Friday, August 8, 2008

The WAMMA Problem

WAMMA, World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts, is a relatively new company that formed with the noble intention of crowning undisputed champions via the highly scientific and never controversial method of a media poll, a system that works fantastically for college football.

WAMMA has put together a ranking committee composed almost entirely of MMA reporters, and every month this committee comes up with the top 10 fighters in each weight class. The fighters voted #1 in their weight classes do not automatically become WAMMA Champions. WAMMA champions are crowned when the top ranked fighter in a weight class takes on a highly ranked opponent, in a fight that WAMMA approves.

Sounds like an interesting idea, right? There's just one major problem. WAMMA is not an MMA promotion, it has put on exactly zero fights, and it never plans on putting on a single fight. Instead, WAMMA tries to "partner" with MMA promotions where by the "partner" puts together the fight card & event, but WAMMA gets to give out the belt.

Oddly enough, Zuffa, which owns the UFC and WEC, told WAMMA to fuck off when WAMMA approached Zuffa. This was a smart move for the UFC. The UFC has developed into the best known MMA promotion/brand, and the UFC can promote Jackson vs. Griffin for the UFC light heavyweight championship just fine on its own without trying to explain to people that its WAMMA's top ranked light heavyweight versus WAMMA's #3 ranked light heavyweight for the WAMMA belt.

Since Affliction was a start up that hadn't put on a single event when WAMMA approached them, Affliction decided to "partner" with WAMMA. Hey, when you're a new promotion, you need all the additional publicity you can get.

So, Affliction was able to hype Affliction:Banned's main event as the battle for WAMMA's undisputed heavyweight championship. Which helped make Affliction: Banned look like a bigger event than it was and gave the event some added publicity.

We all know what happened. Fedor, WAMMA's #1, beat Sylvia, WAMMA's #4, and won the first ever WAMMA belt. Hooray, Affliction got to give out a belt at its first event and could have Fedor in a title defense in its second event, Affliction: Day of Reckoning against either WAMMA's #3 heavyweight, Barnett, or its #4, Arlovksi.

Unfortunately, Fedor can't/won't compete in Affliction: Day of Reckoning. Instead, the main event will be Barnett vs Arlovski in what WAMMA has decided will be Heavyweight Elimination Bout. That's fine and dandy because Affliction was planning on having the winner fight Fedor at its next event, right?

Wrong, there's a difference between having a plan as to how you'll run your promotion and having someone tell you how to run it. WAMMA just said that Fedor can only defend his belt against the winner of Barnett vs Arlovski. Think of the problems.

What if the winner ends up on a medical suspension and can't fight for a few months/until after Affliction 3? Too bad, that title defense will have to wait until then. If Affliciton wants Fedor to fight someone at Affliction 3, it'll have to be a non-title fight. That's always an easy sell, "come see the champion, fight someone in a non-title fight. No, he's not moving up a weight class or anything unique. We just can't call this a title fight because the champ isn't fighting the right guy."

The Barnett vs Arlovski winner could demand a new contract/crazy (make that crazier, I forgot how much Affliction is already paying them) money to fight Fedor, and Affliction will have to fold or there cannot be a title fight. For the first time ever, the contender will be as important to the title fight as the champ. The champ used to be way more important than the challenger because the champ was the only fighter you needed for a title fight. You could always grab a new challenger if the current one wanted too much money, and it would still be a title fight. Now, the champ and challenger are equally important to the title fight. I'm sure Affliction is pleased knowing that it'll have to appease 2 fighters in order to have a title fight.

Assuming there's no medical suspension problems or contract complaints and Affliction manages to have Fedor defend his belt against the winner of Barnett vs Arlovski at Affliction 3. And assume that Fedor wins, when can Fedor defend his belt again? If Fedor's opponent has to be ranked in the top 5 for it to be a title defense, Affliction is dependent on WAMMA's rankings for title defenses. Those WAMMA rankings will probably look something like this after that fight:

Champ: Fedor
#1: Noguiera (assuming he beats Mir, if he doesn't its even worse for Affliction because both Noguiera and Mir could potentially be in the top 5)
#2: Couture (if WAMMA was going to drop him for inactivitely/being retired it would have done so by now)
#3: Werdum (he's currently #5, and who's he going to lose to between now and January since he won't be fighting either Noguiera or Mir?)
#4: Barnett vs Arlovksi winner (the winner would have just lost to Fedor and I doubt WAMMA would drop them out of the top 5 for that loss)
#5: Sylvia (he's currently #6 & will probably leapfrog with loser of Barnett vs Arlovski due to his not fighting at Affliction: Day of Reckoning)

So, Affliction's options for a title defense could easily be either Sylvia, the guy Fedor walked through at Affliction: Banned, or the guy Fedor beat in Affliction: Day of Reckoning. Does either recycled main event sound like something that'll drive PPV buys?

WAMMA is bad news to any promotion. The little bit of added hype/publicity doesn't make up for losing control of your promotion, your fighters, and your championship belts.

Also, I wonder what would happen if a WAMMA champ lost in a fight that WAMMA didn't consider a title fight. Would WAMMA drop his ranking and strip him of his belt?

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