Since UFC’s reboot last May following COVID-19 halting events, the promotion’s new style of recruitment has shown a significantly lower win-rate for newcomers.
Out of the 310 fighters to compete since UFC 249, the 52 who had either made their UFC debut or returned following competition outside of the promotion recorded a win-rate of 36.5%. This percentage is down compared to the last 52 fighters that debuted before UFC 249, with that group having a win-rate of 54.9%.
When taking matchups that were a debuting fighter versus a debuting fighter out of the equation, the pool of 52 fighters since May had a win percentage of 30.5%. This drop in wins was not demonstrated in the pre-pandemic sample size of 52 fighters, with that group having a 55.2% win-rate against non-newcomers.
What Can Explain The Change?
The higher volume of losses following COVID-19 could be explained by the promotion’s need to find fighters to fill slots on cards.
A large number of debuts in 2020 have come as a replacement for another fighter as fight cards have seen massive amounts of edits and tweakings.
While short-notice opponents aren’t a new concept, there has been a bigger need lately as travel bans and positive COVID-19 tests have thrown away matchups. Prior to COVID-19, the majority of withdrawals from fights came due to injury.
Many of the debuting fighters did so in a position that saw them replace a more experienced fighter. Sometimes it paid off, with names like Khamzat Chimaev, Justin Jaynes and Jesse Ronson having success stories in this position. However, there were many like Max Rohskopf, Zarrukh Adashev, Aaron Phillips and more who took a loss due to this.
Although most fighters are often offered a second fight (except some cases) after taking a short-notice booking, an initial loss in the UFC puts a blemish on the record of a fighter and makes them have a negative first impression on the promotion’s viewership.
The Hunt Continues
The UFC’s ongoing hunt for new talent to enter the promotion won’t slow down soon, with the promotion planning to hold events on a near-weekly basis until October.
Every week the promotion faces adversity as fights get affected by COVID-19. Due to travel bans, a majority of active UFC fighters reside in the United States, a country that has reported more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases every day since June 30th.
A testament to the promotion’s eagerness to sign upcoming talent has been demonstrated in the first two episodes of “Dana White’s Contender Series,” a TV series that scouts new talent to join the UFC. Through the first two episodes, nine of the 10 winners on the show were offered contracts. In the three seasons of the show before, the average number of contracts offered was 2.7.