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« | Home | »

The product is growing stale

By Zach Arnold | July 8, 2007

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By Tim Leidecker

When a friend of mine introduced me to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts at the end of the 1990s, all was still right with the world. Sakuraba had just polished off his first Gracie, opponents were scared s$%&^*! of Tom Erikson and Igor Vovchanchyn and Ricco Rodriguez was miles away from weighing as much as a breeding bull. Still up until two years ago, MMA was a young sport looking for its place between boxing, kickboxing and professional wrestling. Much has changed in the past twenty-four months and few of it is positive from a fan’s perspective.

With the UFC gaining huge popularity as a result of the “Ultimate Fighter” reality show and PRIDE going out of business due to shady underhand dealings behind the scenes, Zuffa is now without a rival on the North American market.

As always when there is a de-facto monopoly (see Microsoft or Coca Cola), it is the customers, users and in this case the fan who suffers. And the UFC product has suffered greatly in the past couple of months: From weak fight cards (UFC 72), to anticlimactic finishes (TUF5 lightweight finale), from overhyped, disappointing “big names” (Herring, Cro Cop, Werdum) to young stars, that can’t cope with the spotlight (Griffin, Sanchez, St. Pierre), from fights that suffer greatly from the unified rules (Herring-O’Brien, Sherk-Franca) to bouts whose results are flawed because of the “ten point must”-system (Franklin-Okami, Evans-Ortiz).

What turns me off the most is the generic nature of the events: Every time you will have Bruce Buffer announcing another two “UFC warriors”, Mike Goldberg using the same old phrases (“it is all over!”), “Big John” McCarthy standing up fighters too quickly and rednecks in the audience booing once it gets back to the ground. Every time you will see strong wrestlers dominating and winning fights based on takedowns alone, just because practitioners of other styles are at a disadvantage due to the rules and their enforcement. And every time you will see super hyped main events not living up to the expectations.

That is probably the biggest bone I have to pick with Zuffa. The pre-event hype has gotten so obnoxious, it has become really hard to swallow. One superlative is hunting the next and fighters are billed as stars who are barely “Top 20” material. It is one thing to get your viewers fired up for the event, but claiming UFC 73 to be the “greatest mixed martial arts show ever” is just beyond ridiculous. Fact of the matter is, the UFC has produced only two truly great fights in the past two years: Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn from UFC 63 and Karo Parisyan vs. Diego Sanchez from UFC Fight Night 6.

Compared to PRIDE who staged unbelievable fights like Mauricio Shogun vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira or Mirko Cro Cop vs. Wanderlei Silva on a bi-monthly basis, this is simply beyond the pale. Borrowing the boxing concept of one clear-cut main event with two stars in it combined with a solid co-“main event”, mostly featuring up-and-comers, as well as a largely meaningless undercard has not helped Zuffa in their case. Despite all the hype for “Stacked”, the last UFC “mega card” with star power from top to bottom was UFC 57 which was in February of 2006.

The problem is: The UFC is not about the fighters, it’s about the product. It’s totally irrelevant whether Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko or Matt Albright holds the heavyweight title – they would all get the same treatment from the well-oiled UFC hype machine. This has made titles meaningless and fights generic. Joe Silva could probably book Alexander the Great against Achilles right now and the fight would totally drown in Mickey’s replays, movie commercials and Goldberg’s empty words.

I did an interview with Din Thomas in November of 2005 and I asked him whether he thought MMA had the potential to overtake boxing as a spectator fight sport within the next five years. His answer was as interesting, as prophetic: “I’m not sure if MMA can overtake boxing. I think the direction that MMA has taken in the US isn’t for technical athletes. I think that the direction that it’s going will explode at first but then it will die down. I think right now, it’s really exploding. I can compare it to the Jerry Springer show back in the 90’s. People just wanted to see fights and action. They got just that. After a while, it calmed down and nothing is left. MMA in the US is similar. People are not really appreciating the sport of it. They seem more interested in the excitement of it. I think there needs to be an equal balance. I am not criticizing people for wanting excitement. Hell, I enjoy watching two guys scrap too. But when a guy is penalized for not being exciting enough is damaging to the technical aspect of the sport.”

The question is: Has MMA already peaked? Or can the company, that is currently the face of the whole sport, develop and expand it in a way, that it will still be around in thirty, forty years?

Topics: All Topics, Media, MMA, Tim Leidecker, UFC | 76 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

76 Responses to “The product is growing stale”

  1. Zack says:

    “For as great as Pride was, it was a big scam that a lot of the hardcore fans bought into.”


    It’s obvious that you are a clueless new fan who lives and dies by the fight finders. The 2003 & 2004 Grand Prixs were a big scam? The LW Grand Prix was a big scam?

    If you were around and felt the anticipation for these events, you would think differently.

    I like the UFC and Pride, and I’m disappointed Pride is gone forever. I like the contrast and seeing MMA presented in different ways. It’s the same way that I liked Extreme Fighting a lot when it was around in contrast to the old UFC.

  2. Dedwyre says:

    “All articles (all links) man. We have to completely leave your website EVERY time we want to see what your referring to.


    Dude, just right click and open a new window. Or, if you can’t do that, read one thing at a time and hit the back button. It’s not that hard.

  3. Dave says:

    blah blah blah you all have something to say, Zach is god and PRIDE was the best MMA organization in the world, period. Every card was “stacked”… Sokodjou, the AFRICAN (ASSASSIN) TIGER fighting the BRAZILIAN TIGER Arona was fucking brilliant. The Japanese, not inherently racist but definitely generalizing race and fantasy are huge parts of their culture, loved it! I loved it!

  4. AJAX says:

    MR. Leidecker, thanks for that piece. Ever since I discovered this website, I’ve always been suprised that more people don’t complain or bash the awful UFC rule set. You can go back and forth about Pride and the UFC all you want, but what really matters is what goes on inside the ring(or octagon), and Pride won that battle every time. Now that all we have is the unified rules, I never buy PPV’s anymore. It’s frustrating to watch the UFC after Pride provided and diplayed levels of violence and technique that I’m afraid we’ll never see again. I get really pissed off when I think of Dana White paying the fighters too little when the UFC is making tons of cash off them, and more than that, not publicly pushing to get the rules changed. I hate it these things, but I am addicted to the news and drama of MMA, and that probably won’t change. It drives me crazy when people on here talk about the UFC ever being better than Pride. How the hell could you ever favor watching fights where takedowns rule and you can’t kick or knee downed opponents over fights that allowed almost any technique? It will always baffle me.

  5. MoreThanUFC says:

    This isn’t a Sherdog thread. If you’re going to attack other’s knowledge of MMA, at least back it up. Please englighten us with your massive MMA knowledge.

    Out of respect for Zach, I’ll attempt to keep it civil. If you didnt see the wisdom in this article, lemme guess, you started watching MMA in the last three years. Umm, I go back as far as watching Bas Rutten in Japan in the 90’s when I was in the Army. And, umm, I don’t and haven’t posted on Sherdog since it became the cesspool it is today. I guess you have experience there, I don’t. Enjoy the your “new” sport.

  6. chairibofjustice says:

    “I agree with every word. Thanks for that. Most here havent watched MMA long enought to know what the fuck your talking about.”

    I don’t agree with it at all, it’s a pretentious and self-indulgent article. And I’ve been following MMA since UFC 1. But back then we called it NHB or Vale Tudo if you were cool and we went to sites like

  7. cyphron says:

    I didn’t know people nowadays are measuring their penis size by how long they’ve watched MMA. How long one’s been a fan doesn’t make one right or wrong. You’re right, I’ve only been a fan since 2001. I guess that makes my opinion less valid than yours. Everyone here has an opinion. Just because our opinion differs from yours does not mean we’re wrong and you’re right. Unless of course, you feel you are the last authority in what is right or wrong in MMA.

    I respect your opinions, you should respect mine and others as well. If you think we’re wrong, point it out. Telling me you’ve watched MMA since Bas Rutten doesn’t cut it.

  8. Zack says:

    I was there when Kimura went to Brazil.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    “It’s obvious that you are a clueless new fan who lives and dies by the fight finders. The 2003 & 2004 Grand Prixs were a big scam? The LW Grand Prix was a big scam?”

    Not those two, but some of the others were:

    1. Grand Prix 2000 had two shining examples. First was Kazushi Sakuraba. his fight with Guy Mezger was supposed to go 1 round, and Sakuraba lost that round. Instead of letting that happen, they let the late replacement try and go a second round (Mezger). The second example is Mark Coleman. He didn’t even have a Semi-Final fight, and he gets to be fresh for the finals.

    2. Light Heavyweight Grand Prix 2005 – Rua is given the hardest draw in the first two rounds. He gets Quinton Jackson & Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Silva gets Yoshida & Nakamura. Once again, they manipulate the tournaments to favor their fighters.

    3. Grand Prix 2006 – Mirko Filipovic gets the easiest draw of any of the Heavyweights. in fact, he doesn’t have to fight a single Heavyweight until the finals. Meanwhile, Barnett had to fight Aleksander Emelianenko, Mark Hunt, & Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to get to the finals. You have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Look at that on paper, and it doesn’t even look close. It is near criminal what they did. Try and argue this point. You literally can’t.

    And don’t even get me started on the “legend” of Kazushi Sakuraba and how it was started. It was started by him beating a Featherweight, and doing so when the refs ILLEGALLY stopped the fight despite the rules stating they couldn’t. That, along with the Mezger example, are shining examples of how this company operated.

    Or how about Ricardo Arona beating Silva, and then losing a razor close decision. In the next year, he NEVER got the rubber match. Or Marcus Aurelio. He beats Takanori Gomi and then loses a razor close decision. Then he NEVER gets a rematch. Or Antonio Rogerio Nogueira being a top contender for almost 2 years, and never once getting a shot at the title.

    These aren’t examples of building up superstars. They are examples of CORRUPTION.

    I think the entire argument is summed up best with Takanori Gomi. The guy is loved by the hardcore fanbase in the United States. They think he is some kind of superstar in Japan. Yet, the Japanese actually look at him as the equivalent of a southern hick in America. He really isn’t a star. He doesn’t have a fraction of the drawing power as “Kid” Yamamoto. But because the American fan base only got the 10 events a year, and non of the legit news outlets behind it, they saw Pride for something it wasn’t. Those rose colored glasses have shattered.

  10. 45 Huddle says:

    A few other examples I forgot about:

    1. Mark Coleman doing a work in a “fight” with Nobuhiko Takada

    2. Ricco Rodriguez getting literally robbed out of a decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

    3. Yuki Kondo getting absolutely robber against Dan Henderson.

    4. And lets not forget the 50+ squash matches with the likes of James Thompson, Giant Silva, Butterbean, and various other fighters who if they competed in the UFC, would get Dana White bashed for 2 years at a time.

  11. Tomer Chen says:

    The second example is Mark Coleman. He didn’t even have a Semi-Final fight, and he gets to be fresh for the finals.

    Actually, he technically did. Fujita wanted to collect his semi-final purse and was willing to get the “TKO (Towel)” result since he knew it wouldn’t hurt his image to that “L” on his record for throwing in the towel as soon as the bout started due to his already existing injury from the quarter-finals while getting the extra cash.

    That’s not PRIDE’s call, it was Fujita.

  12. Randy Rowles says:

    Honestly. I absolutely love(d) PRIDE, and have been there since the beginning of both the UFC and PRIDE. But let’s be realistic, with no athletic commissions in Japan (which means no drug testing and no medical suspensions), and mismatched fights, they were far from ideal. Certainly, though, they’ll be idealized forever. Get real. There’s a reason PRIDE never gave actual brackets for their tournaments. After each round, they’d book fights for the advantage of certain fighters. And did I mention — I LOVE PRIDE. I just don’t believe we should sugarcoat the method to their madness. They were what they were, and I accept that and have no problem with it.

    The UFC is as good as its ever been, and who the hell can complain after UFC 73!?! Two title fights, the intensity of Evans-Ortiz, the debut of Nogueira with a great showing by Heath Herring…what would be enough? And to say there have only been two great fights in the UFC over the past two years just reeks of self-indulgance. Hundreds of fighters have went into the octagon and laid it all on the line. MMA isn’t figure skating or pro wrestling, where the athletes are peforming a routine for you. They’re fighting, and fighting ain’t always pretty.

    Above and beyond all else, I really doubt anyone goes into the octagon looking to impress Tim Leidecker. So sit at your keyboard, in your fancy pants, and wax nostalgia about PRIDE all you want. Truly competitive MMA, as the UFC is, isn’t always the most “exciting.” Sometimes a fight between two of the absolute best, like Arlovski-Werdum, is going to result in a stalemate where no one wants to lose. Indeed, PRIDE had some of the most competitive and best fights in the history of MMA, but make no mistake — there was a dark side to the organization.

    This is the second article by Leidecker on FightOpion (which I believe makes him 2-2) that I’ve thought was so completely out of touch with reality, that I just had to rant. I’m a big fan of FightOpinion, but this is definitely the last article I read by this guy.

  13. Bullock says:

    There have been a lot of rubbish editorials on the site lately… this is just another one of them.

  14. 45 Huddle says:

    Point taken Tomer Chen.

    But the majority of my other points still stand. Especially the Crop Cop & Barnett Grand Prix 2006. When you look at their roads to the finals, it is almost sickening how they stacked the deck.

    On a side note….. What is even more scary is that Josh Barnett got treated like the red headed step child in Pride, and yet his hatred for The Fertitta’s runs so deep that he still wants to go to a different organization. Makes you wonder where his mind is at. I know he is a fanboy of the Japanese culture, as well as Japanese Pro Wrestling, but if I was him and got taken advantage of like that by Pride…. I wouldn’t be singing their praises like he did right after The Fertitta’s purchased the company.

    If a company had me fight Nakamura, Aleksander, Hunt, Nogueira, Mirko, Nastula, & then Nogueira again all in one year… I would be questioning how much they actually care about me as a fighter and my career growth and safety.

  15. SergioTX says:

    I loved Pride. When UFC cards were main evented by Ortiz and some unknown Canadian kid all the way through a 18 second heavyweight title fight, Pride was hosting the 2004 and 2005 Grand Prix and watching any given Bushido event was almost guaranteed a FOTY candidate.

    But the bottom line is the UFC and Pride are different beasts.

    Pride marketed the spectacle, UFC markets the sport.

    And before you go all out and accuse the UFC hype machine as being nothing but spectacle, you must realize that hype centers around the fighters and the fight.

    UFC productions is inherently more stripped down and more “humanized” from the low-key entrances to the way the fighters are marketed.

    Pride, with its pyro and giant television screens and 3D holographic “vs.” screens suspended above the arena, was all about larger than life characters… the Fedors, the CroCops, the Axe Murderers.

  16. Zack says:

    You’re reaching trying to go all the way back to old Takada works. Pride from around #25 through 33, including all the GPs, and NYE events was the best organization in the history of MMA.

    Yes, they had some retarded mismatches, and if you want to talk about sketchy worked/thrown fights, look no further than Ogawa vs Leko at the 2004 GP…no need to go back to the 90’s. But picking apart the organization as a whole calling it “a big scam” is pretty retarded. It’s like saying the UFC is a joke because they had Ken Shamrock fight Tito twice in one year in the most pro wrestling-esque angle that I can remember in MMA. UFC hasn’t put on a real “stacked” card since UFC 52.

    Both orgs had their pluses and minuses…but for the 4 year stretch between 2003 & 2006, Pride was overall a vastly better organization than the UFC.

  17. Zack says:

    “Pride marketed the spectacle, UFC markets the sport.”

    I disagree to an extent. Pride marketed the fighters, and UFC markets their brand. As much as Pride wanted to push Yoshida/Ogawa or anyone else who was super hot, they still put on legit fights between the best guys in the world. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful of fights in recent years where the legit #1 guy fought the #2 or #3 guy. They were:

    1) Fedor vs Cro Cop (#2 on most peoples lists, but you could argue #3)

    2) Fedor vs Nog 2 & 3 (basically the same fight cuz of the NC on the 2nd one. Nog was either #2 or #3 depending on your list.)

    3) Gomi vs Kawajiri (def. top 3 at the time)

    4) Gomi vs Sakurai (def. top 3 at the time)

    5) Hughes vs GSP 2 (legit #1 vs #2)

    6) Wanderlei vs Quinton 2 (Quinton would have been ranked either 2 or 3, depending on where you wanted to put Randy)

  18. klown says:

    For all the hate this article’s getting, it has generated the most comments-per-editorial I’ve seen yet on this site…

    My 2 cents:
    (Disclaimer: I love Pride and UFC)
    The worst thing about Pride for me was referee stoppages. On rare occasions, fights were stopped early like Sakuraba vs Ken Shamrock (KS turned his back and the ref stepped in). Much more often, massacres were allowed to go on while the ref screamed “Fight!” at an unconscious mounted dude getting pummeled.

    Recent examples: Don Frye turned into a bloody punching back by James Thomspon, Yoshida’s unconscious corpse being literally dragged by the referee to the center of the ring to receive more punishment from the aforementioned JT, and several brutal beatings of Sakuraba, (and incidentally, several more murders of Sakuraba staged by K-1 as well).

    By and large, I feel the UFC refs are more responsible and care more about the fighters. This is probably not out of the goodness of their hearts, but due to the stricter regulatory culture in the US. And that’s a good thing.

  19. Mr. Phelps says:

    Zack, much respect. Fightopinion is one of the best mma resources on the web. I’m incredibly thankful to you for that. As well, the radio show is looked forward to each week. Despite the fact that the three of you seem to agree on everything even though there is ample room for contention I do enjoy the show’s format and appreciate the non-fighter / industry interviews and perspectives that separate the radio show from the plethora of other shows on the web. The knowledge you and Jeff bring to the many interesting legal and business issues in MMA is top-notch and when you write the book on Pride and all of its backstage scandals (you should, by the way) I’ll be first in line for a hardcover copy.
    That being said, I believe Bullock has a point. Editorials like this one are great for promoting discussion but are really best suited for the Sherdog forums. No disrespect to Mr. Leidecker but Fight Opinion is a more thoughtful website and deserves better. I can certainly appreciate a different opinion – hell, your writing about what was TRULY going on in Pride a year ago completely turned me around to a frame of reference more appropriate when considering DSE’s business model – but I expect a more thoughtful, well-considered, and unique perspective to the fight scene from the editorials on Fight Opinion.
    I know. Everyone has their own opinion on how you can do your job, Zack. I’m sure that really rubs you the wrong way. However, I appreciate the forum you make available to your readers to express different opinions and I admire your willingness to at least listen to our thoughts. I hope you will consider a higher standard when publishing editorial content on the website in the future.

  20. Zach Arnold says:

    Absolutely no offense taken. Any and all viewpoints are allowed on the site.

  21. MMA Geek says:

    It’s poorly reasoned and exceptionally bias writing like this that makes me want to take Fightopinion off my bookmarks and it will keep this site from getting new readers. I don’t presume that my voice is greater than any other, so all I can do is just vote with my mouse.

  22. SergioTX says:

    “I disagree to an extent. Pride marketed the fighters, and UFC markets their brand.”

    They way UFC markets their brand however is centered around the fighter. Yes, they try to convince you the UFC is the best. By proxy, their fighters must be the best.

    Agreed, though, Pride put together some phenomenal match-ups in the past few years. But rankings aren’t the end all, be all.

    I always maintained that UFC’s matchmaking, while not perfect, was much better than Pride’s. Rankings aren’t everything.

  23. Zack says:

    Sergio…you’re not wrong. The undercards of all the PPV’s before the beginning of the TUF era were VERY solid.

  24. Jonathan says:

    Why is everyone either hating on the UFC and loving Pride or hating on Pride and loving the UFC. I was a big fan of Pride, as I have siad many times before. I just liked the way that they did their shows and pretty much everything about it. I am a big fan of the Japanese scene as a whole, but that does not mean that you can’t also like the other product. I would like to see everyone try to get along more here…this place is not Sherdog.

  25. Randy Rowles says:

    In the interest of beating a dead horse, here’s a list of upcoming UFC fights we already know about for the rest of 2007…add in the ones we don’t know about yet (and a lot of the undercard fights that I haven’t listed here that are all competitive), and I can’t figure out an MMA fan could be anything but excited now that the best of the best in the world are mostly all together.

    Randy Couture vs. Gabriel Gonzaga

    Josh Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre

    Marcus Aurelio vs. Clay Guida

    Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson

    Mirko Cro Cop vs. Cheick Kongo

    Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill

    Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva

    Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua

    Jon Fitch vs. Diego Sanchez

    Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin (Part II)

    Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz (Part II)

    Sean Sherk vs. BJ Penn

    Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes

  26. Zrazys says:

    “rednecks” in the audience booing? Last time I checked, rednecks were blue collar white Southerners. Unless they’re moving out to Las Vegas in large numbers, I don’t think rednecks (the PC nigger for self-rightous/elite whites) are the problem.


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