If you haven’t heard the news yet from any of SBNation’s 372 combat sports blogs (or the myriad sites that routinely break MMA contract-related news), the UFC’s nascent 145 and 135 lb divisions became a little more stacked today.and Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto – both stand outs in their divisions (don’t let Omigawa’s record fool you; he is 8-2-1 since committing to featherweight), both Japanese and both recently featured prominently on cards – were signed in a flurry of activity by Zuffa, and both have already been matched up. Omigawa will make his debut against Chad “The Snuggie of Doom” Mendes, and Yamamoto will face off against the very impressive .
American MMA fans have been clamoring for both to come stateside for some time now (and, for the record, we still desire, and , whom defeated Omigawa and Yamamoto in back-to-back bouts last year). Why the delay? Well, it’s harder to sign Japanese stars to the WEC than it is to the UFC. The paychecks, number of eyeballs watching and prestige of the UFC are impossible to match. Now that the merger has gone down (I understand that the WEC has events left, but with the UFC now holding fights in that division, it’s kind of dun datta), featherweight and bantamweight starts worldwide are ripe for the picking.
It’s only going to get better (or worse, if you shamelessly promote co-promotion and senselessly believe that a fractured talent pool helps MMA grow). There will always be fighters that can make more money in Japan than in the US – assuming the Japanese MMA scene does not, in fact, confirm the rumors and go belly-up completely – but those numbers are dwindling and will continue to do so. Eventually – and sooner than most thought – the UFC will become the unquestioned destination for world class fighters, be they interested in proving themselves to be the best in the world or merely content to cash the biggest check available.
And that’s a good thing.