UFC’s three economic weapons for retaliation against Andy Foster for giving Conor McGregor a boxing license
By Zach Arnold | December 1, 2016
Things are about to get chilly between California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster and Dana White. With an upcoming show in Sacramento, it remains to be seen if UFC will read the riot act to Mr. Foster for granting Conor McGregor a boxing license.
What we can likely guess is that McGregor getting a boxing license does not sit well with UFC management.
By granting Conor McGregor a boxing license in California, Andy Foster has opened the door for Conor McGregor to get a boxing license in other states. This would automatically create a scenario of leverage for McGregor to fight outside (or under) the UFC banner in a boxing exhibition or legitimate contest. It opens the door for issues relating to the Ali Act since McGregor would be acting in a capacity as a boxer, not an MMA fighter. The Ali Act for MMA is dead. It’s not dead for boxing. What kind of legal rights could McGregor assert if his UFC contract prohibits him from boxing?
Regardless of how slim the odds are for Conor McGregor fighting Floyd Mayweather, McGregor being granted a boxing license by Andy Foster escalates the business tension between the Lightweight champion and UFC. Adding intrigue to the story is this reported claim that the Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to give Conor McGregor a boxing license.
The co-dependent relationship between UFC & Andy Foster
Andy Foster’s biggest ally since taking over the job at the California State Athletic Commission has been UFC. We’ll elaborate later on just how significant that relationship is and what the pressure points are.
And if you remember, Andy Foster was prepared to move from Sacramento to Las Vegas due to various reasons if it meant getting the Executive Director job at the Nevada State Athletic Commission after Keith Kizer’s departure. For both personal and political reasons. Andy and his wife were having a child. The Athletic Commission was coming off of a reported extortion attempt by crooked California senator Leland Yee in order to keep the agency alive. Yee was exposed for having connections to famous Chinatown organized crime boss Shrimp Boy. Yee was given tickets to a UFC event in San Jose.
Andy Foster ended up as one of the finalists for the Nevada job. He didn’t get it. The interview, which was done publicly, didn’t go so well. For the purposes of UFC, having Andy Foster remain in California allowed them to maintain power over both California and Nevada.
A funny thing happened, though — MMA revenues have steadily declined in California. Boxing revenue is king. The second top revenue source remains taxation on WWE, a gross abuse of the athletic commission’s authority. Taxation without real regulation. Confiscatory. WWE could easily appeal such disparate confiscation in court but have chosen not to do so. Without wrestling revenues, the California State Athletic Commission would face a financial squeeze despite the reserves they have built up in the bank.
UFC’s pressure points on Andy Foster
Andy Foster has granted a lot of people boxing licenses over the last few years. Some of them never deserved a license in the first place, like a nearly 60-year old 200-pound female boxer. Comparatively-speaking, it’s a hell of a lot less dangerous having Conor McGregor in a boxing ring than a 60-year old amateur. But granting Conor McGregor a boxing license is politically explosive with UFC.
If McGregor can parlay his boxing license into something bigger that drags UFC into a business situation they don’t want to be involved in, they’re going to reasonably point the finger at Andy Foster for giving Conor McGregor a boxing license. If UFC wants to retaliate, they have three significant economic attacks they can launch against Andy Foster.
1. Pull shows out of California
This is the easiest weapon of choice for UFC retaliation. UFC just pulled their PPV from Anaheim. Their events are the only significant MMA money makers for the state. The members of the Athletic Commission board love to act like celebrities at these events and one member in particular loves acting like a barking gloryhog with authority they do not possess. Take the fame and money away by not having as many shows in the state.
2. Stop helping the Athletic Commission with cash on lobbying efforts
This is the mutually-assured destruction option that would really screw over Andy Foster.
UFC has top Sacramento lobbying firm Platinum Advisors on a retainer. They’ve spent over $750,000 on lobbying efforts in California, with $200,000 of that cash over the last seven reporting quarters. Without UFC’s lobbyist cash, Andy Foster wouldn’t be able to get things in Sacramento at the Capitol. He just wouldn’t.
WME-IMG also spend an inordinate amount of cash on lobbying efforts in Sacramento. If WME wants to pull the plug on helping out the Athletic Commission in advancing statutes regarding weight cutting, taxes, and other safety regulations, they can do it. Nothing would destroy Andy Foster’s political power faster than UFC not spending their lobbying cash to push his agenda.
3. Remove any chance of a post-Athletic Commission golden parachute with UFC
It’s unlikely that Andy Foster is going to land another major athletic commission job given the current political terrain. Who would want to work in New York? Florida has their own bureaucratically-controlled attorney in place. Texas has new leadership. Nevada is a mess.
Which means that California is likely his last destination for an job with an Athletic Commission. If he retires or quits or gets removed from his California job, landing a golden parachute from UFC would make sense. Or at least it would have used to make sense. Lorenzo Fertitta took care of Marc Ratner and Armando Garcia.
Now with WME-IMG? That open door policy isn’t so open, especially if Ari Emanuel and Dana White see Andy Foster as helping out Conor McGregor obtain leverage in a labor spat.
When you have a family to feed and bills to pay, UFC employment used to be a very secure option with Lorenzo Fertitta. That security blanket is gone now. The venture capitalists have taken over. Andy Foster needs to keep his job in California. He can’t afford to have UFC screwing him over financially or politically. Once he’s out, he’s out.