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
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.