Over the past months, Russian lightweight fighters have not been able to sign a contract with the UFC. According to one of the top ACA athletes Eduard Vartanyan, he himself and several of his colleagues faced a similar problem. At the same time, the lack of free seats in the division, which already has about 140 athletes, is called as the reason.
In recent years, the UFC has seriously indicated its desire to actively develop in the domestic market. To achieve this goal, the Fight Night series were organized in the country, the promotion office began work, the UFC Gym training hall was opened, and a large number of athletes were signed. The Absolute Fighting Championship even concluded an exclusive agreement with M-1 Global to debug the process of “delivering” the main Russian talents, but at the same time actively accepted representatives of other organizations. So, in it were former ACA champions (formerly - ACB) Zabit Magomedsharipov, Pyotr Yan and Askar Askarov.
As a result, over the past year and a half, Russia has come a long way from a country with a limited number of fighters in the UFC to one of the three mixed martial arts education centers. To date, 38 domestic athletes managed to speak under the auspices of the promotion, which is the third indicator in the history of the championship. Only Brazil (90), which is considered one of the progenitors of MMA, and the United States (248) were higher.
Given the pace of development, one could safely assume that in the coming years the number of Russians in the UFC will increase exponentially, which will lead to the organization of the country's first major tournament of the PPV level. But in the world of MMA, information appeared that the leadership of the promotion decided not to force events.
As ACA fighter Eduard Vartanyan stated, a kind of moratorium on signing Russian fighters has been introduced in the UFC. According to him, a number of domestic light weight athletes are ready to sign a contract with the organization, but that temporarily does not consider their candidacy.
“Now many Russian lightweight fighters can’t find common ground with the UFC. The organization says there are no seats. So my manager told me. As a result, we have to wait, ”said Vartanyan RT.
At the moment, lightweight is one of the most beloved by Russians. In addition to the current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, there are six representatives of the Russian Federation, including the 14th number of the rating of Islam Makhachev. But, according to Vartanyan, this may be the reason that the UFC does not want to increase the number of domestic athletes in the division.
“A lot of compatriots are fighting in this weight. Perhaps because of this they do not sign anymore. In total, about 140 people perform here. The competition is very big. However, in other categories, things are different. For example, it is much easier for a heavyweight or a girl-fighter to get into the UFC, ”the athlete noted.
Of course, the UFC lightweight division has long been considered one of the richest and most competitive in the promotion. It is enough to note that it is in it that Nurmagomedov, McGregor, Ferguson, Porrier, Gatgy and other stars of the championship act. Because of this, even being in the top ten can be considered a huge merit, which perfectly confirms the position of Makhachev. And this despite the fact that he has a series of six victories in a row.
For comparison, we can consider the flyweight situation. Only three representatives of the top 10 have at least two victories in the series: three times in a row Joseph Benavidez won the first number, two - his future rival in the battle for the vacant title, Davison Figueiredo and Rogerio Bontorin. The latter did not suffer a single defeat in four fights in a row, but only two of them took place under the auspices of the Absolute Fighting Championship.
Against this background, Askarov’s sixth place no longer seems unbelievable. Due to the complete lack of competition, in just four months he managed to make his way from a debutant to one of the contenders for the title. And this despite the fact that he managed to cope only with Tim Elliott, while his battle with Brandon Moreno ended in a draw.
But if for the lightest weight this is the usual state of affairs, then in the light it is almost impossible to imagine. So, Ferguson takes the first place with a series of 12 consecutive wins, and Beneil Dariusz and Drew Dober do not get into the top 15. The Iranian was not inferior in the last three fights, and the American won two times in a row ahead of schedule.
In addition to the highest competition, the decision of the UFC leadership could be affected by the latest results of the Russians in the octagon. Of course, the four in the person of Nurmagomedov, Magomedsharipov, Jan and Volkov continue to confirm their right to be in the elite, but others are not so successful. You can recall the home tournament in Moscow, where the hosts lost in seven of 11 fights with foreigners. True, these failures were practically not affected by light weight, because Alexander Yakovlev was the only representative of the division. The 35-year-old veteran was never among the strongest, so his third defeat in four fights hardly surprised anyone.
It should not be ruled out that the leadership of the promotion could seriously think about the feasibility of such an extensive expansion of Russians in the UFC, given the fact that many of them are unable to compete on equal terms with their rivals. The country does not host Dana White's Contender Series or The Ultimate Fighter shows, which may result in lower quality control. Perhaps this is why athletes of not the highest level often found themselves in the organization. A vivid example is light heavyweight Dmitry Smolyakov, who suffered three early defeats and became the object of Dana White's ridicule.
Nevertheless, the presence of a list of 140 athletes does not mean that the Russians could not find a place among the strongest. In addition to Vartanyan, the organization would hardly have lost other ACA leaders in the person of Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov, Ali Bagov and Hussein Haliyev. Each of them has vast experience in successful performances, and the first two are included in the top 65 best division fighters in the world according to Tapology. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that they deserve the right to be in the largest promotion of the planet.
At the moment, it is difficult to understand how temporary a measure is to increase the representation of Russians in lightweight UFC. It is possible that after a few months the promotion will carry out a planned reduction and weed out athletes with a series of defeats, after which it will invite the strongest domestic fighters. If the roster in this category is really so bloated, additional signatures can make the situation even worse. Many athletes will have to wait a long time for the next fight, which could negatively affect their careers.