It was a landmark year for the UFC. With the disintegration of Strikeforce, Dana White prepared his promotion for absolute domination of the U.S. mixed martial arts market, and he did so in a big way.
Women claimed their place in the Octagon, once untouchable fighters became mortal, and a record-breaking fifteen events were held internationally. Needless to say, the UFC has a lot to live up to in the New Year.
For every fighter that loses a step, there is an up-and-comer waiting in the wings. This also symbolizes the UFC business model. White stays ahead of the curve by highlighting the promotion’s ever-evolving philosophy, which led to purchasing rivals PRIDE, WEC, and the previously named Strikeforce. With big changes expected in 2014, one can’t help but wonder whether these moves will help or hurt in the long run.
Here a five ways the UFC will change in 2014.
1) The Ultimate Fighter expands internationally
Following two successful season, The Ultimate Fighter Brazil returns with new coaches Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen. Additionally, China welcomes TUF for the first time and Canada and Australia face off in The Ultimate Fighter Nations.
While the new U.S. version featuring coaches B.J. Penn and Frankie doesn’t begin until the Spring, one can scope out the international talent pool in the meantime. Watching overseas broadcasts used to be a problem, but the UFC solved that with the next big change.
2) UFC ‘Fight Pass’ subscription service introduced
The UFC is making the online experience more convenient for fans in launching a digital subscription network. They are offering a free trial period through Feb. 28, with a $10 monthly fee thereafter.
Much like Netflix, ‘Fight Pass’ will be available on most media platforms, including Apple TV, Android and iOS systems, and gaming consoles. The full UFC library will also be also available, including PRIDE, Strikeforce, WEC, and Elite XC fights and all international events, except pay-per-views, will stream live for U.S. viewers.
3) Changes in ranking structure
Going forward, all UFC rankings will name the top 15 fighters in each division instead of the top ten, meaning that 45 new names are officially listed.
With nearly 40 events scheduled next year, the UFC hopes this helps fighters’ gain recognition. The rankings will be updated immediately after a show, unless events fall on consecutive days. Whether this helps the UFC’s growing roster or complicates an already jumbled ranking system remains to be seen.
4) Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre won’t be in the Octagon
For the first time since the mid-2000s, fans can’t look forward to an Anderson Silva or George St.-Pierre fight. Silva expects a six-month recovery period from the agonizing leg injury he suffered at UFC 168, leaving little time for competition. St-Pierre, on the other hand, can stage a comeback whenever he likes, however unlikely it is.
These are two sure fire hall of famers that will surely be missed. To put it in perspective, Silva and St-Pierre each held their respective titles for over 2,000 consecutive days. The next closes fighter was Tito Ortiz who held the UFC Light Heavyweight title for just over 1,200 straight days.
5) Women’s strawweight division added
Banking off Ronda Rousey’s notoriety and the success of The Ultimate Fighter 18, the UFC is adding a 115-pound women’s division. White, who once said he would never hold a women’s fight in the Octagon, hopes to lure Invicta FC fighters.
The division comes together on The Ultimate Fighter 20, which begins production in May. Instead of a six-figure contract, the winner will be crowned the first UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion. A date for the show’s premier has not been released.