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The idea of UFC promoting the McDonaldification of MMA

By Zach Arnold | February 21, 2014

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This has been an ugly month, PR-wise, for the UFC (sans the trumped up Sig Rogich special in Washington DC).

The good news? The company drew a strong rating for the Lyoto Machida/Gegard Mousasi fight. It took a lead-in from NASCAR for momentum, but it worked. And we’ll probably see such a pairing for future FS1 events.

As for the rest of the news & rumors? As one poster wrote on The Underground Forum, the UFC is acting like they want to be the McDonalds of MMA with all the franchising options available to play with. The punchline is that running so many cards means fights with competitors who might be more fit for a McDojo than, say, American Kickboxing Academy.

There has been a big uproar online about the possibility of UFC signing a lucrative deal with a company like Under Armour to create standardized uniforms. The idea would involve the UFC getting a big sponsor or sponsors to pay for advertising on the uniforms. Would the fighters get 50% of the advertising profits from Zuffa? Sure, if pigs could fly.

And, of course, if you’ve been paying attention to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Under Armour has been Under Fire with American speed-skaters.

What makes the sponsorship deal so interesting is that the UFC is no longer hiding their true emotions on it. It’s not their problem, says Dana White. But, of course, it apparently is their problem when they charge a nice chunk of change in the form of a “sponsorship tax” and thus there have been several companies who have found themselves in an on-again/off-again business relationship with UFC. Volatile.

The big question I have in the long-run for UFC and sponsorship cash is whether or not it’s actually worth investing your corporate dollars to advertise with the UFC. Tell me one company that has advertised with the UFC and has seen explosive growth because of it. That vaunted 18-to-34 year old demographic is supposed to be great at brand-building, right? The one company you could try and stretch to make an argument for in terms of being an advertising success is Dynamic Fastener. It turns out that they can afford to advertise with blocks of fighters because they aren’t subjected to Zuffa’s sponsorship tax or else they wouldn’t be able to afford to advertise in the first place.

What else can you classify as a major marketing/advertising success for the UFC? Xyience? We all know the back-story on that garbage.

So, you have the idea of UFC considering athlete uniforms. Then there’s all the regionalization going on with non-stop cards that get lost in the shuffle. Makes it easy to skip shows and really hard for the hardcore fans to watch all the events. The more shows there are and the more value is placed on the UFC brand rather than the fighters, the less leverage there is for top stars. And UFC further increases their leverage using non-American stars in locations where they aren’t going to put up a legal challenge if they feel they are getting screwed. Some Brazilian fighter is going to sue the UFC in a Nevada state court in Las Vegas? The counter-argument from UFC is that they don’t sue fighters like Bellator and that UFC contracts look great in comparison to Bellator’s alleged deals with options or supposed requirements of selling tickets in order to get paid.

It’s interesting to see how many defenders of the UFC have jumped aboard the “UFC is not a monopoly!” bandwagon this week after Bellator made an offer to Gilbert Melendez. See, big bad Viacom really is heavy competition for UFC despite budgeting $50,000-60,000 per TV show. Which is why Lorenzo Feritta’s political fixer & Nevada power broker, Sig Rogich, has an unofficial UFC bastard child group in World Series of Fighting that has signed fighters that may have otherwise signed with Bellator. Funny how that works.

The big fly in the ointment for the UFC with their current strategy is that they still heavily rely on PPV cash and PPV requires stars. Building stars over building the brand. Dana White spent last week pushing the narrative that Ronda Rousey is the biggest star ever in the UFC. Sorry Chuck & Tito. But Dana’s in a win-win situation by pushing that narrative. If UFC 170 draws great on Saturday night for PPV buy rates, then he can continue to push the narrative. If the buy rate tanks, he has gained a new talking point for leverage in not having to pay Ronda as much money for the next contract. NFL boss Roger Goodell likes to talk about protecting “The Shield” and apparently the UFC feels the same way about pushing their brand first over any other principle in a business like combat sports that, outside of pro-wrestling promotions, has always been about marketing individuals.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “The idea of UFC promoting the McDonaldification of MMA”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Speaking of the UFC PPV Business Model…. That model is under attack. Dish Network is refusing to show WWE PPV’s. Over 50% of TV’s today are connected to the internet, and that will only grow over time… Which means eventually these type of events will all be streamed and PPV will be useless.

    So eventually the UFC is going to have to go in the direction of the WWE Network and combine their PPV’s with their back catalog. And to keep that same profit, they are going to have to probably charge $20 a month (since they can’t make it up in bulk like the WWE does). And that is an extremely hard sell in the digital world of everything being $8 to $10 per month.

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

    As for the advertising thing / uniform thing not being Dana White’s problems. A few points on the matter:

    1) Only team sports usually have uniforms in America. Individual sports…. Tennis, Golf, Racing, X-Games, Boxing, and other sports…. I can’t think of one of them that actually has a uniform. They all have dress codes, but no uniform. So the idea of the UFC having a uniform is a pure cash grab.

    2) Dana White in the past has always sold that fact that the UFC fighters can also get a lot of money from sponsors. He is straight up contradicting his words from a year ago.

    *******

    With all of that said. The writing is on the wall. The fighters need to unionize. Guys like GSP need to step up and make it happen. It is hard to feel sorry for these guys if they are only willing to look out for themselves and don’t care about the rest of the roster.

    *******

    Anybody calling the 1.4 Million Fight Night Viewers a success is full of it. They lost 2 Million fans from NASCAR. That is really bad.

    *******

    Personally, I have been rather disgusted with the UFC these last few months. I feel like the company has completely lost sight of what their core fanbase is interested in. They have too many weight classes. Too many events. They average 50+ fighters per division and that is too much (and only going to get worse as Fly & FBW get larger). The PPV quality overall is complete garbage. The Fight Pass experience is just bad bad bad.

    And yet if anybody goes after Dana White about it, he acts as if nothing is wrong.

    One last point. I’m not even sure I would really call myself a hardcore UFC fan right now. More in the pissed off stage by how bad things have gotten. I am barely watching the fights when they are on TV anymore. I find myself basically fast forwarding through almost the entire event. I already cancelled the Fight Pass.

    I see myself probably watching some of the bigger names I still enjoy. But the honeymoon stage is over. Such a shame too.

  2. The Predictable Johnny Rodz says:

    Remember when Turner put zero money into WCW, and how fast the wrestling business changed when they made it a priority? Try to dismiss it all you want, as long as a corporate leviathan owns Bellator, UFC is not a monopoly, no matter how inconvenient that fact might be to some people’s storylines.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    The other interesting thing I have seen is the journalists picks for Saturday’s title fight. From what I could find so far, it is 20 picking Rouse and 1 picking McMann. Luke Thomas’ s article about is basically being a squash was especially eye opening.

    If this was a male fight, it would be easy to pick the wrestler since wrestling is a better art then judo. Even with it being female fighting and a lot of unknowns, this is a 50/50 fight at best for Rousey.

    I am picking McMann and I do not think it will be a particularly close fight. I easily see this as being the Matt Hughes of female MMA in McMann.

    Fans are buying too much into the hype machine. Don’t forget that Weidman looked back in a few fights on the way up.

  4. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    At least working with McD you are free to work another job, which they suggest you do(on McDs free online help site).
    While the UFC can fire you and make sure you can’t even get a job for “the matching period”.
    And they don’t even have a help site, just Dana telling you to F___ off!!
    Or when a UFC employee applies for a NSAC job which might have some slight control in promoting the ufc fighters health, Dana says F____ you F____ing moron!

    And when quarry or whomever delivers hard truth regarding the ufcs own it all drain it all practice, the head man Fritatta says… “I like you” “I want to be your friend” basically what the headmaster yells at Spartacus, before training him and the other slaves captured for the gladiatorial games.

  5. David m says:

    Cyborg v Ronda could really draw. If Dana is smart, he will keep Cyborg away from Ronda because Cyborg would ruin her.

  6. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    Ok, frittata responds to the “bummer” news, low fighter pay, they couldn’t cough up more than $10,000 for Quarry, for A TITLE FIGHT, because they were millions in debt AT THE TIME.

    But when they started charging sponsors for the privilege of having their logo get soaked with blood in the OCTAGONtm. they were back in black.
    Remember when GSP was pissed off that frittatas gave him that suv? He would rather be paid the money than have to now pay all these taxes on his new suv(which frittatas got for free) that he doesn’t really want anyway.
    And when they strong armed all their fighters into signing away their likenesses for video games they were making millions.
    Remember when they made all those dolls? UFC fighters are being played and manipulated not just by their boss, but by children around the world without being paid a dime.

    Randy signed a deal with round 5 prior to the jakks deal and made some money per doll, which pissed off frittatas who could no longer use his likeness for their own dolly. Randy was also locked into the ufc contract when he wanted to pursue other options/fight Fedor. He couldn’t get out and was sued, or sued as I recall.
    Shammy just wanted his last fight on his contract and got sued to a living death. The guy was fighting in the first UFC for gods sake, and they tell him to F off were not going to give you work, and by the way you owe us $250,000. And they fire a few shots from their laser beam Dana calling shammy a piece of s#!t, and randy is also a scum bag back stabber or whatever.
    So even when they were making money hand over fist they still could not get the big fights made and were using their legal team to sue and screw smaller promotions for using an octagon or promoting one of their fighters as a past “ufc champion”.

    …really these guys are as Matt Riddle said recently… “this whole sport is just politics and hypocrites and everything. I was really tired of it. And it’s not like I’m getting paid that well. I could work at McDonald’s and get paid more. That’s why I retired.It’s a bunch of hypocrites and a bunch of douchebags that run the show”.

    Honest journalists who are not afraid of loosing their credentials or having Dana curse at them should be tearing them a new public perception a-hole.

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