Roundtable: With BMF title returning, what other gimmick belts should the UFC create?



UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal 2
The ‘BMF’ Title | Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Dustin Poirier faces off with Justin Gaethje at UFC 291 in a rematch of the 2018 Fight of the Year. The matchup alone should be enough to get the blood pumping for any fan of fisticuffs, but the powers that be sweetened the pot further by putting arguably the most prestigious belt in combat sports on the line: The ‘BMF’ title.

Created by Nate Diaz, and then co-opted by the UFC, the BMF belt is a singular entity in combat sports: A title not used to designated the premiere fighter in a specific weight class. Instead, the BMF title is symbolic, elevating a beloved fan favorite fighter to the ranks of (some kind of) champion, even if only for a moment. It’s a bit of fun in an otherwise monotonous promotional landscape, the kind the sport is in desperate need of.

So with all this in mind, MMA Fighting’s Alexander K. Lee, Damon Martin, Shaheen Al-Shatti, and Jed Meshew sit back down at the roundtable to discuss their favorite theoretical belts the UFC could create.

UFC 263: Maia v Muhammad
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Demian Maia makes the walk for UFC 263.

Lee: Anyone who regularly follows me on social media (all 12 of you) knows that I’ve led a movement over the past few years, one that questions the very fabric of this business that we’ve come to know and love. A movement formed in the face of professional fighting’s constant, occasionally jarring evolution. A movement that strives to bring the UFC back to its roots.

That’s right, we’re talking the “Keep The Martial Arts Apart” movement. And it deserves to have an actual belt.

For those not familiar with #KTMAA, it began in protest of talented fighters producing unfavorable and/or worse, unentertaining results due to their often mortifying attempts to unsuccessfully mix the martial arts. We’ve all seen it. A jiu-jitsu specialist trying to bounce around and snipe like Conor. A boxer working for a takedown against the fence that will never come. A Muay Thai specialist blindly hunting for a leglock on the canvas. Shudder.

The KTMMA belt will restore order. It will demand that fighters stick to their best disciplines, hearkening to the glory days of Royce Gracie submitting completely unprepared fighters with mount (yes, that’s with mount, not from mount).

Here’s how it works:

  • Ahead of their matchup, two fighters must designate what their primary fighting style will be
  • The fighters must ONLY use offensive techniques from their primary fighting style. Grapplers can attack with submissions, wrestlers can attack with slams and ground-and-pound, strikers can attack with striking things
  • Referees will use their discretion to decide when a fighter is competing out of the boundaries of their designated style (completely confident nothing can go wrong here)
  • Instead of the 10-pound must system, fighters will be given scores from 0-10 like a dunk contest based on how well they represented their martial art
  • OK, I’ll be honest I’m not exactly sure how it works

No more aimlessly winging haymakers, Rodolfo Vieira. Get off the fence and get back to the kick-punchy goodness, Holly Holm. And Dustin Poirier, don’t even think about jumping that gilly. You’re all on notice.

The point is that, as I’m sure we’ve all seen, this whole “mixed martial arts” thing is just an unprofitable fad that is sure to pass any day now, so why not get ahead of the game and hop onto the bandwagon of the next next big thing? Which is kind of like the old next big thing.

Keep The Martial Arts Apart.

Look into it, that’s all I’m saying.

UFC Fight Night: Shogun v Nogueira
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira talk after their light heavyweight fight in 2020.

Martin: Father time may be the ultimate enemy to every fighter who competes in MMA, but that doesn’t mean the sport can’t give these aging legends one last shot at glory.

That’s why adding a championship specific to those all-time great superstars would be a fantastic way to allow them to battle against one another with gold on the line, rather than just throwing the icons of the sport in there with random killers who no one has ever heard of before. Just think about the overwhelming sadness that washed over the entire industry when Mauricio “Shogun” Rua — a fighter who has put one some of the most memorable battles over the past 20 years — goes out with a loss against Ihor Potieria.

Who is Ihor Potieria? Exactly my point!

By introducing a Legends Championship, the days of “Shogun” fighting some random dude you couldn’t pick out of a lineup would never happen again. Instead, Rua would spend the last few fights of his Hall of Fame career taking on other legends of the sport.

There doesn’t need to be a rule set attached to how these fights come together — we all know and recognize the true legends of the sport — so why not give them that last shot at attaining glory before sending them off into retirement?

Imagine a world where Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler meet in a rematch with a Legends Championship up for grabs, or maybe Lawler gets Rory MacDonald one last time before he hangs up his gloves for good? What about Vitor Belfort coming back for a rematch against Anderson Silva as both fighters near the end of their respective careers?

Let’s be honest, no one wants to remember that Silva’s final UFC fight came against Uriah Hall or that MacDonald retired off a loss to Dilano Taylor.

Matching those all-time greats against each other while competing for a Legends Championship gives them a chance to go out on top with a title belt held high. You could even attach a stipulation for immediate induction into the UFC Hall of Fame with a win.

That’s a far better way to end the storied careers of these fabled legends of the sport.

2023 PFL 1
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Krzysztof Jotko faces off against Will Fleury.

Meshew: While AK and Damon are both offering solid ideas for gimmick belts, I’m going to surpass them with sheer volume. Because I’m not suggesting just one new belt to add into the mix, but 10.

Title belts are great. And while their primary function is as promotional tools to sell pay-per-views, they serve an important secondary purpose of giving concrete designations to fighters as “the best in the world.” That’s critically important because fans who come to the sport in 2023 can go look back in the history books and say, “Well, B.J. Penn was champion. He must’ve been good.” But not every fighter can become champion. Hell, not every fighter can fight for the title. And still, plenty of fighters deserve recognition that lasts longer than a bonus check. Here’s how I’m going to solve that.

If you’ve watched any MMA Fighting video content over the last few years, you will have heard us often debate the most illustrious fake-title in all of sport: The Middleweightiest Middleweight title. Well, what I’m proposing is we turn that fake belt into a real one, and along with it we do one Weighty Belt for each of the major weight classes. (Women’s bantamweight does not get one until such time as it can prove itself to be a real division rather than whatever it is right now.)

Here’s how it works.

For each division, we establish a Weighty belt, with specific rules as to who can hold it and how it can change hands, but those rules don’t have to be the same for each division. Instead, the rules reflect the nebulous qualities of The Other Guys in that division. Take middleweight for example: 185 is a division between divisions. The fighters aren’t over-reliant on power and athleticism (like you get at light heavyweight) and they aren’t cardio wrestle-boxers (like you find at welterweight). Instead, 185 consists of a lot of dudes who are pretty good at plenty of stuff and are decently durable, but don’t jump off the page for any reason, like Krzysztof Jotko, Brad Tavares, and Chris Curtis. Let’s celebrate those individuals by creating a belt just for them, that changes hands when two Middleweighty fighters meet and the winner takes home a decision where all the martial arts were mixed. Wouldn’t that be kind of fun?

The stipulation for Welterweighty would be the winning fighter has to land at least 50 significant strikes and score 2+ takedowns, or something like that. Heavyweight would require either a first-round knockout or a decision with at least three minutes of clinch wrestling. And Lightweighty would just be a Violenceweight title, because 155ers play for blood. I don’t have all the rules for all the weight classes worked out just yet, but you get the idea. And the only stipulation that’d be true of each of the Weighty belts would be that fighters in the UFC top 10 aren’t eligible. When you’re a top-10 fighter, you’re in title contention, and that’s not what who this belt is for. This one is for The Other Guys.

UFC Fight Night
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje go to war.

Al-Shatti: We’re doing God’s work here today, gentlemen. Fine suggestions all around. Allow me to now bring us back full circle, because for as amusing as the namesake of this article has been since its inception, the biggest flaw of the BMF title has always been just as obvious: It’s a half-measure. And in the wise words of Mike Ehrmantraut, we here at MMA Fighting certainly do not believe in half-measures.

So let us expand the BMF title one step further and allow it to reach its natural endgame: Remember that “Most Violent” title created by Eddie Alvarez once upon a time for his 2017 war against Justin Gaethje? Well, the Violenceweight belts are officially here to stay.

The idea is simple. Each division gets its own Violenceweight title to play with, one separate from the actual physical championship, with the O.G. Violenceweight belt dating all the back to Gerard Gordeau clattering the teeth out of the mouth of 450-pound Teila Tuli in the first UFC bout ever aired. As we’ve seen over the years, anyone can become a UFC titleholder — but only a few special cases can be really considered among the ranks of the Most Violent.

In other words, we’re hunting for fighters with that special je ne sais quoi, with a criteria hearkening back to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s infamous threshold test for obscenity: I know it when I see.

Georges St-Pierre was a great UFC champion, yet as great as his title reign may have been, it didn’t exactly produce an excess of bangers. But the Most Violent Welterweight belt? Boy, it had a time and a half, traded at various points between Thiago Alves, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, and others during St-Pierre’s seven years atop the welterweight mountain.

Jon Jones may be the GOAT, but while he was decisioning Ovince Saint Preux in one of the worst fights of 2016, Anthony Johnson was out there uppercutting heads into hyperspace to claim the vacant MVLHW title. Vicente Luque held the MVWW belt for most of Kamaru Usman‘s title run, and Shavkat Rakhmonov will likely soon be doing the same during Leon Edwards‘ reign in the sun. Gaethje is forever a perpetual contender for the MVLW belt, though Alvarez, Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, and Tony Ferguson have each taken that title out for a test drive or two during their times.

It sells itself. Tell me a matchup for the crimson belt between reigning MVBW Marlon Vera and ruthless up-and-comer Umar Nurmagomedov doesn’t get your blood pumping.

The prestige and expectations of the Violenceweight titles also lend itself to the kind of drama the UFC loves. Just imagine the hysterics once Dana White strips Israel Adesanya of the MVMW belt at UFC 276‘s post-fight press conference after another borefest over Jared Cannonier and awards it instead to an Alex Pereira fresh off decapitating Sean Strickland that very same night? We’d be talking about it for weeks — and so would Adesanya! Suddenly, the already rich lore of the Adesanya vs. Pereira rivalry takes on an even greater fervor in the lead-up for UFC 281, with Adesanya striving to reclaim what was once his and Pereira parading around fight week already proudly wearing the first of the two belts he plans to steal away from the champ.

Let’s be honest, the Violenceweight titles speak to who we are at our cores as MMA fans.

It’s time to embrace it.

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