By Zach Arnold | December 13, 2007
CNBC is a financial cable TV network that prides itself on giving its viewing audience at home a global perspective on business.
Which is why the channel’s pitch for their one-hour MMA documentary, “Ultimate Fighting: From blood sport to big time,” was troubling from the outset. It was clear that CNBC’s viewpoint of mixed martial was was UFC = MMA. This is not Zuffa’s fault; rather, they should be given credit for their great marketing job in the media.
After watching the hour-long show, I came away disappointed in CNBC for the most part.
1. They refused to acknowledge or name rival organizations outside of UFC.
2. There was constant ass-kissing of Dana White. The worst part of the show was actually the opening segment, in which Dana White was called “a relentless force of nature” and “at six feet and a chiseled 210 pounds, Dana White looks every bit the ferocious ultimate fighting champion.” They said this while showing White working out at the gym.
To say that the CNBC show was an infomercial for Dana White would be an understatement. While CNBC threw in the occasional surprise (such as talking about UFC’s problems with Randy Couture), White was practically heralded as the saint of MMA. When talking about Couture’s departure from UFC and future problems with other fighters, White said that “he (Couture) won’t be the last guy. You can’t make everybody happy.” Plus, “he was planning on retiring anyway.” CNBC asked Randy Couture (with cameras rolling) for his thoughts about his problems with UFC and he was not in a mood to talk about the situation.
White was also quick to point out that “nobody in Mixed martial arts who knows more about the business than I do.” Too bad he wasn’t asked about the PRIDE asset sale deal.
There was quite a bit of focus on Zuffa LLC’s initial problems with UFC and how much money they lost. White said that UFC was the first major organized company in the world that was about to go out of business, but was saved thanks to The Ultimate Fighter. CNBC lavished praise on Dana White for helping to get UFC sanctioned in various states. The program noted a source close to Zuffa as stating that 2007 revenues would be in the $200 million USD range.
The show transitioned into a segment about “UFC in the bad old days before Dana White.” Seriously. They had an interview with Rorion Gracie, talking about his father (Helio) and how there used to be NHB fights in his old garage (they showed some footage with Rorion’s voiceovers). There was an interview with Bob Meyrowitz about the way UFC was marketed and how Rorion got out of the business when more rules were implemented. The high-point of the CNBC show in terms of reporting was the discussion about how Lorenzo Fertitta (who was a member of the NSAC) voted down legislation to sanction MMA in Nevada, and then promptly turned around (using Dana White as an intermediary) to call Meyrowitz and buy UFC from him.
There was a segment on Rich Franklin (using some old footage from a past CNBC segment on him). One quote that I think Franklin wishes he could have back is when he said that MMA is “the closest thing you can get to a street fight.”
There was a segment on MMA’s growing mainstream appeal (featuring an interview with David Mamet). There was an interview with someone in the world of advertising, talking about the trouble UFC is having in attracting “Madison Avenue heavyweights” (corporate sponsors). White was back in his ‘we don’t need ‘em’ mode in regards to corporate sponsors.
CNBC interviewed the Tap Out guys and how their business is rapidly growing.
The final segment on the show was about boxing’s future and the future of the fight scene in Las Vegas. White bragged about how UFC is the big show in town, while also stating that both boxing and UFC can co-exist. White said UFC’s biggest challenge is that “we can’t grow fast enough.”
Overall, the CNBC documentary was not that important to watch if you already have knowledge of the MMA business. It’s not worth going out of way to watch a replay of if you haven’t seen it, yet.