Talent acquisition and development is a huge part of professional sports. That may seem like a bit of a ‘well, duh’ statement, but it bears repeating, as many people don’t realize how much money and time is invested into these activities. Professional sports organizations invest massive amounts of money in their scouting networks and youth talent development, as they should. It’s simply good business. Just because you have the championship team coming into the new season doesn’t guarantee a repeat performance. Athletic competition is a tricky, unpredictable affair. There’s simply too many variables to cover to get it down to an exact science, which is why funneling money into talent development is a worthwhile endeavor. If you don’t have good prospects coming down the pipeline – or older breakout stars from lower leagues that would be willing to sign with you – you have no viable competitive longevity.
In MMA, things work a bit differently. There aren’t any teams (one could argue that training camps are teams, but they’re generally not organized as a corporation), and there isn’t really a youth development framework. The sport is still far too young. The UFC is undoubtedly the biggest MMA promoter in the world, but can it really claim to have all of the top talent? Certainly not. They have the majority of the elite fighters, but they’ve certainly let some slip through their fingers over the years, like Fedor Emelianenko. Since there’s no youth system in MMA, the younger guys (and gals) have to fight in other promotions to get noticed. For the most part, Bellator MMA – backed by the almighty dollar of Viacom – and World Series of Fighting (WSOF for short) have managed to capture the best of the fighters not signed to the UFC. These are 10 men who make their living fighting for promotions outside the UFC.
10 Patrício Freire – Bellator MMA
9 Douglas Lima – Bellator MMA
8 Rousimar Palhares – WSOF
7 Marlon Moraes – WSOF
6 Ben Askren – ONE FC
5 Daniel Straus – Bellator MMA
4 Pat Curran – Bellator MMA
3 Yushin Okami – WSOF
2 Michael Chandler – Bellator MMA
1 Eddie Alvarez – Bellator MMA
While Chandler and Alvarez are both top 10 lightweights, Alvarez edges out Chandler simply because right now he’s the man who wears the belt. With a total professional record of 25-3, Alvarez will be feeling the pressure as he walks into Bellator’s first pay-per-view as the defending champion, staring down his biggest rival to fight for a 3rd and final time to determine who deserves to be king of the lightweight division. The Alvarez/Chandler rivalry is considered by many to be among the finest in MMA today, if not history, thanks to the highly competitive and entertaining first two matches they shared. If the 3rd is anything like the first 2, then we’ll have a perfect trilogy on our hands.
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