With Christmas right around the corner, kids everywhere are putting pen to paper, detailing the numerous things they would like for Santa Claus to leave under the tree for them this year.
Though my days of asking Santa for a Nintendo and opening up another sweater are long gone, even 31-year-olds have wishes this time of year. My friends and family have already been given their shopping instructions – DJ Hero for XBOX 360, stuff for the house, please don’t buy me clothes – and now it’s time to focus on my wants for the world of Mixed Martial Arts this coming year.
While G.I. Joe figures have been replaced by MMA fighters and I no longer believe in a jolly, old, fat guy who lives in the Arctic Circle, this time of year bring out the kid in all of us and this is my MMA Wishlist.
1. A Healthy Return for Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and Brock Lesnar
Three of the five UFC champions are currently dealing with varying degrees of illness and injury, and a healthy return for this trio of talents is vital for the organization and the sport.
There really is a silver lining to every cloud.
While we’ve been faced with somewhat lacklustre cards and uninspiring main events lately and in the next couple of months, we’ve forged ahead since August without any of these three champions. Eventually, they will return and those star-studded cards with championship main events we’ve grown accustomed to will come back with them.
Get well soon – these and all the injured fighters out there.
2. More Free Fights
Strikeforce’s initial foray into primetime on CBS did pretty solid numbers and the UFC has proven to be a ratings grabber on Spike over the years. With the renewed contract of the WEC on Versus and Comcast’s subsequent purchase of NBC Universal, 2010 could see an increase in the number of free cards being offered to fight fans.
I certainly wouldn’t complain, especially when it comes to the WEC.
As great as both Strikeforce and the UFC are, the mighty mites of World Extreme Cagefighting deliver every time and getting them more exposure would be outstanding, for both the fighters and fans alike. Increased airtime for the fighters means more money in their pockets, while the fans would get more chances to watch the likes of Jose Aldo, Brian Bowles, Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres.
3. New Names on the Marquee
While there are a number of established names routinely featured on main cards throughout the sport, there are also numerous up-and-coming stars that are searching for and deserve a chance to shine in 2010.
January’s UFC 109 is a prime example.
Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman isn’t a fight fans want to see, and who can blame them? Two guys who will have spent a combined 91 years on the Earth by the time the fight rolls around doesn’t hold much appeal. Admittedly, the UFC is in a bit of a headlining crunch, but they’re not alone in this situation.
Strikeforce: Evolution isn’t overly better, as the combination of Cung Le returning after nearly two years away to face a journeyman like Scott Smith isn’t much of a main event either. Why not give a little main event shine to Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez’ battle to unify the lightweight title?
Conversely, the DREAM Grand Prix series often does a great job of this. While occasionally due to bigger named talents getting injured and unable to advance, the last two years have delivered Gegard Mousasi and Marius Zaromskis to greater recognition.
4. Legislation Across the Board
Slowly but surely, we’re getting there, as more and more states and provinces get on board with regulating the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Massachusetts recently came on board, which leaves only three major pieces missing from the puzzle.
Though some parts of British Columbia already deliver MMA events, official legislation clearing the way for the UFC’s proposed debut in Vancouver has yet to be put in place. As big as a market as Vancouver will eventually be, Toronto will be even bigger.
The largest city in Canada will one day be a yearly stop on the UFC calendar, while the province as a whole will explode with MMA events once government gets their act together. Filmmaker Bobby Razak is working on a documentary about the struggles to legalize MMA, with Toronto as the supporting actor.
New York has the starring role.
The city that never sleeps (but it will slip you an Ambien) is the final frontier for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts; an untouched land of advertising, marketing and millions of fans and followers to fill Madison Square Garden.
Just as provincial legislation is holding things up for Toronto, state officials are stopping MMA from taking a bite out of The Big Apple. Hopefully, that changes in 2010.
5. Increased Coverage
Sure, this one might be a little selfish, but do you spend your entire wish list asking for things for other people? I didn’t think so.
This sport continues to grow and the coverage from needs to grow with it.
Look at it this way: MMA is the kid who was 5’3″ when he entered high school. Now that he’s shot up to 6-feet-plus, he can’t be walking around in the same clothes as when he was still a shorty, right?
When the sport was on the fringes, minimal coverage and keeping things to the blogs and individually financed sites was smart. But now that we’re knocking on the door of the mainstream, it’s time for the mainstream media to open the door and let us in.
What’s on your MMA Wishlist this year?