By Raphael Garcia
Booking fights is an easy job, right? Certainly there are many mixed martial arts fans that think they can pick and set the fights needed to stage a successful UFC event. But sadly, the vast majority of them are grossly incorrect, as there is an art to booking professional MMA bouts. With that in mind, it’s understandable that much of the MMA world is interested in the news that longtime UFC matchmaker Joe Silva has decided to step away from the role. What might have once been viewed as a cushy job is actually one of the most crucial ones in helping the UFC grow to where it is today.
The UFC has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months. Inside the cage, the promotion has seen multiple champions drop their titles; outside the cage, bigger changes have taken shape. The sale of the company to a group led by WME-IMG for $4 billion left much of sports world shocked and intrigued. And now, not only will the UFC be moving forward without a Fertitta brother at the helm, but it will also do so without Silva.
With nearly two decades of employment in the UFC, Silva’s importance to the behind-the-scenes leadership group could not be denied. He started as a consultant, and is now the matchmaker responsible for setting fight pairings for the lightweight division and the weight classes above it. That may sound like something every MMA fan would enjoy, but the amount of stress that accompanies that job should not be understated.
For example, Silva’s duties as matchmaker required him to deal with difficult managers as well as ego-driven fighters. Everyone is aware of the injury issues in recent years that continue to plague the UFC and force fighters out of bouts; Silva found a way to deal with them and continue to build fights that fans would be interested in watching. These are just a few of the duties Silva handled through the UFC’s low and high points. His departure creates a massive void in the promotion.
The biggest question now is who has the credentials to replace him? Sean Shelby is still with the UFC and has experience as the lead matchmaker for WEC. There’s also Julie Kedzie, who has led the development of Invicta FC into a suitable destination for women’s fighting. Perhaps the company will look to regional promotions such as Ring of Combat or King of the Cage for a replacement. No matter the choice, the company has a long way to go to find someone that can properly satisfy the demands of the role.
2016 will be remembered as a year of big changes for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As the shifting face of champions changed nearly every time a belt was at stake, there were also major changes occurring in the boardroom. Kicked off by the sale of the company, the departure Joe Silva will have a substantial impact on the way the UFC does business. And regardless of whether his next venture is in mixed martial arts or not, it’s clear that he has earned every bit of respect that he’s accumulated within the sport.
September 3, 2016
By Raphael Garcia