Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lacey Shuckman Column

I think this entry I would like to cover something that frankly needs to be discussed and that is the Women's Unified Rankings. Not the most exciting or entertaining topics but is becoming a subject of much deliberation lately. Are the current rankings correct or do things need to be altered?

The problems we face are, number one: the ranking requirements need to be solidified and followed. Number two: the way we define the caliber of opponents which increase your rank needs to be agreed upon. Number three: keeping the database current and including all female fighters. Number 4: Needing more weight classes, Number five: deciding how long a fighter can go with out fighting before they are considered "inactive". Also how we determine who stays on the list past their "inactive years" due to there accomplishments in the sport and/or weight class and number six: ranking the current promotions that promote female MMA.

So let's discuss what the ranking requirements are: 1. The athlete's record, wins-losses-and draws/no contests 2. The athlete's opponent's caliber and the fashion in which the athlete wins and 3. The athlete's consistency in competing. All this is taken into account and then they judge each weight class (which are currently: Flyweight 105.1-115lbs., Super Flyweight 115.1-125lbs., Bantemweight 125.1-135lbs., and Featherweight 135.1-145lbs.) These are difficult because only so much of the sport is track able by statistics so the rest has to come by opinion and/or other deciding factors such as two fighters being tied for a position but one has beaten someone the other has lost to so they move up in the rankings. This is where you have to really trust the panel that has been established because they have to be unbiased as well as very educated in the sport. I think that maybe a new panel with judges that are voted in by the public could be beneficial just so that things are fair through democracy. Everyone knows who is on the panel because they voted them there.

Now with the issue of how to define a fighters caliber. This is tough because in order to rank themselves and their opponents you have to have this information. This should be based on three simple things there record, there proficiency in there chosen martial art style, and there quality and technicality in there wins. Once again very hard to give a totally to the facts answer so again it rely's on a trusted panel.

We face an issue of keeping a current database for female fighters. Fightergirls.com does a very good job of this and keeps updating the site with new female fighter profiles. The problem is there are so many promotions that are unsanctioned that it would be impossible to know and include every female fighter out there as well as not every promotion tells them about there fight cards. However I think eventually we can do an even better job knowing who's out there. It's also tough because there is such an international gap in feMMA. The American girls usually know a few of the Japanese girls maybe a girl out of the UK but most of the abroad talent goes unnoticed as well as when Americans go to fight abroad it is hard to know what fight you are getting yourself into because of the lack of information on the overseas girls. The abundance of knowledge on American fighters is great but still has some work to be done. I know we can compile an even better database.

The issue with the weight classes is just silly. Plain and simple there should be a ranking for all weight classes even if very few or no one exists in that weight class. There are plenty of fights above 145lbs. that take place and are amazing. That talent needs to be brought to the mainstreams attention. As well as the little girls out there that can't get over 105 lbs they are also very skilled an capable of entertaining. Also we face the problem of so many girls changing weight classes because either they have accomplished all they need in a weight class, or because a weight class was to heavy for them to handle, or too light of a weight for them to compete properly at. This is where it gets very difficult for a judging committee to stay updated as well as ties into what an "inactive" fighter is.

So currently an "inactive" fighter is an athlete who hasn't competed in 12 months regardless of the reason. I think this is totally fine if you have been inactive in a weight class for more then a year there is no way for you to stay in your position unless, in the extreme case, you have only one other person in your weight class. I think if you hold a world title in a weight class and are competing actively in another weight class and you haven't had to defend it in over 12 months that you should still retain your ranking in that class based on the fact that you became champion but yet have no challengers. So until you are offered a title defense then your ranking stays in that weight class.

Finally the last thing that makes the female rankings difficult is that UFC or DREAM are not the pinnacle show that showcases female talent. Shows like Strikeforce, Bellatore, and Valkyrie (Cage Force) do however and I think that we need to determine what promotion is top dog because it is crucial in the ranking process. With Bellatore coming up in the ranks we are going to start having the problem of deciphering between a Bellatore world champ and a Strikeforce world champ in the same weight class and which is the true number 1 ranked fighter.

All in all, I'd say that some serious changes need to be made in order to have a more unified and widely accepted set of rankings. I think that the female mma community is growing stronger everyday and if we work together we can figure out all this ranking nonsense so that everyone knows where everyone stands. This is a huge factor in legitimizing feMMA and if we get the kinks worked out fast the quicker we can get some better match ups and some better exposure!

Lacey Schuckman

Professional MMA Fighter

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