Payout Opinion: Rankings Issue In Need of A Better Mousetrap

April 30, 2009

With WAMMA releasing their most recent rankings last week on ESPN’s MMA Live and USAToday issuing theirs today, we once again have unleashed upon us these imperfect beasts. Whether the goal of these rankings is avarice or simple self-promotion, neither really seem the ideal. Thomas Alva Edison once said that I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. I’m not one to judge whether these rankings are failures but to my mind they sure won’t work if the goal is some ranking structure that can be taken seriously.

With WAMMA, it is a case of not passing the smell test. Something is definitely rotten in Denmark as Shakespeare once stated. Rob Maysey makes perhaps the best case for the chicanery afoot with their rankings in his Loads of Secrecy post over on his MMAFA blog, he does a much better job than I illuminating the troubling aspects of WAMMA’s push for rankings and sanctioning. The ranking and handing out of WAMMA belts is self-serving, and not really something that should be encouraged by the MMA media that push the poll and vote in it.

In the case of the USAToday/SBNation/BloodyElbow rankings, the rankings amalgam simply doesn’t pass the taste test. The chefs over at BloodyElbow, in their infinite wisdom, have concocted a recipe that they think is superior because they have tossed in the entire spice rack to make the entree taste better and they then say don’t blame me when folks blanch at the taste of the dish. Their consensus rankings are only as good as the sum of its parts and and the vast majority of those parts face a credibility gap. I’m sure some from the site will say I’m making an appeal to authority and empty the rest of the rhetorical and philosophic tool box in an effort to argue the value of those rankings but such arguments don’t make the methodology or sources or rankings any more credible.

The need is for a better mousetrap. ESPN and USAToday have made their respective choices based on some nebulous (most likely business) reasoning but neither serves the end consumer, the fan, very well. The two parties are able to collaborate on something like the USA Today ESPN Coaches poll for college football, and something similar for MMA would be in order. Having the pull of both ESPN and USAToday, they should be able to assemble a who’s who of the MMA landscape to judge who the best are independent of promotion. Having a mix of the very best online and print reporters, media and high end bloggers as pollsters would be ideal. Take 25 or so people from the various mediums, here is a sampling from my eye that could be assembled (this is just one take):

Print..Neil Davidson, Mike Chiappetta, Beau Dure, Sergio Non, Ryan Hockensmith, Gareth Davies, Todd Martin, Lance Pugmire
TV..Ron Kruck, Jon Anik, Mauro Ranallo
Online News sites…. Dann Stupp, Sam Caplan, Dave Meltzer, Ben Fowlkes, Kevin Iole, Josh Gross, Jordan Breen, Jeff Sherwood, Jeff Cain, Ken Pishna, Jesse Holland
Bloggers.. Ariel Helwani, Luke Thomas, Michael David Smith, Zach Arnold, Pramit Mohaptra, That MMAPayout Guy

Say what you will about hose listed above but I think they represent the best and brightest for judging and ranking of MMA. While wrangling all those media ego’s would surely take some work (one might even describe it as a Herculean task), the end product would be much better than either of the options we are left with now and would rival the prestige given by The Ring Magazine for their mythical boxing titles.

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