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Wamma, Bamma, No Thank You Ma’ama (Part 2)
Published September 11th, 2008

By Charles Jay

A quick glance at the ratings issued by WAMMA (World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts) as of August 18 is insightful indeed. In the heavyweight division, it is mentioned in the press release that Fedor Emilianenko is “the cream of the heavyweight crop.” I don’t know if I dispute that, but I DO dispute that Fedor is the undisputed champion. Are you following? You see, by definition, he is NOT undisputed, as long as the UFC, Elite XC, King of the Cage, Strikeforce, Dream or whoever are in a position to recognize a heavyweight champion.

Everywhere else, it looks like the UFC dominates, as one might expect. They had the top five light heavyweights (and I’m sure #3 Chuck Liddell will be replaced by Rashad Evans next month), the top four middleweights (as we include the WEC under the UFC umbrella), four of the top five welterweights and two of the top five lightweights.

But I am expecting that to change, in albeit a subtle way, as time progresses.

You can see a little of that now. I’m sure it’s no accident that Josh Barnett, who recently won on an Affliction show, has overtaken Randy Couture for the #2 spot in the WAMMA heavyweight ratings, and not a coincidence that a couple of weeks after that happens, Couture (who was on a WAMMA “fighter advisory board”) is announcing that he is rejoining the UFC to fight Brock Lesnar as part of a three-fight deal.

Yes, these guys want to make money off the sanctioning of title fights, and that gets us around to what else worries me in terms of WAMMA’s credibility. When you are a “sanctioning body” and are in the business of generating sanctioning fees, or sponsorship dollars, from that activity, you are worthless if you do not pursue profits. And the only way to profit is to collect, which means any enterprise like that is naturally going to gravitate toward those promoters who are willing to do business with it. That’s the way it has been in boxing for years, and I’m going beyond the sanctioning bodies everyone knows (the WBC, WBA, IBF, etc.). I’m talking about a dozen so-called governing bodies underneath them, whether they be the WBF, IBU, NABA, NABF, USBA, and on and on and on. They will sanction the fights the promoters are willing to pay them to sanction. That is their nature.

The UFC doesn’t look like it is interested in doing that kind of business, and from a “positioning” point of view, there is no compelling reason they should. Why would they want to promote their own champions as the very backbone of some of their pay-per-view productions, and then submit themselves to a rating system that would have the latitude to actually tell the public that those “champions” are not the best in the world? It makes no business sense.

So as you can see, that leaves WAMMA to deal with those promoters who will deal with IT. That means Affliction, Elite XC, etc. And since they will find out that it isn’t particularly attractive for the #7 and #8 fighters to be battling it out for a vacant “title” time after time, you are going to see some rather “creative” movements in those ratings,like so many of those organizations listed above. In point of fact, WAMMA will become an example of the same kind of “alphabet soup” that has stained boxing in the eyes of many in the public.

All that having been said, I don’t want to submit blindly to the idea people have gotten from the sanctioning bodies in boxing, just because at times “ratings for sale” may have been observed and exposed. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. In a set of circumstances that was somewhat well-known in boxing at the time, I was once asked to become a member of the ratings committee of the World Boxing Association (WBA). I countered with a proposal whereby I would gather a large contingent of members of the boxing media and poll them on the top ten in each weight division. In fact, one of my voters was going to be Eddie Goldman, a name that should be familiar to many of you, and we sat and talked about it in the lobby of the Manhattan hotel where the WBA was having an “emergency meeting” about this matter and others.

Recognizing that the WBA didn’t want to be left completely out of the mix, I proposed that the media poll count with 75% of the weight toward the overall world ratings, with the WBA ratings committee at 25%. They countered with a 50-50 offer. I didn’t want to get the writers involved with a watered-down poll, so the idea was shelved. But I knew that the purest way to do the ratings, within those parameters, was for it to count 100%. At the same time, I understood that once commercialism came into play, there was nothing in those ratings that couldn’t - and wouldn’t - be distorted if the right opportunity presented itself.

So when an organization talks about drumming up sanctioning fees, look at it with caution. And do the same when the word “sponsorships” is mentioned, because you have to have a title fight to have a sponsor, and sponsors in general are not going to be interested in #7 versus #8. Please take my word for it.

But it actually goes deeper than that. So let me catch my breath, and we’ll explore further in the next part.

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September 13, 2008
09:55:15 PM

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