On Wednesday Joss Gross wrote a very compelling piece, some excerpts of which follow:
As the sport continues on its path out of the wilderness -- it won't be completely clear until the thing is regulated throughout the United States, especially New York -- the new year of a new decade appears poised to shape MMA in a way that would determine the sport's relevance generations from now.
Though it may not seem so on the surface -- what with UFC breaking pay-per-view records, exposure of the sport on network television, rising fighter purses, an ever-growing fan base and increasing media coverage -- MMA remains very much in flux. UFC president Dana White may have prophesied that his company will drive MMA to become the biggest sport in the world by 2020, but there aren't any guarantees its rise will continue at all, let alone at the rate it has since 2005.
Serious issues remain unresolved, and new ones will surely arise. Concerns of oversaturation on American television will be met head on in 2010. The impact of collective bargaining for fighters could begin to play out in a real way. A dire need for competent regulation and judging is underscored each time fighters step in the cage. Expansion of MMA internationally will certainly be a story in the coming year (especially with the UFC planning a major push into Asian markets and governments like China poised to embrace the sport). And on the home front, a promotional war between the UFC and Strikeforce is likely to intensify.
He goes on to detail two specific problems that MMA is facing.
- Oversaturation of the television market. More than 100 live fight cards will be aired in 2010 -- on
Spike TV, HDNet, Showtime, Versus, CBS, Fox Sports and pay-per-view.
The UFC's refusal to co-promote means that fights that should have happened, like Randy Couture vs Fedor Emelianenko, didn't and fights that still need to happen, like B.J. Penn vs Shinya Aoki, won't. Instead we'll get B.J. Penn against the likes of Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, etc.
These are serious problems and I'm not feeling optimistic. Tell me why I'm wrong in the comments.
Gross comes out strongly in favor of co-promotion. I've long felt that was the future of the sport, but for a minute there in August 2009, it looked like Dana White would prove me wrong by signing Fedor Emelianenko.
Dana missed his moment and for now the UFC has peaked as of UFC 100. Meanwhile the coalition of Strikeforce, CBS/Showtime and DREAM has made the moves they needed to to stay alive.