Rankings and I go way back. We’ve been off and on since Sean Shelby went to work for Zuffa, that is to say a long time ago.
There we were just a couple of media guys trying to get a comprehensive, smart, independent MMA ranking off the ground. If I remember correctly, we had a good thing going. Then that 49er loving Shelby, Tom Brady’s cousin, no less, had to step into the fight promotion business and take a chance at participating in Zuffa’s growth from the inside.
I’m not blaming Sean for the fact that the Mixed Martial Arts Media Top 10 died too soon. There were reasons I didn’t mind letting it wither on the vine, and his defection wasn’t one of them. Look, anyone that’s compiled rankings before can tell you what I know well: it sucks. But that’s crybaby stuff. The real reason I didn’t mind letting go was the fact that at the time there were too many fights happening under too many rule sets in too many weight divisions.
The sport was badly fractured, with much of the best action happening in Japan. How to judge RINGS fighters versus ones in Shooto, Pride or Pancrase? And how do those fighters stack up against cage-bound competitors in North America? The sport in the very early 2000s was a total crap shoot, and the more I tried to measure athletes against one another the more futile it felt.
As I look back on it now, that was a mistake.
Years later everyone has their own rankings and MMA’s charming, crazy randomness has mostly disappeared. Zuffa’s dominance (due at least in some small part to Shelby, I assure you) has brought a consistency to MMA, including the promotion’s own “media” rankings. It’s not that everything looks the same, it’s that most fights, including the vast majority of important ones are bound by the Unified Rules and take place inside a cage.
Anyhow, I bring up Shelby and rankings because for the first time in a while I’ve compiled my own look at the sport. They lists feature men and women. Old buddy, old pal Sean has a lot to do with both sides of that great development. Men and women are ranked across weight divisions from featherweight on down. There’s also male and female pound-for-pound lists. I’ve always been captivated by knowing who is the best fighter on the planet, and as subjectively silly as they can be, I enjoy thinking about P4P.
Fighters are ranked based on their results, and I’d like to think there are decent cases to be made for how I see things. I’m not sure how much debate any of this deserves. They’re my rankings, my opinion, and if you disagree well let the fighters sort it out. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?
My criteria is easy to understand. Fighters must be active within the past 18 months. Fighters can be ranked across multiple weight divisions if it feels appropriate to do so. Suspended fighters aren’t eligible to appear.
I’ll update rankings as fights happen, that is to say, often.