STAND-ALONE TITLES: A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Today it was inevitably reported that Legend FC‘s recently crowned Bantamweight Champion Jumabieke Tuerxun would not be participating on the card announced by RUFF for March 24th.  His coach, Zhao XueJun of the Xian Physical Education University, was reported as saying Bieke would be exclusive to Legend FC during the entire period that he defends his championship title.  This means that his anticipated rematch with Hong Kong-based rocketing MMA fighter Irshaad Sayed – who was on the receiving end of a decision loss against him a little over six months ago – will likely not take place at this time.  Sources indicate that the Legend FC contract for February 11th was signed before the match at RUFF 3 for March 24th was made, so the title defence exclusivity clause should have been understood by all parties involved.

 Aside from this clause, it is nothing out of the ordinary for Chinese athletes to fight in both promotions.  Legend FC hasn’t claimed exclusivity of its fighters, although it has previously publicly stated that it does keep its title holders exclusive, Adrian Pang being the exception: he had a contract with CFC predating Legend FC’s, and both organizations honored it.  RUFF, in its turn, has also written at least one exclusive multi-fight contract, a source close to the matter has confirmed.

Beyond the contractural obligations and legal mumbo jumbo, lies the sport.  Beike versus Sayed is a match people have wanted to see, although ‘see’ is subjective as RUFF neither broadcasts nor streams outside of the China market – fans would be left searching for Youku videos weeks after the event.  Mark up the same sentiments for Legend FC, who won’t sign Sayed because it focuses on only Austral-Asian athletes.

Bieke’s meteoric rise on the China MMA stage caught the attention of an international audience starting with his original Irshaad matchup in the moderately known TFC, on which a few foreign fighters are showcased.  He followed up the win with five back-to-back victories throughout the rest of 2011 in TFC and RUFF, culminating with wrestling the Legend FC Bantamweight Title away from Yao Honggang in February 2012.

Sayed, while not yet as prolific an MMA fighter, has kept busy competing in the Muay Thai ring, and has made his presence known with a win in RUFF by decision, and a KO of URCC champion Jesse Raffols in his latest stellar performance at One FC.  He has dedicated himself to MMA and trains with two champions who are also launching their MMA careers: Atos black belt Worlds champion Rodrigo Caporal and Muay Thai world champion Vuyisile Colossa.

MMA in Asia is experiencing amazing growth right now, but it must be recognized as still in its infancy and needing a great amount of support to progress.  While promotions are the catalyst for such growth, the inability to make a match between fighters because of exclusive contractural obligations is an unfortunate set back for the sport itself.  Stand-alone promotions with exclusive championship titles, such as Legend FC in its current form, and RUFF for signing a fighter on an exclusive multi-fight contract, by nature negate the fostering of a true world champion.

The Legend FC promotion IS first class; the athletes ARE well taken care of; the talent pool within the promotion IS becoming quite impressive.  Some of the Legend FC champions, for the first time in their lives, are finally self-sufficient and reaping rewards for their dedication and performance in the ring.  The point is NOT whether or not Legend FC champions are world-class, the point is that ANY private organization that controls the selection of athetes contesting for a self-contained title, rather than an international regulating or sanctioning body performing this oversight, eliminates free and fair competition.  The playing field will never be level until MMA becomes internationally-organized, and this would only be accomplished by becoming an Olympic sport.