2014 was, to say the least, a difficult year for the UFC. Main event injuries took a bite out of pay-per-view buys. St. Pierre indefinitely walked away from the title, Jones and Cormier brawled at press day, Sonnen and Silva were ousted…take your pick of blunders to choose from. From the end of the year into the next, here are the 3 musts for a UFC 2015 turnaround year.
#3- PED Crackdown
PED’s have been a source of scrutiny in sports competition for decades, but the controversy has hit the UFC many times in 2014. Is it better to ban an athlete that’s been popped for PED’s and lose their contribution to the organization? Or is it better to reprimand the athlete and let them continue competing with a questionable reputation? It’s difficult to say which is better for an organization. However, the reputation of the organization and the sport need a codified approach to confronting the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs in MMA.
#2- Improve Public Relations
PED busts weren’t alone in public relations problems of 2014. The Jones-Cormier press day brawl, the Ben Askren feud, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Thiago Silva and War Machine‘s respective accusations, no press-ready announcement for “The Time is Now“…the list is unfortunately extensive. The last thing the UFC needs in 2015 is more criticism from high profile athletes like GSP or Wanderlei Silva that undermine the reputation and standing of the organization. Aside from athlete relations, careful measures have to be taken to make sure another Macao-esque judging debacle does not happen again.
#1- Maintain Athlete Health
Finally, the million dollar question for combat sports. How does an organization like the UFC keep its athletes healthy? To a certain degree, disaster happens in the hurt business. You can’t expect perfect health from athletes that trade punches to the face for a living. Regardless, replacing opponents in the main event and/or moving a card due to injury is a very costly financial loss to the UFC. The injury bug can never be totally stomped out, but it needs a sustainable solution for the organization to press forward successfully into 2015.
It’s been a rough year for the organization in many regards, but hats off to the UFC for organizing a revitalizing upcoming schedule. Before the year is out, December boasts a welterweight and lightweight title defense, the inaugural TUF women’s strawweight title fight, Nate Diaz, Dos Santos, Machida and Barao. Next year kicks off with highly anticipated bouts with Bones, Rousey, Weidman, Belfort, Silva, Nick Diaz, Gus and McGregor. Barring a PED bust, PR fiasco and/or another card marred by injury, the coming months couldn’t look more promising for a UFC 2015 turnaround.