The official UFC rankings, compiled weekly by a panel of combat sports media members, is listed on UFC.com and typically used to promote high-level fights between top-ranked athletes, like current UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and reigning UFC featherweight titleholder Alex Volkanovski.
UFC went to great lengths to sell the pound-for-pound rankings in the buildup to UFC 284 because Volkanovski is ranked No. 1 in the world and Makhachev is ranked one spot behind him at No. 2. But when “The Great” was defeated by the Dagestani standout in Perth, their positions remained the same.
Which led to another round of rankings discourse on social media.
So who makes up the UFC rankings panel? You might expect to see some of the bigger names in MMA media among the participants, like MMA Fighting and MMA Junkie, just to name a few. Instead you’ll find obscure outlets like “Cherokee Scout” and “Top Turtle Podcast,” among others.
Here’s the complete list, direct from UFC.com:
KHON Honolulu, MMA Oddsbreaker, CFMU 93.3, Bursprak.se, FightNews, Fight Network, Gazeta Esportiva, Cherokee Scout, Burbank Leader, MMA Weekly, KIOZ 105.3, Vladusport.com, Wrestling Observer, Top Turtle Podcast, MMA Fight Coverage, BoxeoMundial, Kimura.se, MMA Soldier, MMA NYTT, Blood & Sweat, Inside Fighting Radio.
This is where things get troubling.
Bursprak.se is not a functioning website. In addition, Wrestling Observer, a well-respected destination for pro wrestling and combat sports news and opinion, is included in the “official” rankings panel. But the names behind the media outlet, Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez, deny having any participation in the weekly voting.
That begs the question, how many other ghost outlets are sourced for the recurring tally?
UFC has some explaining to do.
“For fun I went through every single week of the UFC’s official P4P rankings going all the way back to its start in 2013,” popular content creator Tommy Toe Hold wrote on Twitter. “I counted 65 times that fighters in the P4P Top 10 swapped positions even though neither fighter had a bout.”
That happens in every weight class on a regular basis. Usually fighters who switch positions without competing fall victim to the collection process. If an outlet fails to submit its rankings on time or is not otherwise counted during a particular week, then a fighter loses enough votes to affect his or her placement in the Top 15.
Ryan Spann just moved into a tie with Volkan Oezdemir for no particular reason.
It’s probably not a good sign when UFC President Dana White trashes his own rankings or blames the “insane” media — that his company selected — for constructing these confounding lists. It’s also worth noting that most UFC fighters hate the official rankings though sometimes it’s just sour grapes over getting snubbed.
Either way, it’s time for a complete overhaul of the system … or a complete abolishment.