to realistically facilitate a World Cup using Ultimate Fighter winners in the near future does not mean the idea lacks merit. It’s actually quite brilliant, though not necessarily original when considering how long fans have hungered for MMA in the Olympics as well as the success of MMA tournaments in general.
As such, I’d like to propose the notion of a UFC World Cup featuring established athletes rather than reality show stars. The Zuffa roster is deep enough to adequately fill an international tournament with individual representatives from the United States, Australia, Ireland, Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, England, Canada, France, South Korea, Denmark, Holland, and Mexico (as well as a few others I’ve forgotten to include). Bear in mind fighters wouldn’t even have to necessarily hail from a certain country as long as they’re somehow a descendent of the region so a guy like Tito Ortiz could fight under the Mexican flag or Ben Henderson for South Korea.
In the opening round of a welterweight tournament, the match-ups being determined either randomly or through internal UFC rankings, could feature something like Martin Kampmann (Denmark) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (South Korea), Dan Hardy (England) vs. Rory MacDonald (Canada), Thiago Alves (Brazil) vs. Diego Sanchez (Mexico), and Amir Sadollah (Iran) vs. Jon Fitch (USA). Or, if the UFC wants to expand to sixteen include a few more recognizable, lower-seeded names like Marcus Davis (Ireland) and Papy Abedi (Sweden) as well as a few up-and-comers potentially pulling off an upset in an early round.
Have the option for alternates, let the World Cup take place over a series of events like a Grand Prix would, and crown a champion on NYE Weekend before doing it all again in a different division the following year. If possible, it might even be wise to hold two of the events outside of the United States to play up the international flare and appeal to a global audience. White has always shied away from tournaments in the past but, with his admission that an Ultimate Fighter World Cup is a dream he’s had for awhile, it appears a window is open if not a door and now is the time to jump through it.
All I ask is leave the vuvuzelas at the door.
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