Jose Aldo won the Interim UFC Featherweight Title last night. Immediately after that, people were already calling his belt fake. Just like they did with Conor’s belt when he won the same belt last year. The majority of MMA fans still don’t realize that all UFC championships are an illusion. The reality of the situation is that the UFC “championship belt” is a prize given to the best fighter that night.. with a few extra perks.
We all know the UFC follows the WWE model when it comes to belts. There is not an organized structure for who gets the next title shot. Also, the UFC doesn’t have a set structure for their rankings. The rankings are determined by a panel of MMA media, who suck at ranking fighters 50% of the time. In a perfect world a champion would be determined when #1 fights #2. In order to determine who number 2 is, a tournament would be fought out. I don’t mean like the old school UFC 1 tournaments. I mean the remaining top 4 contenders would fight each other to determine who is next in line within a reasonable time frame.
However, that does not exist in MMA. Instead, we have Dan Henderson (#13), who hasn’t had a win streak in the UFC since 2011, fighting for the belt against Michael Bisping. And when Bisping fought for the belt he was ranked #4. If that doesn’t expose the title structure in the UFC, I don’t know what will.
So what the hell do I mean by “all the UFC belts are the same”. Stop thinking of the belt as the most important factor in this equation, the belt is simply a prize. A prize that is awarded that night to the man who wins. What do you get with this prize? You get a shiny gold belt that you can take pictures with, but you also get a new contract. That’s the big factor in this equation.
This is why I say all UFC belts are the same. The Interim Belt is just as fake as the “Real” belt. The UFC title’s biggest attribute is the promotion you will get from the UFC. Let’s take a look at what you get when you win either belt:
- Shiny Belt
- New Contract (More Money, Potential PPV percentage, etc)
- $40K Reebok Sponsorship Per Fight
What don’t you get if you win an interim belt?
- Recognition by the fans
The UFC tries its best when it comes to determining who fights for the belt. We all know fighters pull out all the time and injuries are a serious issue in our sport. But other times we get glimpses of what it really means to be the champ. If you don’t show up for a press conference you can get pulled from a title shot. If some politician decides to push the Ali Act on your company, you send a rep to let him know that there really isn’t a UFC belt. That conversation probably went something like this, “Bro it’s all fake man, we do it for the fans so they have someone to cheer for, take it easy with the Ali Act.”
The fact that the UFC can strip a fighter of the “belt” whenever they want is the most clear cut example of the contract being the real prize.
Aldo won the Interim Featherewight UFC Title. When he fights for the Featherweight Title he will get the same Reebok pay, he will get a cut of the PPV buys, and he will get the same exposure as Conor McGregor.
Maybe none of this matters to you, and you will still find a way to explain why one guy is the real champ. But if you’re using the UFC rankings as a source, you’re looking at smoke and mirrors. So until we have legit rankings and a structure to title shots, let’s not call one belt fake and the other one real. It’s silly.