Dana White likes his fighters hungry right? You won’t always find them on the show named after him though. If the Contender Series is truly a developmental league, they need to do better on building those that come from the show. But now there are more DWCS vets on the roster than ever before and not everyone can be marketed as the next world champion.
There are some changes the product needs to make before they inflate their roster more than ever before. Changes the company can be proactive about before competition starts to catch up.
Some advice, take it or leave it—below are the changes Contender Series should consider making.
Give Out More Developmental Contracts
Since the inception of the show, we’ve only seen two developmental contracts. It’s honestly time to utilize those developmental contacts more, which are a genius idea that doesn’t get enough credit. If more developmental contracts went out, fighters can focus on fighting and getting UFC ready. It allows the fighter to live comfortably on the regional scene until it’s time for the eventual call-up. This way the UFC invests in talent with star potential and allows them to build their hype on Fight Pass before their UFC debut.
Fighters who are coming on the show with under 5 fights or small undefeated records should not be getting signed outright to the UFC. They simply are not ready, no matter how dominate or impressive they look. Cage time is so critical, so someone like Mo Miller should have went home with a developmental deal. He has an undefeated record, massive potential, and just needs more of a backing to build him into the star he can become.
Contender Series is supposed to be for the UFC what NXT is to the WWE. So hand out more developmental contracts, allow talent to live comfortably while they build hype on the regional scene, and then make your UFC debut with all eyes on you. Or make them fight on DWCS again, similarly to what William Knight did.
The fact we have not seen any developmental contracts come in the last two seasons is a bit disappointing. But hopefully we see this change in the next few episodes of Season 5.
Bring Back More DWCS Returners
On Season 5 of Contender Series, we’ve seen more International talent than ever before. Some will say it’s time for more international prospects on the show, while others will say it’s because there is a lack of regional fighters on the U.S. regional circuit. Regardless, we need more returners, but the right ones.
Eventually the regional scene will be so slim, the UFC will be forced to sign guys they’ve let go in the past. But if there were more returners to the Contender Series product, it would make it feel much more like a developmental league and would allow fighters to capitalize on the exposure they get from the show. There have definitely been fighters who have impressed, but were not awarded a contract. Whether it was a dominant decision, or the fact they are too young, these fighters should be getting rebooked later in the season or the next one.
The regional scene already doesn’t pay the best. So if UFC is going to have a roster full of fighters on DWCS contracts, the least they could do is further their impact on the regional scene by allowing fighters to consistently fight on Contender Series until they’ve developed enough to take on any challenge in the octagon.
UFC’s current turnover rate is troublesome. Most guys come from DWCS and we later find out that matchmaking allowed them to shine on the show. We find that they are far from UFC-ready or on the level you’d expect them to be on against the current roster. Implementing both ideas above, could aid in this immediately.
Recruit Differently, Set Criteria
One of the more frustrating parts of DWCS is the decision on who gets awarded a contract. There really is no set criteria on who gets in or who gets on the show. It’s time there’s a precedence set, as every season has looked very different. Aside from ensuring fighters on the show meet the needs of the UFC weight classes, there should be a certain amount of fights you need to have on your record to be on the show.
Guys who are 5-0 can look impressive, but you need to build them well in the UFC. If you don’t, it just doesn’t work as we’ve seen with Chase Hooper. A finish also shouldn’t automatically get you a contract. If they are looking for flashy fighters that’s one thing. But their sights should not only be set on finding the next World Champions. It should be who is truly UFC-ready and finding who can make an impact right away if signed.
Here are some additional ideas to explore:
- UFC should take the guys from TUF and put them on the show if they feel they aren’t quite ready for the roster. Those guys sacrifice so much more for an opportunity, they should be awarded another one if things didn’t go their way.
- Regional Champions should automatically get booked for DWCS. We need to bring back how meaningful having that regional belt is. Cause when guys get signed before them, it sets a dangerous precedence that you need someone in your corner who is close to matchmakers in order to get your shot.
- If you win on DWCS, that should at a minimum qualify you for another DWCS fight.
- The show should operate as a LFA/CFFC/Cage Warriors on steroids. Meaning they should have a roster of developmental contracts that consistently fight on the show to build name recognition and experience.
- If they go this route, you can explore having DWCS champions or tournament winners that eventually get the call-up or continue to defend until UFC feels they’re ready to take that next step up in competition.
- People love the Contender Series so why not explore and make it year-round + less frequent?
Show Fighter’s the Money, Dana…
If we see what’s happening in pro wrestling today in MMA, the UFC will eventually be forced to make changes due to competition stepping things up one hundred notches. Bellator has been around for a while and only until recent, have been able to compete with UFC contracts for deserving fighters. They’ve also signed a bunch of talent they have been developing, who are making waves in the promotion. As for the PFL, they are currently wrapping up their best season to date. But they still have a ways to go…
If the WFL keeps their promises, they could be the AEW of MMA and give the UFC a true run for their money. What’s most ironic in this all, is that we have heard Dana White say things like money makes the best UFC fighters lazy. Even more recently, he blamed the media for the reason why fighters feel they are underpaid.
But he should see it differently, considering how the cards go when Dana raises bonuses to $75k. When fighters are able to afford their training and nutrition routines, while not having to juggle a full for part-time job, you see the best out of those fighters. Adding even a few of these changes, can truly change the game and UFC has the chance to be at the forefront of all this.
When you begin to sacrifice quantity over quality, it begins to show. And it’s starting to show with the UFC Fight Night cards that have been booked lately. More promotions are always a positive for fight fans. But the right ones coming into the mix will eventually force changes that are fighter-friendly and much needed.
What are your thoughts on these potential changes to the Contender Series model? Comment below.