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MMA Needs a World Championship

By Robert Rousseau,
Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Rocky Marciano, and Joe Louis. Besides being famous boxers, these great athletes have something else in common.

They were all world champions in their chosen sport.

Now, here's another list. Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, and Takanori Gomi. Beyond being famous mixed martial artists, these athletes also have something in common.

They have never been a world champion in their chosen sport.

Mixed martial arts ( MMA ) is currently set up in such a way that a true world title is impossible. The reason for this is simple: each and every one of the fighters noted above generally competes for only one organization. Along with this, MMA competitors in one organization, for the most part, do not fight those in others

In other words, at present the highest accomplishment an MMA fighter can achieved is an organizational title.

Elite XC President of Live Events, Gary Shaw, agrees. "When (a) UFC fighter stands up and wins a belt, it's not the world championship; it's the UFC Championship in Las Vegas. In that regard, it should be more like boxing where you fight one another (and) promoters work with one another."

Though there may be some flaws with that concept as well, it's hard to argue with the end result. After all, who wouldn't have wanted to see Wanderlei Silva - back when he was the champion - face Chuck Liddell? Heck, who wouldn't still want to see that fight? How about Liddell versus Mauricio "Shogun" Rua? Why not Anderson Silva versus Paulo Filho while we're at it?

Yes, one could go on and on dreaming up these fights.

Shaw has big dreams too. "Can you imagine all of a sudden the UFC and Elite XC go against one another? We do a co-promotion. Now you start to have a real world champion. And then K 1 comes in, and PRIDE comes in, and- you know- King of the Cage comes in. I mean, you really got some special stuff."

No doubt.

Unfortunately, the two most prolific MMA organizations on the planet- PRIDE and the UFC -have a history of not working together. To add insult to injury, several UFC events ago, Dana White announced that Wanderlei Silva would be taking on Chuck Liddell. In fact, Silva even showed up at that UFC event for a stare down.

Of course, we all know that the fight never actually took place. Further, a future match up seems a long shot at best, especially considering Silva's recent loss to Dan "Hollywood" Henderson.

However, Silva's recent hardships are hardly the lone reason why the organizations haven't come to any agreements (no matter what anyone says). If that were the major factor, then the two might put together a Lightweight Championship bout instead between Takanori Gomi and Sean Sherk. Or perhaps they'd choose to see what Tim Sylvia was capable of against Fedor Emelianenko.

Rather, the reason for the unwillingness to work together is simple. Both are vying for superiority. Thus, there is likely some fear that their fighters would lose to the others', which would in turn promote the other organization.

That said, three things would seem appropriate to note regarding how we got to this point.

First, the UFC is gaining big time on PRIDE. With the acquisitions of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and Lyoto Machida, it seems to be only a matter of time before the UFC steals enough PRIDE fighters to make this rivalry something of the past (unless PRIDE scores a nice television deal and turns things around). At present, the UFC is simply in a far better economic position, with television deals already present and in the works and major pay per view revenue coming in.

This, of course, puts Dana White's organization in an enviable position as they may not feel that it is in their best interests to risk their reputation against PRIDE (or any other organization for that matter).

Second, Dana White does deserve some credit for trying to promote cross organizational fighting several years ago. After all, he sent fighters over to PRIDE without any proof the Japanese organization would reciprocate (and they didn't). Chuck Liddell, Ricco Rodriguez, and Yves Edwards- hardly slouches - have all fallen overseas to the competition (though the Rodriguez decision against Nogueira was questionable).

In other words, he has reason to harbor some ill will toward PRIDE; they didn't come through in the past when he did.

Last, we shouldn't forget the rest of the competition. King of the Cage has been a good feeder organization for years; thus, they tend to have at least one person worthy of challenging the big guns at anytime. In addition, Shaw's Elite XC organization has the money and visibility via the Showtime deal to succeed. Besides, they are doing something that will bring fighters into their fold as much as anything.

"We're allowing our fighters to fight for other organizations," Shaw says.

It's that kind of thinking that just might get MMA fans a world championship someday.

What will it take for true MMA World Championship bouts to happen?

Either PRIDE and the UFC have to agree to come to the table in the spirit of doing this, or Elite XC or some other organization needs to rise to the same stature and work with one of them. For the former to happen, it would help if PRIDE reestablished their television ties in their homeland.

Further, the two proponent organizations (or more) would need to agree on a framework for doing this. That, in reality, would probably be the easiest part.

So, here's hoping.

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