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FightNoob Vol. 4 – Know Your Promotions

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FightNoob is a recurring series on Single Blog Takedown where we help new fans and neophytes understand the sport of mixed martial arts. This is the fourth edition. Previous editions can be found right here.

Volume 4: Know Your Promotions

It was rare that the baseball season and my time in college overlapped; it only happened for a few short weeks at the beginning and end of each school year. Knowing that, I tried to get down to Durham Bulls Athletic Park as often as possible to see the local minor leaguers ply their trade. The atmosphere was fantastic, the Bulls have a proud history (thanks in part to Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins), and even though the overall level of competition wasn’t major league, I got to see some guys come through the program that would go on to become stars when they contributed to the Tampa Bay Rays’ improbable 2008 AL Championship run.

When I graduated, I moved to DC for the first year of the Washington Nationals’ existence and now they occupy my summertime. In spite of their, uh, questionable on-field prowess, I love having a local major league baseball team. Seeing the best in the world come through our fantastic new park, being able to talk baseball at the bar with everyone in town, Ben’s Chili Bowl at the game… all wonderful. But you will never catch me knocking the great times I had in the DBAP outfield.

So it is with mixed martial arts. The UFC is the clear major league of the sport, with the best roster and the biggest shows. There are a couple promotions I’d consider triple-A and a few more making strong names for themselves. There are plenty of fans who watch UFC exclusively – I certainly watch them much more than many of the other promotions. Remember, though, my minor league analogy above. Just because UFC is the biggest game in town, it does not mean they are the only game. If you’re new to mixed martial arts, some of these promotions may have escaped your view, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. On the contrary: the more MMA you watch, the more you’ll learn. In addition, multiple promoters mean that the best fighters in every weight class aren’t always in the same promotion.

Here are a series of capsule looks at some the MMA promotions you ought to know.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
In a nutshell: Dominant in the MMA world, they powered through early troubles to recent success.
Notable fighters: Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre, Randy Couture, Chuck Lidell, Lyoto Machida, BJ Penn, and that’s just listing active fighters. Once home for Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Mark Coleman, Pat Miletich, and other legends

A brief history: Pioneer of MMA on PPV. Driving force behind the unified rules of mixed martial arts, due to a backlash against the company. Tremendously close to bankruptcy twice, first when the Fertitta brothers and Dana White bought the company in 2001 and then again in 2004 after years of hemorrhaging money. Then: The Ultimate Fighter. Bonnar-Griffin. Liddell-Couture III. Tremendous successes, all. A steady and rapid rise to the top of the business. Acquired WEC in 2006 and PRIDE in 2007.
Why you should care: Nearly a million PPV buys per card can’t be wrong.
Why they’re on their way up: Overwhelming public recognition as the face of MMA, in addition to the best roster of fighters around, means that they should solidify their position as the leaders in MMA while underequipped promotions continually fall by the wayside. They have unmatched stability at the top of the game; other promotions need to take risks to catch them, and risks carry the possibility of failure.
Why they’re on their way out: President Dana White and his nitroglycerine temper could mean volatility for the promotion. In addition, failure to land a major network television deal could lead to a lack of mainstream exposure; particularly if Strikeforce can land one first. They could also perhaps get hit by a giant meteor.

Strikeforce
In a nutshell: The #2 promotion in America and a possible contender to the throne… someday. Maybe.
Notable fighters: Fedor Emilianenko, Gina Carano, Cris “Cyborg” Santos, Frank Shamrock, Cung Le
A brief history: A kickboxing organization for a long time that branched into MMA in 2006. A strong regional showing in California led to expansion in 2008 and deals with NBC and Showtime. President Scott Coker is one of the more experienced promoters in the business.
Why you should care: As the most visible promotion behind UFC, there’s going to be a lot of MMA media coverage on the “rivalry”. There’s also going to be a lot of coverage on Fedor, who many consider the world’s top heavyweight. Strikeforce is also America’s top promotion for women’s MMA.
Why they’re on their way up: Recent partnerships with DREAM and M-1 Global will expand the roster to give their fans some great fights. Their success in the realm of women’s MMA also bodes well for their ability to build a roster in other classes.
Why they’re on their way out: There’s a lot of worry that the Fedor signing (and attached M-1 Global deal) represent bad news for Strikeforce’s business model, which was focused on building big stars from within instead of signing them to massive contracts. If the Fedor deal goes sour, so could Strikeforce. And they’re still playing from way behind when it comes to catching up with UFC.

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