The Bellator rankings recently came out, and once again there was a huge debate on how incorrect they are. With how great Bellator 290 was, it is unfortunate that the takeaway is how off the rankings are.
The debate began to come out after breaking down the Bellator Middleweight rankings. On August 12, 2022, Aaron Jeffrey had an early night with his first-round victory at Bellator 284 over Austin Vanderford, shocking many who had Jefferey as an underdog. Now flash forward to February 2023, and Austin Vanderford moves up a rank ahead of Jeffrey in the updated Bellator Middleweight rankings, placing Vanderford at number six and Jeffrey at seven. It is nothing short of a mystery on why Vanderford jumps ahead of the man who knocked him out.
Rankings Make No Sense
Now, we understand that rankings make no sense and some fans are adamant about that, but it is one of those formats that you need to establish correctly so the fighters know their standing within their division. All pro sports have a ranking system; it determines who will go to the playoffs and who will fight to be champion of their respective sport. Unlike the PFL, the UFC and Bellator do not have playoffs or seasons – they have their rankings and they should stick to them.
Who Ranks the Fighters?
It has been discussed why the MMA media have a say on who should be ranked. It is a great idea as the media has a close eye on the sport every fight night, and some of the most knowledgeable fight fans are the MMA media but it is so critical that they get it right as these fighters’ dreams of being champion rely on it.
Now, it’s not just Bellator that has issues when it comes to trying to rank their fighters. The UFC also falls into the category of how broken the rankings have become. UFC 284 is the best scenario in recent memory on why the rankings need to be handled better.
With the advertisement of number one versus number two for the chance to solidify that they are the UFC pound-for-pound best and with that at stake at UFC 284, the UFC ranking system dropped the ball. Granted, the fight between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski was close, and weeks later the debate on who won went on, but the judges scored the fight for Islam Makhachev and after his win over the current pound-for-pound placeholder, Islam rightfully deserved the UFC’s Pound-for-Pound title – but hey, that’s the rankings for you.
Some fight fans will say, “Well who cares? The rankings never mattered anyway.” But they should matter in the year 2023 – the ranking system should be a well-oiled machine and fighters should not be fighting down the ranks to get a fight while the top five dig themselves in trying to hold onto their spot.
How To Fix Them… Maybe
So how do promotions fix these errors if the media members vote on them? Maybe a rubric or some sort of criteria needs to be implemented so the fighters can understand how the rankings are set. Or perhaps, just maybe, there is no saving the mixed martial arts ranking system – maybe the fans and fighters are destined to witness a broken system, never to be fixed.
What are your thoughts on MMA’s ranking system and what ideas would you have to fix it? Let us know in the comments section.