How To Lose Fights And Win Title Shots


On December 28th, 2013 at UFC 168, Miesha Tate will face Ronda Rousey for the women’s bantamweight title and to bring the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter to an end. What did Tate do to earn a prestigious coaching role on the most recent season of TUF, and a rematch with the champ on possibly the biggest MMA card of the year? Lose a title eliminator with Cat Zingano. Sometimes winning isn’t everything.

When Zingano was pulled from the TUF series – and subsequent title shot – following a knee injury in May this year, no immediate replacement was immediately forthcoming and Tate was gifted a second chance. Some argued that Sara McMann or Sarah Kaufman should be next in line. In fact, having just lost her opportunity, almost anyone eligible should be ahead of Tate. But that’s if you buy into the idealistic view that title shots are earned by victories alone.

Title shots granted to fighters coming off a loss is not a new phenomenon, though it has been more frequent of late. In recent times we’ve seen Chael Sonnen moving up to light heavyweight following a 2nd failed title fight at middleweight, and Frankie Edgar move down to featherweight following two successive failed title fights at lightweight. Both men were granted instant shots at a belt in their respective new divisions, both were unsuccessful. Edgar was a lightweight champion and thus thrown into a ‘superfight’ of sorts with Jose Aldo, whilst Sonnen is a proven PPV raw, able to market himself like few other fighters. In the pre-Zuffa days of Strikeforce, Marloes Coenan was afforded a shot at the 135lb title having previously fallen to then champion, Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos at 145lb. Unlike Edgar and Sonnen, Coenan was successful and went on to defend the title one time before losing to Miesha Tate in July, 2011.

Even the Zuffa days of Strikeforce offered up some creative matchmaking, with middleweight champion Luke Rockhold making his first defence against Keith Jardine. Jardine was coming off a majority draw, having been saved from defeat against Gegard Mousasi by way of a point deduction for the Armenian. Perhaps the most widely recognised example of an ‘undeserved’ title shot goes to Nick Diaz. Diaz had crossed over to the UFC as the reigning Strikeforce welterweight champion. Initially granted an immediate shot at champion Georges St. Pierre, Diaz managed to find himself instead facing BJ Penn following a series of no-shows at press commitments. Despite then losing a title elimination fight with Carlos Condit, Diaz eventually faced GSP at UFC 158, losing by unanimous decision. While it could be argued that Diaz had not earned his shot and rather thrown it away – on more than one occasion – it would be hard to disagree with Diaz’s drawing power and the intrigue that follows his career. Ethics and ideals don’t fill seats or sell PPV’s

What does earn a title shot? A string of relevant victories aside, there seem to be two defining factors in deciding who gets a pop at the champ; star power and supposed drawing ability (Sonnen, Diaz) or a lack of divisional depth (Edgar, Jardine, Coenan). It could be argued that Tate falls into both categories being relatively high profile and in a newly founded division. Clearly there’s more than one way to the top in the current MMA climate. If you can’t be the best, be the loudest, the most visible and someone who sells tickets. Alternately, move to a shallow division.

By JJ Saddington – @JJSADDINGTON

Owner/Editor of Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.

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  1. Pingback: How To Lose Fights And Win Title Shots | Dinner with Gary Goodridge

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