Maybe working on the TUF 10 recaps took a little more out of me than I thought, or maybe I'm just trying to squeeze a little more mileage out of the topic before to writing something original. Either way, I've had an idea floating around my head for a long time, and after doing a bit of research last night, I think it's time to make a formal proposal out of it.
Lets not try and beat around the bush, the UFC Heavyweight division sucks, it just flat out sucks. There is an insane lack of talent beyond the 205lb mark, worse than anywhere else in the promotion. I'm not saying the fighters suck, we all know every weightclass has its own mix of good/bad/mediocre fighters. What I'm talking about with "talent" is the crop of fighters on the roster, it's like a kiddie pool it's so shallow, if you tried to dive in you'd crack your skull open.
Without looking it up, you wanna guess how many fighters are currently listed under Heavyweight on the UFC website? Seriously just take a random guess. I'll wait...
It's 40. As of this writing they only have 40 big boys to organize play dates with. That might seem like a decent sized group to have, but looks can be deceiving. By comparison the Welterweight division blows it out of the water with just a hair over three times that number with 121. The only other male division with fewer fighters is Flyweight at 36.
Before I go on, I know full well that most people in the world are on the smaller end of the size scale. Big guys like myself (6'6 300lbs as I love to point out) are out there and you see them day to day, but we don't exactly grow on trees. But good luck finding one who isn't already playing football and has the desire/skill to make it as a fighter, you'd have an easier time finding a unicorn that shits rainbows and cotton candy. That's the main reason why there's such a lack of depth at 265.
Now, getting back to the point I was making. That number 40 is a big fat fib, all you have to do is look at some of the names listed to see why. Shane Carwin, Brendan Schaub, Mirko Cro Cop, Antoni Hardonk, and Big Nog. That's 5 guys who shouldn't be up there for various reasons, of which I'm going to highlight for you.
Carwin – He's been officially retired for several years now due to his age and various injuries. He hasn't fought since 2011.
Schaub – While he hasn't made his retirement 100% official, he's more or less said that he's done lacing up the gloves. Making podcasts is more profitable for him than being forced to fight for Rebock's asswipe money.
Cro Cop – Recently announced his second retirement from MMA due to injuries and a failed (or maybe not) USADA drug test.
Hardonk – I was still an MMA newbie when he last fought in 2009, he officially retired back in 2010.
Nog – Finally retired after listening to everyone under the sun begging him to hang it up.
If you take these 5 guys out of the equation, then you're down to just 35 people, 1 less than Flyweight.
Before I go on (I sure do say that a lot, don't I?), I'm going to veer off course for a minute. I want to bring up Shane del Rosario. For those of you who may not know, he was a UFC Heavyweigh fighter who sadly passed away near the end of 2013. I mention him because for at least 6 months after his death, he was still listed as being on the roster. I say for "at least" because that was the last time I remember checking and seeing him still up there, I don't know when he was finally removed.
I would also like to point out something that's funny but also a little fucked up. If you compare the roster of UFC Undisputed 2010 to the roster of the real UFC in 2015... there's not a whole lot of difference between them. It's not that there's a good number who were with the promotion back then and are still with it today, it's how many guys weren't.
Fabrício Werdum and Andre Arlovski had both left the UFC and were in Strikeforce at the time. Cro Cop and Gabriel Gonzaga would both retire and leave the promotion, only to stage comebacks and find their way back under the Zuffa umbrella. Todd Duffee is another who was released by the UFC only to eventually come back.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Where was I? Oh yes, with just 35 fighters there is less depth to the HW division (which is one of if not the oldest in the company) than there is at FLW which was only introduced a few years ago. Things aren't going much better outside of the UFC either, it could generously be described as a wasteland.
Bellator's first HW champ Cole Konrad won the title in October of 2010, didn't fight again until August of 2011 in a non title bout with Paul Buentello, and then finally made his first defense in May 2012. He then retired from the sport saying he could make a better living trading milk futures on the stock market. I'm not kidding about that either, look it up.
Their next champion Alexander Volkov also went a year before he was allowed to make his first defense, which he lost to Vitaly Minakov. And Vitaly hasn't had it much better than his predecessors. In all his time as champion he's only defended it once, in April 2014 against Cheick Kongo. He's spent his time fighting in Russia exclusively since then. But wait, it gets even worse!
The Bellator website lists only 21 names for their own Heavyweight division, though you could make it 22 if you want to count King Mo. And it's not just the low number that's the problem, it's the names on the list. It includes the likes of Kongo, Kimbo Slice, Bobby Lashley, Ken Shamrock, DaDa 5,000 (I SHIT YOU NOT!), Chase Gormley, Justin Wren, and James Thompson.
If Viacom suddenly wanted out of the MMA game and sold everything to the UFC, these are the fighter contracts they'd be absorbing, or rather reabsorbing in many cases.
So now that I've made it clear just how dreary things are, here's my plan to try and help the situation. Note that I said "help" and not "fix", nothing short of genetic engineering and a birthing matrix can fix this problem. My proposal is to hold another season of TUF featuring only Heavyweights, just like the 10th one did, but with a few twits.
For one, the coaches can't be Light Heavyweights or Heavyweights, no, we're talking guys like Mighty Mouse or John Dodson or Diego Sanchez. Small, quick, light, fast cardio machines. If you read any of the recaps then you know exactly why this is the first thing I'm bringing up. On average the gas tanks the guys on TUF 10 had made them look like a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado towing a trailer up a steep incline.
Two, move the show out of Vegas and shoot it somewhere at high altitude, there's going to be a lot of huffing and puffing at first, but they will soon appreciate the extra red blood cells their bodies start producing. They'll either develop the ability to fight for more than a round, or die trying. They need to focus on their conditioning because it's rare you watch a HW fight and say "That guy needs to work on his punching power and footwork".
Maybe there's another Cain Velasquez or Frank Mir or Shane Carwin out there among all the Wes Shivers. They need fresh blood and they need it now, and there's only one way they're going to find it. It also wouldn't hurt if it gave me something new to complain about.