By Zach Arnold | August 31, 2016
Joe Rogan signaled that he would leave UFC after the company was sold to Ari Emanuel. He decided to stick around for at least one more year. Now veteran matchmaker Joe Silva is reportedly leaving.
WWE discovered that you can move on when wrestlers leave but when management & on-air talent like Jim Ross & Pat Patterson leaves, you’re left with the Michael Coles of the world.
A change in personnel is natural given the $4 billion UFC sale but there is something to be said for a brain drain. Yes, Dana White is the top matchmaker and face of UFC, but Joe Silva and Sean Shelby micro-managed a roster with hundreds of fighters and were put in a position of constantly looking for the next diamond in the rough. Try booking 800 fights in a calendar year and see how you hold up.
These changes come against the backdrop of UFC looking for a new television rights deal. The odds seem strikingly in favor of UFC staying married to Fox Sports. UFC isn’t just a cornerstone for Fox Sports 1 — they’re practically the damn reason the channel still exists. Top flight Fox Sports 1 programming is barely able to hit 6-digits for cable ratings. UFC programming on Fox, for a disappointing show, draws 700,000 viewers. The numbers UFC is able to pull on Fox Sports 1 are nothing short of incredible.
What it exposes is that there is plenty of awareness of Fox Sports 1 but nobody wants to actually watch the channel. The Colin Cowherd & Jason Whitlock experiment has gotten off to a rough start. The Skip Bayless & Shannon Sharpe era will likely do the same. Take a look at the amount of retweets and reader activity on Skip Bayless’s Twitter account now versus what it was when he had his ESPN muscles. It’s striking. Without UFC programming, there really isn’t a justification for Fox Sports 1 to exist as a channel.
Ari Emanuel knows this. Dana White knows this. It’s why the $4 billion price tag isn’t as big of a gamble as you might think. The business side looks prospectively great but change is coming. Our UFC comfort creatures are departing. The whole business of MMA is rapidly changing. We are now in a world where Sherdog no longer employs Sherdog (Jeff Sherwood) or Greg Savage.
Corporate MMA is here to stay. Just ask the boxing promoters in New York how the new MMA insurance law is going to cripple their business. Here come the anti-trust lawsuits.