Friend of our site

MMA Headlines


MMA Torch

MMA Weekly

Sherdog (News)

Sherdog (Articles)


Liver Kick

Caged In

MMA Junkie

MMA Mania

Bloody Elbow



MMA Ratings

Rating Fights

MMA Convert

Fight Medicine

MMA Frenzy


MMA Betting

Search this site

Latest Articles

News Corner

MMA Rising

Audio Corner


MMA Dude Bro

Sherdog Radio

The Fightworks Podcast

Eddie Goldman

Pro MMA Radio

MMA Torch

Video Corner

Fight Hub

The Fight Nerd

Special thanks to...

Link Rolodex

Site Index

To access our list of posting topics and archives, click here.

Friend of our site

Buy and sell MMA photos at MMA Prints

Site feedback

Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

« | Home | »

CNBC’s underwhelming special on ‘Ultimate Fighting’

By Zach Arnold | December 13, 2007

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

14 Responses to “CNBC’s underwhelming special on ‘Ultimate Fighting’”

  1. Pistol Pete says:

    Did you guys expect anything more from cnbc?Every time a news agency goes out and does a story about a subject they kmow nothing about they always go off to one or two points of view.I streetraced for years before the gay and the furious came out and after words anytime someone said street racing the gay and furious would some how come out.When in all reality street racing was nothing like it the picture that was portrayed,I personally still go to local mma fights that I feel are 80 times better then the ufc but thats life.

  2. Ivan Trembow says:

    The amount of recent research (as opposed to one-year-old research) that went into the CNBC piece was apparent in the opening seconds when the narrator referred to MMA as one of the fastest-growing sports in America.

    Generally, that would mean revenue was growing at a faster rate than just about any other sport in America. Not only is this not the case with MMA so far in 2007, but the report from Standard & Poor’s showed that revenue is actually slightly down in 2007 compared to 2006. All of this “fastest-growing” talk is outdated terminology from 2006 that no longer applies to the market in late 2007. “Hugely profitable” yes… “fastest-growing” anything, no.

    In the MMA vs. boxing segment, they completely missed the boat on 2007 being a seminal year for “MMA vs. Boxing” in the opposite way as it was in 2006. It was in 2006 that the UFC drew more PPV revenue in the U.S. than any other company, including HBO’s boxing PPV, for the first time in UFC history.

    But 2006 was also boxing’s biggest-money year since 1999, which the piece failed to point out.

    2007 has been a completely different story in the boxing vs. MMA competition, with UFC PPV buyrates slipping slightly and boxing’s PPV buyrates growing significantly amidst a year of successful PPV events and the single biggest PPV event of all time (Mayweather vs. De la Hoya), finishing up with a second mega-event (Mayweather vs. Hatton) that is expected to draw more PPV buys than any event in the UFC’s history, even including the 2006 peak.

    When discussing ticket sales, they failed to point out that there is still a sizable gap between the ticket revenue for top boxing events and the ticket revenue for top MMA events. The UFC’s highest live gate ever is a little under $6 million, while De la Hoya vs. Mayweather drew $19 million at the live gate and Hatton vs. Mayweather will still be well above the $6 million current high-mark for MMA.

    Instead of presenting this up-to-date, late 2007 version of the MMA-Boxing story, it seems that CNBC was content to show the outdated story, just as it would have been in 2006 (or in May 2007 with a quick update to briefly acknowledge De la Hoya vs. Mayweather).

  3. Ivan Trembow says:

    I also found it amusing that the new-and-improved version of the so-called “Zuffa Myth” was out in full force. The CNBC report did not repeat the old myth (you know, that Zuffa added all or most of the rules), but it did repeat the newer myth that Zuffa came up with The Ultimate Fighter and then pitched it to TV networks, with Spike TV agreeing to air it.

    In fact, as documented at the time in news stories and stated by Dana White at the time in interviews, the original idea for the UFC’s TV show on Spike TV was a show called “American Promoter” that would focus on the life of an MMA promoter. The UFC’s own ideal scenario would have been for a bi-weekly or monthly live fight show.

    It was Spike TV, not the UFC, that came up with the reality show idea, which the UFC hated but went along with because it was the only way they could strike a deal with Spike TV at the time. Dana White said in many interviews (a clip of one of them is here: that he didn’t like the reality show idea.

    Kudos to CNBC for reporting the facts regarding the circumstances of SEG selling the UFC to Zuffa, with SEG needing Nevada approval to have a hope of a future, and Lorenzo Fertitta helping to block that approval as an NSAC commissioner, and then the conveniently down-and-out SEG selling for peanuts to (coincidentally) Lorenzo Fertitta & Co. That took more research than I thought they’d do.

    If only they had also done their research on the origins of TUF and the business aspects of MMA vs. boxing.

  4. karat3 says:

    Luckily this wasnt on CNBC europe. These dana white puffpieces are getting abit booring.

  5. Jason Gatties says:

    If CNBC would do a special titled “Basketball-From Lay Ups To Slam Dunks”, do you believe the focus would mainly be on the NBA or would they cover the CBA & USBL as equals? Of course they wouldn’t.

    Zach, Ivan & other self proclaimed “experts” need to understand that if you are talking about a major sport, you look towards the major league in that sport. The UFC to MMA is what MLB is to baseball. Instead of constantly crying and complaining about the UFC, perhaps you should learn to embrace it and enjoy the fact that you can actually watch MMA on TV now.

  6. Jason, don’t be an idiot. Zach and Ivan would hardly be experts if they only talked about UFC. Ignoring what is happening in the global MMA scene destroys a columnist’s analytical credibility. For example, how you anyone speak with credibility on a Japanese fighter’s success (or lack thereof) in the UFC without knowing first-hand that fighter’s success (or lack thereof) abroad?

    Furthermore, you’re a moron. If you wanna bitch about how much Zach and Ivan talk about UFC, you shouldn’t tell them to talk exclusively about the UFC. Moreover, you’re stopping short of telling them to ignore MMA’s excruciating problems in favor of sitting back and whacking off to sluts that carry cards around the cage every other month and be thankful for it. No shit they’re going to bitch about the UFC, it’s the major league, as you said yourself.

  7. Fan Futbol says:

    I didn’t see the report, but I’ll say this: the mainstream media are not experts, so when they approach a “niche” topic, they frequently offer reports that lack nuance or are riddled with errors. It’s not just with MMA — it’s with all sorts of things. That’s just the way it is, unfortunately.


  8. cyphron says:


    If you want us to take you seriously, perhaps you should lay off on calling people idiots and morons. Unless you know your OPINION is absolutely correct.

    That CNBC show was made for people who know nothing about MMA. They used the word “Ultimate Fighting” because most people only know “Ultimate Fighting” and not MMA. The noobs need to learn to crawl before they learn to walk. This show is good for the UFC and good for MMA. As much as people hate to acknowledge it, for the majority of non-fans in the US (which is 99% of the population) MMA = UFC. Only the hardcores care about anything other than the UFC.

    We may agree or disagree on the merits of Dana White, but the fact of the matter is that he’s the face of MMA in the US. He may be a pompous ass, but what he does now and in the future does largely affect the growth of the sport.

  9. Normally I’d lambaste someone for using gay as a derogatory term.

    However, I saw the first 15 minutes of 2 Fast 2 Furious (it was a drive in double-feature with The Hulk, talk about a good set of films to ignore with your girlfriend), and I know that Pistol Pete’s use of the term is entirely correct in this case.

  10. Michaelthebox says:

    I was gonna punk Aaron, but cyphron beat me to it. Dang it.

  11. Zurich says:

    Wow, I didn’t know that about Lorenzo… he’s devious.

  12. IceMuncher says:

    “It was Spike TV, not the UFC, that came up with the reality show idea, which the UFC hated but went along with because it was the only way they could strike a deal with Spike TV at the time.”

    Man oh man. Ivan, do not, under any circumstances, rip on a program for having bad information, and then correct it with information that is just as flawed. It was the Fertittas (Lorenzo specifically I believe) that came up with TUF, not Dana, and most definately not Spike. In fact, the UFC had to pay for the first season out of pocket because Spike was wary of having the show.

    “Having allowed the Discovery Channel to shoot the reality show American Casino at Green Valley, the brothers decided that a series where a bunch of UFC fighters live together and face weekly elimination in the ring was their Trojan horse for getting on television. Their pitch was turned down by every network. So they made Spike TV, the only channel specifically designed for overly testosteroned young men, an offer it couldn’t refuse: The Fertittas agreed to produce the $10 million show themselves; Spike could just air it with no production costs. “

  13. Ivan Trembow says:

    If you think that pointing to one article containing a “Zuffa Myth” to substantiate another article containing a “Zuffa Myth” makes the myth correct, then you are mistaken. That article was in November 2006, after the show was already a hit and it was convenient to take credit for it. It was in 2004, when the Spike TV deal was negotiated and signed, that Zuffa spoke openly in interviews about the fact that they didn’t come up with the reality show concept and didn’t even like the reality show concept.

  14. Brisn says:

    Got any links to these interviews? I’m curious myself.


To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture.
Anti-spam image