Since 1993, the UFC has been a company on the rise, especially in the last decade when the company skyrocketed in popularity and public visibility, due in part to the success of The Ultimate Fighter TV show and popular fighters like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar, Jon Jones, and Chuck Liddell bringing in huge PPV audiences. Yet like any company, there are downsides to expanding along with all of the benefits. In the last few years since UFC started its partnership with FOX, the company has seen instances of PPVs being outright cancelled, high profile issues with fighters outside the cage, and other issues.
The UFC has done some things to try and combat these issues, but sometimes it is a matter of trying to just wade through the storm in the hopes that a better solution shows up to fix the problem. Many of these problems have been bubbling to the surface over the years, while others are brand new issues that have come from the UFC’s recent expansion. No matter when they started, they are problems that need to be addressed in order for the UFC to survive and continue to grow as the premier organization for MMA fighting. It is not something new for the UFC, but it does seem like there are more issues than ever before, including some that are much more dangerous to growth and survival of the promotion. This list is designed to look at the biggest problems facing the promotion right now, along with how the UFC can curb these problems. Now I am not saying that these problems can be fixed overnight, but they can definitely be slowed down before they get any bigger or to the point where it causes the UFC to bleed out a slow death.
9 Issues Outside the Cage
In the last couple years alone, there has been a seeming increase in public faux pas by UFC fighters or staff. Most recently, commentator Mike Goldberg went on a tirade on Twitter after being fired from being a NFL commentator for FOX. Also, ex-UFC fighters War Machine and Jason “Mayhem” Miller have had serious run-ins with the law, stemming from a vicious attack on an ex-girlfriend and warrants from a domestic dispute with a family member, respectively. The problem here for the UFC lies in the fact that even though the fighters in question haven’t been with the promotion for a while, years in the case of War Machine, they are listed in news articles as former UFC fighters rather than current Bellator fighters or retired fighters. Add this to the fact that current fighters Anthony Johnson and Thiago Silva have been suspended or cut due to an allegation of Johnson punching his girlfriend and Silva being on camera aiming a gun at his wife.
8 Lack of Title Defenses
7 Too Few Established Names
6 Weak Ultimate Fighter Lineups
5 Fighters Refusing Fights
4 Fighter Pay
While I believe that fighter pay could be improved upon, I also understand that if you want to be paid more, you need to prove it inside the cage. There have been many vocal opponents to the UFC’s paying methods as of late, including Tim Kennedy and Jose Aldo.
3 Meaningless Ranking System
2 The Injury Bug
A couple years back, the UFC instituted a insurance program wherein fighters who got injured leading up to a fight could receive some payment for their training, since they would be unable to receive their payment for the fight. Unfortunately, this has led to fans seeing a steep increase in fights either being changed or cancelled outright. It has gotten to the point that it is a miracle if a card does not have at least two fights changed before the event happens. A recent example was UFC 177, where the main event between T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao was changed the day before the fight after Barao fell down trying to cut weight, leading to debuting prelim fighter Joe Soto moving up to fight for the title. This in turn cancelled his fight with Anthony Birchak, and then on the same card, the fight between Scott Jorgensen and Henry Cejudo was cancelled after Cejudo also had issues with cutting weight, effectively cancelling three fights in the twenty-four hours before the event.
1 Lack of Strong Cards
When the UFC started, they would hold tournaments maybe once every few months, yet after the popularity boom from The Ultimate Fighter, the number of cards per year has exploded to previously unimaginable heights. This year alone there are almost enough events to have one every week of the year. The UFC has even gotten braggadocios in having two events happen on the same day, multiple times this year. Unfortunately, this has led to many events not featuring a lot of name brand fighters with star power. Recently, UFC 171 was cancelled after Featherweight king Jose Aldo was injured and there was not enough star power to keep the card intact. More famously was the debacle known as UFC 151 where Dan Henderson was injured before his fight with Jon Jones, who then refused to fight the replacement challenger Chael Sonnen, leading to a very public spat with Dana White who blamed Jones’ selfishness for the cancellation of the card.
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