One of the most enjoyable things about sports, MMA in particular, is speculating about future matchups. Mixed martial arts has transcended being just about the fights. It has entered the realm of sports entertainment in every respect. Love it or hate it that is what will fuel the future success of the sport.
This doesn’t mean the best fighters won’t be fighting each other. It simply means that a fighter must bring more to the table then a great wrestling base or slick BJJ skills. He or she has to be a complete MMA fighter. And “complete” includes the ability to market oneself and generate mainstream fan interest.
Three fighters able to do so are Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley and Satoshi Ishii.
Brock Lesnar and MMA fans became very familiar with each other in 2008. Most fans either loved him or loved to hate him – which is why his three fights did over two million PPV buys. The UFC hasn’t seen those kinds of numbers since Tito Ortiz. He had a three fight total of over 2.2 million PPV buys. Ortiz was also a fighter fans either loved or loved to hate.
Bobby Lashley, like Lesnar, was a professional wrestler. And like Lesnar, he is also a decorated collegiate wrestler. A great wrestling base is arguably the best skill set to have entering mixed martial arts. It’s what has made Lesnar so competitive and it will likely do the same for Lashley. His popularity as a professional wrestler will also greatly assist his evolution in the sport.
Satoshi Ishii is one of the most decorated Judo practitioners in recent times. He won Silver at the 2006 Asian Games. In 2006 and 2008 he won the All-Japan Judo Championships in Japan. He recently reached the pinnacle of his sport by winning gold at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China. Ishii is considered a national hero in Japan. After wining his medal Ishii went as far as calling out Fedor.
Ishii initially signed with the Japanese MMA promotion FEG and was thought to debut in DREAM in 2009. Ishii went on to reject their offer and is pursuing a contract with the UFC. He is reportedly going to join one of MMA’s top camps, American Top Team. The signing of Ishii would be a major coup for the UFC and would bolster Japanese internet in their organization.
Enter “The Ultimate Fighter.” UFC President, Dana White could be about to bring back the heavyweight division to the popular reality show for its 10th season set to air in late 2009.
According to a report by the Wrestling Observer, White has hinted that Satoshi Ishii could be featured on the show and has possibly been offered a slot on the show. Dana could significantly sweeten the pot if offered Bobby Lashley a spot on the show.
Inside Fights is also reporting that Ishii is close to signing a deal with the UFC.
The Ultimate Fighter would be the perfect proving ground for these two fighters who possess little or no MMA record – but who could have unlimited potential and popularity in the sport.
What makes the idea even more attractive is that the winner of the show gets an immediate title shot against the divisional kingpin – currently that man is Brock Lesnar. Ishii and Lashley would likely be the frontrunners to fight each other in the season ending finale, and get that title shot. Dont be shocked to see Lesnar vs. Lashely/Ishii in 2010.
It would still be a win-win for the UFC even if neither fighter won the finale. The ratings for the show have continued to drop off so the addition of Ishii and Lashley would certainly boost the show’s ratings.
Let’s hope that speculation will lead to actualization.
Tags: Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesnar, satoshi ishii