Yes, I said it. I’ll probably get flamed for this but it is just a thought. MMA and the UFC in particular might be in need of sanctioning bodies.
If you missed it, Ciryl Gane was just booked to fight Derrick Lewis for the interim heavyweight strap at UFC 265. The fight in itself is pretty fun. But what really has fans in a tizzy is the fact that it will be for the interim heavyweight title. You know, the same heavyweight title that Francis N’Gannou won from Stipe Miocic three months ago. Fans and N’Gannou alike are in a rage because of the interim title attached, and arguably their anger is justified. Miocic won the title and waited 4 months, 8 months, and then seven, and seven before losing to DC. DC subsequently waited four months to fight Lewis, nine more months for a rematch with Miocic, then a full year for the trilogy. Stipe then waited another seven to fight N’Gannou again.
See the outrage? The heavyweight division has long been plagued with title defenses that are longer in the making. Now the UFC is moving on and it is also likely for business purposes. A unification fight would sell much better in their eyes. While I have my doubts that the belts mean anything for N’Gannou, that is likely what the UFC is thinking.
The real reason, aside from business purposes, that I am starting to believe that the UFC and mixed martial arts needs a sanctioning body or bodies is due to how much more frequent divisions are getting log-jammed at the top. Let’s look at heavyweight for example:
Sanctioning Bodies At Work in the UFC
A sanctioning body in the heavyweight division of the UFC could be dealing with the following. Francis N’Gannou is your undisputed champion. Then your rightful contenders are Derrick Lewis, Stipe Miocic, Cyril Gane, and Jon Jones. Who gets it? An argument can be made for any of them. But say Jones is the mandatory, which means he gets next and in the interim (pun intended), Lewis and Gane fight for the number one contender. Sure, Stipe gets left out, but some people lose in these situations.
But it’s not only the heavyweight division. Look at welterweight where people have been fussing about for some time: Usman the champ and Covington is likely getting the next shot. Masvidal got two title shots which were likely not deserved, then Leon Edwards got left out in the cold for no reason. That shouldn’t happen.
Conor McGregor’s reign at the top saw this happen as well. Alvarez, Khabib and Poirier all were in the running for title shots with Gaethje coming up the rear. Sanctioning bodies fix all these issues.
Fact of the matter is the UFC is getting very large with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the best fighters in the world. In fact, it’s quite top heavy. The promotion has fought sanctioning bodies for so long not to promote other promoters. But it’s not the early 2000s anymore and the sport has grown past it’s one promotion rules all business model. This sport is bigger than one promotion can handle now.
The UFC has a head start on the best talent should the sport move to sanctioning bodies instead of sanctioning promotions. But with PFL, Bellator, RIZIN, and ONE all making signings of prospects every day, it’s looking more and more like the push towards a sanctioning body will happen.
As that day approaches, the UFC will have to release it’s grip on the sport as other promotions line up under the WBA, or whatever other organization decides to take the reins.
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it. Also, Cowboy Cerrone is the GOAT.