February 17, 2016

UFC Re-signing Alistair Overeem and Aljamain Sterling Benefits the Promotion and Its Fighters

By Raphael Garcia

Presidents’ Day was a busy 24 hours for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The largest promotion in mixed martial arts used the holiday to re-sign two important free agents and keep them away from Bellator MMA and other organizations. Aljamain Sterling and Alistair Overeem inked new deals to remain with the UFC, and looking at their respective decisions, these new contracts will pay off for both the fighters and the UFC as a whole.

Sterling and Overeem are two highly-ranked fighters in their divisions, universally regarded as Top 10 fighters, if not Top 5. But these men aren’t just capable of climbing the ladder to reach the highest points of their weight classes, they also know how to flex their promotional strength.

As Sterling made his climb within the 135-pound division, he’s taken calculated shots at everyone along the way. Bryan Caraway, TJ Dillashaw, and other bantamweight fighters have been on the receiving end of his frequent quips, which should be enough to pique interest in his next fight. Although bigger-named fighters such as Urijah Faber, Raphael Assuncao, and Renan Barao in his way when it comes to receiving a title shot, there are a number of other opportunities available for both him and the UFC to look forward to.

Overeem, on the other hand, benefits from long run as one of the best heavyweights to compete within combat sports. With championships in both mixed martial arts and kickboxing, Overeem draws the attention that the UFC craves, even though he’s suffered some questionable defeats while being a part of the promotion. Coupled with the questionable state of the heavyweight division -- particularly at the top -- Overeem is in the perfect position to leverage this new deal into a heavyweight title shot sooner than later.

These high-profile re-signings allow the UFC to show that it is ready to negotiate with its bigger names. In the past, fighters were often expected to take the deal that was presented to them, without much room to negotiate. Sterling, Overeem, and Benson Henderson were three of the biggest names to pursue MMA free agency in recent months, and even though Henderson joined Bellator MMA, re-signing Overeem and Sterling allows the UFC to show that the company is ready to work with fighters that can prove they are worth larger deals in the future.

MMA is in a period of change. Free agency is a growing practice that will be one of the biggest stories to watch in 2016. However, Zuffa finding a way to keep both Overeem and Sterling on the UFC roster is a win for the UFC, as well as for all of the fighters the company currently employs.

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