I have to admit that I have had LOST on the brain for the last week. That combined with an illness and short hospital stay last week means I really don’t have a lot to say this week. I found myself watching two broadcast MMA events on Saturday night and realized something: there are too many fights and not enough fighters. This is a topic of debate for MMA fans all the time. It’s the old quality vs. quantity argument. It’s a Catch-22 because more fights mean more opportunities for young fighters (good) and more opportunities for what I witnessed on Saturday night (bad).
One main event paired a former UFC Heavyweight Champion on the downside of his career (a nine second loss to Mercer) vs a former Worlds Strongest Man with questionable MMA training. My first thought was how was this fight sanctioned? More importantly, my second thought was why was this fight made and who though it would be remotely competitive? Other then turning a deep shade of purple the former WSM showed little to no MMA skills and the fight was lopsided as expected. The other main event matched a 40-year-old Olympic silver medalist coming off two losses against a young fighter with a 3-2 record. The sad thing about this fight was how close the 3-2 guy came to making it a real fight.
On average there seems to be about one or two big MMA events each week. With two UFC events a month, UFN shows, WEC cards, Strikeforce, Bellator and so on, that’s a lot of televised MMA (and I try to watch it all). There are just not enough skilled fighters to go around. Don’t get me wrong, the overall talent level in MMA is rising at a fast pace and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the lighter weight classes. However, outside of these main organizations it is hard to put together a competitive and exciting fight card. MMA training is complex and it takes many years to develop well-rounded and skilled fighters. A fighter has to dedicate himself to the sport at a young enough age so that at the same time he has developed the requisite skills he is also near his physical peak. As an example, a female gymnast will need to start training at around six so they have about ten years of training when ready to compete at the world class level at sixteen (it would be younger if not for the rules, just ask the Chinese). This is why we are seeing more and more world class amateur wrestlers in the top levels of MMA. However this brings its own set of problems in regards to the types of fights. Wrestlers have a tendency to have very methodical ground and pound type fights. They often win by dominant decision but these fights can be trying for the average fan. Some of these wrestlers round out their games as they compete but that is hard to do while competing at the top levels and trying not to lose.
So what’s the answer? The truth is, I don’t know. Part of the solution will happen organically. As more people start training MMA at a younger age we will start to see the same level of athletes as we have in other sports. Kids programs in MMA will become more popular and more young talent will start showing up on the scene. Instead of teens or young adults coming to MMA after their competitive careers in wrestling, football and track are over, they will begin to train MMA as their initial goal, not as an after thought. When we can combine athletic kids and early MMA training we will have our next evolution in MMA. Organizations will have more talent then they can handle and the fans will not be subjected to some of the side shows we have recently seen.
Final thought. I LOVED the Lost series finale. Now I need a new show to fill my weekly geek TV time. But not another MMA show, please.