The UFC is without a shadow of a doubt the biggest promotional entity in MMA, and it dominates the MMA landscape as a result. However, there is distinct competition for second place these days. Given the UFC’s propensity to simply buy out previous competitors, this is unusual.

In the past we have seen the UFC buy out Pride, the WEC and Strikeforce on the road to becoming the powerhouse that it is today. In the present day, there are rival promotions, but none that could be characterized as direct competition to the UFC. Instead, those promotions are resigned to fighting it out for the No. 2 slot.

Bellator currently holds this position, but, in recent months, the World Series of Fighting and its executives have been making moves to unseat the Viacom-owned promotion from its perch. Some of these “moves,” like the open challenge to Bellator, are nothing more than promotional baiting. Others, such as the signings of Rousimar Palhares, Yushin Okami and Jake Shields, are a clear statement of intent.

In their race for the second place, both promotions could learn a thing or two from the market leader, just as in any other business industry. The key issues that need to be established are: 1) What ingredients or attributes make the UFC so comparably great?, and 2) What aspects of the UFC’s model can Bellator and the World Series of Fighting look to utilize to further their own cause?

The power and dominance that the UFC has over the marketplace cannot be overstated. However, they have gained this standing over the course of the last decade and more. When you think of the aspects of the UFC that make it so great, you can effectively narrow them down into four broad categories:

1. The Best of the Best

This is and always will be the UFC’s biggest selling point. Whilst the other promotions vying for second place cannot boast to having the best, they can still boast one or two fighters who are certainly in the upper echelons of the wider MMA rankings for their respective divisions.

For example, if Bellator can promote the upcoming pay-per-view with Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler as two of the best fighters in their division (which they undoubtedly are) looking to settle the score once and for all and do this with enough authenticity, then casual fans would most likely take note.

Rankings of this sort exist in all other sports as a way of identifying who the best currently is, and promoters need to start jumping on this bandwagon with a bit more gusto than they have previously. The UFC has implemented its own rankings so as to entice the casual fan with bold headlines such as “The No. 3 in the world is fighting the No. 5 in the world this Saturday.”

The likes of Bellator and the World Series of Fighting don’t need to simply ignore rankings. Instead, they should let the fans know where their fighters are either in terms of their place in MMA overall or even just within their own organization. Without a point of reference,every fight appears to be of equal importance, which is simply not the case.

2. Marketable Figures

Outside of the UFC, there are still great fighters, but the characters, for the most part, aren’t given a platform to shine through. If the smaller promotions can somehow provide fans with a more open line of communication with the fighters, then fan engagement can increase and interest with it, as well.

The problem for the smaller shows is how to go about this. The UFC has all of its different avenues with which to promote a fighter and his/her persona. In the build-up to just about any UFC event these days, you will see most of the main-card fighters featured heavily in the media, just as with any other organization. What the UFC does to differentiate itself is that it gives these fighters the extra promotional push of having them on countdown shows, YouTube previews, UFC Tonight and so on.

At this point, even UFC President Dana White’s pre- and post-fight scrums are a promotional tool used to hype up certain fighters. We have seen this recently with Renan Barao having been lauded as the pound-for-pound king when the timing suited the UFC.

The smaller promotions need to really go beyond just producing the fight cards and instead build a storyline of sorts as the event draws near. Only once the fans have reached a peaked interest in the actual fighters themselves can their interest in the organization as a whole flourish.

3. Identifiable Executives

The UFC has a healthy mix of the Don King-style promotion in Dana White mixed with the solid business mind of Lorenzo Fertitta. This represents a clear and distinct “yin and yang” effect.

For as far back as fight fans can remember, there has always been a promoter who stood on stage and really sold it to you. What all of the great promoters have in common is that they can make their audience understand why a fight is an absolute necessity that should be marked on the calendar, months in advance.

The one thing that White does better than any other living promoter, besides perhaps Floyd Mayweather, is to establish his message and reach his intended audience with that message. Through his video blogs, his media scrums, his television and radio appearances and even with his tweets, White is all about engaging with the consumer of his product with the sole purpose of producing increased interest as a result.

Outside of the UFC, this type of figurehead is hard to find, but it is a necessity if the promotions themselves are to become a saleable commodity instead of solely relying upon one or two fighters to do the selling for them.

4. Consistency/Reputation

For as long as MMA has been going, the UFC has always been the major player in the market. The value that this relative longevity and consistency brings to the table is beyond compare.

There is no substitute for reputation when it comes to combat sports, or anything else for that matter. Golden Boy Promotions is what it is today because it has a solid roster of fighters and, in the recent past, it has put on some of the best fights that were available at the time. Mayweather has established himself over his entire career as a consistent performer, both in and out of the ring, and fans trust that the entertainment value he will provide them with is worth their hard-earned cash.

Overall, the long-term goal for both Bellator and the World Series of Fighting must be to become the clear No. 2 organization beyond any shadow of a doubt. In the short term, they must simply concentrate on gradual improvements in all areas, whether it be production, promotion, high-quality fights or general brand awareness.

It is noteworthy that over the next few years, the UFC is going to go through a period of transition whereby its quality control is going to be tested to its absolute limit. The patience of the fans will be tested even more so. If Bellator and the World Series of Fighting play it right, they could use the dilution of the UFC product to their advantage. They could do this by highlighting that the quality of fights taking place within the UFC on some fight cards, such as the UFC Fight Night shows and the UFC Fight Pass offerings, is of no greater quality or significance than what they have been steadily producing for years.

At the end of the day, both of the promotions have made a good base from which to progress, but the key to their survival most likely depends upon how long the UFC remains content to share the marketplace and how content these promotions are to rest firmly in second place. The second either one of the two gets ideas above their station, the UFC machine could simply kick into overdrive with counter programming designed for the sole purpose of turning consumers away from their product, in favor of the UFC.

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer

Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.