Becoming a champion is the highest accomplishment that every athlete aspires to reach. It doesn’t matter if it is an individual sport like MMA, boxing, or wrestling, or a team sport like basketball, baseball, or hockey. The goal in professional sports is always to be #1. However, in MMA getting a title shot doesn’t always guarantee the champion will face the toughest competitor or the best challenger to his or her crown.
Major sports leagues around the world all have a sort of playoff or type of requirements that sets the groundwork for who gets to the championship and who doesn’t. As for MMA, we have seen many fighters awarded a controversial title shot and skip the line due in part to their popularity and following, some fighters are masters of the microphone and can stir so many emotions and controversy that it doesn’t matter their record. MMA is and will always be part of the entertainment industry, getting people in the seats or buying the PPV’s is the only way these companies and fighters will make money, but should there be a path to the belt in a sport like MMA?
Unlike other leagues like say the NFL and other major organizations, the UFC and Bellator decide who is awarded a title shot, while they undoubtedly have their process of deciding who goes and who doesn’t, many fans and fighters are left wondering what this process is and what are the requirement considering so many fighters go on tremendous win streak without receiving so much as an interim fight (Leon Edwards 9-0-1 NC in last 10 fights).
We have seen names like Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar, Chael Sonnen, Michael Chandler all get title shots that many people considered to be far too early or just flat-out undeserving. While this type of controversy falls directly on the promotions that make the decisions, it is clear that the people most affected by this are the fighters.
Organizations like the PFL have implemented a playoff scoring system that makes title shots less controversial as the fighters and their performances have more of a say in what comes next, rather than the popularity contest that MMA has become. While not everyone is a fan of this system, one can’t deny the number of controversial title shots that have occurred and how many fighters’ careers have been put on hold or never been given the opportunity they deserve.