10. Fight Cards, Fight Cards, and More Fight Cards
What are you doing this weekend? Oh, nothing. Wrong! You are watching MMA! For the months of March and April, the UFC will have eight events, Bellator will have five, and WSOF will have two. Many have argued that all these events are leading to watered down cards and weak PPVs, but most of them are free to watch on cable or network TV. We all like free!
9. The Future of Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva
GSP and Anderson Silva are the most popular MMA fighters around. They have cemented their fighting legacies with a combined 58 wins and 19 UFC title defenses. When they fight, people watch. The end of 2013 saw a tired Georges St-Pierre and a broken Anderson Silva. Entering 2014, their futures are still unclear. Silva has already stated that he would like to come back but it probably won’t be until late in 2014 and depends heavily on his recovery. For St-Pierre, in recent interviews he seems to be enjoying his time away and is in no rush to come back. Whether they return to the Octagon or not, they have given everything for this sport, and we wish them the best.
8. Issue of Fighter Salaries
Fighter pay has always been a reoccurring issue in MMA. Most recently, Gilbert Melendez and his contract dispute with the UFC and signing with Bellator reignited the discussion. Does the UFC pay its fighters enough to survive and what happens when the fighters retire? Twitter quotes from now retired Chris Leben and interviews from Nate Quarry shine a light on the poor fighter pay. Data released from the Nevada State Athletic Commission shows that fighters make a minimum of $8,000 for showing up and another $8,000 for winning. On the other side of the spectrum, fighters like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre make a few million dollars from PPV cuts. Entry level UFC fighters stand to make between $24,000 to $48,000 if they fight three times per year. With training, traveling, and healthcare costs, some fighters barely make enough to earn a living. Understandably, the UFC is a business with the goal of making money. However, athletes are risking everything by stepping into the cage and fighting. Hopefully, as the sport grows, fighter pay will increase accordingly.
7. New Fighters
The UFC has 450 fighters, Bellator has 165 fighters, and WSOF has 145 fighters. I’m a pretty religious MMA watcher, but every upcoming card has fighters I’ve never seen. I’m always anxious to see what they can do and who will be the next Jon Jones or Anderson Silva.
6. Ring Girls
Brittney Palmer. Arianny Celeste. Period. Enough said.
5. Evolution of WMMA
2013 was a big year for Women’s MMA. They finally got onto the biggest stage as Ronda Rousey fought Liz Carmouche to headline UFC 157. Rousey would fight one more time to defeat Miesha Tate at UFC 168. Rousey kicked the door open for female fighters, with the UFC signing 17 additional female fighters. Also, Dana White announced a whole new female division. The major question will be if women’s MMA can continue to grow, attract interest, and continue to headline events.
4. Dana White
I want to live vicariously through Dana White. He is president of one of the most entertaining companies, rich beyond belief, does what he wants, and says what he wants to say. Yet, he is a polarizing figure; people seem to hate or love him. A recent article by Kevin Iole demonstrated some of the craziness that happens behind the scenes. Regardless of his antics, White has done wonders for the sport and continues to provide the MMA community with excitement and things to blog about.
3. UFC Fan Expo
The UFC Fan Expo is my Disneyland. It is a place where dreams come true. You are immersed in everything MMA, from the fighters, to the t-shirts, to the MMA booths, to the sounds of interviews, and to the sights of past fights on the big screen. Fans from around the world converge on Las Vegas for the weekend to meet fighters, take pictures, get autographs, and buy everything MMA related.
2. Changing of the Guard
No Anderson Silva and no Georges St-Pierre? The UFC is in a transition period as other well known fighters like Forest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, and Brian Stann have called it a career. Veteran fighters like Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, and Wanderlei Silva only have a few fights left before they also retire. But there is a young crop of superstars to carry on and be the faces of mixed martial arts. Fighters like Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Jose Aldo, and Ronda Rousey already have multiple title defenses and sponsorship deals. They are not alone. Other fighters with amazing potential like Anthony Pettis, Renen Barao, Johnny Hendricks, Chris Weidman, and Alexander Gustafsson must step up and realize that potential.
1. Upcoming Fights
The first half of 2014 already has amazing fights lined up. Ronda Rousey defends her title this weekend against Sara McMann, a premier wrestler and an Olympic silver medalist. Johnny Hendricks looks to capture UFC gold against a resurgent Robbie Lawler. And finally Chris Weidman looks to prove his wins against Anderson Silva weren’t a fluke when he battles an unstoppable Vitor Belfort. With countless upcoming fights and intriguing match ups, this is an incredible time to be a fan.