For any new or casual fan of mixed martial arts that knows the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is not the only MMA show in town, it can be difficult to gauge the talent or legitimacy of some of the national and regional organizations.
In fact, there are so many smaller organizations that even the most hardcore of the hardcore MMA fans couldn't name 80-percent of them.
My FanPost will try to break down a good portion of the current leagues into four Tiers: Major Leagues, Minor Leagues, "C" Leagues, and "D" Leagues, along with some now-defunct organizations and also a overall ranking.
The criteria I will use are number of shows, years of operation, validity of matchmaking, television deals, whether they hold regional, national, or International shows and most importantly, strength of roster. (Note: when it comes to rosters, it is every notable fighter to ever fight in that organization.)
Matchmaking and roster will be given a number (1-6) that break down like this:
Note: * = Now Defunct Organization
Let's get started.
Number 20: World Fighting Alliance (WFA)*
Four and a half years of operation
Pay-per-view (PPV) once
WFA was a regional promotion doing shows in Vegas and one in Los Angeles.
Roster: 4 -- Quinton Jackson, Bas Rutten, Rich Franklin, Lyoto Machida, Frank Trigg, Martin Kampmann, Marvin Eastman, Ivan Salaverry, Valentijn Overeem, Mike Van Arsdale, Dennis Hallman, Matt Lindland, Vernon White, Jason Miller.
Number 19: Titan Fighting Championship (TitanFC)
Minor TV Deal with HDNet.
TFC is a regional promotion based out of Kansas City.
Number 18: ProElite (The second one)
Minor TV deal with HDNet
ProElite is a regional promotion based in Hawaii.
Number 17: Deep
No TV Deal
Deep is a Japanese-based national promotion.
Number 16: Tachi Palace Fighting (TPF)
No TV deal
TPF is a regional promotion based out of California.
Number 15: Rings*
Three Years of Operation
No TV deal.
Rings was a national promotion from Japan.
Number 14: Cage Rage*
38 Events (10 Challenger style)
Six years of Operation
Minor TV deal in the United Kingdom.
Cage Rage was predominantly a national promotion but did hold one event outside of England.
Roster: 3 -- Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Paul Daley, Michael Bisping, Chris Lytle, Melvin Manhoef, Ken Shamrock, Jorge Rivera, Renato Sobral, Masakazu Imanari, Zelg Galesic and Herb Dean (Yes, the referee).
Number 13: Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC)
Minor TV deal with HDNet.
MFC is a regional promotion based in Alberta, Canada.
Roster: 3 -- Ryan Jimmo, Paul Daley, Ben Henderson, Marcus Davis, Douglas Lima, Yves Edwards, Hermes Franca, Carlo Prater, Antonio McKee, Drew McFedries, Travis Lutter, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Marvin Eastman, Dean Lister, Matt Veach, Chase Gormley, Bobby Lashley, Trevor Prangley, Pete Spratt, Thales Leites, Chris Camozzi, Wilson Gouveia.
Number 12: Shooto
No TV deal (that I could find).
Shooto is an International promotion serving nearly 20 countries.
Roster: 3 -- Anderson Silva, Jake Shields, Hatsu Hioki, Takanori Gomi, Mamoru "The Fro" Yamaguchi, Joachim Hansen, Caol Uno, Hayato Sakurai, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Shinya Aoki, Rumina Sato, Takeya Mizugaki
Number 11: Affliction*
One year of operation
Two shows on PPV.
Affliction was a regional promotion never leaving California.
Roster: 4 -- Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo, Ben Rothwell, Vitor Belfort, Mark Hominick, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Renato Sobral, Dan Lauzon, Jason High, Jay Hieron, Vladimir Matyushenko, Gilbert Yvel, Matt Lindland.
Number 10: King of the Cage (KOTC)
Minor TV deal.
KOTC is an International Promotion.
Roster: 3 -- Quinton Jackson, Marvin Eastman, Vernon White, Daniel Cormier, Jeremy Horn, Mike Kyle, Dean Lister, Diego Sanchez, Joe Stevenson, Jorge Santiago, Mac Danzig, Rory MacDonald, Urijah Faber, Ricco Rodriguez, Mamoru Yamaguchi.
Number 9: Dream
Minor TV deal in the US and Japan.
Dream is a national promotion in Japan.
Roster: 3 -- Shinya Aoki, Kazushi Sakuraba, Fedor Emelianenko, Hayato Sakurai, Alistair Overeem, Mirko Filipovic, Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawijiri, Gegard Mousasi, Ronaldo Souza, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Caol Uno, Rich Clementi, Drew Fickett, Bob Sapp, Ikuhisa Minowa, Satoshi Ishii.
Number 8: EliteXC*
Two years of Operation
Matchmaking: 1 -- Mismatches and bonuses to keep fights standing (see Kimbo Slice vs Seth Petrucelli).
Major TV deal with Showtime and the First MMA organization to make it to primetime with CBS.
Roster: 4 -- Jake Shields, K.J. Noons, Nick Diaz, Kevin Ferguson, Frank Shamrock, Robbie Lawler, Antonio Silva, Paul Daley, Eddie Alvarez, Andrei Arlovski, Roy Nelson, Cristiane Santos, Gina Carano, Phil Baroni, Mike Kyle.
Number 7: International Fight League (IFL)*
Two and a half years of operation
Minor TV deal in the US on My Network TV.
IFL was a national promotion based in the US.
Roster: 3 -- Renzo Gracie, Jens Pulver, Pat Miletich, Carlos Newton, Robbie Lawler, Matt Lindland, Jeremy Horn, Roy Nelson, Dan Miller, Jay Hieron, Vladimir Matyushenko, Jake Ellenberger, Ben Rothwell, Tim Kennedy, Brian Ebersole, Krzysztof Soszynski.
Number 6: Pancrase
Matchmaking: 1 -- The early days of Pancrase, one in five fights were alleged to be "worked" or "fixed" bouts.
Minor TV Deal in Japan.
Pancrase is a national promotion never leaving the island of Japan.
Roster: 4 -- Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger, Nate Marquardt, Ricardo Almeida, Ikuhisa Minowa, Chael Sonnen, Paul Daley, Carlos Condit, Chris Lytle, Kazuo Misaki, Evan Tanner, Genki Sudo, Joe Riggs, Akhiro Gono.
Number 5: Bellator
Minor TV deal on MTV2 with Viacom's backing and a move to SpikeTV inevitable.
Bellator is a International Promotion holding multiple shows in the US and Canada.
Roster: 3 -- Hector Lombard, Eddie Alvarez, Ben Askren, Roger Huerta, Pat Curran, Joe Warren, Michael Chandler, Patricky and Patricio Friere, Marlon Sandro, Jay Hieron, Zach Makovsky, Ben Saunders, War Machine, Zoila Gurgel, Cole Konrad.
Number 4: Strikeforce
60 Events (including 19 Challenger shows)
Major TV deal with Showtime and a limited deal with CBS.
Strikeforce is a national promotion and has never had a show outside of the US.
Roster: 5 -- Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Fabricio Werdum, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett, Jake Shields, Frank Shamrock, Gegard Mousasi, Renato Sobral, Muhammad Lawal, Clay Guida, Luke Rockhold, Cristiane Santos, Gina Carano, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Marloes Coenen, Ronaldo Souza, Robbie Lawler, Cung Le, Jorge Santiago, Kazuo Misaki, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, Josh Thomson, Melvin Manhoef.
Number 3: World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC)*
Just under 10 years of operation
Minor TV deal across Multiple Countries.
WEC was mostly a national promotion only holding one event outside the US (in Edmonton Canada).
Roster: 5 -- Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Carlos Condit, Chael Sonnen, Brian Stann, Frank Shamrock, Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis, Nick Diaz, Chris Leben, Joe Riggs, James Irving, Paulo Filho, Shonie Carter, Gilbert Melendez, Miguel Torres, Brian Bowles, Brandon Vera, Donald Cerrone, Johny Hendricks, Joesph Benavidez, Ian McCall, Chan Sung Jung, Mark Munoz, Mark Hominick.
Number 2: Pride Fighting Championships (PrideFC)*
10 Years of Operation
Major TV deal in Japan.
Pride was an International promotion holding events in Japan and the US.
Roster: 6 -- Fedor Emelianenko, Nogueira brothers, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Coleman, Don Frye, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Ricardo Arona, Dan Henderson, Kazuo Misaki, Kazushi Sakuraba, Anderson Silva, Josh Barnett, Igor Vovchanchyn, Ken Shamrock, Kevin Randleman, Royce Gracie, Takanori Gomi, Murilo Bustamante, Paulo Filho, Ikuhisa Minowa, Carlos Newton, Gegard Mousasi, Shinya Aoki, Jens Pulver, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gilbert Melendez, Joachim Hansen.
Number 1: Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC)
200 Events + 14 Seasons of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF)
Major TV deal in multiple countries including FOX, FX, and Fuel TV as well as a major PPV schedule in the US.
UFC is an International promotion holding events all over the world.
Roster: 6 -- It is easier to count who hasn't fought in the UFC. There are only a handful of the great fighters that haven't fought inside the Octagon: Fedor Emelianenko, ShinyaAoki, Igor Vovchanchyn, Eddie Alvarez, Hector Lombard and Gilbert Melendez are the ones that stand out to me!
Random Stats and Thoughts
- Most Major League Future Champions Among the Minor leagues
WEC: Four (Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz, Carlos Condit, Ben Henderson)
Rings: Four (Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson)
WFA: Three (Quinton Jackson, Rich Franklin, Lyoto Machida)
- Most Major league past champions among the minor leagues
Strikeforce: Five (Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Shamrock, Josh Barnett, Dan Henderson, Andrei Arlovski)
Affliction: Five (Fedor Emelianenko, Vitor Belfort, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia)
- ZUFFA the UFC's parent company has bought PrideFC (#2), WEC (#3), Strikeforce (#4) and the WFA (#20) since December of 2006.
- KOTC, Shooto, MFC and Deep have been around a long while and have seen lots of top 10 fighters come through their doors and on to the big leagues and vice versa. These are the true feeder leagues for the US, Canada, and Japan. (If anyone has any info on a Brazilian league of this sort, please post in the comments.)
- Nomad list (fighters that have fought for multiple organizations.)
Fedor Emelianenko: Five (Pride, Dream, Affliction, Strikeforce, Rings)
Nick Diaz: Five (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce, EliteXC)
Renato Sobral: Five (UFC, Strikeforce, Affliction, Cage Rage, Rings)
Jens Pulver: Five (UFC, Pride, WEC, IFL, TitanFC)
Tied with four: Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Quinton Jackson, Josh Barnett and Shinya Aoki.
- IFL was the first MMA Promotion to pay for healthcare of fighters while training, four years before ZUFFA did it.
- With the UFC's Debut in Sweden next month, they will have traveled to more countries (11) than any other MMA Organization. Shooto held events in 10 Countries.
- The UFC has already held events on more continents than any other promotion with five in Europe, Asia, Australia and both North and South America.
- I couldn't find the exact number of Pancrase, Shooto, or Deep events. The UFC had 200 so far and if they are not in the lead yet, they will be eventually.
That's a warp, folks. What did you think of the rankings? Agree or disagree? Let your voice be heard!