We knew it would happen.
The sports (entertainment) are too similar to not borrow from one another. Yes, we all know wrestling is scripted (read fake to the ignorant), but at the root of it all, it involves two athletes getting into a ring or cage to, for lack of a better term, kick the crap out of one another. The athletes on both sides are incredibly fit, muscular, and have gone through more training to compete than most people do in their lives. They put their bodies on the line to move up in the organization, to entertain, and to win the strap. And at the grassroots level, these athletes do this for extremely little money with the only reward being experience and a story to tell.
Like a school-aged child I will say that "WWE Started it!!" and I would be correct. Ken Shamrock, in the prime of his career, leaves mixed martial arts to head to the then WWF. With the ever ignorant John McCain pulling MMA Pay-Per-Views off of the air, Shamrock went to greener pastures. It was a coup d'etat for Pro wrestling...finally a guy who no one could say "Oh He's a fake fighter". This gave a small measure of legitimacy back to Pro wrestling that was lost in early nineties schlock. Throw in a couple of modified Mixed Martial Arts techniques, and you have the totality of what pro wrestling has taken from MMA.
Now like every good mixed martial artist, MMA through a counter-punch. It took them a while to get going, but since it started in 2006, it hasn't stopped.
Brock Lesnar- Unlike a certain middleweight (who will be named later) Brock did not start in the UFC. He had one fight in K-1 before making the jump. Some said that this wasn't enough and it was disrespectful to other MMA fighters who worked their way up. I will respond that Brock Lesnar is a freak athlete who has no equal. When it comes to the overall combination of Size, ability, and agility, this mountain of a man deserved to be in the UFC. He made his debut with much fanfare taking on former champ Frank Mir. A tough test for anyone (still today) and though his inexperience showed (who gets tapped out to a kneebar?? Sergej Juskevic opponents get a pass) Brock made a good showing of his first fight. Did he get the title shot too quickly? Yes. Did he deserve to get the shot at the time. Also Yes. He also defended the title against Mir and again against Shane Carwin and revolutionized the way that heavyweights needed to fight. He also brought flare on the microphone (His speech at UFC100 was awesome) and showed that fighters need to do more than be good Fighters to make money in and for the UFC.
Promos- WWE cuts the worlds best tv promos (Sorry NFL, you're in second) The UFC has started to do this better over the last 4 years and have reached the upper echelon in the last 6 months https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT-u1z5y-xw (you're welcome)
Getting out into the community- Something a bit warm and fuzzy. Pro Wrestlers have been heavily involved in Charity work and visiting our troops since before I was born. The modern day superheroes out in the community spreading love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCJoj1JVkVU (bring kleenex) I work in Mixed Martial Arts and get to meet some outstanding people. It is incredibly rare to find a jerk in MMA and the amount of class people I can name is staggering. (Current HK Champion Ryan Dickson, Ultimate fighter Nations winner Elias Theodorou, Current HK Champ Nick Burnham are all fantastic people) UFC fighters have been doing this as well. Great to see people in the community trying to help any way they can https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP9jw7kyTQ0
Women in the Cage/Ring- UFC is a late comer to this one, but their most marketable star (arguably) is former Hard Knocks Fighter Ronda Rousey. Pro Wrestling has been putting women in the ring for decades which is one reason their fanbase is ~65-35 men to women as opposed to MMA at ~80-20. I think that Dana knows he screwed up on this one...
Oversaturation- This happened in pro wrestling in the early nineties until the early 2000's even with 3 weekly nationally televised shows! I get it. You want to make money. Me too. But enough is enough. If you are having more than 24 PPV's in a year, that's too much. Because MMA doesn't really have cable ties (yet...) One event from the UFC every two weeks is acceptable. The big problem. Your big stars get hurt and then you put together crap cards. Which leads to my next point...
Crap Fight Cards- There is no reason that their shouldn't be a title on the line AND a number 1 contender bout on each card. WWE used to have 'In your House' PPV's that would be terrible, local wrestlers against guys who we knew would win. This wasn't entertaining and the layman fan is searching for someone he knows the name of to get behind. The aberration should only be grudge fights like Diaz v. Silva that have championship caliber fighters (well... fighter. Sorry Nick) When you're trying to grow your sport (and MMA needs to keep growing, trust me) a terrible card can kill you.
Untested Fighters- The WWE doesn't break anyone anymore unless they know they will have a big pop when they are released. They tried bringing in untested people (Rodman and Jay Leno anyone???) and it made them a laughing stock. UFC PLEASE LEARN THIS!!! It started with Kimbo Slice, now CM Punk. I think the guy is a great athlete. I think He also has all of the traits that Brock Lesnar has above when it comes to showmanship. The UFC does too.
Here is the Solution; are you listening?
Send him to a non-UFC promotion that puts on quality events and help cover his cost as a fighter (Hard Knocks is a perfect example as a 'Minor League' to the UFC). This will give him experience, with useable footage and most importantly, CREDIBILITY! Sure he will rake in a huge PPV audience his first time in, but if he gets spanked, that's the last time he will get a big buy and you lose credibility bringing him in. If you do it my way and he wins, great! Now he has some legitimacy and you still get the big buy and perhaps another if he gets beat due to "a big step up in competition". If he loses...WHEW! Dodged a bullet there...
The SEVERELY Ugly-
Internet Videos- In the last week, I have seen some very disturbing videos around unsanctioned MMA fights, mismatches, and improper medical staff on hand. When YouTube gained popularity, there were thousands (not hyperbole) of videos up of people doing wrestling stunts and getting hurt. The WWE started putting up short ad's about trained professionals in a safe environment, which did not deter the kids, (because by and large kids will try anything ad or no ad) but it educated parents on what to look out for when their children set up a backyard ring. The culture around these videos changed from "AWESOME!!" to "You'd probably better not...plus, PS2!". MMA has not done a good enough job in deterring these people from doing this in the street or in unsanctioned fights and most of the online videos are being met with that same "AWESOME!!" that the wrestling videos got. The Culture is out there now...UFC need to take the lead to stop it. This point leads into my next and most important point...
Novelty Matches/events- No more tag team, group, or any of this other terrible nonsense that is going around...STOP IT! Although it leads nicely into my final (and why it says severely) Ugly...
Bad Sport Governance- It's about to get real...THE UFC IS FAILING AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL. Like professional wrestling, it seems that ANYBODY can run a card. Pro Wrestling seems not to care about all of the other Semi-pro leagues out there and the UFC appears to be heading down the same road. If there is no commission in a city to ensure that fighter health and safety standards are met, guess what? The fights are still happening. People are making money off of the naivety of young fighters, coaches, and MMA Gyms and people are getting hurt. I spoke above about internet videos and though I won't link them on here, you won't be short of videos to watch. The NFL and NHL are involved in the growing of the minor leagues of their sport. MMA needs to follow suit.
Are you ready? Here is how.
The UFC needs to have a person/department whose sole job is to help promoters set up commissions in the city/province/state that the promoter wants to run an event in. All Promoters must register with the UFC and live up to the standards and expectations for fighter health and safety set by the premier organization. Then, because the promotions are following guidelines set by the UFC, the UFC will help cover the costs of medical staff (Nothing Crazy but maybe 20% of H&S costs) This will help keep fighters safe, ensure that promoters are adhering to the guidelines and Rules set by the UFC, and ultimately KEEP FIGHTERS SAFE! (yes I wrote it twice)
MMA coaches need to have certification to become coaches. If they are specific discipline coaches, they need to be certified in their own sport AND have at least the beginning level in MMA. Take John McCarthy, Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi and come up with a certification. Make sure that for a fighter to be registered in an MMA fight that he/she has a certified coach in the corner as well as signing off on him/her (can be the same person). Currently anyone can teach MMA...one of the only sports in the world that doesn't require coaches to be certified. The Big benefit is this will lead to better training and fighter management. You can even charge coaches a nominal fee of $10.00 to cover the cost of the paper their certification is written on.
Ultimately, the sport is Good. A true test of a warrior against another to see who is better. Just like pro wrestling, MMA is filled with Giants and skilled practitioners of their sport. Stories, Rivalries, Heels and Faces (or in Spider's case sometimes a heel to the face) and is incredibly awesome to watch and be a part of.