Mixed martial arts and the UFC are synonymous, often getting confused for each other (I train UFC bro). But a thought occurred to me today: what would happen if the UFC closed shop, laid off all its fighters, and was never seen from again?
While it’s a hypothetical situation, I still think it’s fun to think about. The UFC could close its doors for a number of reasons. But the reason does not matter here. Say ESPN shut down and the UFC folded with them or whatever you want to matter. Here are a few things you will likely see if the UFC closed its doors.
A Massive Land Grab of the best fighters
This would be the most apparent thing fans would see if the UFC closed its doors. Dana White and company have gathered an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the best fighters in the world today and tomorrow. The Conor McGregor’s and Israel Adesanya’s of the world will be the most sought after fighters of course. But promotions like Bellator, who has recently made a shift in going after younger future stars, would look to go after tomorrow’s big names. Think Sean O’Malley, Khamzat Chimaev, and Raoni Barcelos. Those types of names will draw a big amount of interest for future-proofing the promotion for tomorrow.
Fans will follow the biggest names however, and it’s those popular fighters that will win early on and the new promotions will reap the benefits. Bellator, PFL, ONE Championship, and RIZIN will be in the biggest land grab in MMA history. While Nick Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will likely find new homes and get exactly what they want, don’t count on the elite of the elite to handcuff theirselves to one promotion which brings us to our next point…
The UFC closing would bring fighter-started promotions
Mayweather Promotions, McGregor Promotions, Stylebender Promotions. This is the one thing you can count on. More business in MMA, for better or worse. Fighters, especially with the means to do so, will begin to self promote and bring themselves a big payday.
Conor McGregor has this already in place from his boxing ventures from his fight with Floyd Mayweather. Should the UFC and it’s marketing machine close shop, look for McGregor to trailblaze his own way through mixed martial arts under his own name, chasing the money fights.
But, it won’t be just McGregor that does this. Several other fighters, though not many, will self finance their own events and get the massive paydays, or failures, that come with self-promotion. The sports biggest stars like Israel Adesanya and Jon Jones will have their own promotions to make a bigger slice of the pie.
The best part: more cross promotion
Cross promotion, the holy grail of MMA. Should the UFC close and fighters start their own promotions, you can almost bet on it that there will be more cross promotion events. There are already cross promotion events that happen now like Bellator and RIZIN. ONE Championship has also expressed interest in this as well.
With the UFC being the main detractor of cross promotion fights, their absence would open the floodgates on cross promotion events. Taking into account the fighter based promotions, the power will trend more towards the hands of the fighters and bigger promotions like RIZIN will be looking to get their piece of the pie when it comes to co-promoting a McGregor event.
The worst part: sanctioning bodies
After some time and with Izzy going collect the Bellator, PFL, ACA, RIZIN, ONE, ONE kickboxing, and Glory belts, fans will begin to call for an idea of what belt means more and which certifies the best middleweight in the world. People will call for a sanctioning body to certify the rankings and put a value on the belt. In comes the WBA MMA World Champion.
But, with how mixed martial arts is growing, more people will get tired of the mandatories and tune up fights allowed by the WBA and call for another belt be created. In comes the WBC MMA World Champion. Then the WBF and IBO comes in. Then lineal champions become even more prevalent.
Then MMA would largely resemble boxing’s landscape and have businessmen holding back MMA fighters for money and having the best not actually unify the belts.
MMA is a big business and young. With the UFC being the primary regulator for all things, it comes with good things and the bad should they close down and release their fighters to the wild. Thanks for reading!