There is no doubt that the UFC is the most well-known fight promotion. They have by far the best roster of fighters and put on the most significant events. However, who is second? PRIDE closely rivaled the UFC at one time before their collapse. EliteXC may have achieved second place status before their demie. Affliction quickly jumped into a second place status before their collapse in recent weeks. Who takes the spot now. Well if first is the best and that is the UFC
First Place (First Runner-Up)…Strikeforce
They have made some smart business moves. Scott Coker has built Strikeforce from the bottom up. They bought out ProElite. In that purchase they gained the CBS deal and the Showtime deal. They also snagged several prominent fighter contracts including: Robbie Lawler, Jake Shields, Nich Diaz, Cristane Cyborg, and Gina Carano to name a few. The signing of Fedor will give them a lot of attention and cement their place at number 2. Also, look for them to ink a partnership with Japanese promotion DREAM.
The WEC is the little brother to the UFC. The Zuffa owned promotion has a near monopoly on the featherweight and bantamweight divisons which hurt DREAM, Bellator, and World Victory Road who tried their hand at a featherweight tournament. The WEC has star power in those two divisions. I like that they have their own thing going. They have exciting fighters including pound for pound fighter Miguel Torres, Mike Brown, Urijah Faber, Jens Pulver, Jose Aldo, Rafael Assuncao, Wagnney Fabiano, Joseph Benavidez, Donald Cerrone, Jamie Varner, and Brian Bowles. They recently added four featherweights from Affliction. They air live and free on Versus. They have plans on expanding and adding a flyweight division., which would be the only place such lightweight fighters can be showcased. There are rumors of adding a women’s division as well. There is talk about pay per view and going international a la the UFC. The WEC is here to stay. In my opinion the only promotions putting on more compelling cards are Strikeforce and UFC.
Third is the Nerd…Bellator
They have the ESPN deal. They have their own niche. They have a great tournament set-up. They pay fighters well. They have several good fighters contracted including: Lyman Good, Hector Lombard, and Eddie Alvares. They are hurt being on ESPN Desportes. If they move to ESPN or ESPN2 that will help them greatly. They are a good place to showcase up and coming fighters.
DREAM is the best Japanese promotion because of their roster of fighters. They are weak in many weight classes, but they have a very good lightweight division which includes Gesias Cavalcante, Shinya Aoki, Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Mitsuhiro Ishida and Vitor Ribeiro. They also have a good middleweight division with Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Ronaldo “Jacare” de Souza, Paulo Filho, and Melvin Manhoef. The DREAM middleweight and lightweight tournaments were some of the best events of 2008. The current featherweight tournament is not as compelling though. Their problem is that they are irrelevant in America because of no television exposure. Also, gimmick fights do not have the appeal in America they have in Japan. Cartoon characters fighting in silly. Jose Canseco fighting is crazy.
Fifth…World Victory Road (Sengoku)
They have had some decent cards, but in the end they lack the talent to compete with the big boys. Their fatehrweight tournament did not yield the results they wanted. They have at least 3 exciting lightweights in Eiji Mitsuoka, Hirota, and Satoru Kitaoka. Their best asset is a guy with zero professional fights…Satoshi Ishii. A loss in his debut could hurt the promotion.