With roughly two weeks left in 2013, most of the MMA promotions have already held their final event of the year and are beginning to plan out 2014.
As the sport of Mixed Martial Arts continues to grow it’s becoming less and less forgiving. The “big dogs” are critiqued at every turn while the “smaller” promotions are only as good as their last event. For promotions like the World Series of Fighting and Invicta FC, 2013 was a big year and the proven veterans like the UFC and Bellator continue to grow.
Measuring a MMA promotion and then trying to compare them to another is a difficult task and one that is far from an exact science. For the below rankings we looked at four different things and gave them a score between 1 and 5, with 5 being the best. These categories were, their 2013 year, overall roster, ease of watching and their 2014 outlook. The scores were then totaled up and here’s how things shake out heading into 2014.
The top Five US-based MMA Promotions Entering the 2014 calendar year:
1. UFC: 2013 Year (5), Roster (5), Ease of Watching (4), 2014 Outlook (4) = 18 points
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been the MMA worlds top dog and that’s not going to change anytime soon. They have the best overall roster of fighters and by years end will have held a total of 32 events, the most in the promotions history. Moving over to FOX and their FOX Sports 1 & 2 networks has made it difficult for some to watch due to the channels either not being available or only available in the higher packages. On paper to 2014 looks to be a massive year for the UFC as they continue their march towards global domination. They plan to hold 50+ events around the world and will be launching a new digital network. The problem here is the added events are mostly overseas and the new network will be the home for these events but it will come at an additional cost.
2. WSOF: 2013 Year (4), Roster (4), Ease of Watching (4), 2014 Outlook (4) = 16 points
In their first full year, the World Series of Fighting put on six solid fight cards. They crowned their first two champions, held their first event in Canada at WSOF 7 and quietly bought the little know Nicaraguan MMA promotion Omega MMA.. Their roster is continuing to grow and while it does have a fair amount of UFC cast-offs it also has a good mixture of prospects picked up from smaller promotions. You can watch the World Series of Fighting main cards on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) and their preliminary cards typically stream live online. Having re-branded Omega MMA into WSOF: Central America and created WSOF: Canada for their last event the World Series of Fighting looks to continue its global expansion in 2014.
3. Bellator: 2013 Year (3), Roster (3), Ease of Watching (5), 2014 Outlook (4) = 15 points
Some might be surprised to see Bellator NOT at #2, while other’s might actually think they are ranked too high. 2013 was an odd year for them as they signed some big name talent that for the most part didn’t pan out. Bellator has some really good fighters, especially in the lower weight classes but their heavyweight has been horrible since day one and overall the roster lacks depth in the other divisions. Choosing not to keep former champions Zach Makovsky and Ben Askren either. Being on Spike TV though is a major advantage for them and will only continue to benefit them heading into 2014. Bellator has big dreams and its hard not to think next year is not going to be a good one for them. Some issues though that need to be addressed are their champions not fighting enough and of course that heavyweight division.
4. Invicta: 2013 Year (4), Roster (4), Ease of Watching (3), 2014 Outlook (3) = 14 points
Without Invicta FC Women’s MMA would not be where it is today and that should not be overlooked. After a 2012 year in which fans ran into trouble just trying to watch the events on UStream Invicta switch over to cable PPV for their main cards. It’s not on free TV but the PPV cost is also not that high either. Aside from the top fighters in the UFC’s 135 lbs. women’s division, Invicta has the best female talent in MMA and delivered four great events in 2013.Their deep roster is taking a bit of a hit though heading into next year as the UFC is now adding a 115 lbs. division and did so by acquiring 11 contracts from Invicta, including their strawweight champion Carla Esparza. How the promotion handles this and moves forward has me a bit worried on their 2014 outlook.
5. RFA: 2013 Year (3), Roster (3), Ease of Watching (3), 2014 Outlook (3) = 12 points
Resurrection Fighting Alliance wants to be known as a UFC feeder promotion and that exactly what they did this year. Fighters like Brandon Thatch, Sergio Pettis, James Krause and most recently Zach Makovsky all got the call up to the big show. RFA held six events this year and as the year went on though you could see the effects of those call ups. They do have some good fighters on the roster but how long will they stay there is a valid question. You’ll need AXS TV to watch RFA events which can be difficult depending on the cable company, but that has gotten a bit easier. Resurrection Fighting Alliance is going to need to bring in more talent or some of their amateur fighters will need to go pro for 2014 to be a successful one.
2013 Year (3), Roster (2), Ease of Watching (3), 2014 Outlook (4) = 12 points
Hot on the tail of RFA is the Florida based Xtreme Fighting Championship who put on six solid events this year and might have the best female roster of fighters outside Invicta and the UFC. The XFC roster lost some talent this year but also found some new talent through their tryouts. Like the RFA they can be seen on AXS TV but also recently announced a Latin America TV deal with REDE TV. The XFC plans to use this new deal to launch international growth and will start by introducing the “Latin America MMA Cup” in 2014. Things are looking up for the XFC, the top five better watch out!