A Breakdown Of Where MMA Talent Is Coming From?

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For years we have maintained that the breeding ground for MMA talent were in USA and in Brazil.  After all, Brazil is home to martial arts in many ways and USA by far has the best training facilities.  I would argue that is still true to a point.  However, my statistics show that Eastern Europe is the fasting growing place for up and coming MMA talent.  There was a moment in MMA history where the best prospects were from USA, Brazil and then Canada.  Perhaps we would include a place like Japan and U.K. in the talk following.  However, those countries have been surpassed by Russia primarily.

Where Did They Rank?

Out of my 393 prospects on my lists from male bantamweight to Heavyweight 70 were Russians.  That means 18% of the top prospects in the sport are Russian.  This does not include Ukrainian or Moldovan prospects either.  The United States still has the most prospects in quantity with 90 in total or 23% of the prospect pool.  Brazil did have the third most MMA prospects at 47 (12%).  Perhaps not surprisingly, the U.K. was next with 25 prospects in total (6%).  In one of the more surprising aspects, Poland rounded out the top 5 with 18 total prospects (5%).  Canada is still making a mark with 14 prospects on our lists.  France is making trending upwards with 13 prospects listed.  Japan comes in with 12 total.  Sweden had a showing of 8 prospects.  Ukraine and Germany follow them with 8 prospects respectively.

About The Lists:

There are several guys out there who do a great job scouting prospects and they might have some names on their radar that we are unaware of.  However, we believe we have a fairly comprehensive list with many weight classes having 50 or more prospects listed.  We also believe that this is an adequate sampling.  Certainty the results could vary slightly depending on what other prospects were listed, but we do not think the findings would change all that much.

For our purposes we have a strict definition of what makes one a “prospect”.  We would not consider one to be a prospect who has fought previously in UFC or Bellator.  Also, we withhold guys who have fought on the main cards of World Series of Fighting and OneFC.  In addition, we limit our prospects to under 33 years old.

The Implications:

I am not sure there are any major surprises or major implications, but there are some things to take away.  One is that the major promotions such as the UFC can see where they can target.  It is almost essential to a market to have a homegrown star from that target nation.  I also think that we are going to see a influx of more Russian and Eastern European fighters into major organizations.  any organization wanting to get premiere talent and maybe be ahead of the ball should have an eye on Russia.  I think our data proves it would be wise for UFC to look towards Russia and Poland for talent even more than they have so far.  Perhaps Ultimate Fighter series in those nations would benefit them long term.

I also think it shows some areas of the world are still far behind the game in terms of MMA.  Despite efforts in China, talent just is not popping up yet.  The same can be said of other Asian countries.  Japan and Korea are leading the way in terms of talent.  I believe there will be a new wave of Japanese prospects that start to emerge, but as for now they are behind Eastern Europe and North America.

All around the world there seems to be a few prospects that have some talent.  Not all that talent is equal.  For example, in compiling our data we lumped the top prospect in the weight class with all the others.  We considered somehow scaling the numbers based on prospect ranking, but that gets awful subjective.  I do not think that the main findings would have changed too much.  The lesson is that UFC, Bellator and other promotions may need to re-evaluate their core markets based on where the talent is.

One of the things of note is that it seems that a higher percentage of prospects above lightweight (155 pounds) are Russian.  In other words, if a MMA promotion is looking for heavier guys, they lie mostly in Russia.  USA and other parts of the world thrive at 155 and below.  However, the best young talent in MMA above lightweight is in Eastern Europe as well.  In my opinion, there is a real deficit in the UFC of young fighters in the Middleweight-Heavyweight divisions.  They have a lot of 30 somethings, but they are missing that early-20’s hot prospect in those divisions.  I think that is something they need to address.  I think it something that they can address if they look in the right places.

Complete Results:

  1. USA – 90
  2. Russia – 70
  3. Brazil – 47
  4. UK – 25
  5. Poland – 18
  6. Canada – 14
  7. France – 13
  8. Japan – 12
  9. Sweden – 9
  10. Ukraine – 8
  11. Germany -8
  12. Croatia – 5
  13. South Korea – 5
  14. Australia – 4
  15. Finland – 4
  16. Kazakhstan – 4
  17. Denmark – 4
  18. South Africa – 4
  19. Moldova – 3
  20. Ireland – 3
  21. Austria – 3
  22. Mexico – 3
  23. Wales – 3
  24. Philippines – 3
  25. Colombia – 3
  26. Scotland – 2
  27. Czech Republic – 2
  28. Azerbaijan – 2
  29. Slovakia – 2
  30. Cyprus – 1
  31. Syria – 1
  32. Bulgaria – 1
  33. New Zealand – 1
  34. Chile – 1
  35. Peru – 1
  36. Bolivia – 1
  37. India – 1
  38. China – 1
  39. Mongolia – 1
  40. Uruguay – 1
  41. Italy – 1
  42. Turkey – 1
  43. Slovenia – 1
  44. Norway  – 1
  45. Netehrlands – 1
  46. Argentina – 1
  47. Paraguay – 1
  48. Uzbekistan – 1
  49. Armenia – 1
  50. Portugal – 1
  51. Bosnia – 1
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