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By Zach Arnold | November 13, 2016
“I’m aware of my worth.”
Conor McGregor has always prodded the bear for more money. This time around, he’s prodding Ari Emanuel instead of Lorenzo Fertitta. Who will blink?
Before you give the predictable answer, consider the business environment we’re in right now with UFC. Dana White took a huge gamble in publicly backing Donald Trump. It was obvious what the motivation was: kill any attempt of amending the Ali Act for MMA. He’ll end up with his wish — and more. If it wasn’t for the fact that Secret Service reportedly kept Trump away from MSG, we probably would have had a bizarre clash of words involving Trump, Conor, and Madonna. It would have been a rather fitting ending to the circus on Saturday night.
If there’s no Ali Act for MMA, then it becomes publicly harder to argue to the masses against fighters wanting a collective bargaining agreement to achieve minimum business standards with UFC. Rob Maysey has argued that a CBA is incompatible with the Ali Act in giving fighters leverage to fight for different promoters. He’s right. The problem is that with no Ali Act for MMA, you run into the issue of mootness. Whoever organizes fastest, wins. The race to the courthouse principle. Jeff Borris and Lucas Middlebrook are racing to get organized in order to establish a collective bargaining argument. That would likely nuke any impact from the pending anti-trust lawsuit in Las Vegas Federal court.
So what’s the best way to squash any attempt of organization? Kill the head of the snake. Give someone like Conor McGregor a minor piece of the overall pie and load it full of options to get out as quickly as possible. It was easy for Lorenzo Fertitta to use Dana White as his laser to go after fighters. Now the Vegas muscle is gone. Lorenzo didn’t have nearly the business muscle as Ari Emanuel but what Lorenzo did have was an incredible ability to work all the psychological angles. Despite being a billionaire, Lorenzo made fighters feel as if UFC was family. That emotional stigma is completely obliterated now. Fighters are showing less respect to someone they should theoretically fear more than Lorenzo but really don’t. That’s the fight business. There’s no manual or playbook to be successful in an ultrahazardous venture like this.
Expect modifications to UFC contracts regarding fighters missing weight
Donald Cerrone should have had the time of his life at MSG. Instead, he became another victim to a growing trend of fighters dealing with opponents who aren’t even making the attempt to make weight. We’re not talking a couple of pounds over the weight limit — we’re talking 8, 10, sometimes 12 pounds over limit.
The initial penalty was a 20% fine. Now some fights are getting canceled but that clearly isn’t enough of a deterrent.
I fully expect the next phase of UFC contracts under WME-IMG management to feature liquidated damages provisions for breach of contract. Missing weight is a breach of your professional duties as a fighter. While liquidated damages can only be pegged to a certain reasonable % of a fighter’s overall pay, it’s easily the next step in what will be become a legal war.
Andy Foster at the California State Athletic Commission, along with other members of the Association of Boxing Commissions, want a significant modification in the weight class structure. They want more weight classes. In theory, I agree with their assertions. The problem is that no matter how many weight classes you have, fighters are always going to push the limit regarding what weight class they want to fight at versus what weight class they really should be fighting at. Until more weight classes are added, I expect the promotions to start laying the hammer down through contractual provisions to make a much needed point.
How much longer will Mike Goldberg last with UFC?
The UFC finally made it to MSG. The company’s largest gate in history. The fighters reacted differently and understood the magnitude of the event. They got it. The energy and violence was intense. They stepped up to the plate.
Unfortunately, if you watched Mike Goldberg on the Fox Sports 1 telecast for UFC’s debut at Madison Square Garden, you would have thought it was just another UFC event. Low energy, subdued, robotic. You could have taken his commentary from any standard Fox telecast and plugged into the MSG broadcast on Saturday and it would have sounded exactly the same. The tone did not match the historical moment at hand.
Joe Rogan will be around for at least a year but it would be no surprise to see him move onto other things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Goldberg do the same.
On their last legs
Raquel Pennington put Miesha Tate into retirement. That’s a bombshell. Yoel Romero finished Chris Weidman and now Weidman has to seriously contemplate what’s next for his career.
Dan Henderson is retired. Rashad Evans has a few fights left, at most. Georges St. Pierre is coming back… maybe. Johny Hendricks is on the rocks. Ronda Rousey was talking about the end coming soon for her career during a TV appearance.
A lot of big name fighters are suddenly at the end of their careers and it’s going to take UFC some time to really develop new star power. It will be very interesting to see WME’s strategy for building stars with Lorenzo Fertitta & Joe Silva out of the picture. WME has all the resources to go big. It will be a very interesting process to watch play out.