By Zach Arnold | August 25, 2012
I’ll throw out some questions here and I want to hear your responses in return.
1. How much of Dana White’s conference call talk was a real reflection of UFC management disgust and how much of it was an act to appease other angry business suitors?
I don’t doubt that the anger was very real with UFC management about what happened with the September 1st event in Las Vegas. The problem is that UFC put themselves in a position where they are running so many shows, the fight sheets are like a house of cards ready to topple over when the main event collapses.
However, I suspect that some of the outrage from Dana White towards Jon Jones was more about trying to show angered business partners of Zuffa that they care. Even if MMA attracts don’t attract the kind of whales that boxing crowds do, I’m sure the casinos are less than pleased with the way things have gone down. After all, UFC lost Alistair Overeem for their May card in Vegas and now they have to cancel a Vegas show. Given how the casinos scratch each others backs, I can only imagine that Zuffa is feeling the heat from many quarters.
Even if you take in account the rumors that business for UFC 151 was not great, it’s still a Las Vegas card and it’s supposed to be the home turf for UFC. They’re drawing weaker and weaker advances for most Vegas shows now but many people in the state still rely on UFC events to bring the state cash. Is it absurd that Dana White thinks a testosterone poster boy who lost a 185 pound title fight should immediately get a Light Heavyweight title shot? Yes. But it’s equally as absurd that Jon Jones got into a Twitter battle with Chael Sonnen in the first place knowing that he didn’t have interest in fighting the guy.
2. How much longer are Dana White & Lorenzo Fertitta willing to stick around as UFC owners?
You remember an article we posted last October from an industry source that said that they didn’t think Dana White would be the right man to lead the UFC during their stint with Fox? It’s been a pretty crazy start to the UFC/Fox relationship so far and more chaos is coming.
From the article:
Dana White no longer understands the fan base he is supposed to be catering to. This is a two part issue. The first is the number of PPV’s being run by the UFC. The second is the promoting of the smaller weight classes.
If it wasn’t for UFC booking Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort as the main event of the 9/22 Toronto event, you’re talking about Joe Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson as your main event for the new 125-pound Flyweight title. So far, the smaller weight class fights (men) have not drawn well on PPV. You can continue to say ‘exposure, more exposure’ as a mantra but at some point you also have to come to the realization that fans have a certain expectation of size and strength that they have for fighters they see on television. It’s different with boxing fans. With MMA fans, I do believe that for PPV fights you are talking about Lightweights (155 pounds) as the smallest weight class you can go in terms of convincing your casual fight fan to take the competitors seriously. Sure, the Bantamweights and Featherweights have a niche core amongst MMA fans (especially on cable) but it’s not the size that I think a lot of industry leaders thought it could be.
As for how long Dana White sticks around, I could definitely see him out of the sport in a couple of years if health problems continue to mount. Burnout is real.
3. Have we seen the maximum growth potential already for UFC under current management?
Split this into three parts – a) the TV sector, b) the PPV sector, c) live houses. For a) I’ll say there’s plenty of room to grow. For b) I’ll say that you’ll always have the occasional fight that pops a big buyrate but that the floor number for UFC PPV buys is decreasing significantly. As for c)… it feels like eons ago that UFC drew the massive house at the Sky Dome when it fact it wasn’t that long ago…
4. Are fighters gaining political power because of increased exposure or because of thinner cards?
I can’t make an argument for increased exposure. If the sports media took MMA seriously, they would be hyperventilating over guys like Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, and Frank Mir using testosterone just like they are hyperventilating over Melky Cabrera & Bartolo Colon getting caught for using the magic T.
It’s all about UFC sabotaging their own bottom line by running too many shows that seem to blur together for the casual fan. But, at some point, even rich people hate losing money and they return a point of negative returns. How much further does UFC need to go on the over-saturation route to reach their pain threshold?
5. Will UFC cut back on the number of PPVs in future years? If so, is it already too late to recover from the damage of watering down their PPV brand?
They would do themselves a world of good by going to 8 PPVs and 4 Fox network shows, mixed in with the occasional FX & Fuel shows. But they won’t cut back on the number of shows. They should, but they won’t.