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« | Home | »

How Bellator (and others) should view the World Series of Fighting

By Zach Arnold | December 4, 2013

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An update to this article (Thursday, 12/5) can be read at the bottom.

TMZ, the web site that floated a story about Georges St. Pierre having a dying father and baby mama drama, happens to have UFC ads on their web site via DoubleClick. A screen capture:

TMZ articles being presented by UFC is only slightly less awkward than the proposition of having Fight Opinion advertise the UFC Store, which we recently were solicited to do and to name a price. (I declined.)

Speaking of things that look strange on the surface… now that UFC appears to be taking a pass on signing Ben Askren, there’s hand-wringing online about his future. Chad Dundas is spot on about the situation in this article. Bellator seems to be closed off. Dana White was pushing World Series of Fighting. There’s One FC. For a fighter who is all about wanting to face the best competition, the league that has it doesn’t want his talents gracing their cage. Given a choice between WSOF and One FC, One FC is the equivalent of a working vacation with some travel to nice locales.

There’s a reason why Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta never say a bad word about World Series of Fighting and actually push it as an alternative for fighters who they don’t deem worthy of being under contract to Zuffa. Hint: this link will give you some of my past voluminous answers on why.

I had a brainstorming session with a close friend who brought up the topic of WSOF and what they need to do to succeed in the MMA space. It set off alarm bells for me because most people view WSOF on a micro level. They’re the operation that randomly airs shows on NBC Sports Network with little advertising help from Comcast. I watch the shows. I watch the Boost Mobile phone giveaways to winners. And then life goes on. WSOF is involved in some interesting lab experiments in Canada and Japan, like the project they are involved in with Pancrase for next Spring with Yushin Okami. On the surface, it’s interesting chatter for a couple of minutes. But that’s about it.

WSOF’s importance is miniscule on the micro level. The macro level story is different, however. That’s where WSOF interests me. Nothing interests me more in combat sports than the politics and the scandals. Many people watch sports as a fantasy escape to avoid the daily grind and the all-consuming political campaigns that you can’t escape in the media. However, no sport sector is more enveloped & steeped in politics than combat sports. Boxing is corrupt and it has the Ali Act. MMA doesn’t even have that. It’s the wild west.

Why does the existence of WSOF matter to you, the fan, and people inside the MMA business? As I’ve written in past articles, consider who is involved in the operation. WSOF management likes to say publicly that they are not a feeder system for the UFC. They’re technically right. What they are is a placeholder operation for the UFC on an unofficial level. However, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out what is really going on once you take a look at the political players involved.

The road map of cronyism

To make a long story short, all of the players involved in the UFC, WSOF, and Nevada State Athletic Commission are protecting each other. It’s their own fighting ecosystem. Let’s lay out the following in bullet form:

When you focus on the people involved in the Las Vegas political scene, everything we are watching play out with the UFC, WSOF, and Nevada State Athletic Commission makes sense. I’ve laid out this case in the past publicly and a few people in the MMA space have picked up on it but not enough, either because they can’t get their heads wrapped around it or else they are playing dumb.

Focus on the big picture

So, what does this mean for Bellator? The UFC would love nothing more than for Bellator to get into a battle with WSOF and have WSOF suck away some oxygen from the conversation. The closer UFC can make WSOF look to Bellator in terms of being perceived as a #2 MMA operation, the tighter the squeeze they can place on Viacom image-wise. If Viacom wants to open the purse strings and battle WSOF, there’s no way in hell Sig Rogich will compete. However, if Viacom continues to run Bellator on the cheap as an MMA property, then it allows WSOF to remain a viable stalking horse. That is the major point of WSOF’s existence and how it benefits the UFC.

How should Bellator/Viacom approach WSOF? Ignore their existence. However, if there’s a sudden reason to go on the attack against WSOF, then they must be able to communicate what I wrote up above to explain how WSOF is nothing more than an organization that is helping out the UFC. Trying to explain Rogich, Ratner, Lorenzo, and Harry Reid in a political nexus takes too long. Bellator would be best served to ignore WSOF but to tell their fighters and free agents that signing with WSOF basically is the equivalent of fading away from the spotlight. Sure, you might get a look from UFC if you do well in WSOF, but that opportunity is unlikely to happen. Bellator provides a much more stable media platform to be in the public spotlight.

The existence of WSOF fascinates me. What WSOF is up as far as the actual shows they promote fascinates me to a lesser degree. WSOF doesn’t work as a stalking horse if fighters view signing with Bellator as a good opportunity. The fact that MMA free agents are leery of Bellator’s reportedly onerous contracts, however, is why WSOF can be an effective stalking horse for the UFC.

As for the issue of collusion regarding UFC & WSOF? As long as Bellator exists, it’s hard for anyone to move the needle on that claim even though it’s clear from public comments by UFC management that they are encouraging fighters to sign with WSOF. We know why they are. When Ben Askren closed the door on Bellator, he boxed himself into a big corner. He would be better off signing a new deal with Bellator at this point.

Here’s your update

The Las Vegas Review-Journal dropped this bombshell about close Lorenzo Fertitta friend/ally Tim Poster, who got rejected by the Gaming Control Board for suitability. The rejection means former Nevada State Athletic Commission members who are on the Nevada Gaming Commission will have to save Poster in two weeks in order to get him a gaming license.

Tim Poster was rejected for suitability due to illegal gambling issues & past ties with Rick Rizzolo, former strip club guy with alleged ties to mobsters.

Regardless of that outcome, the much more intriguing story is that both Lorenzo Feritta (UFC owner) & Sig Rogich (bankrolling WSOF, Nevada’s top political fixer) showed up at Poster’s hearing in Carson City to gain approval for suitability to get licensed.

LVRJ notes that Poster was a founder of Ultimate Gaming. Guess who owns that now? Station Casinos.

The fact that Lorenzo & Rogich showed up to defend this guy publicly in Carson City should raise eyebrows. The fact that these guys continue to not hide their business ties & connections publicly, given who is involved, is certainly worthy of watching.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 40 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

40 Responses to “How Bellator (and others) should view the World Series of Fighting”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Before the WSOF there was no floor for talent released by the UFC. Now the WSOF sets a floor. It is around $15/$15k to $30k/$30k depending on the name value.

    So if Bellator wants to get a UFC cast away… they can’t do it on the dirt cheap. The WSOF is there to increase the pay on bellator fighters.

  2. Jonathan Snowden says:

    I’m not sure what connection we are supposed to draw from this? Of course important people in Las Vegas know each other. It’s a pretty big leap to go from that to collusion.

    • Steve4192 says:

      Agreed.

      I see no real evidence to tie this WSOF/UFC theory together, just a whole lot of supposition based on the principals involved running in the same social/professional/political circles.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I don’t know if it is illegal.

      But it is darn obvious that the UFC and WSOF have a working relationship that they are not telling the public about. The UFC randomly started to release their boring fighters that they held onto for years as soon as the WSOF opened for business. And they are giving them tickets for their events. When is the last time they did that for a “competitor” who publicly says they are not a feeder league to the UFC?

      • Simon says:

        Didn’t UFC and Invicta have a working relationship? I think this, the WSOF stuff, instead of working to compete and working against UFC, what we’re seeing is the other side of the coin, the benefits of acknowledging your place in the pecking order and working with them instead of against them.

    • Simon says:

      The only thing we are to take away from this is Zach really really wants Bellator, or more importantly Viacom, to spend more money to compete for free agents, and for Bellator to succeed.

      I’ve followed his work for a while now, was even on speaking terms with Zach, but his bias is showing.

      “Nothing interests me more in combat sports than the politics and the scandals” he says. Lets examine that. For the few legitimate arguments where things really are shady inside the ZUFFA organization, the ones that can be proven and solved, an agreement can be made, that’s one thing. But what happens when there are no more scandals. No more shady business? What if all you have is your intuition and a thought? When you get to that point that you just know somethings up with Dana or Lorenzo, or ZUFFA, or a partner or sponsor or fighter, but you have no proof other than that thought in your head that something must be up, just because, that’s when you’ve lost sight of what you set out to accomplish.

      Now if you aren’t all about taking down the ZUFFA ship, and are in favor of running out the shady business in the entire sport of MMA, then put away your bias and suspicion and go after what you know is there. You’ve wrote what, three, four, maybe five articles in the past few years devoted entirely to Bellator? And how many of those posts have you really pushed the issue? And there seem to be a lot more issues with Bellator than UFC.

      I’m not turning this into org vs org. I’m not for one and against the other. I just think that if you were fair, you’d go after the obvious. Yeah, UFC hates Ken and Frank and Randy and have rewritten history. Yes, UFC are guilty of doing some mysterious shit both in the past and recently. But to compare any of that to how bad the contracts are in Bellator, for example, that just doesnt make sense.

      I try to leave my voice out of the MMA community because it’s so childish sometimes. This is one of the few places I can come to to reasonably get my word across. Whether anyone listens, that’s not my concern.

      Just thought I’d point that out.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        I’m pro-Bellator? How many times have I gotten my ass chewed out for not having enough Bellator coverage on the site?

        • Simon says:

          Never said “Pro Bellator”, just as I never said “Anti-UFC”. But there is a difference between being Pro-org, and your bias showing. Admit it, as it stands, the current way UFC is being run burns your hide and since this is your platform, you take full advantage of it, and rightfully so.

          I’m just pointing out that there is blood in the water, but you choose to look elsewhere. I mean, Djork Rebney is right there, and no one has the courage, the balls, or the conviction to ask him about his past or why he treats his fighters they way he does. Same can be said about Dana I’m sure, but we know about Dana. We know where his faults are. What we don’t know is just how shady Bjorn is. If you don’t think he’s shady and not worth your time, that means your incredibly naive. Or your playing a different game where the rules only apply to one side. Thing is, We all know, love him or loathe him, what Dana has contributed to this sport, to its fanbase.

          Hardly any positive anecdotes exist that paint Mr. Rebney in a pleasant light. Quite the contrary. Yet, no one says anything, no ones authority is questioned, their history stays just that. Meanwhile, we move on to asking questions to DFW JR, knowing his response will be taken and twisted and used and abused on message boards, creating a terrible fanbase to try to reason with or have conversations with.

          By the way, you never really addressed any of my concerns. You just pointed out something that wasn’t even there to begin with.

        • edub says:

          Your concerns really aren’t worth addressing though. I mean most of everything you just pointed out is incredibly inaccurate.

          Just do yourself a favor, figure out why making this quote: “But to compare any of that to how bad the contracts are in Bellator, for example, that just doesnt make sense.” is far from reality.

          A hint would be that Bellator modeled their contracts directly from Zuffa.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      I said you can’t call it collusion as long as Bellator exists.

      But it is a brilliant game Zuffa & Rogich are playing.

  3. Jonathan says:

    They’re not doing anything illegal, so I don’t think that it is collusion.

    I do think that there is a working relationship between the two, which really isn’t a bad thing when you stop and think about it.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      It’s not illegal — especially without an Ali Act to cover MMA and you can thank Harry Reid for that.

      And it is smart. That’s the point.

      • Hume22 says:

        Zach, I’m new to fightopinion. Question: has there been movement on Ali Act in D.C., with particular Representatives and/or Senators looking to put extension on the agenda? I assume that there must be some movement if Reid is known to be scuttling any attempts at progress. Could you provide links? Also, has Reid been an active player in NY? If so, could you provide links? Thanks.

        • Zach Arnold says:

          Zero movement on Ali Act in DC — and Reid, who runs the Senate, has no interest. And Lorenzo Fertitta (UFC) & Sig Rogich (WSOF) are his big local backers in Vegas.

        • Hume22 says:

          Hi Zach, This is a rather disappointing response. If there is no movement on the Ali Act extension, then there is no basis to the claim “you can thank Harry Reid” for the fact that the Act does not cover MMA. If Reid is the problem, then you must have some evidence for the counterfactual “if Reid were not doing x, y, z, then the Ali Act would have been extended.” Except for the implausible claim that Reid has set up barriers such that even considering the Ali Act is out of the question for D.C. politicians, the counterfactual mentioned above needs something to provide a basis for truth conditions. In other words, *something* must be going on that Reid blocks in order to claim “but for Reid, the Act would cover MMA.” As a journalist, I was hoping you would provide grounds for such a claim. That is what I was asking for. It’s disappointing that you would write what you write without it.

          You may object and respond with the claim that “Reid runs the Senate.” If that’s your reply, then (1) your understanding of Washington politics is severely limited, and (2) your argument rests on a false view of the political situation. Reid does not “run the Senate.” And he surely does not determine whether or not there are players trying to move the needle on a particular issue. Now, he may try to discourage and *block* such movers, but that is exactly what I was looking for in the first place: links illustrating that Reid is blocking those attempting to put the Ali Act on the agenda.

  4. Chris says:

    Good food for thought Zach.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    The price of the UFC PPV is going up for UFC 168. Doesn’t personally effect me since I already purchased the bundle from the UFC website of the last 4 PPV’s of the year. But let’s talk about the UFC’s abuse of it’s fans now….

    In 2013 it cost $720 to watch every fight (assuming you already have cable).

    In 2014, it will cost $780 for the PPV’s. And then they want you to pay even more for additional cards overseas. And those cards have watered down the FS1 cards… So fights you would typically watch on FS1 you now have to pay for.

    How much can they abuse their fanbase with these fees? No other sport is this rotten about it…

    • Simon says:

      I read it’s going up for December only. Haven’t checked how many PPV’s that is, but that’s at least the one you mentioned. 5 dollars more, towards the end of the year when the bigger fights occur isn’t asking that much. Just don’t stick us with 5 every time we buy.

  6. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    That ali “character” who works wsof states that bjorn did a sleazy scummy bad bad thing etc… to Askren. He’s clearly regurgitating the Dana projection meme on command from __________. wsof has no business even being on tv imo, with low grade fighters has beens and no class scum like palharis and kyle.

    The ufc doesn’t even make an offer or even consider Askrens offer to fight McDonald for free. Yet they sign crummy 4-1 fighters who are clearly no where near bellator caliber, not to mention signing that guy that Askren beat in bellator.
    And wsof doesn’t even offer a competitive contract.

    Askren states over and over again its not about the money, its the competition. wsof’s champion is a guy who got beat in bellator by 2 guys who Askren beat. No competition there, even though Dana says there is.

    The fact is Askren had no competition in bellator, Rebney did him a solid by waving the matching rights, and now he’s free agent and still Dana claims Bjorn is playing games.

    The fact is the ufc does not sign the worlds best fighters, even when they can have them fight for free they decline. Isn’t that a no risk opp?

    Well… no, not if Askren wins the fight. The ufc is afraid that askren will tool the division, no other explanation.

    Askren dominant single dimension makes “well rounded” fighters “who stand and bang” look like fools.
    Much like Coleman kerr and couture did in the early ufc days.

    • Simon says:

      According to you and Ben Askrin, it isn’t about the money, it’s about the competition. Then why go to One FC?

      At least in WSOF, he has three, maybe four decent fighters to actually test himself against, and then he moves on to UFC. One FC makes NO sense.

      • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

        Really palharis is the only test or threat in wsof, and really who wants to fight that cheater? only a nobody who wants to make a name has for themselves would. Fighters who are known like fitch have refused.

        Askren stated that bellator #2 would have to pay him a lot more than they are willing to pay. wsof obviously offered him a weak offer, wsof champion wasn’t even able to win a tournament in bellator, american fans boo him and the organizations don’t really appreciate him.

        Face it wsof stinks like a third class hooker and would be a step down from #2. While with one fc he gets a solid organization with a good contract international exposure to and travel not to mention more appreciative fans. I’m not saying competition is better at one fc but by all accounts its a classy org with Hume at the helm.

        Also one fc has knees and soccer kicks to the downed opponent, thats another challenge for any wrestler which none of the american orgs pose.

  7. Zach Arnold says:

    Simon said:

    Never said “Pro Bellator”, just as I never said “Anti-UFC”. But there is a difference between being Pro-org, and your bias showing. Admit it, as it stands, the current way UFC is being run burns your hide and since this is your platform, you take full advantage of it, and rightfully so.

    I’m just pointing out that there is blood in the water, but you choose to look elsewhere. I mean, Djork Rebney is right there, and no one has the courage, the balls, or the conviction to ask him about his past or why he treats his fighters they way he does. Same can be said about Dana I’m sure, but we know about Dana. We know where his faults are. What we don’t know is just how shady Bjorn is

    I think we do have a clue about what’s wrong with the Bellator picture — the facts on the ground show they are having trouble keeping stars like Ben Askren & Eddie Alvarez despite having Viacom’s resources. I don’t think that’s disputable at all.

    • Simon says:

      That was one of my main points. Its right there in front of the media’s face, yet no one is willing to go after him for it. I get why most MMA Media shy away from the tough questions for Dana. That’s not the issue. The issue is why not, with this platform, where we all know many insiders are listening, why not go after something you can actually grasp. There’s some bad shit going on in MMA. But where it’s most obvious at the moment is in Bellator. You’ve tried for years now to go after the mistakes of ZUFFA. And at times you’ve done an amazing job. But there are also times when you seem to be reaching when nothings there and better targets are to be had. I don’t have the resources or the insider knowledge that you have. I’m on the outside looking in. But you have a chance to go after something important, not just something that is assumed.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        According to you and Ben Askrin, it isn’t about the money, it’s about the competition. Then why go to One FC?

        I’m not the one claiming that Bellator is better competition than UFC or others. What I’m stating is that once UFC shut the door on him, his options with other promotions in terms of finding high-level competition are next-to-none. Given that scenario, any choice he makes is trying to find the least of the worst. Right now, Bellator’s by far the least of the worst. One FC is, as I called it, a working vacation. WSOF is just a placeholder point.

        But where it’s most obvious at the moment is in Bellator.

        They failed to get a PPV launched. They’re having problems keeping guys who could be or are stars for them. Their contracts are a source of controversy. I’d say that the picture presented by others about Bellator is rather fair. They did close out their season on Spike with some nice ratings numbers. What they do with that momentum is left to be seen. 2014 is a big year for them. We’ll find out just how serious Viacom is going to be as a player with a year under their belt. We’ll find out more answers as it goes along.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The UFC, Bellator, and Ben Askren all acted in their best interests. And 2 of those decisions (UFC & Askren) were bad for the fans. And Bellator isn’t even in the clear since it does look bad to release a champion.

          Disgusting all around.

          **************

          The increase in viewership is exactly what happened with Strikeforce too. They are getting more viewers but were only able to accomplish it by increasing payroll greatly. And just like Strikeforce signed contracts that were meant for CBS fights…. Bellator signed contracts that were meant for PPV fights. And when CBS & PPV failed…. Both companies are put in a tailspin.

          Getting 200k more viewers but paying for guys like Rampage and Tito don’t work well….

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    The other big piece of MMA news is the UFC ratings.

    The GSP/Hendricks Prelim show did 998k. TUF Finale did 1.1 Million (with the prelims doing 938k). Definitely an upwards trend. And it is the first time the UFC did 1 Million viewers in over 3 1/2 months.

    If the UFC can start to average 1 Million viewers for the Prelim & Fight Night shows on FS1, they will be good to go on that network. It won’t be record setting numbers, but it is strong enough to sustain.

    I’ve said that the short term goal (like within 1 year) should be an average of 1 Million on FS1 and 500,000 on FS2. I’m not sure if it will happen, but it certainly is within reach.

  9. david m says:

    Are there any estimates for UFC 167 ppv buys?

  10. Simon says:

    ” edub says:
    December 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Your concerns really aren’t worth addressing though. I mean most of everything you just pointed out is incredibly inaccurate.

    Just do yourself a favor, figure out why making this quote: “But to compare any of that to how bad the contracts are in Bellator, for example, that just doesnt make sense.” is far from reality.

    A hint would be that Bellator modeled their contracts directly from Zuffa.”

    What did I say that was inaccurate? Bellator is a shady business. There is blood in the water and no one in the media has the balls to confront their shady business practices. No one had the balls to ask why, after the court drama, they still fuck Eddie over. Rampage and Tito are good enough to headline a PPV, but they fall thru and Eddie is no longer PPV headline material? Wasn’t that the reason they had the case dismissed/settled?

    Someone mentioned above how Bellator styled their contracts after Zuffa’s. Nope. They straight up stole a contract, thru Ken Pavia I believe, and copied it word for word. UFC took Bellator (and Ken, again I think) to court over theft of proprietary secrets.

    • Simon says:

      Needed to edit that post. Didn’t realize You were the one who mentioned contracts. So I’ll attribute that statement to you then. Bellator “Modeled” their contracts after UFC’s only after stealing one thru Ken Pavia.

    • edub says:

      Jesus.

      You said this: “But to compare any of that to how bad the contracts are in Bellator, for example, that just doesnt make sense.”

      That’s why I brought up contracts. They’re taken straight from Zuffa. So why in the world would Zuffa get killed over them when they are incredibly similar to Zuffa’s (who have been using them for over a decade). So them stealing it from Zuffa only proves the point that your original statement was made ZERO sense.

      Start there, then work your way to everything else.

  11. The Gaijin says:

    Jesus – Mark Hunt and Bigfoot Silva just took about a collective 20 years off each other’s lives tonight.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Majority draw – probably the picture perfect example a fight being scored a draw (an awesome one) where no one goes home unhappy with the official decision.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      And they entertained a lot of people in the process. Absolutely brutal fight.

      It was one of those rare instances where a draw made everybody happy….

      • The Gaijin says:

        Oh ya – no disagreement there…i was literally on my feet in my living room looking like that famous Chuck Liddell audience GIF for the last two rounds. What a fight!

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    WSOF is going to have 2 cards on NBC next year. And 6 to 8 on NBC Sports.

  13. [...] the WSOF as Zach Arnold has accused, simply a placeholder/stand in for the UFC on NBC in a way similar to the WEC or Zuffa Strikeforce just with different [...]

  14. [...] All series as proof of the media’s misdeeds, and also discussed Zach Arnold’s Fight Opinion piece about the connection between WSOF and [...]

  15. [...] All series as proof of the media’s misdeeds, and also discussed Zach Arnold’s Fight Opinion piece about the connection between WSOF and [...]

  16. [...] As for World Series of Fighting, their revenue-sharing model could be a great way for the promotion to attract UFC washouts and young prospects who might otherwise sign with Bellator. After all, putting pressure on Bellator seems to be WSOF’s only reason for existence. [...]

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