The UFC doesn’t employ any kind of official ranking system – at least not publicly – and there’s absolutely no excuse for this glaring absence in the organization. Over two years ago, Dana White said that the UFC would “probably” adopt a ranking system, but that fans shouldn’t “look for any rankings anytime real soon”. During that time, with an ever increasing interest in the sport, the need for a ranking system has only grown.
There are several problems with this system, the first of which is best explained by the words of UFC welterweight fighter Jon Fitch during an interview with ProFighting-Fans.com, “Where we stand with the sport right now is we haven’t yet clearly defined whether we are a sport or entertainment. I think at times matches are made that clearly define us as a sport then other times they make matches that are purely based on entertainment.”
He’s a guy who would know. He’s been passed over for a second chance at welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre for guys like Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck. This is despite a 4 fight winning streak including a win over Paulo Thiago, who knocked out Koscheck, and a 12-1 UFC record, whereas Hardy got a title shot after 4 UFC fights and holds only one noteworthy victory, over Mike Swick.
Of course there are good reasons why Hardy got his shot, and why Koscheck is getting his rematch. Hardy is from the UK, and it’s a market the UFC has made great efforts to expand into. He also talks up a big game and draws attention. Koscheck meanwhile was selected to be the opposing coach opposite of GSP on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. His cocky attitude and it’s all about me persona are sure to draw more ratings than say, Fitch’s quiet hard work and dedication.
Those are definitely good reasons… for entertainment, and for business. But is that what sport at the highest level is supposed to be? What if the NBA automatically inserted the Lakers and the Celtics into the finals, because it would be a ratings bonanza and they liked the match-up? What if the NFL always put Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl, regardless of what they did in the season to deserve it?
As Fitch says, this is a problem of entertainment versus sport. Taken a step further, it makes all title-shots, fights for number 1 contender status and interim title fights meaningless and random. Besides matchmaker Joe Silva finding an entertaining fight and White finding a fight that will sell, what exactly are the determining factors for moving ahead in the organization?
During the buildup to fights we hear a lot about two top 10 guys meeting, or two guys battling for a title shot. Says who, besides the marketing department? Without official rankings, these are meaningless statements. Can somebody please explain to me where Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin, Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Ryan Bader, Forrest Griffin and all of the other top light heavyweights rank up against one another?
Unless two guys have fought, there’s absolutely no system in place. Who is the next heavyweight to get a title shot? Is it Junior Dos Santos or Cain Valesquez, or is it Frank Mir or Mirko Cro Cop because they are the big names?
The rankings in boxing are often absurd and shouldn’t be proudly touted, but at least there’s something to look at to see where fighters are. The UFC on the other hand can point to nothing, but they could easily make legitimate and meaningful rankings. After all, as opposed to boxing, the UFC is the promoter and the sanctioning body all wrapped into one. There would be no other organization to blame for faulty rankings, nobody to look at suspiciously with corruption.
The UFC needs official rankings, and there is not a single excuse not to have one, besides having the leeway to make match-ups based solely on personal preference. Why shouldn’t fans expect them, what would take so long or be so hard to accomplish? Fans not only should expect rankings from the UFC, they should demand them. Is the UFC in the business of entertainment, or is it a sport that entertains?
UFC Will ‘Probably’ Create Official Rankings
Jon Fitch Interview with ProFighting-Fans.com