By Zach Arnold | January 5, 2017
Ari Emanuel reportedly wants to give TV networks more production & creative control over UFC for the next big television package. Be careful what you wish for.
Ronda Rousey, the UFC’s golden child whom WME-IMG had the double squeeze of juice on as both promoter and manager, is getting savaged by the UFC’s television partner. The hit men of Jamie Horowitz are ripping through the carcass.
Lorenzo Fertitta would have never let this happen under his watch. In six months time, things have dramatically changed for the UFC and not all for the better. Creative control was an absolute core belief under Zuffa’s tenure that helped sell UFC for $4 billion dollars. There was a reason that this was so important. Anyone who watched WCW a generation earlier and read the voluminous reports about Turner’s “standards and practices” knows all too well how powerful creative control is.
A week after Ronda Rousey’s decisive loss to Amanda Nunes, the verbal insanity has gone through the roof. The millionaire sports pundits smell blood in the water.
Voice #1 – Dana White
Within 45 minutes of Amanda Nunes retaining her UFC Bantamweight title, Dana White went on Fox Sports 1 television and made an ass out of himself. He bragged about how big the crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was and went on one of his “this is why I’m the promoter and you’re not speeches.” And during his rant, White stated that he could have spent $100 million dollars in advertising on Amanda Nunes for UFC 207 and nobody would have known who she was.
Dana’s theory? Fighting Ronda Rousey would make Amanda Nunes a bigger star than any ad buy UFC could ever deliver. In other words, purposely push Amanda Nunes as the b-sider and expect that defeating the A-level face of the company would instantly transfer the energy over to the b-sider. If this strategy worked, Holly Holm wouldn’t have been fighting on free television and Al Haymon would be the king of boxing.
So where was the Ronda bashing here? It wasn’t Dana bashing Ronda so much as it was a media portrait being painted after the fight of a prized former champion who somehow is an emotionally stunted little child crying for 45 minutes with boogers and snot coming out. Paired with Ronda’s refusal to deal with the media leading into the fight and it was the reddest of red meat possible for the critics. I was flabbergasted that Dana managed to weave in Godfather Promoter Dana with Uncle Dana the therapist in one interview segment.
Voice #2 – Clay Travis
Nobody smells blood in the water faster than Clay Travis. The Nashville attorney who claims that he voted for Barack Obama twice but has no qualms going after “PC Bromanis” (Bomani Jones) who view themselves as social justice warriors and speech police.
Travis scorched Rousey after her UFC 207 loss as a fraud who was propped up by white liberal feminists and social justice warriors in sports media pushing women’s empowerment. He called Ronda Rousey the Bernie Madoff of female athletes. Three months earlier, Travis proclaimed Rousey to be the most powerful female athlete ever.
Clay’s ability to make your head explode is par excellence. The problem is that if you attack the hyperbolic part of his arguments, it forces you to confront the other issues where there’s grains of truth.
Ronda Rousey did not invent women’s MMA. Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg were tearing the house down long before she came on the scene. ESPN called her a trailblazer. She was (and is). But it was embarrassing to see ESPN try to make Ramona Shelburne into Ronda’s Ahmad Rashad. It was laughable to see Ring Magazine put Ronda Rousey on its cover and ask if Ronda would take over women’s boxing as well as women’s MMA.
Ronda Rousey was great for Ronda Rousey and great for UFC.
Voice #3 – Jason Whitlock
In a scorching hot take on Thursday, Jason Whitlock refined Clay Travis’s argument and made it significantly more expolosive. Whitlock buttressed Clay’s argument that white liberal feminists, social justice warriors, and the PC police were the ones building up the myth of Ronda Rousey by adding that this same crowd intentionally pushed Ronda Rousey at the expense of powerful black women athletes like Serena Williams. Whitlock noted that when Miss Williams had her Serena (Grand) Slam in tennis, it was Rousey who ESPN gushed over for awards and their body issue.
Where do you begin to attack or unpack this argument? You can’t attack hot takes with logic and facts. Logic and facts don’t persuade people. Emotion does. How you feel is what makes an impact. Scott Adams, the Godfather of 2016 American political analysis, wrote the book on this – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.
This is why you don’t give creative control over your sports product to television networks.