While the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) may be the king of today’s mixed martial arts (MMA) world, Bellator is challenging Dana White’s organization but those two leagues are hardly by themselves in hosting bouts inside the cages called the Octagon and there are many more champions that exist outside the UFC and Bellator.
This thought came to me the other day when I was wondering how many Brazilian champions there are because they seem to be the dominant country in the world of MMA. After all, it was the Gracie family who put the UFC on the map originally, that family of submission specialists.
So I did my homework and research and discovered that there are actually a handful of different operations holding MMA bouts and amongst that large group , 343 fighters both men and women have claimed a championship belt. The entire list is below and within that group, 31 countries are represented.
The United States has crowned the most title holders with 177. Japan actually comes in second with 61, due mostly in part to the PRIDE championships. Then there is Brazil with 41. I found it surprising that there were so many different organizations but as you peruse through the list, you will see familiar names who have won titles in separate leagues and several who have won titles in more than one division.
My thoughts on UFC 235 results:
Diego Sanchez vs. Mickey Gall
Sanchez earned bonus money for his knockout of Mickey Gall. Sanchez who has been fighting for like forever was very impressive overwhelming Gall in the second round.
Johnny Walker vs. Mischa Cirkunov
WOW…Walker is very impressive and while Jon Jones may not have any competition left, he might want to give Walker a shot. His style is so unordinary and unique he is going to pose problems for anyone he faces. He is a very dangerous fighter and unfortunately he loves to clown around which cost him on Saturday when in celebrating his very fast knockout just 36 seconds into the fight he fell forward in celebration and separated his shoulder.
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Jeremy Stephens
I don’t know what it was about UFC 235 but several fighters with solid reputations did not live up to their expected styles. Stephens was one such case. Normally a very aggressive and strong striker, Zabit did an excellent job of nullifying the style of Stephens and won the decision albeit it was close. Zabit used solid kicking skills and some grappling to keep Stephens from landing any hard strikes and keeps on moving up in the rankings in the featherweight division. An “Abraham Lincoln” look alike Zabit has caused many difficulties every fighter he has faced.
Pedro Munhoz vs. Cody Garbrandt
After two consecutive knockout losses, Garbrandt was deemed by many to be the winner here. At the conclusion of this fight that saw Garbrandt get KO’d again, one thing stands clear…Cody Grabrandt’s chin is suspect. As the fight involved into a free for all, it appeared Garbrandt thought he could out strike Munhoz. NOT SO. This was a must win for Garbrandt and he may never be the same fighter again.
Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler
In the most disappointing and disgusting fight of the night, Robbie Lawler was robbed of victory by a bad stoppage by referee Herb Dean. Stuck in a choke hold that was not even very well applied, Dean thought Lawler was “out” which he wasn’t and called the fight. Askren was making his UFC debut and was getting smoked by Lawler and it is suspicious that when Lawler had Askren on his back and as striking him at will even bloodying him up, Dean should have and did not stop the fight there. With that said, Lawler made the mistake of not keeping up the strikes when he had Askren in deep trouble. UFC President Dana White said it was unfair and a bad stoppage and that a rematch needs to happen. Askren when told this said “I pass.” That’s a wuss move because he knows he should have lost that fight and in his post fight interview yells out, “Come on Dana, is that the best you got?” Ben Askren is a schmuck and was not in the least impressive. Who is he anyway to determine who he fights next? He says he wants the winner of Till/Masdival. Yea, much easier fight. White should force Askren into a rematch with Lawler and if he refuses, boot him from the UFC.
Kamaru Usman vs, Tyron Woodley
A new welterweight champion and he did it In dominating form. Woodley did all this pre-fight talking and as I indicated above, was one fighter that did not fight to form. In fact, Woodley showed up on Saturday night to do absolutely NOTHING. He offered Usman no threat whatsoever and fought the five rounds just trying to survive. And this is one of our greatest welterweights of all time so says Woodley? Yea right. Not even close. Usman came in as a very good fighter. Determining how good he really is will be difficult to judge because Woodley was such an easy fight for him.
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith
I had picked Jones to win this fight, but I thought Smith might pose some problems. Again, another fighter with a reputation that disappeared on Saturday night. Smith offered no offense and the easy take from this fight is that Jon Jones is in fact perhaps the best fighter MMA has ever seen. His leg strikes were phenomenal and his strategy near perfect. Smith who said he was not afraid of Jones did in fact appear to be intimidated. His corner kept pleading with him to go on the attack round after round and reminding him he was “Lionheart.” There was no Lionheart at UFC 235. As for Jones, where does he go from here? He’s beaten just about every light heavyweight out there, minus Johnny Walker or Thiago Santos but I don’t think they can beat Jon Jones. What I do think would be fun and interesting is if Jones moves up to heavyweight and challenges champion Daniel Cormier. I think if that became fact, Dana White should give Jones an immediate title shot and then see if Cormier abruptly retires. Daniel Cormier could fight Jon Jones 10 times and he would lose every time.
If you are a fan of professional boxing and watch the sport closely, perhaps you can name current champions from one of many divisions.
However, if you are just a casual fan like myself, some of the champions names will make you say WHO? Beginning in the 1970s I was a HUGE boxing fan and the men who held championship belts as well as the top contenders were names that just rolled off your tongue.
But the popularity of pro boxing has waned over the last 10-15 years and with mixed martial arts, especially the UFC coming on like bats out of hell, now at their height of popularity, MMA has pushed pro boxing down to a level where most sports fans aren’t even thinking about it.
So how many champions of today in boxing can you name? I’ve heard of heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua who holds the WBO, IBF, and WBA belts, but Deontay Wilder is the WBC champion. There lies the root of one of boxing’s major problems.
There are four major organizations mentioned above (World Boxing Organization, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation, and the World Boxing Council). In mixed martial arts, the major players are obviously the UFC and Bellator, although ONE Championship is making the effort to move up the chain with the signing of Demetrius Johnson and Eddie Alvarez. There are some other smaller organizations, but the focus is primarily on the UFC and Bellator.
There are also a limited number of fighting divisions in MMA whereas in boxing, there are 16 divisions. SIXTEEN! The possibility exists that between the WBO, IBF, WBA, and WBC if they each had a separate champion for every division we would have 64 champions. That’s ridiculous. Obviously that is not the case as Joshua alone holds three of the four among the heavyweights.
So we have a somewhat popular Joshua and Wilder, but who is Oleksandr Usyk? He is the undisputed cruiserweight champion holding all four belts. In the light heavyweight division we have four separate champions in Sergey Kovalev, Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol, and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
Canelo Alvarez is a big name having fought “GGG” recently and beat him, but he only holds the WBA and WBC titles for the middleweight division. Fighters Demetrius Andrade and Daniel Jacobs are the two other champs. For me, that’s about it. I look at the names of all the other champions and do not recognize one. Part of that is because I don’t religiously watch boxing anymore and my interest like many others has gone to MMA, but also pro boxers simply do not get the pub the sport once had.
In 1977, I was graduating from high school and just as I am now, I was an avid sports fan with boxing as my third favorite sport after baseball first and then football. I watched tons of fights including Muhammad Ali and my favorite fighter all time, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. But even the casual boxing fan recognized the many, many fighters competing in that era.
In the top division at heavyweights, Ali was the champ. But chasing him were the likes of Ken Norton, Jimmy Young, Larry Holmes, Ron Lyle, Duane Bobick, Ernie Shavers, Leon Spinks, and Gerrie Coetzee. Marvin Hagler was not yet middleweight champion as Rodrigo Valdez was. But in that division were Vito Antuofermo who was a rough and tough brawler. Tony Chiaverini was a decent fighter as we Bennie Briscoe and Ronnie Harris.
The late great Carlos Palomino was the welterweight champion with Floyd Mayweather’s father among the top 10. Wilfred Benitez was the king of junior welterweights and “manos de piedra” or “hands of stone” legend Roberto Duran ruled the lightweights but looked over his shoulder at an outstanding Esteban De Jesus. A half a division below in the junior lightweights Arguello was ranked there as well but Rafael “Bazooka” Limon was in the top five and a tough Bobby Chacon included among the highest ranked.
Two years later in 1979, Danny “Little Red” Lopez was the featherweight champion but he would later lose his title to one of the greatest fighters I’ve ever seen, Salvador Sanchez. Tragically, Sanchez never reached his full potential because he died in a car crash in 1982 just 23 years of age. At his death, his record was 44-1-1 with just a draw against Juan Escobar and the only loss of his career in 1977 came at the hands of Antonio Becerra by a split decision. Following the draw, Sanchez would win his next 24 fights in a row.
Perhaps Salvador Sanchez’s greatest win was a knockout by TKO over Wilfredo Gomez on August 21, 1981 that left Gomez’s face looking like he had been mugged in a street alley. But it was the era of the 1970s that perhaps matched no other era for pro boxing in familiarity of the names that climbed over the ropes into the squared circle.
Diehard boxing fan or casual, I’m pretty confident you would recognize these other names:
But even before I became old enough to really watch boxing in the 1960s, that decade had some of the greatest fighters ever competing:
Pro boxing is simply not what it used to be and unless a rising star or someone with charisma comes along, a fighter that can excite the fans, boxing’s future is very cloudy. The sport needs another Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, or Muhammed Ali to bring it back up on the popularity scale and if that doesn’t happen, they will NEVER catch MMA in recognition among sports fans.
Name the greats!
Mike Tyson and 1980s Boxing