Sunday, March 24, 2013

Does the organization make the fighter or vice versa?

With March Madness in full swing, I've been consumed by college basketball the last couple of weeks. Thus, the reason I haven't been blogging as much. However, that is not to say I haven't been watching the fights; thank God for the invention of Digital Video Recording (DVR).

With the use of my DVR I was able to catch replays of both Thursday night's Bellator 93 card and Saturday night's World Series of Fighting 2 card. Both were extremely entertaining, chock full of highlight reel KO finishes and exciting main events; which made me think of a couple of things.

One is it's such a shame that casual fans of mixed martial arts only know and watch the UFC. Both of these promotions, especially Bellator with 93 events under its belt, are proving that their events are just as professional and can provide high quality fights. The second thing I thought of as I watched both events is, is it the organization that makes the fighter or does the fighter make the organization?

The reason this came to mind is because to hear UFC President Dana White tell it, his organization is where the best fighters in the world are. For the most part, this is probably true at the very top of the food chain as the UFC champions, Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Jose Aldo etc. are clearly the very best in their respective weight classes. However, I'd argue that when it comes to contender and even up and coming star status, the playing field is quite level.

Bellator Fighting Championships has built quite an impressive stable of fighters by implementing a simple formula. They scour the earth for untapped (no pun intended) talent and then use their tournament style setting to create stars within the sport. Sprinkle in a UFC veteran here and there and 93 cards later, the formula has worked to perfection.

If you don't believe me, just look at some of the names that have developed through the Bellator system; Eddie Alvarez, the number one free agent in MMA, Ben Askren, Michael Chandler, Pat Curran and this past Thursday the name Dave Jansen, a veteran of over 20 fights with an impressive (19-2) record, was the latest to come from MMA obscurity to becoming a tournament champion and earning a title shot.

Anyone thinking that Bellator fighters are second rate just because they are not in the UFC, need to take a look and recognize. On another note, The World Series of Fighting promotion, with just two events in its short history, is taking a different approach. Their roster, primarily made up of UFC castoffs and MMA veterans, is rejuvenating new life into well known names while sprinkling in a young gun of their own here and there.

The result has been two very successful events, which included this weekend's main event that featured former UFC welterweight (170 lbs.) Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson, pictured above, fighting at heavyweight as he took on former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. As you can see in his face from the photo above, which was taken in July 2009, Johnson is no stranger to weighing above 220 lbs.

However, at 230 lbs. for this fight, Johnson was neither fat or out of shape and was just as fast and powerful as always as he took it to Arlovski earning a unanimous decision. Other UFC cut fighters featured on this card that looked very impressive in their performances were David Branch, who destroyed former WEC middleweight (185 lbs.) champ Paulo Filho over three rounds and Josh Burkman who took out fellow UFC vet Aaron Simpson. Burkman is now slated to fight recent UFC reject Jon Fitch, possibly for the welterweight strap.

As a guy who has built an extensive vinyl record collection over the years, many of them bought used, I have come to learn that one man's trash definitely can become another man's treasure. The last thing I will do is call any fighter not in or cut by the UFC trash; but I will say that from what I've seen from both Bellator and WSOF, they are definitely reaping rewards from their fighters. Thus, in response to my question above, I'd have to say that the fighter clearly makes the organization; as it should be.

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