That headline would create loud outcries from the boxing community. However, "ESPN's MMA Live to Feature WAMMA Rankings" garnered very little attention from the MMA community. Maybe it's the fact that WAMMA is considered little more than a joke by many fans of the sport or maybe it's that it wasn't really seen as deserving of coverage. We all know where I stand. Either way I find the lack of attention a little disconcerting.
What needs to be realized is that WAMMA's goal is to change the fundamental structure of our sport and what they do with these rankings is a large part of that mission. They are a sanctioning body looking to make money from sanctioned title fights based off of their own rankings. While they can honestly say that the ranking body is make up of external and respected sources it doesn't really matter. What matters is what they do with the rankings. On the March 19 edition of ESPN.com's MMA Live Pat Miletich said that they want to become what the AP Poll is for college football which is a sickening misrepresentation of what they are doing.
The AP Poll determines champions based on the votes of its members. If the AP were to say "the SEC doesn't want to work with us so we will not be recognizing their teams as potential champions" they'd instantly lose credibility with sports fans everywhere. WAMMA's rankings are irrelevant because they carry very little weight in determining who can be recognized as an undisputed champion for the organization. I know I have harped on this point in the past but WAMMA's CEO and COO said directly to me that they would have sanctioned Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Lindland for the undisputed middleweight title. At this point in time (September 2008) Lawler was 100 points behind Anderson Silva and Lindland was 245 points back in the Meta Rankings. If that fight had happened would a single person on WAMMA's ranking board have considered Robbie Lawler to be the "undisputed" champion of a division featuring Anderson Silva? I would hope not seeing as how there would be an awful lot to dispute. But it wouldn't matter because Lawler would be removed from the 1-10 portion of the rankings and placed as "champion" above the clear cut top fighter in the division.
This is what makes me question why ESPN would choose to allow Pat Miletich to come on MMA Live every month and give their rankings any attention at all. They don't give an accurate picture of the generally accepted status of each division but rather are simply the blueprint that this sanctioning body uses to try to find fights that they are able to profit from.
Delving further into the first appearance by Miletich on Live you've got him pushing for guys like Lawler, Belfort and Shields to be ranked higher while arguing that Josh Koscheck and other UFC fighters should be moved down. It seems odd to me that Pat would be making a public appearance to promote their rankings and then would spend time criticizing where his highly touted ranking board has placed fighters.
Finally, after talking about the need for the #1 and #2 fighters in a division to fight Pat goes on to explain that B.J. Penn can't be in the running for a WAMMA title without being able to cross promotional boundaries to make these types of fights happen. So I say again, what are the point of the rankings? Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida is a #1 vs. #2 fight according to WAMMA's own rankings, just like Henderson/Silva was at the time, just like GSP/Fitch was at the time and following Evans/Machida the winner will face Rampage in what will be another #1 vs. #2 fight. The idea that Jon Anik can say in no uncertain terms that he thinks Penn is #1 at lightweight and all Miletich can say in response is that he isn't eligible to be champion should be all the reason ESPN needs to cut ties with WAMMA.