By Zach Arnold | December 12, 2013
It’s been quite an interesting week of announcements & declarations by Zuffa.
The bad news: You won’t have Cain Velasquez to run away from for the next year due to surgery & rehab. Fabricio Werdum will face the winner of the Josh Barnett/Travis Browne fight that takes place on December 28th in Las Vegas.
Now, onto some less stressful headlines.
First, the news that had everyone buzzing yesterday: 115 pound female fighters now headed to the UFC via The Ultimate Fighter. Here’s the roster.
— UFC News (@UFCNews) December 12, 2013
The reality show’s in the tank but we learned last season that amongst the now-limited viewership that the women draw better TV ratings than the men. So, for the UFC, it’s a no-risk proposition. For non-135 pound female fighters, it’s a win. For Invicta, they lose fighters while gaining credibility as a feeder system. And with Carla Esparza, they naturally have multiple aspects on the program to discuss (her being a champion, her friendship with the late Shane Del Rosario). The emotions should be really high. It all depends on how UFC editors handle the situation and if they do so in a tactful manner.
One thing is for certain — we’re definitely going to see a growing amount of women’s MMA content on the proposed UFC online internet channel. Zuffa will reportedly unveil all their plans during the weekend of the NYE show in Las Vegas. There have been a lot of comparisons made to the upcoming WWE Network that is expected to a broadband-based channel. The differences between the two projects in scope are dramatic. With the WWE Network, the company will be moving a lot of their B-level PPVs to the net and will be relying on over 60,000 hours of archived footage from different promotions over the past decades to try to lure in old wrestling fans to pay $15 a month. WWE management is pushing a number of 1 million subscribers a month needed in order to make the math work, although I suspect that it’s just a high number they aspire to reach and not the bare bones number they need to break even.
With UFC’s new online channel, they seem to be aiming more towards a hybrid MLB TV model where there will be some feeder shows that will allow the promotion to lock in even more prospects and build them up the way they want. There will be an emphasis on UFC as a “worldwide” league rather than the American/South American dominated company that it is right now. Bryan Alvarez recently talked about the challenges that the new UFC channel will bring in terms of matchmaking. Joe Silva & Sean Shelby will now have to figure out matchmaking for the Internet shows, the Fox Sports cable shows, The Ultimate Fighter, and the PPV circuit. In other words, UFC’s new channel could morph into something big or it could just be another nice revenue stream. Nothing more, nothing less. Potential for upside with not a lot of downside. The WWE Network proposition, on the other hand, carries some real risk. It may be foreward thinking but perhaps the wrong time to pull off the project. That’s why there’s so much more buzz about what the WWE Network could or could not turn out to be.
The UFC does have an excellent point man at the helm of the project and that point man is Marshall Zelaznik. The UFC will be make their online network geo-specific for America, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Last Friday’s Brisbane show featuring Mark Hunt vs. Bigfoot Silva was a total success on all accounts. The only negative happened to be some nasty anti-UFC press that American fans have long experienced in putting up with.
UFC had Tom Wright handle the public relations to deal with the criticism. Memo to UFC: Don’t have your representatives talk about MMA being something children can learn from. Don’t have your representatives claim that MMA doesn’t have a raging steroids problem when it’s as dirty as horse racing right now and your staff lobbies athletic commissions to let fighters get permission slips to use testosterone (anabolic steroids). Kind of like an endocrinologist reportedly showing some doubt about Chael Sonnen’s hypogonadism diagnosis but now saying he needs testosterone because he’s been using it for years.
Claiming “our doctors don’t work for us” when you have a point man in Dr. Jeff Davidson overseeing the regulation of fighters using testosterone on overseas shows isn’t a good look. It opens the door up for UFC to, rightfully, get shredded.
And one more thing: stop with the “fastest growing sport in the world” tagline when it’s utterly false. The UFC needs to step up it’s PR game in relation to their expansion attempts. It’s 2014, not 2008.