Sam Caplan has a very good column on Affliction that outlines some of the reason competition in MMA is so important:
I feel like competition keeps a company honest. Competition not only brings the best out of athletes, it brings the best out of businesses. If there is only one MMA company then there is a possibility of the sport’s middle class being eliminated. If we live in a UFC-only world, fighters will have almost no leverage when negotiating with Zuffa. Their options will either be to fight under their terms or keep trying to grind out a living on the regional circuit.
The new structure of the business with only one company could be to fight for the entry-level minimum or main event money. They days of fighters making $30,000-$60,000 fight could potentially cease to exist. If you aren’t considered a draw, you might not get paid, as just being a good fighter might no longer be good enough.
Fans and the media could get shut out as well with only one company. If there’s only company in existence, the UFC could retain the ability to essentially decide who gets to cover this sport and who doesn’t. There’s also the potential for ticket and pay-per-view costs to go up if there’s only one place for MMA fans to invest their dollars.
And this MMA Rated piece about the plight of Travis Lutter illustrates what's already happening to one talented fighter who made a mistake, pissed off Dana and now finds himself without a place to ply his trade:
"I would like to be fighting," Lutter told MMARated.com today. "To be honest, I'm a little frustrated that I haven't found a home."
When we spoke to Lutter immediately following his release close to five months ago, he mentioned that he had preliminary talks with the now-defunct IFL and Affliction. Apparently, nothing came of those talks.
"I might have to take a fight on a smaller show just to get my name out there and build up my career again because it's a little frustrating that my career has stalled," Lutter said.
Lutter's screw-ups annoyed me as much as anyone, but he failed to make weight for a title fight, he didn't murder anyone. There's no reason such a talented fighter -- and the guy is one of the best 50 middleweight fighters in the world -- shouldn't be able to make a living competing.
If there's no way for a fighter as talented and accomplished as Lutter to make a living fighting, that's a huge disincentive for athletes to enter the sport.
Lutter's not the greatest but I still enjoy watching him fight and the same goes for other fighters like Josh Barnett and Matt Lindland who have been told they'll never fight for the UFC again.
It's not about the merits of these fighters, its about whether or not one company should have total control of the sport to the extent that they can choke off the careers of fighters who piss them off.