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.
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.
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.