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« | Home | »

The real power player this UFC 200 weekend was USADA and the impact of drug testing on UFC’s business

By Zach Arnold | July 9, 2016

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A million different storylines coming out of an insane Las Vegas week for UFC.

Brock Lesnar saved UFC’s ass and in the process reportedly made $12 million

Vince McMahon was losing leverage and interest with Brock Lesnar. Lesnar wanted more money. His latest WWE run was blah. WWE booking is crap. The win over Undertaker at Wrestlemania led to a match with… Shane McMahon.

Yeah, you could see why the most impatient man in the world would get impatient in a hurry.

McMahon had to give into Lesnar’s wish to return to UFC. Lesnar wanted to revive an old challenge and make more money in the process than he was currently doing with WWE. UFC needed a boost for their 200 card, which looked great and stacked on paper but needed that mainstream boost. Lesnar was the easy answer.

The price tag for UFC was enormous. They had to play ball with WWE. WWE, in the end, didn’t do much to help out UFC. UFC did absolutely nothing to take advantage of WWE’s media platforms to push stars like Sage Northcutt or Paige VanZant. Was that due to fear of Vince raiding them?

UFC made it hard on Lesnar by booking him against Mark Hunt. Lesnar proceeded to flash UFC 1 level skills with UFC 200 level athleticism to get a unanimous decision win and a likely booking for UFC’s Madison Square Garden debut. The same building which WWE owns exclusive wrestling event booking rights to.

Is Brock Lesnar worth $12 million dollars a fight? He’s worth $12 million to UFC right now because there is so much turmoil right now with fighters getting suspended, staying on the sidelines, having business disputes, or just getting injured. With all the of the chaos surrounding a potential/pending sale of the company, the most important thing UFC needs is a face and Brock Lesnar is that face. Everyone knows who he is.

Parity is a killer, even if it benefits UFC’s business model of stunting fighter pay

Holly Holm dethroned Ronda Rousey. Miesha Tate beat Holly Holm. Amanda Nunes submitted Miesha Tate. The 135 pound women’s division is a gigantic mess. And who knows what UFC management is thinking right now in regards to how they should book Cris Cyborg in the future?

There’s the heavyweight scene with Stipe Miocic as champion in Believeland. He gets Alistair Overeem next. Cain Velasquez won at UFC 200. Brock Lesnar won at UFC 200. The Heavyweight picture remains a convoluted mess.

On the flip side of parity, you have total dominance. Too many divisions where the competition has thinned out and champions who are miles ahead of their top challengers. Joanna Jedrzejczyk gassed out Claudia Gadelha and will likely get Rose Namajunas. Mighty Mouse. Dominick Cruz.

The end result is either complete lack of depth or toss-a-coin outcomes. There’s no middle ground right now. It makes things hard(er) for Joe Silva.

The ghost of USADA and drug testing is the big story coming out of UFC 200

There’s more parity in today’s MMA scene because drug testing has gotten better. It’s not perfect — far from it. But it’s gotten better.

Jon Jones is the most high-profile carnage from USADA testing and UFC went out of their way to give him the same treatment WWE gave Hulk Hogan after Gawker pressed for racist content on secretly recorded sex tapes. UFC buried Jon Jones on the 200 PPV. He’s getting erased from company history. The question is whether or not the promotion will sustain this position and treat him like Chris Benoit or if the company will relent and bring Jones back in the fold.

Jon Jones is likely going to be suspended for two years. He’s the greatest physical talent ever in UFC history. Can UFC finally cut ties permanently or will they give in like they did with Brock Lesnar?

Jones suffered the most humiliating week of his life and he earned every second of it. His management team went into crisis mode and tried to attack the public relations angle instead of protecting their client legally. It backfired horribly. Jon Jones was his usual socially awkward self and bolted after answering only a couple of questions. It was an easy Top 5 all-time train wreck presser for damage control. It reminded me very much of the infamous Terrell Owens Dallas situation when his publicist said that he had 25 million reasons not to kill himself. The Jones debacle with PR flack next to him also reminded me of the recent Ken Starr (Baylor) TV interview where he gave three or four different variations of responses as to whether or not he had knowingly received e-mail communication from alleged rape victims.

Daniel Cormier is UFC’s Black Bob Backlund and nobody knows how to handle it

Not the babyface Bob Backlund that tore up Sgt. Slaughter or Jesse Ventura. The bow-tie chicken wing nerdy psycho wrestling coach politician Bob Backlund who got destroyed by Kevin Nash at MSG in late 1994.

It’s totally unfair to peg Cormier as Backlund because he’s much more charismatic and not as prone to use excessively long words in promos… but the UFC fans hate him just as much. It’s really the kind of “you suck” heat that prevents Cormier from becoming a mainstream ace.

Colin Cowherd, of all people, had the most accurate assessment of UFC fans last Friday when he was ripping into fans for constantly booing Daniel Cormier. The fans want the raging primal guys who are overly tanned and tattooed. They don’t particularly care about doping unless it’s a fighter they hate and then they use a drug testing failure to rip on that fighter. Cowherd says UFC fans have all it backwards on Cormier and he’s absolutely right. Cormier, in his heart of hearts, just isn’t very good at reaching out to the lowest common denominator. It’s not in his nature to be an awful human being. So he doesn’t know which buttons to push, unlike Chael Sonnen, when it comes to reflecting and directing heat in the direction it needs to go.

Cormier was monstrously screwed by Jon Jones at UFC 200 and reportedly lost half of his base pay. I would love to see Cormier hire legal counsel and sue Jones for costing him so much money. After reportedly losing half of his base pay, Cormier ended up getting Anderson Silva on 48 hours notice. Yeah, it’s 2016 Anderson Silva, but dammit it’s still a competent veteran and a totally different style of fight than what Jon Jones was going to bring to the table. Cormier played it safe because he had to. If he had lost to Anderson Silva, he would have likely gotten a pay cut from UFC for his next fight. What was he supposed to do?

Jose Aldo is the last great male Brazilian championship hope and is prepared to save the UFC from Conor McGregor

If you thought UFC had no more confidence in Jon Jones, I can’t imagine they have very much confidence in booking Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo as a PPV main event again for a million different reasons. But it’s going to happen.

There’s a major problem in the way: Nate Diaz. It’s hard to see how Nate Diaz doesn’t perform better against Conor McGregor the second time around. What’s the value of an Aldo/McGregor featherweight title match after a second Nate Diaz loss?

Meanwhile, Aldo is not only trying to rebuild his reputation but the reputation of Brazilian fighters in the UFC. Rafael dos Anjos lost the Lightweight title to Eddie Alvarez on the Internet. They were relegated to Internet status. This is ridiculous. Remember how much marketing effort UFC put behind promoting Lightweight title matches?

Johny Hendricks is the horribly cautionary tale to Georges St. Pierre

You could have scored the Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum fight either way. It was a pick ‘em heading into the fight and largely a pick ‘em afterwards but I sure felt a lot more positive about Kelvin.

2016 has been a disastrous year for Johny Hendricks. This guy had the world at the palm of his hands. Then everything changed, including the restaurant venture in North Texas. It’s a stunning fall from grace and a really shocking one at that. It’s not as sad as watching UFC & the Nevada State Athletic Commission approving Diego Sanchez for fights to lose more brain cells… but it’s close.

Hendricks was supposed to be *the* successor to St. Pierre. Dana White says GSP won’t be fighting for the UFC. Let me guess: it’s the Reebok sponsorship problem. If UFC values Reebok more than a GSP return in 2016, that says a whole lot.

It’s entirely possible that St. Pierre could return to UFC Brock Lesnar-style and fight a lower Top 10 guy in order to get a win. UFC paid Lesnar $12 million for that. They could pay St. Pierre a couple of million dollars. They probably still remember the days when he was an automatic draw of 750,000 PPV buys a show.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

20 Responses to “The real power player this UFC 200 weekend was USADA and the impact of drug testing on UFC’s business”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) I would like to see Lesnar retire for good and go out on a high note.

    2) It’s not just Jon Jones and the USADA. The USADA has effected the entire company. A lot of guys look a lot different and some high profile guys are getting busted.

    3) Cormier reminds me of Rashad Evans. Both guys are nice but just not liked by the fans. I do think there is some low level racism attached to both of these situations.

    4) For Female Bantamweight, they should do a 4 man tournament. Nunes/Holm & Rousey/Tate on the same card. The winners can fight at a later date.

    5) If I never see Jose Aldo fight again, I will be happy. Be never pressed the action once during the fight.

    6) It is a shame that Frank Edgar never made the proper drop to Bantamweight like he should have. Now he is getting up there in age and it is probably too late. He was just too small for Aldo.

    • Tradition Rules says:

      1) I agree. This fight turned out pretty much how everyone expected it to in either one of two ways: it stays on the feet, Hunt launches Brock’s cranium into orbit….it goes to the ground, Brock grinds out a win.

      2) You said it simply and perfectly.

      3) Met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over two years to watch the fights with and I said almost the exact same thing, comparing Cormier to Evans, as to how many fans react to him.

      4) I think that is pretty much how they will book the women’s Bantamweight division just like you said with them MAYBE throwing. Pena into the mix, since she had that impressive come from behind win over the physically stronger Cat Zingano….she had to use ber skill to. Eat woman who was out wrestling her and slamming her to canvas.a good fight from both and a good win for Juliana.

      And the idea of those two match ups on the same card is a good idea.

      5) I agree on Aldo. He backpeddled too much of that fight and should have been issued a warning or a yellow card ala Silva in his fight with Damiano Maia in Abu Dabi. There were stretches of almost 30 seconds where he was running backwards and not throwing any strikes. Not saying Frankie would have one otherwise, but it would have been a much better fight.I never thought I would say this, but I now want to see McGregor beat Aldo after that fight…after he gets his ass kicked by Nate Diaz. ;)

      Being elusive is one thing, but he almost seemed like he just didn’t want to engage…Eben as good as he looked.

      6) Frankie is one of those guys that just works SO hard, always moves forward, not afraid to engage with an opponent and doesn’t appear afraid to lose a fight, I cant belt but love to watch the guy. I agree, he should have been fighting at 135.

      • klown says:

        All good points. 45 Huddle has grown on me over the years :) Always been a fan of Tradition Rules’s comments.

    • dorrell says:

      get teh fuck out of here with that low level racism bullshit.

      the answer why people dont like Cormier is simple:
      he bores teh fuck out of people who want to be entertained.
      period.
      it wasnt just this fight, or his other UFC fights but it goes back to even Strikeforce, Cormier is a wrestlefucker and apart from a few guys remembering their high school glory days wearing singlets, no one wants to watch someone get wrestlefucked.
      racist? GTFO.
      anderson Silva,Robbie Lawler, anthony johnson, alistair Overeem are ALL BLACK and people LOVE them because they are exciting.

      the dozen of us who were watching tried to verbalise what it is about Cormier made him unlikeable.. couldnt be his pillsbury body since the few fat guys in MMA like Roey and the Beast are revered, some tried to find something about the way he talks,etc/// but all came down to the bottom line: they dont like to see him fight.
      is his style effective? yes. does it entertain fans? no.
      not sure why its so hard to figure out…

      oh yeah, the ‘connoiseurs’ are going to give a lesson about how wrestlefucking has to be appreciated. you sit through that Alvarez fight vs Pettis where he spent 2/3 of the fight with his face in Pettis crotch just leaning on the fence and tell me how entertaining that is (effective? yes? entertaining? worse than watching baseball).
      a few guys last night were friends of friends who didnt know MMA, they couldnt tell you if Page or Sage where male or female, they didnt know one MMA champions name… they were there for Lesnar since they were WWE fans… they kept asking during the 3rd round of the Lesnar fight if we considered this to be entertaining and that was the only fight they cared about.
      i know, i know… unsophisticated fans some will say.
      but wrestlefucking is not entertaining.

      this is not an indictment on Cormier’s personality or who he is which is the bullshit taht Zach is trying to push and it sure as fuck aint about race or the lowest common denominator BS that Cowherd was spouting… he BORES people. How hard it is to see that? looking for every excuse rather than the simple one is absurd. this is a violent sport where people knee and kick each other in the head, I could care less if they are role models, they are purveyors of violence, not social workers…whether you are a good person or not doesnt affect my enjoyment of seeing you beat the living crap out of another human being like some or you are trying to suggest “Well, you should like him because he has never been arrested?” What the fuck is that have to do with a fight being entertaining? Thats’ for the social media jackoffs who want to sniff their own farts. Im paying X amount of dollars and want to be entertained. If you can not enteratin me, I dont care if youre mother fucking theresa,…

      Silva is on his last roided legs so there isnt much too clamour to see his old carcass but everyone cant wait to see the next Robbie Lawler or Alistair Overeem fight for the belt and there is a reason people cant wait to see these two BLACK fighters: they are exciting to watch, so you can stick your racist card.

  2. rst says:

    An interesting card. Maybe not all the fireworks we might have expected, but some interesting developments leading into tomorrow. I really thought DC was going to chew up and spit out Anderson. I never thought he would win (well I may have had a sliver of a thought that theres always a chance in MMA and with Anderson), but just going full rounds and at his age impresses me. I think that Tate losing is NOT bad for wmma. wmma has a rep for being a shallow pool, but now we’ve got 3 or 4 girls who are good enough to beat each other. Thats a good thing IMO.

    • Tradition Rules says:

      Over all for the match making, you are right, the parity in the woman’s Bantamweight division is good. The problem is that as far as how the UFC books the woman, they want a media sensation and Miesha could have been that because she is so attractive and so many casual MMA fans are more concerned with that over a talented, hardworking female fighter.

      Not saying that is right, just that the UFC knows this and that is how they best can promote the women fighters with the casual fans.

      My friend who I was watching the fights with asked me if they (the UFC) were going to promote Nunes like a star. I saidnonly if she becomes a dominating champion ala Rousey because she doesn’t have that sexton appeal like Tate (or Paige VanZant).

      • DIAZ'S PACKED BOWL says:

        Nunes just mangles the english language, I hit the mute button whenever she verbalizes. Contrary to logic, I imagine because of her limited verbal skilllz she should be popular with the immigrant lowest common denominator sexual deviant type ufc is selling to.

  3. Chris says:

    Your take on the booing of Cormier is spot on, and actually pissed me off. He’s never failed a drug test, never been accused of Domestic Violence, stupid bar brawls, assault, and all of the other nonsense we see some fighters involved in, and come back to Octagon cheers and applause.

    There is an absolute element of trash at UFC events. Which I am glad to avoid by watching the fights at home.

    • Tradition Rules says:

      I agree, people just want to see “what they want to see”. People are so short sighted, because in this age of social media and streaming, and instant everything at the touch of a button, people are impatient. They want what they want and they wan it right now and don’t want to understand any different.

      Cormier is a bit of an athletic freak himself and if he watched his diet year round could become a dominating champion. But he keeps his nose clean, doesn’t cause drama and is a solid role model, and people today don’t give a shit about that. They would rather support someone that is exciting, even if they murder someone, beat up their spouse, kick a puppy, or push an elderly woman down a flight of stairs. As long as they see what they like, that is all the justification they need.

  4. DIAZ'S PACKED BOWL says:

    The media build up for 200 was overall more entertaining.
    So in that regard, 200 was a big success getting “UFC” into the mainstream.
    USADA really helped to put a microscope on these fighters. You’ll need a microscope to find JJ now…

    Color was a welcome addition. Its application on the fighters however was done in a 4-8 year old level coloring book fashion. The gold mat gave everyone a nice gold patina, color coordinated it with the promotional graphics showed some extra care.

    I wasn’t glued to the set during 200’s 7 hr run time. there were several 10-20 minute dead air moments. I also left several times during fights, and got involved in some projects around the house, and even went out for some chinese take out.
    Sage started the snore fest for sure. Sage throws 2 head kicks and if the dude doesn’t drop sage thinks “whoa this dudes tough” then he just survives. That fight was not even bellator or RFA level, it was KOTC level.
    Sage and Page are both pretty faces with pretty much no potential as fighters.

    El camino was lucky to get out alive. Shows how weak gastelum really is, and how bad ass wonderboy is compared to both.

    UFC is top of the heap and their marketing is state of the art, but their stars are pretty much dried up, except for the 4.2 billion dollar man, and his sidekick Nate.
    Nate by the way, had the louder applause over cmac at the 202 presser. Cmac obviously wants that back, he has felt a disturbance in the force and its name is Diaz.

    UFC is desperate for anything that grabs eyes. So they’ll be announcing GSPs next fight pretty soon!

  5. King Famous says:

    I had the card going in the background too. I enjoyed 197 much more. I thought Frankie fought his heart out, but Aldo’s mental weakness was not even attacked since Frankie is a class act. Conor did well to wear down Aldo before they got in the cage. If you don’t attack Aldo’s mental game, then he will have confidence.
    Didn’t buy that Cain was “back.” DC is a role model and an amazing person, but unfortunately none of those things sell newspapers, and never have. I thought Hunt could have taken more chances, but Brock is a Yeti and I can’t blame him for trying. I didn’t watch the main event. Meisha looked weird and nervous – she for once was not the underdog, and sometimes that can be enough to twist your head around.
    Very interested in the next few events, but it is safe to say MMA has changed again, with USADA leading the way in cleaning up the “sport.”

    • DIAZ'S PACKED BOWL says:

      Lead low kick-left jab-right hand combo was there all third round for Mark. He threw pretty much nothing, guess hes just old.

  6. Chael's Roided Left Nut says:

    Cormier is what he is. Everyone who follows the sport knows he’s a class act. But you can’t pin the boos entirely on his style. There have been plenty of fighters who seem to be universally loved, that are plenty more boring. Looking at GSP right there.

    It’s also not a race thing. That’s absurd.
    Last, is it fair to say Cormier’s style is lay and pray, wrestling his way to decision wins? Not entirely. He’s finished three of his last six opponents. And if you saw his Gustafson, Jones and Johnson fights, he stood and banged away quite a bit. Come on, lets be real, Cormier WILL bang with people on his feet. Compare and contrast him with Brock, who still looks like a deer caught in headlights when being hit.

    Here’s the issue.

    I think the problem is that MOST of the UFC fan base are pretty much low IQ knuckleheads. They are younger in nature, demographics wise. And feel they have high MMA IQ’s solely because they have two fists, kicked a dog in the past, and watched pro wrasslin. Seriously, can’t even begin to list how many UFC watch parties I have gone to where almost everyone talks like experts, but none could tell the different between a triangle and oma plata. So let’s just pin the blame where it mostly lies . . . .dumb fans. Drunks who know nothing, incessantly cheer “USA, USA..” and will almost always resort to the lowest common denominator with fights – wild slugfests.

    Why?

    Because that’s what no skill, low IQ retards can relate to. It’s why Kimbo Slice became an internet sensation and Tank Abbot was a hit in his day. 90% of the fans relate to that. That’s reality and seeing how fewer and fewer Americans are staying in shape (let alone train/work out), it’s something that’s not going to improve any time sooner.

    • DIAZ'S PACKED BOWL says:

      I agree, the fans are generally very low quality in a lot of respects. Also they want to see a scary bad ass for their personal wish fulfillment.

      GSP is a national hero in Canada.
      Canadians are a little more well rounded in their quality, and dont quite have the immigrant explosions like the USA.
      Im not being racist when I say Canada doesnt allow many low level people into their country, or that canada is a white country for the most part. GSP is dignified, he represents honor respect and class which are apparently ideals that Candians hold in high regard.
      Its an indictment on the psychotic and racist nature of americana that a respectful honorable black champion is not held in high regard.

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