I've been a regular reader of Bloody Elbow for years and used to post Fan Posts fairly regularly. I also spent some time as a regular contributor over at Fightlinker. Over the last two years or so, however, I've simply been lurking on sites like this one without taking part in the conversation. Life happened and spending inordinate amounts of time writing about MMA took a bit of a back seat. In any event, a few recent stories around the blogosphere have peaked my interest and I figured now is as good a time as any to chime in. Here we go.
Vitor's Next Opponent. With Vitor Belfort's clear-cut stance as the top contender at middleweight, and the championship being tied up for a while for Weidman and Silva to settle things, the Phenom's next opponent has been a bit of a conundrum. He refuses to fight at middleweight and straight up turned down a bout with Tim Kennedy. Belfort has already beaten two of the top contenders at middleweight and done so in highlight reel fashion. At this point, I think the logical next step for him should be a low risk, high reward fight. In other words, Belfort should be placed in an stylistically favorable fight against someone with a bit of a name. Such a situation will allow Belfort to have a good shot of adding another impressive victory to his current streak while minimizing the possibility of getting derailed.
To that end, I would match Belfort up with either Wanderlei Silva or Cung Le. Both men are coming off of impressive knockout victories in their own right and both have legitimate name value with hardcore and casual fans alike. On top of that, the likelihood of either man shooting in on Belfort and attempting to smother him for a few rounds is incredibly unlikely. Both Silva and Le would also no doubt be willing to fight Belfort at a 195-pound catchweight. Sure, both men are well below Belfort in the rankings, but at this point anyone he fights will likely be ranked below him.
For his part, the Phenom seems intent on a fight against either Chael Sonnen or Dan Henderson. However, Sonnen already has a fight lined up against Shogun Rua, and a loss would put him at 0-3 in his past three fights, which isn't exactly a resume that should qualify him for a match against the top middleweight contender. Even if he wins, stylistically fights against Silva or Le are a bit lower risk for Belfort and would likely supply the type of fireworks fans have been expecting from him over his past few years. Henderson, similarly, is 0-2 in his past two fights, albeit both being close decisions against elite competition. Despite that, Henderson too doesn't have recent wins that would cause the fight to make all that much sense, and also has a style that would pose more problems for Belfort than Silva or Le.
Fighter Pay. There have been numerous articles written and interviews conducted over recent months over the issue of fighter pay. Pundits are clamoring for higher fighter pay, especially for those at the lower end of the cards. Dana White, for his part, suggested that he could increase the base pay of fighters but would have to sacrifice fight night bonuses, which is an idea he claims the fighters collectively rejected. Realistically, I think there is a legitimate solution to this problem that satisfies the needs of all parties: increase the base pay of fighters are the lower end of the spectrum while lowering the fight night bonus awards but keeping them intact.
If such a plan was implemented, fighters who make so little that they are literally losing money in order to fight in the UFC could at least be able to pay for their camps and training expenses while having a bit left over, whereas the UFC would still maintain the financial incentives it needs to help push fighters to put on the type of exciting performances that have made the sport popular to begin with. I would suggest raising the base salary for entry-level fighters to about $12k/$12k and decreasing the fight night bonuses from $50k a pop to, say, $35k.
There would be some kinks to work out with mid-level fighters wanting a slight pay bump to make up for the fact that the financial gap has diminished between them and guys just entering the company, which is something they would likely view as unfair. However, overall I think the details could be worked out by all those involved while the general principle I've enunciated could be implemented to help solve this problem -- for now.
Bellator's Entry Into the Pay-Per-View Market. There's no doubt that the 'Rampage' Jackson vs. Tito Ortiz fight is a few years past the point where it's actually relevant. With that said, it's probably also the only fight that Bellator can put together right now that's capable of drawing a respectable amount of pay-per-view buys.
From all indications, it seems like Bellator isn't going to be running regular pay-per-views, but will instead ask fans for pay for fights when they can put something big enough together where fans might actually be inclined to do so. For all their faults, 'Rampage' and Tito are two of the biggest names in the history of the sport and are capable of drawing attention. Will they draw anywhere close to the amount that these two were capable of pulling in back in their respective UFC primes? Absolutely not. But I'll go ahead and predict that Bellator will have no problem pulling in the 100k-150k minimum buys necessary to consider this experiment a success. I'm also sure they'll do the smart thing and surround the aging main-eventers with exciting fighters like Patricio Friere or War Machine and budding superstars like Michael Chandler or Pat Curran. And from a sporting standpoint, the main event will signify which one of these former champions should hang it up once and for all and allow the winner an opportunity to compete against a more relevant, albeit less well known, opponent. Not exactly stakes as high as, say, a UFC world title, but it's a wrinkle that adds at least some element of intrigue.
In short, this event will be deemed a failure if it's viewed in comparison to the UFC's pay-per-views. I submit that's the incorrect lens to view it through, and the event will be considered a success if view with more tempered expectations.