2022 was a crazy year for MMA. MMA Fighting now looks back on the big promotions and reveals where they were successful and where they fell short.
UFC by the Numbers
The UFC hosted 42 events in 2022. 13 of these were pay-per view events. The UFC promoted 511 fights in total (not including Contender Series There were 237 final decisions and 171 knockouts. There were 98 submissions. Three draws, one no contest and one disqualification. The promotion hosted 19 title fights and named 10 new champions.
Despite the fact that the UFC is still the undisputed champion of MMA, despite the claims of other promotions, the UFC still holds the title as the premier organization in MMA. It accounts for more than 82 percent of the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. 2022, however, was a disappointing year for the promotion with very few must-see events. Despite this, it still hosted more high-quality events than any promotion and won some amazing wins.
The UFC’s return to traveling routes was a great moment that will be missed by many. After a three year hiatus because of COVID, the UFC’s return to London was electric. It also gave rise to new stars. The UFC’s long-awaited debut in France was also made. It was evident from watching at home.
The promotion of 2022 from a star-building perspective was also a great year. Islam Makhachev has finally achieved the lightweight title. With Khabib Nurmagomedov still in his corner, the UFC now has a fighter it can continue to build on for the future. His first defense of the title against Alexander Volkanovski, pound-for-pound champion at UFC 284, gives UFC an impressive fight in early 2023. There’s also the highly-talented group of prospects that debuted in 2022, including Bo Nickal and Jailton Almeida as well as Jack Della Maddalena and Muhammad Mokaev. All of them will fight for titles soon, which is good news for the UFC.
The moments were also important and the most significant.
The UFC is the most prominent promotion in the sport. While there weren’t as many big events this year, some will be remembered forever. Alex Pereira won the middleweight title outright, Jiri prochazka and Glover Teixeira had a great fight, Leon Edwards made a remarkable comeback to win the welterweight championship. It is still one of my favorite MMA videos (I am rewatching it now, five years later and I have chills).
The UFC in 2022 was still cooking on gas.
Although 2022 wasn’t a great year for UFC, it was certainly not the worst. It remained a stronghold over MMA. Despite this, the UFC saw several significant lows last year.
UFC Vegas 65 is the first. While it was not an isolated incident of something bad, this fight is the centerpiece for UFC’s biggest ongoing issue: The drop in event quality. Kennedy Nzechukwu, Ion Cutelaba and all of their fans are to be commended. However, that fight isn’t a main-event. This fight is not even a co-main. The UFC has to deliver a set number of ESPN shows per year in order to reach their quota. This means that the UFC can only produce these shows even though it may mean putting on something similar. The UFC doesn’t have enough fighters in order to produce solid main and comain events on 42 cards per year. This is especially true when they try to still stack pay-per view. The UFC has 10 events per year, which aren’t particularly good on paper. If something does go wrong, it can turn into an LFA card.
This leads nicely to the second low point, which is the UFC light heavyweight title situation. The UFC’s light heavyweight title, as it stands now, is unclaimed. This is because UFC continues to cut back on talent. UFC 282 had a thin and risky card. When Jiri Prochazka suffered an injury, there was no UFC light heavyweight title fight. The UFC elected to crown a new champion but, in doing so, backdoored Glover Teixeira. Although Glover won the title fight between Jan Blachowicz & Magomed Ankalaev was a draw, the UFC decided to crown a new champion. However, it wasn’t a good look for UFC 283.
Remember September, when the UFC tried to murder Nate Diaz on TV because he was leaving the organization? The MMA Gods intervened again, but it was still a terrible look for the UFC and there is no internet to forget.
James Krause is the last and most notable. Darrick Minner, Krause’s student, was run over by Shayilan nuerdanbieke within 67 seconds of UFC Vegas 64. He did this while pretending that he had a pre-existing injury and looking all around like it. As the betting line changed, it became obvious that something was wrong in Denmark. It is amazing Just hours prior to the event. This is especially unfortunate as Krause, a well-known MMA gambler, spoke out about operating a Discord in which he collected tips from users. A probe has been initiated to investigate what happened. More information is likely to follow. For the moment, however, there is little confidence in UFC betting. Two Canadian provinces have temporarily banned betting on UFC bouts. The UFC received an unqualified L.
The UFC may have seen 2022 as a year of transition in hindsight. New champions were crowned in seven weight classes. Some of the most prominent names in the UFC either left the promotion or moved on. A rising pool of talent may accelerate the departure of the older guard. This means that 2023 is going to be an exciting year for the promotion. And that doesn’t take into account the many problems that it faces.
The Ali Act is allegedly being reintroduced this year to Congress. Although it might not be passed or take some time, this Act will supposedly disrupt UFC’s entire business model and help Bellator and the PFL and ONE Championship to level the playing field.
The second is the fact that UFC President Dana White was caught on camera assaulting his wife. Although Endeavor and UFC partners seem content to believe that this story will fade, the truth is it will not. This will continue to hang over promotion for some time as White and his company move ahead with their plans. Dana White’s Power Slap League. White will have to endure a lot of negative press. There is also the chance that he may be forced out or removed.
The James Krause gambling story is not ending. Although it is too early to know how this particular knuckleball will end, we still have a huge story to tell in MMA. Although the UFC is almost certain not to be at fault for what happened, it is closely integrated with the gambling industry right now and we don’t know what the consequences will be.
It is possible that the UFC will be redefining its future in 2023.