Mixed martial arts (MMA) is the most exciting sport on the planet. Joe Rogan famously described it as “High level problem solving with dire physical consequences”.
For those who may be unfamiliar, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is perhaps the best collection of talent currently in the MMA space. Initially, their matches showed martial arts enthusiasts what happened when different styles met in combat. The sport has come a long way from the early days when Royce Gracie was using his Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) skills to take on men twice his size. The evolution of fighters inside the cage has been quick, blending various striking and grappling techniques in pursuit of perfection. But perhaps equally impressive are the (non-physical) battles outside the cage with specific legislators who eventually came around on the issue like John McCain and many others in New York. It seems unbelievable that in a mere 15 years any company can grow from $2 million to $4 billion, yet Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were able to achieve exactly that.
This is not to say everything is perfect, there are still many struggles that need attention, particularly around fighter pay and potential unionization. With continued growth comes the need to be sure every fighter is taken care of, especially since the company has more than enough resources (monetary and otherwise) to do so. Most current issues are identified, reported on, and discussed at length within MMA circles, providing hope that positive outcomes for all parties will eventually be reached. But there is one consistent problem on their website which goes completely unaddressed: missing pictures of their fighters. An alarming number of active fighters inexplicably don’t have a picture on the official website and are represented by an ominous, shadowy figure. I am chronicling all current and future instances of this on twitter by taking a screenshot, then tagging both the UFC official twitter along with the fighter whose picture they have not uploaded and using #UFCwebsiteproblems. This is no small issue, but it is a perfect microcosm of many larger ones.
At the time of posting this, 4 out of the next 5 UFC events are missing at least one picture. To be clear, these are not unknown fighters jumping in last minute. They all have championships in other organizations. Even if they were unknown, the UFC is the highest level of competition in combat sports and everyone with a contract should be treated like the professional athletes they are.
Andrea “KGB” Lee was the world champ in the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), had 6 fights in Invicta, and an impressive professional record of 8-2 (75% are finishes). Yet no picture to speak of on the official website despite signing with them in 2017 and the scheduled fight being just around the corner on May 19th. A talented and marketable LFA champion in a $4 billion company doesn’t even have a photograph after all this time under contract? Ridiculous. This is a perfect candidate to consider building up. Sherdog didn’t have an issue getting a picture posted. I even found one of her in “Reebok gear”.
Two-time EFC champion Don “Magic Man” Madge has a 7-3-1 professional record and is on a very dominant winning streak. The only one of his last four opponents who wasn’t finished in the 1st round was choked out in the 2nd. He signed in February and is scheduled to fight this month on May 27th but is shockingly sans photo.
Megan Anderson is another prominent champion (145lb Invicta) with an 8-2 professional record, and is fighting former 135 pound champion Holly Holm (who recently challenged for the 145lb UFC title) in a very anticipated bout. Yet, more than two weeks after announcing the June 9th clash, her picture still hasn’t been uploaded to the website. Stunning.
It doesn’t end there. Cage Warriors champion Nathaniel “The Prospect” Wood (13-3) signed with the UFC over a month ago and is scheduled for a June 1st debut, but his picture is nowhere to be found on the website. Just a humanoid shadow.
Assumptions, Solution, & Conclusion
Now what is a fan to make of all this? It may be tempting to just say the UFC is a greedy company that operates with complete apathy towards anyone who isn’t already able to bring in huge pay-per-view buys. That may be true, but with the state-of-the-art performance institute made available to all fighters at no cost, it’s clear they are willing to invest in the athletes, at least to some degree. The possibility exists there is a less nefarious explanation. The people who run the website either do not have, or are not following a good process. In this case, they should adopt a kaizen approach. The current issue is with the quality of profiles on their website. A standardized process should be developed to ensure whenever an individual signs with the UFC, they set up their official website profile including pictures. Implementation should be in conjunction with whatever current “on-boarding” process is in place. If there is not currently an on-boarding process, they should create one ASAP as inconsistency detracts from fighter relations, user experience, and their final product!
If the UFC wants to continue being the best fighting organization and successfully avoid attempts to unionize, they must ensure every single person they sign feels the full support one would expect from a $4 billion corporation by going the extra mile. It seems that, in far too many cases, they aren’t even taking the first step.
Call To Action