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Fight Opinion Radio discussion: How can UFC be growing so much, yet face so much uncertainty?

By Zach Arnold | October 10, 2014

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Some days, being an MMA fan feels like fighting a two-on-one handicap match.

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Time length of this week’s show: 30 minutes

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The current UFC business model is proving to be very unique. How can the UFC be experiencing record international business growth in markets like Mexico and yet face real uncertainty regarding their next television deal in Canada (!), an office closure in China, the release of Asian middleman Mark Fischer, and now the reported mass resignations from UFC’s Singapore office? With a Singaporean report claiming that UFC is only interested in sold show-type zero-risk deals to run in big Asian markets due to their supposed unwillingness to change their product & business practices to mesh with cultural concerns, what is UFC’s plan for growth in Pacific Rim markets outside of Australia?

The UFC is allegedly experiencing big time TV growth internationally and yet their PPV revenue has declined substantially. One minute, Dana White is claiming that Conor McGregor is bigger than Brock Lesnar or GSP and the next minute you have estimates of UFC 178 drawing 180,000-230,000 PPV buys. Additionally, none of the current UFC champions appears to be an all-time Top 10 UFC PPV box attraction.

Dana White is busy telling The Financial Times that UFC could be worth billions. The next minute, another publication claims they’re worth a billion. What is the UFC brand really worth without Lorenzo Fertitta or Dana White? If UFC’s growth is so explosive, then why do the people who have an interest in Zuffa’s debt seem concerned about the company’s future earnings?

If you’re a manager or agent, how do you navigate the negotiating waters now with UFC given that their PPV buys are declining? Do you have more leverage given the volatility of UFC’s current business situation or do you have less leverage given that UFC has said the hell with it, we’re going to proceed with a McDonaldification of four or fight cards a month with line-ups consisting of bouts where fans only know 25% of the fighters participating?

It’s one thing to experience international growth. It’s another thing to maintain that growth & to retain, let alone maximize, your gains.

With so many UFC events happening globally, expect more colossal mistakes like the botched HGH drug test of Cung Le to happen. The amount of stress on the employees involved in regulation & the production teams is enormous and things will slip through the cracks. When mistakes are made, UFC rarely admits or takes responsibility for their problems.

So, what’s next for UFC? What’s next for the fighters? What about the fans? Jeff Thaler & I discuss all of these angles on this week’s edition of Fight Opinion Radio.

Special thanks

To Zack Nelson for his past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio.

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Time length of this week’s show: 30 minutes

Topics: Fight Opinion Radio, Jeff Thaler, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold, podcasts | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

8 Responses to “Fight Opinion Radio discussion: How can UFC be growing so much, yet face so much uncertainty?”

  1. Ryan says:

    I dunno how it would affect business but I would love it if the UFC went ‘full fight pass’ in Canada. At this point, no deal is better than a shit deal on crazy subchannels you can’t get without a 90 dollar TV package (when you’re lucky enough to get the channel offered at all)

  2. david says:

    I am Canadian.
    UFC Central was originally MMA Central and then sportsnet got the broadcast deal and the name was changed. The UFC is a victim of it’s own zenophobia because the station can’t really go back to the original name without admitted that the news they reported was tainted by their association.
    The UFC may be losing sportsnet but more importantly would be if they lose Rogers. Rogers owns sportsnet and is the PPV provider for most of Canada. Rogers is also the biggest provider of internet in Canada. I don’t have fight pass, there has not been a fight on there I needed to see as it happens. I guess it will be like the good old days when I watched a ppv every other month (because now I skip about every other ppv)
    I wonder if Dana saying Rory is next to fight the champ and it will be in Canada is a negotiating ploy or he’s realized that Canadians have soured on him.

    • Safari_Punch says:

      There is still TSN and TSN2. Outside of sharing some Leafs and Raptors broadcasts, what else do they really have? They aired WWF/E broadcasts for years, why not the UFC? They have featured MMA personalities on “Off the Record” so it’s not like it wouldn’t make pick them up if the price was right. I seem to recall the UFC being on TSN back in the early 2000’s before there was such a thing as Rogers Sportsnet.

      I don’t know if Zach’s (!) was sarcastic or not, but nowhere in the USA have they drawn a gate the size of the Rogers Centre. Nothing close to it. There has always been this talk of doing a show where the Dallas Cowboys play, but even when Brock Lesnar was still around, the UFC never bothered with it. They are just not popular enough in the United States to fill a venue that size back even a few years ago.

      If the UFC were not broadcast in Canada, it wouldn’t be the end of the world as FOX is still included with cable subscriptions. But Canada doesn’t carry FOX Sports or any of their subsidiaries and that could be a big problem.

      • Dick Tracy says:

        If UFC were not broadcast in Canada that would be a big blow to their North-American revenue. USA is approximately 10 x the size of Canada but I’d bet they don’t do 10 x the revenue. I’d guess that Canadians are responsible for more than 10% of PPV sales even though the population is only 33M. If there were no weekly/monthly UFC programming only the hardcores would remain afloat having to use FightPass. The casual and moderate fan would soon forget about the UFC and that can’t be good for selling tickets or PPV.

        My prediction is the UFC moving to TSN – I believe they have 4 or 5 channels now. TSN will get them for a good rate.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        No sarcasm here on the Canadian TV prospects. We know UFC wants to book Rory vs. Lawler/Hendricks winner next year in Montreal. They need to figure out how to build up their footprint again in Canada. They got lazy with the attitude of “GSP will do everything for us” and the Canadian fans deserve first-class treatment.

        I seriously thought UFC was going to become huge after the Sky Dome event. I mean, GSP vs. Jake Shields doing a big box office is real proof that Canada can and will be a serious MMA market. But UFC has screwed the pooch many times on this front.

        • Safari_Punch says:

          I’ve spoken with people that went to that Rogers Centre/Skydome show and there were people walking out of the GSP/Sheilds main event. If you noticed moving forward, they never had GSP fight in Toronto again after that. Sheilds was a terrible opponent for the vanilla style of St. Pierre. It wouldn’t surprise me if it turned off fans from returning considering how much fans were being gouged for tickets. Those fans saw it live and once was enough.

          Also, other fans were likely there more for the fact that it was an event rather than being true UFC fans. Zuffa’s following shows were moved to the Air Canada Centre (where the Leafs/Raptors play) and attendance got progressively smaller and smaller. And it wasn’t like there weren’t good fighters appearing there. The ACC basically became Jon Jones “home” arena. Gustaffson made his reputation there. Mir/Nog 2 happened in Toronto as well.

          The issue with viewership in Canada is likely the same as in the States: viewer burnout from so many events. Lack of any stars hurts as well. You can’t expect the guys to just fill the shoes of GSP, Lesnar, etc. and become stars just because they’re there. UFC has zero clue how to create a star.

          The entertainment saying, “always leaving them wanting more” doesn’t seem to be something the UFC cares about. And really who the hell wants to see a heavy rotation of fight cards stacked with regional fighters, midgets and sub-par women? It is only going to get worse before things get better.

  3. timmy t says:

    Well put, Safari_Punch.

    “Also, other fans were likely there more for the fact that it was an event rather than being true UFC fans. ” – this can’t be emphasized enough. Had some fringe fan friends of mine take in a Vancouver show in the past and even at the height of UFC’s popularity, they weren’t impressed. There’s no way they’d go again. Especially for the price Uncle Fester was charging. Hell, they used to get together for the big ppv events and they don’t even do that anymore.

  4. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    When the recent main cards in canada are weaker than the ufcs 129 undercard they can expect continually diminishing returns. I expect them to offer GSP some extra perks to continue bringing in the marks.

    With the resignation of ufcs Singapore “team” and the first rate exciting Onefc shows ufcs asia expansion is dead in the water.
    Korea and Japan are all they have going now. Even though zombie is out for 2 years, Cungs out for a year.
    The competition is just too tough with One fc’s more exciting rules 90% finish ratio and local young fighters. One fc 21 had all finishes, with a bunch of ooooh and aahhh moments, Brandon Vera did a decent job.


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