When it comes to the mainstream sports world, mixed martial arts is still in its infant stage of growth. It’s easy to look back a few years ago to see that major sports outlets such as ESPN did not cover the events or big names such as Brock Lesnar or Chuck Liddell. Today, major cable companies carry not only events from the UFC, but Strikeforce, Bellator, and even smaller promotions. As we approach the end of 2010 one can only wonder what’s to come for MMA and its fans. As the sport continues to evolve, here are a few ideas as to what lies next for the fledging competition.
The United States has served as the incubation chamber for MMA. A number of American born stars have injected the sport with their personalities and skills. At this same time, fighters from below the border have also played integral parts in the development of the sport. Names such as Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva carried the banner of Brazil into their matches as they created the legacies well known today. The list of fighters from this South American country goes on.
In 2011, an event in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo would be a massive undertaking. Imagine, if the UFC brought its banner to Brazil and showcased an event with stars such as Anderson Silva, the Nogueira brothers and Wanderlei Silva facing off against talent from other areas of the world. To top things off, bring back the entire Gracie family or even feature one of their active competitors. The family that started it all would easily be given a welcome fit for royalty. Hosting an event in the country of Brazil would be a strong move for MMA and with the largest roster of diverse talent; the UFC should be the group to take the step.
An Emergence of a Number Two
Competition brings out the best in so many people. Many fighters cite their opponents for helping them reach the highest pinnacle of their abilities. The same can be said for mixed martial arts promotions. If one was to study the history of professional wrestling, it’s easy to see that the best times of the industry was during the 1990s when WWE (then WWF) and the WCW were going head to head every week. Fans tuned into both events to see what was going on next. Pro wrestling entered a lull when WCW was finally purchased by the WWE. From that point on, the group hasn’t faced much opposition; resulting in a water downed product that many do not find as enjoyable.
Now this does relate to mixed martial arts? Currently, the UFC is the big dog in the fight. They have the money, resources and fighters to put on the best events month after month. With the uprising of major competition, that may force the UFC matchmakers and leaders to become more progressive in their practices. Fans would also get a larger talent pool to watch during live events. Fighters would also benefit from another large organization because they could weigh the options against each other when negotiating contracts. During 2011, I’m looking for Bellator to really become a player in the MMA realm. With stars such as Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askern to lead the way, this organization can create a roster that gleams in talent and personality.
The Last Great Frontier
New York City is the Mecca of the United States sports world; especially when it comes to combat sports. A MMA event in Madison Square Garden would be a major milestone for the sports industry. However, the main problem is that New York is one of the last seven states in the country not to sanction mixed martial arts events. Democratic member of the NY State Assembly, Bob Reilly has been a strong opponent to the sanctioning of the sport in his state. With his reelection last week, he will still be around to fight against MMA expansion. To combat his iniatives, the sport as a whole needs to reach out with informational campaigns to help the public get the facts about MMA rather than assumptions. Scientific evidence that explains how it compares to boxing, football, hockey and other hard hitting sports must be available for the public to see and make up their own minds. This is going to be a true fight, but the mixed martial arts community needs to make strides in this area during 2011.
The New Year is fast approaching. With so many eyes set on the matchups that are planned inside the cage or ring, many different events occurring outside can have a major impact on the direction of the sport.
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