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The UFC’s “big” problem

With the failed signing of Fedor and the letter of resignation from Couture, the UFC is now left with a Heavyweight Division that is going to have a very hard time supporting a champ as the legitimate No.1 in the world. In the coming months and the early part of next year there are a number of fighters who will stake a claim for the belt. Depending on who becomes champ, the UFC is going to have varying levels of difficulty when it comes to marketing them as the World’s best. Let’s examine the situation:

Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera

There is no denying Minotauro is a great Mixed Martial Artist and no doubt in the top 3, or at the least top 5 heavyweights in the world. However, if he were to beat Cheick Kongo and then the winner of Vera/Sylvia (or just, as been speculated) for the title, the UFC will have an extremely hard time selling him as the No.1 when Fedor has demolished him twice.

Tim Sylvia

If Tim Sylvia manages to get past Vera and then Noguiera/Kongo the UFC is left with a champ who was never really popular to begin with and also has just been man-handled by a 44 year old legend, who many believe should still be fighting inside the octagon.

Cheick Kongo

If Cheick Kongo gets passed Noguiera it will be something spectacular in itself, and if he then manages to defeat either Sylvia or Vera the UFC will have crowned a champ who is untarnished. By untarnished I mean a fighter who has not fought either Couture or Fedor and therefore has the chance to be built upon as the No. 1 Heavyweight without any previous losses to the other proclaimed top dogs. It also helps Kongos cause that he is a 6 foot 4, ripped, imposing figure, who looks like he could demolish anything with a pulse. The fact that Kongo is a Frenchman that cant speak English could pose some marketability problems for the UFC but Kongo as Champ does have its advantages over the previously stated pair.

Andrei Arlovski

If the UFC ever works out negotiations with Andrei and he manages to work his way up the rankings and eventually becomes champ (while being head of the ‘Jerry Springer Show ‘ security no less) then the UFC has a chance for a very marketable champ with a claim to the No.1 crown. If the Arlovski of old returns, then many an MMA fan will be once again reviving comments on how some believe Arlovski to be a bad match up for Fedor and how hed be too quick for Couture. These are a lot of ifs, and before he or the UFC goes on and starts supporting these grandiose claims, Arlovski HAS to be beat Tim Sylvia in such a fashion that no one will ever bring it up again.

And finally…

Brandon The Truth Vera

The best case scenario for the UFC in having the worlds best heavyweight is if Brandon Vera demolishes everything in his path on the way to the title. If this is done the UFC gets a heavyweight champ, that is not tarnished by losses to either Couture or Fedor (better yet, undefeated), gives a great interview and is an explosive and exciting fighter.

There you have it. The UFC is in quite a mess at the moment and really need the cards to fall their way for them to get out of it. But lets face it, that really hasnt been happening lately.

22 COMMENTS
  • garth says:

    There’s issues with Randy and Fedor claiming number one as well. Fedor hasn’t fought a quality opponent in a long time, and has been idle for a long while as well. Randy declined the belt, effectively. Either man, were they to compete, could well prove themselves the undisputed #1. But either one, if they don’t compete, is just a footnote, or an asterisk, to the men still vying for the belt.
    This is not intended to disrespect Fedor or Couture, both legends. But without competing, it’s hard for me to think of them as ranked, much less the top dogs. Randy beat two quality opponents, but Fedor’s last two fights were basically gimmes.

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  • gipper says:

    arlovski is going to smash everyone in his path on his way to the belt and prove he’s no. 1
    the ufc can market that!!

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  • Benzos says:

    What about Gonzaga? I know he lost to Randy, but even with a smashed nose he managed to break an arm with a lightning fast kick! Watch out for him, I think he’s still well in the picture.

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  • cru jones says:

    impressive list, all of which i would want to see fight, but where does gonzaga enter into this? true, he just lost to couture, but the fight was a lot closer than what it seemed. if it had not been for the crushed nose, there may have been a different outcome. just think how dangerous napao will be when he gets a little more experience— i would like to see him fight anyone on the list above.

    his fight with cro cop was not a fluke!

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  • Sam Cupitt says:

    You could probably make a case for Gonzaga, if he gets a roll on soon.

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  • Gabber says:

    Is there any truth to the Bloody Elbow interview on Mr. Sunshine that the way Fedor’s currnet deal is structured is that he is “owned” by M-1? He gets his 1.1 mil a fight and then M-1 makes whatever then rent him out for on top of that? If so, that could be a fairly big hole card for the ufc to play. They can crown a champ through the course of 2008 and when (and if) he can run the divison, hire in Fedor for a final “Superfight” (oldschool wishful thinking I know. :P) to determine the #1 Big Man in the world?

    Anyone know if his brother in contracted through M-1? He’s fighting in Hardcore Fighting Championship (for you Canucks) on October 19th, if that’s the case is he on the same style of contract for a much smaller dollar figure?

    I guess with the loss of Fedor and the loss of Couture, Arlovski’s value has gone up tenfold, not only as a previous champion but as a top 3 HW when he’s really on his game and fighting on edge.

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  • Accomando says:

    “…Frenchman that can’t speak English…”

    I thought he spoke a decent amount of English, and will probably be GSP good in the language department pretty soon.

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  • To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the UFC cares if Fedor is somewhere else and is ranked #1 in the world. Their PR department and marketing will spin everything to say that Nogueira is the #1 or Vera, or whoever. Casual fans will have no idea who Fedor is, nor will they care as the UFC infiltrates their minds with ranking the top heavyweight in the UFC as #1 in the world.

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  • Davey D says:

    Imagine how crazy it would be if Fedor had Dana with him at his press conference on Monday saying the UFC has purchased M-1. Then they announce Randy and Fedor will meet in the Octagon come February. Wishfull thinking? Maybe so but that is what I’m hoping for.

    I really hope these two fight in the UFC. If not, and they fight elsewhere I’d still watch but it just would be a lot better if it was there.

    If Randy never comes back then I hope to see Nogueira become the Champ. Either him or Vera would fine with me. The picture should be a lot more clear very soon. Also, I’d like to see Arlovski fight again soon.

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  • Andrej says:

    Fabricio Werdum where doe’s he enter the list, How about Gabriel Gonzaga, showed lot’s of heart in the fight vs Randy Couture. Brock Lesner is an intrigueing possibility. Mirco Cro Crop said he was fighting injured in his last two fight’s. Frank Mir is on the comeback road with a win over Antoni Hardonk. Mark Hunt has also been a name that has bin brought up to add depth to a heavyweight Division. To keep it short Randy Couture leaveing dosen’t hurt the Division as much as let’s say Rich Franklin or Anderson Silva leaving the middleweight division.

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  • MMA SKOOL ™ says:

    Still not convinced Vera can be called “explosive” yet. We’ll see after this weekend.

    Right now I’ve lost interest in the UFC HW title picuture. All I want to see out of that weight class now is good matchups. There’s plenty of depth in the HW division now, that the UFC could make a lot of good fights.

    Hope AA gets re-signed and put up against Cro Cop or Kongo, and let the grapplers fight each other… Gonzaga vs. Noguiera, etc.

    Title match or not, I would pay to see those fights.

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  • dizzle says:

    “but Fedor’s last two fights were basically gimmes.”

    Garth no MMA fight is a Gimme….You must never underestimate your oppenent in fighting.

    I think that the heavyweight division is stacked which is going to create alot of problems with being able to keep a heavy weight champion crowned for a while.

    We can only wait and see what UFC is goig to do about the issue.

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  • Evan says:

    Dizzle

    “no MMA fight is a Gimme”

    As long as they are in the same weight class.

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  • Sarah says:

    wow, cupitt – nice article that runs down a lot of interesting senerios.

    but i have to be of the camp that says that if fedor and couture are out in the world still fighting somewhere, the UFC heavyweight belt is not going to mean as much as it has in the past whatever happens.

    leland has an interesting point – causual MMA fans might not realize that they’re missing out on fedor and the ufc is naturally going to spin everything in their own favor – but even the most casual fans have to know that couture is gone from the UFC but not retired.

    really, as long as we get to see fedor-couture in the near future, i’m happy. the ufc and championship belts don’t even have to be involved.

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  • Dave says:

    Look, it’s time to put the “Fedor as World’s Best” talk to sleep. He COULD be, he probably SHOULD be, but in his decision to sign with M-1, he basically told the world he doesn’t care whether he is or not, and that right there pretty much disqualifies him from being the top dog. There’s a point in a top athlete’s life where he has to decide whether he wants to compete against the top competition in the world and truly prove himself to be the best. Unfortunately, that option does not always coincide with other tempting options, such as money or location. In Fedor’s case, he turned down a huge sum of money and the chance to prove himself in the top organization in the world in favor of an even huger sum of money and a likely list of lousy opponents for the rest of his career. That choice defines the rest of his career. If he truly wanted to be considered the best, he’d have made the conscious decision to fight the best. But let’s be honest, he hasn’t done that for years. Fighting the best MW in the world and Mark Coleman doesn’t prove much,

    At the end of the day, Fedor’s legacy is bound to be similar to that of Frank Shamrock…two guys who probably very easily could have done it all, but for one reason or another, actively chose not to.

    There is, of course, another line of thinking here that says that Fedor and his team decided to protect his already excellent legacy at the expense of his future. Meaning…rather than risk him getting jacked once or twice in a UFC career (which seems likely at this point given the last year’s events), just let him retire with his essentially unblemished record. Let him fight cans, who cares. In some mindsets, it’s far better to be an unbeaten enigma than a 2 loss former champ. His team could be building him to be the next Rickson.

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  • Ugh, the constant talk of blasting Fedor’s skills versus UFC fighters is astounding. Fact is, I wish he would have came to the UFC, but he didn’t. The UFC will claim their heavyweight is the best. Fedor won’t be mentioned, but if he fights Barnett outside the UFC and absolutely destroys him… everyone will be singing a different tune.

    Comparing Fedor’s fate to Shamrock’s legacy is absurd. Shamrock got straight rocked for the last couple of years. Fedor isn’t even the same type of fighter, and his Sambo skill is bar none the best in the world.

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  • Gabber says:

    I don’t think anyone is arguing the fact that Fedor doesn’t have world class skills or the physical attirubutes to make him the #1 Heavyweight. Most people feel that because he chose to sign with a third tier organization, when most other top ranked heavyweights are in the UFC, he’s not displaying the #1 heart/ambition. I would have to agree. No doubt the guy is one of the best, if not the best fighters in the world, HW or Lbs-4-Lbs, he’s never going to be able to silence the critics. It’s like Wayne Gretzky signing with the LA Kings, he is the greatest ever, he helped sell tickets for alot of years, but who cares, you’re playing hockey in LA and you never won a serious championship there.

    Fedor could go 10-0 easily over the next 3 years in M-1, but what does that mean if you’re not fighting top level guys? You’re just playing the game on easy mode. :P

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  • Dave says:

    #18…you are aware that Ken Shamrock has a brother named Frank, right? Which is why I said “Frank Shamrock” in my post.

    I’m going to go ahead and assume that you didn’t know that, because Frank Shamrock has most certainly not “got straight rocked for the last couple of years.”

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  • […] remember when I first started contributing to this blog, my first article was entitled, “The UFC’s “big” problem”. That article was written just after Randy Couture’s retirement, and it took a look at how […]

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