April 9, 2005. The Finale of Spike TV’s hit new reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. Forrest Griffin won a unanimous decision against Stephen Bonnar to become the Light Heavyweight Champion of the show. It was a back and forth slug fest. Two men, going toe to toe, winner getting a six figure UFC contract. If the season opened the world’s eyes to the UFC, then the excitement of this fight got them hooked.
Looking back, what if Griffin and Bonnar never stood in the pocket and fired at will. What if, for three rounds, Forest Griffin took Bonnar down, and laid on top of him, keeping position. For one, it would be a BORING fight. Secondly, and more importantly, this fight would never be as talked about as it is. Far too often, the UFC pits wrestler against striker with snooze inflicting results. It is the perfect match up for what’s been called “Lay & Pray”. Taking their opponent down, laying on them and praying for a decision win.
I fully understand that it is well within the unified rules of mixed martial arts. However, I believe fans will lose interest if they’re saddled with boring decision after boring decision. Here are Five Rules that can be implemented to bring the excitement back to the sport that hooked us.
1) Yellow Cards. The now defunct Japanese organization, PRIDE, would issue yellow cards due to inactivity. Each yellow card was a 10% deduction of that fighter’s purse.
2) 15 Second Reset Count. If a referee feels that the fighter in control is not advancing, or trying to do damage, then he starts a count to 15. If he reaches the end of the count, and nothing has change, he resets both fighters to a standing position.
3) Larger Win Bonuses. On the Ultimate Fighter, those who finish their opponent get a bonus $5000. Those who go to decision, don’t receive any bonus. This is something that should be used outside of the reality show.
4) Control vs Stalling. When judging a fight, put less emphasis on “octagon control” and start leaning negatively towards “stalling”. So if a round is basically one guy laying on top of the other, then instead of giving him the round, make it an even round.
5) No Contest. This is my most controversial rule. If a fighter is leaning on his opponent against the cage or laying on top of his opponent, despite warnings. Then at the end of the fight, call it a “No Contest” Neither fighter earns a win bonus. But hopefully will fight more effectively next time.
In reality, I think the rules I’ve stated here border on the outlandish, but when you take the excitement out of the sport, you lose your audience. Just ask boxing. For far too many people, if Manny Pacquiao’s not fighting, they don’t care about the fight. I’d hate to see that happen to the UFC.