Fans Can Be Baffled By Some of the Promotion's Decisions

Published on December 17th, 2019 4:22 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel



How does matchmaking in mixed martial arts work? If you are a fan of the UFC, there has inevitably come a time when you have been absolutely puzzled by one of the promotion's booking decisions.

For instance - UFC President Dana White recently said that the promotion would look at booking a Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor rematch if McGregor can beat Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.

This caused anger amongst many fight fans, as many see McGregor as being undeserving of a title shot, especially when compared to Justin Gaethje. After all, McGregor is coming off of a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, while Gaethje recently destroyed Donald Cerrone. With Cerrone and McGregor fighting at 170 pounds - why would McGregor move past Gaethje to get the next shot at Khabib? For many, this doesn't make sense.

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The fact is, this type of matchmaking DOESN't make sense at all. In a perfect world, the #1 contender should always be fighting for the title.

The fact of the matter, however, is that the UFC is primarily motivated by money. This isn't a controversial statement - billions was paid for the UFC, and its shareholders want to realize a return on their investment.

The first fight between Khabib and McGregor was the biggest selling PPV in the history of the promotion, with well over 2 million PPVs being sold. McGregor continues to be the biggest star in the UFC, while Khabib is easily the promotion's second biggest star.

With all of the bad blood between the two men, and with Khabib's surging popularity around the world, there is a chance that a rematch could sell 3 million PPVs. The UFC and its PPV partner, ESPN, simply can't turn a blind eye to this potential windfall.

A fight between Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov would certainly be entertaining, though it would sell a fraction of a McGregor/Khabib rematch.

Mixed martial arts purists recoil at the thought of McGregor getting the rematch before Gaethje, but at the end of the day, the UFC is a business, and having McGregor in a title fight is good business for the promotion.

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Money is the biggest factor in how the UFC decides who will get title shots and which fights are put together by the promotion.

There are other factors, however, that influence their matchmaking decisions, including:

1) Injuries. Sometimes fighters are given the opportunity to participate in big fights and simply can't due to injuries.

2) Contract status. Let's say that the UFC is considering one of two fighters for a slot in a big fight. One fighter recently extended their contract, while the other has one fight left on their deal and has said that they are planning on testing free agency. The UFC will almost always give the fight to the fighter who is locked up long-term.

3) Regional Popularity. The UFC loves putting fighters on cards that are from the area where the card is taking place. If there is a card in the United Kingdom, the UFC will always look to put a fighter from the UK in a big fight.

4) Recent Results. The UFC always likes to match recent winners against recent winners, and recent losers against recent losers.

5) Callouts. The UFC loves it when fighters call out other fighters, especially when the fights make sense. For instance, the UFC jumped on making the Nate Diaz vs Jorge Masvidal fight as soon as Diaz called out Masvidal. That fight made a great deal of sense, and the UFC quickly made the fight. (Money was also a big factor in this fight being made, as Diaz and Masvidal are currently two of the most marketable stars in the promotion).

6) Willingness to fight on short notice. Those fighters who are willing to fight on short notice in order to help save cards are almost certainly given preference when they ask for fights.

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These are all factors when it comes to matchmaking, though the biggest factor is, and will always remain, money.

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