By Zach Arnold | October 14, 2011
The big story
The turmoil within both Yahoo and AOL over the last year has been plentiful. Key opinion makers & business leaders have left the operations. Financial cuts have been made everywhere. There are talks of private equity brokers buying Yahoo and taking the company private.
When AOL decided to outsource its sports content to The Sporting News, everyone wondered what the future of MMAFighting.com would be. MMA Fighting managed to avoid the axe. AOL then made the decision to pump a ton of cash/stock to Arianna Huffington to buy out The Huffington Post and give her control to Patch.com as well. Months after the deal took place, AOL continued to have financial troubles.
Now, those troubles are of real reported significance. Reuters reported that AOL is looking to Yahoo to buy them out. The chances of that happening are speculative, at best. What it does mean, however, is that outfits like MMA Fighting that aren’t huge money-generators face likely extinction if they are not sold to a new financial backer.
Given the high-profile status of MMA Fighting and the fact that UFC benefits from this from a friendly outlet for them, it’s hard to see how someone won’t buy the operation. But who exactly would be a candidate to buy out MMA Fighting and what would it mean for the MMA media landscape as a whole?
- The first scenario is MMA Fighting doesn’t find any buyers and the staff is left alone to try to run the operation as they currently are. Financially, I don’t see how this is possible. MMA Fighting is just like the majority of MMA media outlets that struggle to financially make the numbers work. Sherdog is often the exception to the rule. I do not see MMA Fighting surviving as it is currently constituted if there is no heavy financial backing.
- The second scenario is that UFC buys them out. If Zuffa was to buy out MMA Fighting, it probably would be a wise investment. After all, it’s not like we don’t know the current politics of the MMA media landscape. Those who play by Zuffa’s rules get the access and those who are independent don’t. UFC has been playing the media game for a while of a ‘hands off’ approach publicly. Well, there’s nobody left to challenge them, so why should they worry about media impropriety at this point? UFC buying out MMA Fighting would essentially be buying a turnkey operation and everything running smoothly as usual.
- The third scenario is that an independent money mark buys out MMA Fighting. Candidates would include Crave (Sherdog), Break Media (Cage Potato), or SBNation (Bloody Elbow). Each buyer would bring some strengths to the table as the new owner of the site. With that said, never underestimate the fragile egos at play with MMA media writers, especially when the money decreases in this already-cutthroat business. This third option would be the best one for MMA Fighting, but it would lead to some expected cuts and I would expect some political infighting behind the scenes. It certainly wouldn’t be boring now, would it?
Whatever happens to MMA Fighting, the bottom line regarding the health of MMA media in 2011 is not great. Yahoo has reportedly pulled back some in terms of $$$ expenditures for MMA reporting but is still a big player. MMA Fighting needs stable backing to remain a player. However, the trend in MMA media circles is that the money supply for backing is dwindling, not growing. Zuffa is running more shows, which means more travel for writers who simply don’t have enough $$ to travel all over the place. The MMA sites aren’t generating enough cash to keep up with the breakneck speed of activity. Much like UFC fans are currently having to do with PPVs, the sites are having to cherry pick which shows they can cover and what they can afford. Times are turbulent right now. I’m not bullish or bearish about the current state of affairs.
The wildcard in all of this is FoxSports.com and how much money Fox Sports is willing to pony up to recruit top writers. That and the politics of what the writers could or couldn’t say on that platform.
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This week’s MMA Link Club featured stories
MMA Fighting: Ken Hershman leaves Showtime for HBO
If there was any doubt that we will not see UFC on HBO, those doubts should be removed. And the poaching of Tim Kennedy & Gilbert Melendez to UFC means the end of Strikeforce on Showtime. Josh Gross thinks Ken Hershman may take a stab at MMA using the boxing economic model. I don’t see it happening because MMA fans are heavily conditioned on the promotional model over the TV model and factors such as how ’strong’ or ‘weak’ a promotion is viewed business-wise does impact the way hardcore fans view a product. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just how it is.
NBC Sports: Is Chael Sonnen Vegas bound?
He can apply for a license on December 1st. As our friend Beau Dure noted at Sports Myriad, virtually no one talked about Sonnen & testosterone usage leading into his fight against Brian Stann and few are talking about it after his win. It just proves once again that when it comes to the issue of PED usage in sports, fans only care when the athlete in question is someone that they hate and are looking to use something, anything as a sledge hammer to ‘punish’ them. The people who really do care about a clean sport largely are paying lip service to the topic and nothing more.
Cage Potato: The argument for banning weight cutting in MMA
Not only is the process a dangerous one that has led to the death of several high school and college wrestlers, its side effects are non-reversible and can cause major health problems for fighters later in life. It’s no coincidence that many of the sport’s participants who used to wrestle and cut weight in their youth are now on hormone replacement therapy. Starvation and extreme dehydration — two of the facets of the weight cutting procedure — put stress on the body’s endocrine system and inhibit the production of key chemicals such as testosterone, adrenaline and insulin.
I’ve noticed since he’s no longer ‘the man’ that he’s a lot more comfortable during his interviews, which means he’s a lot smoother at stating half-truths.
Just as David Hill of Fox Sports says, The Ultimate Fighter has done wonders to promote the fact that fighters are not neanderthals.
No, but the gap between Shogun & Henderson versus Phil Davis is quite large right now.
Didn’t Gary “Jerry” Millen threaten to sell the M-1 video collection on eBay?
How about trying to submit him? That or hire Josh Barnett to go into the cage for you and bloody him up.
The Fight Nerd: Book review of Tom Gerbasi’s “UFC encyclopedia”
Overall, this is a great coffee table book full of vivid photos and plenty of information about anything you want to know about the UFC. Gerbasi left no stone unturned while writing this book and paints a great picture of the UFC and their legacy of fighters and events thus far. While there are some spots in it that were basically rewritten by the UFC, I can ignore it for the rest of the content and appearance of the book.
MMA Payout: Looking at Brock Lesnar’s new deal with WWE
When this hit TMZ, people went nuts on the MMA message boards. Give me a prediction (% wise) as far as Lesnar making a return appearance in WWE.