The sport of mixed martial arts sure has changed in the last decade. Today, all these fighters seem to care about is the “money fight.”
Since when can fighters decide who they want to fight next? Yes, the sport is only 24 years old, if we considered the UFC’s debut to be the actual birth of MMA, which it wasn’t. The modern era of the sport is even younger. Be that as it may, it seems the inmates are now running the asylum.
MMA as a whole has seen more changes and evolutions than I can even list. Most have been a step in the right direction. There are a couple of glaring absences. For example, there still isn’t a fighters’ union, and fighters are criminally underpaid. Perhaps this plays a big part in the money-fight mentality.
Now, I am all for fighters making the most money they can. Capitalism in general is a great thing. However, you can’t just think you can do whatever you want because you are larger than the sum of all things in the sport of MMA.
There is only one Conor McGregor. There is only one Georges St-Pierre. There is only one Ronda Rousey. There is damn sure only one Brock Lesnar. All of these athletes have been world-class UFC champions, but what else do they all have in common? They are all massive pay-per-view draws for the UFC. In the absence of these stars, other fighters have seen the blueprint and are now trying to fabricate fan interest.
Champions like welterweight Tyron Woodley and light heavyweight Daniel Cormier are amazing athletes, but the fan appeal just isn’t there. It’s painful and almost pitiful to watch champions like these men pretend to be something that they are clearly not.
The money fights will come. All they have to do is in the work, just like in any other profession. The more fights you win, the more money you make, and the better the contract offers. The issue is when fighters start to pick and choose their opponents and hold out of higher-profile fights. In no other occupation is it OK to have direct insubordination to your employer. If MMA wants to continue to be taken seriously as an emerging sport, then the promotions and athletes need to put a stop to this.
When it comes down to it, if you don’t like what you’re getting paid, then look for employment elsewhere. Yes, the UFC is the top dog in the MMA world, but it’s not the only dog. Former UFC title contender Rory MacDonald just made his Bellator debut last weekend, and it’s reported that he made $400,000 for his fight. Not too shabby. Now that’s what I call a “money fight.”