It’s time for the UFC to embrace the grind. The promotion always makes time to showcase the highlight-reel knockouts and submissions that take place at any given UFC event, but while the UFC is showcasing the most exciting and entertaining parts of the sport, some of the most important fall by the wayside.

Fighters like Yushin Okami, Gray Maynard and countless others have put on some of the most dominant performances in the history of the Octagon using their stifling top game and ground-and-pound. Yet despite this, the UFC has spent countless dollars rewarding knockout and submission artists for doing what they do best. It’s time to start giving grapplers the same opportunities.

The UFC’s bonus system is pretty easy to follow at this point. The knockout and submission “of the Night” awards are given to whatever fighter best fits those criteria, and a “Fight of the Night” award is given to the fighters who put on the most entertaining bout. Although this does reward the fighters who provided the most memorable moments of the card, there’s no bonus set in place for the fighter who proved to be the most dominant man in the cage that night.

This is why the UFC needs to adopt a “Fighter of the Night” bonus.

Even the first few months of 2013 have some examples of a fighter that completely dominates but gets no reward money to show for it, even if their performance was more impressive than those who won the usual post-fight awards. The most recent instance came at this past weekend’s UFC 159 event, where Jon Jones completely decimated Chael Sonnen at his own game, but ended up getting no bonus money in recognition of his accomplishment.

That’s not to say Jones wasn’t fairly compensated for the bout, (in fact, he probably needs the extra money less than anyone else on the card) but while three other fighters walked out of the arena with a $65,000 bonus check to show for their efforts, Jones didn’t quite get his due, despite having the most impressive performance of the night.

Most of the MMA world assumed that Jones would be able to defeat Sonnen with little difficulty, but when Jones came out and completely overwhelmed one of the best wrestlers in the sport with double leg takedowns, it somehow made Jones look even better in what could have been called a no-win situation.

Another fighter who likely didn’t get the proper recognition after a dominant performance earlier this year is welterweight contender Demian Maia. After a rough run in his last few fights in the middleweight division, Maia cut the extra 15 pounds to make welterweight and has been enjoying a career resurgence ever since.

The highlight of his recent run came at UFC 156 in February, when Maia faced one of his toughest challenges to date in longtime top-five welterweight Jon Fitch. Fitch is known for dragging fighters to the mat and implementing his grinding style, which features a lot of top control and punches in bunches. Throw in Fitch’s unbelievable ability to avoid getting tapped out, and his match-up with arguably the best submission expert in the sport was one of the most anticipated on the card.

Maia proved it shouldn’t have been. From the opening bell, the Brazilian completely outclassed Fitch in the grappling department, grabbing dominant position after dominant position and refusing to give the former Purdue wrestling captain the chance to do anything offensively. Although Fitch’s submission defense proved to be as good as advertised, he was never really close to being in the fight and Maia walked away with a lopsided 30-27 unanimous decision victory.

Just as it went for Jones a few months later, Maia produced arguably the most impressive performance on the entire card, yet he was left out of the round of bonus checks because his bout lacked conventional entertainment. It would be impossible to ask Maia, to whom the bonus money would mean a lot more than it would to someone like Jones, to do any better in a fight against Fitch. For all of the flack he takes about being boring, Fitch is one of the toughest and most durable fighters in all of MMA and it takes something as brutal as a Johny Hendricks “H-Bomb 2.0” to actually put Fitch away.

No matter how impressive Demian Maia was at UFC 156, he wasn’t going to leave Las Vegas with a bonus check without finishing Fitch. The BJJ artist’s grappling was on a completely different level than Fitch’s that night, but unless Maia had allowed Fitch to get back into the fight, he wasn’t getting anywhere close to a “Fight of the Night” check either.

The problem with the “Fight of the Night” award is that it’s given to the two fighters that make the most competitive bout, not to the fighters who performed the best on the card. It makes sense to award the fighters who put on the best scrap, but not at the expense of the guys (or girls) who did their job the best.

The UFC is in the entertainment business, and the promotion has done its part to reward the fighters who contribute on that end. But the UFC is also in the sports business, and it’s time for the promotion to start giving back to the fighters who best showcase what this sport is all about: being the best fighter in the cage on any given night.

Photo: Demian Maia (Sherdog)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.

  • Denny

    Fighters who are content to win by decision deserve NOTHING. Now not all decisions are bad or even boring fights but the tone of this article seems VERY biased towards wrestling, and specifically American collegiate or freestyle where they reward for “control” which is defensive in nature and should be all but ignored in MMA.