A Fantasy, Fixing MMA with European Soccer

The UEFA Champions League, M-1, the UFC, and the WEC are all in the midst of, just finished with or about to conduct major events, and its giving me a peculiar type of sports fantasy.

An International Soccer Primer for the U. S. Sports Fan

In the U.S. we are used to a one sport one league system.  For Basketball there is the NBA, for baseball there is the MLB, for Football there is the NFL, the list goes on.  There are other leagues that play these sports both foreign and domestic but they are little brothers — minor, or development leagues.  There may be players in European basketball leagues or Japanese baseball leagues who could play in the principle American league now or will one day play in that league but the leagues taken as a whole do not have the same talent as the major leagues.

Soccer operates under a different paradigm in soccer there are so many different countries with the desire to watch and a history of supporting club teams that rather than form into one organization like the NBA each country has its own league.  While players may come from all over the world to play each country has its own league with its own championship. Just as the Cubs players are not all from the U.S. many player on Manchester United are not from the U.K. Internally these leagues function similarly to American leagues the difference is in their cooperation.

Club teams in European soccer leagues (and soccer leagues around the world) compete against each other every year in tournaments. These games are not exhibition games but actual championships with prestige and serious monetary consequences for the football clubs.  In Europe where the best talent is divided between many leagues the clubs find a way to have the best compete with the best.Picture 2

Now Let’s Turn Our attention to Mixed Martial Arts

In its history there have been a number of different promotion agencies associated with mixed martial arts.  They have had different rules different fighters and covered different parts of the world.  Right now the dominant league (in terms of reputation, number of fighters and quality of product) is the UFC. Still, many Mixed Martial Arts fighters are not under contract with the UFC and fight for different promotion agency.  Notably Fedor Emelianenko (considered one of the best fighters in the history of the sport) fights with M-1 Strikeforce.

Many fight fans hope that the UFC will gain such dominance of the sport that they will become like the NFL and rival leagues will be unsuccessful, or simply become feeder leagues. The league has hosted a number of great fights, and is developing a good reputation by putting together regular and high quality events.  For now, however, the UFC lacks a monopoly on Mixed Martial Arts, and in some cases the best don’t all belong to the UFC.  For the fan this means the best don’t always fight the best.

The European Solution

Why not host a tournament of Champions?

To me this solution seems like it is tailor made for MMA and it has a precedent in the world of mixed martial arts. Take eight fighters from as many weight classes as you like and seed them to compete in a two day tournament.  These fighters wouldn’t have to sign with the UFC, Strikeforce, Dream or anyone else they would just be invited to participate in an event where they would be able to fight the very best in the world.

This Tournament like the UEFA Champions League would be overseen by representatives from each of the organizations involved.  It would not effect the title or championships of the respective leagues, it would only give them another bigger better stage to compete on. In Europe clubs dream of the chance to compete against the best in the UEFA Cup there is no reason that a similar tournament couldn’t entice fighters. Its heartbreaking the Fedor doesn’t fight the best heavey weights in the world.  Its also a shame that many of the greatest fighters in Japan never get to face off against their counterparts in the states. This tournament could fix that.

The Ugly Truth

Unlike European Club soccer leagues MMA leagues are young.  They are probably too new and too unsure of their own product and long term viability to host something like a Champion’s League.  But, if they do I will be the first one to tune in…

Especially if it’s not on pay-per-view…

And that’s another thing…

Kicks to the Head of a Downed Opponent, Mixed Martial Arts and Rules for Pro-Fighters

In this interview Elias Cepeda argues that Mixed Martial Arts is unique in sport, because it more accurately simulates combat than any other form of fight sport.  For years, he argues, students of fighting styles like kickboxing, boxing, and jujitsu have competed only against other students in their own disciplines.  What is exciting about Mixed Martial Arts (from here on referred to as MMA) is seeing all of these styles tested in an environment where all are welcome to compete.  By taking out a lot of the rules MMA has made a more real, and Elias would argue better, fighting scenario.

But, even mixed martial arts has rules.  What rules are good rules? Elias argues that fighters should be allowed to strike each other with elbows anywhere, kick downed opponents and strikes to the groin among other things.

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This may sound like a fantastic series of claims, but Elias has well-considered arguments in support of each of them. I have my own opinion on this but, I’d ask you to listen to his interview and draw your own conclusions.

Elias Cepeda is a journalist for Inside Fighting and a friend of mine.  Elias has covered boxing and Mixed Martial arts for UFC.com, Fox Sports on MSN, and numerous other publications.

photo credit: MartialUniversity.org

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Look for next podcast Tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Central time.