Prospect Rankings Demographics Update: September-November

As I said back in my original introduction to the prospect rankings, a secondary goal of this series is to track the long-term demographic shifts in the MMA world. This analysis is focused on which countries and promotions produce the most top prospects and will hopefully show MMA’s continued expansion into a worldwide sport as time passes. All data is drawn from my prospect rankings, which you can access here.

Country Breakdown

CountryNumber of ProspectsChange Since Last Update
Russia350
America23-1
Brazil13+1
Japan5+1
England4-2
France4-2
Canada3+1
Poland30
Azerbaijan2+1
Bahrain20
Kazakhstan2+1
Ukraine20
Belarus1+1
Cameroon10
Germany10
Hungary10
Ireland1+1
Israel1+1
Jordan10
Kyrgyzstan10
Lithuania10
Moldova10
New Zealand10
Nigeria10
Norway10
Philippines10
Scotland10
South Africa10
South Korea10
Spain10
Sweden10
Tajikistan1+1
Turkey1-1
Uzbekistan1+1
Australia0-1
Bosnia0-1
Georgia0-1
Mexico0-1

While a number of prospects have cycled in and out of the rankings over the last 3 months, the top 3 countries remain essentially unchanged. This speaks to the depth of talent in Russia, the USA, and Brazil, as all 3 nations have had prospects leave the rankings for various reasons but have seamlessly replaced them with new talents.

Japan moved up a few spots to claim the #4 ranking due to the continued emergence of some young talents in the lightest weight classes. This was also aided by both England and France losing two prospects, as each had one of their top talents (Jake Hadley and Benoit Saint-Denis) signed to the UFC while other prospects struggled and fell out of the rankings.

Canada is not usually thought of as an MMA talent pipeline, but the success of Lance Gibson, Anthony Romero, and Aaron Jeffrey has moved the country into a tie for 7th with more traditional powerhouse Poland.

A trend that I expect to continue in the future is the rise of Central Asian fighters. Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan each added a second prospect while Tajikistan and Uzbekistan each put their first prospects into the rankings. This part of the world is full of talented wrestlers and cultures that love fighting, so I expect to see a continued wave of talent from there as the local MMA scenes develop and get more recognition.

Other countries that picked up their first prospects: Belarus (Kirill Grishenko), Ireland (Paul Hughes), and Israel (Aviv Gozali). 4 countries lost their only prospects and will not be included in the next edition of this series unless one of their prospects is able to re-establish themselves in the rankings. These were: Australia, Bosnia, Georgia, and Mexico. Both Georgia and Mexico have produced a good deal of UFC talent recently, so it was somewhat surprising to see that neither currently has a prospect ranked.

Promotional Breakdown

Promotion Number of ProspectsChange Since Last Update
Bellator19+2
ONE12-1
Brave CF110
ACA9-2
LFA6-1
Cage Warriors 5-1
Eagle FC5+1
RCC50
Open FC4-1
RIZIN40
UAE Warriors4+1
AMC Global3-1
Contender Series3+1
Fury FC3-1
CFFC2-1
KSW20
PFL20
WWFC20
Amir Temur FC10
Ares FC10
Art of Scrap10
Brazilian Fighting Series1+1
Combate Global10
DEEP1+1
FEN10
Future FC1+1
Gladiator CF10
GMC10
MMA Series1+1
Octagon (Kazakhstan)1+1
Oktagon (Czech Republic)10
Parus FC1+1
Rebel FC1+1
Road FC10
Superior Challenge10
Taura MMA10
Titan FC1-1
Eternal MMA0-1
Ippon Primorye FC0-1
Lux FL0-1

The rich get richer when it comes to the promotions with the most talent, as Bellator added two more prospects to build its total to 19 and increase its lead to 7 over 2nd-place ONE. ACA was the only promotion to lose two or more prospects, as several of their young fighters have suffered upset losses in the last few months.

In general, the trend was towards a greater diversity of promotions represented. Only 3 promotions dropped from 1 to 0 prospects, while 7 moved from 0 to 1 by having their first prospect joining the rankings. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this trend increase as the global talent level continues to increase and makes it harder to concentrate all the best prospects in a few promotions. Promotional diversity is also likely to increase as my depth of knowledge of the regional scenes grows, as I often first notice talented fighters while watching smaller shows that don’t get as much publicity.