The absolute hardest thing that can be agreed upon by members of the media, promoters, fans and managers are rankings. And that’s what makes this week’s question from David in New York so interesting. He writes, “How do you feel about the UFC adopting an actual ranking system for their fighters?”
He goes on to explain why he thinks it is a good idea not just for each weight class but for a pound for pound citing guys who fight in multiple weight classes. There’s good logic behind his question and now it is time to break this thing down.
First let’s dismiss one part of the rankings, the pound for pound. This is a ranking that I personally hate with a passion. The argument is that if all things were equal, who would be the better fighter. The problem is, all things aren’t equal. Comparing Jose Aldo to Jon Jones is just ridiculous. The only way that this works is by comparing the competition that each has faced and how well they have done and not their skill set necessarily. Weight classes are a real thing, and a much needed thing. I HIGHLY doubt that if we still had the open weight tournaments that we would see someone like Aldo enter it just due to how much weight is given up. So for the question of the UFC adopting a ranking system, pound for pound is out.
Now to the real meat of the question and what it would give us the fans. If the UFC developed a way to rank the fighters we would always know who is number one and who is number two. This is a given. We would also know how important a single fight could be for a fighter if we had the full listing of where everyone stood. It also would make it much easier for the fans to keep track of who is fighting next for the title assuming that we go in numerical order and there aren’t injuries.
Before we dive deeper into this, as an editorial note, anyone remember when Demian Maia fought Anderson Silva? He was a replacement for Vitor Belfort at UFC 112 and was touted by the UFC as a “top 6 middleweight”. Translation, he was ranked number 6 at the time.
Back to the UFC and if they should take a hard stance and create a ranking system. Should they? Probably. Will they? Not a chance.
Personally I believe that they have an internal ranking of each fighter for multiple things including their weight class, their cost to the company, the income they bring into the company, ease of working with, etc… Any number of metrics there is someone in the UFC’s offices who is keeping track of everything every fighter is doing. But publicly they won’t disclose this. And it is these other factors that are reasons why the UFC keeps several fighters after multiple loses (think Dan Hardy, Leonard Garcia).
But publicly should the UFC release a ranking system? The answer is no. Unlike all the other major sports that are televised where there are simple formulas that help us determine who is number one and who is number five, there isn’t one in the UFC. We have one measuring stick for who is number one and who the rest of the group is and that is the championship belt.
The argument for having these rankings is that it would force a champ to fight the number one contender. The downside is that it would sometimes leave us without a fight we want to see. Sure the argument could be made that without the rankings we aren’t seeing some fights either and we will get to that in a bit.
The UFC is a profitable company. It is exists, not to put on fights, but to make money by putting on fights. For that reason there are times when every champion has to take a fight that has people scratching their head.
A perfect example is why Frankie Edgar is getting the title shot at Jose Aldo in his first fight at featherweight after losing not one, but two fights in a row to Ben Henderson. Yes they were close fights, but at the end of the day, he lost. So why is Edgar stepping ahead of Ricardo Lamas and Chang Sung Jung? Money and marketing.
Aldo isn’t near as big a household name as he should be. Throw Edgar in there and the PPV is likely to see a much bigger buy rate than if it was Lamas. Not taking anything away from Lamas as he is deserving of that shot, but his name recognition isn’t out there. But the UFC is working on that recognition. They are putting Lamas on a Fox card with MILLIONS of people watching. The lowest UFC on Fox ratings had 2.4 million people watching it. The highest UFC ppv had 1.6million purchases and that was with Brock Lesnar on it.
2012 was a horrible year for the UFC. Nearly every main event was changed due to injury as well as several fights on the rest of the cards. Never in the history of the UFC had they had so many injuries. As such, PPV buys went down, and the vault with gold coins in it, isn’t near as high as it was projected to be.
The biggest snub of a division with potential title challengers is middleweight. Several names for the past 18 months have been screaming as loud as they can that they are deserving of a title shot and that they have what it takes to beat Anderson Silva. But at UFC 155 those same guys all lost. Tim Boetsch lost to Costa Philippou who has been quietly getting wins in the UFC but stated he knows he isn’t ready for Anderson Silva. Alan Belcher couldn’t counter Yushin Okami’s grappling game and got smothered in a unanimous decision loss. Both Belcher and Boetsch were saying they were at the top of the echelon of fighters. But now with those losses the question not only is are they still, but were they ever to begin with.
Now there are a few guys who are deservedly number one contenders and are being snubbed, Chris Weidman and Johny Hendricks come to mind but they will either win their next fight, or get their title shot.