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UFC’s massive debt load is being used against them by fighters to create unforced errors

By Zach Arnold | May 9, 2017

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Dana White is telling the public that UFC “lost its date” of September 16th for the proposed Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather fight after Golden Boy announced Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. UFC perpetuating the charade of McGregor/Mayweather highlights what a precarious position WME-IMG is in right now.

Lorenzo Fertitta would have never let Conor McGregor hold UFC hostage like this. He certainly gave McGregor plenty of perks and put up with a lot of shenanigans. What Lorenzo didn’t allow was his company to become prey for a hostile takeover. He just left the headaches for his business partner, Ari Emanuel, to deal with. Once WME-IMG paid $4 billion dollars in a highly speculative play on UFC, the whole business model changed.

All of this has taken a toll on Dana White. Look at White’s current behavior. The man who sold the public on being able to put together the fights you wanted to see is now getting exposed by Oscar De La Hoya, of all people.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

The point of the fight business is to make matches that the public wants to buy.

You would think that WME-IMG’s UFC, saddled with monstrous debt, would be sensitive to booking fights that the public wants to watch. Instead of demonstrating matchmaking consistency, WME-IMG decided to play along with Conor McGregor’s hostile takeover. Give him what he wants. If he wants to fight Floyd Mayweather, then UFC gets its cut. Go for the home-run. Go for broke. Go for the fastest way to make a payday on paper. Why make money incrementally? Swing for the fences.

From the outside looking in, UFC’s strategy in dealing with Conor McGregor looks simple. Appear to give a good faith attempt on booking the Mayweather fight, watch things fall apart, and then come back to McGregor when his act has cooled off or squeeze him when the next big fight comes along. That next big fight is Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin.

UFC’s preoccupation with playing the leverage game on Conor McGregor has robbed them of oxygen in the matchmaking department for the rest of the company. A flood of cheap interim title matches with the end result being more fighters getting contractually tied up to UFC because of the dreaded “champion’s clause.” Fighters are starting to stand up and refuse interim title fights because of this onerous legal provision. Better late than never even if it’s a risky strategy. Luke Rockhold, like many UFC fighters, understands what the game is now:

“I don’t know, man,” he told Ariel Helwani when asked about his situation. “You can’t predict anything these days. So, [the UFC is] just chasing to pay off a debt really, is what they’re doing, trying to put these megafights together that don’t make sense. I don’t know. You never know what they’re going to do these days. Who knows.”

The reaction from UFC is the kind of cheesy, half-hearted laser pointing of Dana White publicly questioning what the worth of a fighter like Nate Diaz is.

UFC has one solid big money fight on the horizon — Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones. They have a second fight that could do good in Michael Bisping vs. GSP. The overarching WME-IMG philosophy on matchmaking is simple — go for the grand slam. If everything else gets plugged up, that’s collateral damage. Where else are fighters going to go?

Focus on the star power. Hang in there until a new television deal arrives. Then consider the option of flipping the company to another set of venture capitalists or the option of embracing an IPO. The strategy may pay off but the downside is incredibly treacherous. The business fundamentals that brought UFC to the point of being sold for $4 billion dollars have been abandoned. The company’s word is ringing hollow to fans and fighters.

The weather vane known as ESPN

Remember how hot and bothered ESPN got over covering UFC events over the past few years? Once Ronda Rousey’s career imploded, they cooled off a little bit. Things cooled a little bit more when Al Haymon cut a deal to air PBC events on the network. The PBC experiment backfired and ESPN ended up cutting a deal with Golden Boy. Suddenly, ESPN toned down the “boxing is dead” rhetoric to pump up Oscar De La Hoya & Canelo Alvarez.

As ESPN went in bed with Golden Boy, the on-air love fest with UFC got smothered by a proverbial wet blanket. After Canelo Alvarez easily defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., an ESPN anchor had the temerity to declare Canelo/Chavez the biggest fight in the history of Mexican sports. Just as quickly, ESPN went into promotional mode for Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. A real fight that fans want to see. Red meat over cotton candy. The only media defender of UFC continuing to pursue Mayweather vs. McGregor is Fox Sports 1 and that’s because they need UFC to stay relevant in order for their network to remain carried by cable & satellite providers.

ESPN cooling off on UFC is a telling sign. ESPN thought they could gain street cred among the 18-to-34 year old social media demographic by going all-in with UFC. Now they’re backing away and pushing their own business interests with Golden Boy. Unless ESPN decides to get in bed with UFC on the next television contract, I would expect ESPN to continue with its new-found half-hearted treatment of an MMA product that is frequently getting colder. That’s the price WME-IMG is paying for the gamble they’ve made in their business strategy to address the massive financial debt load they have.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

9 Responses to “UFC’s massive debt load is being used against them by fighters to create unforced errors”

  1. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Has Ol zionistscumbag Ari even attended one of “his” ufc shows?

    Most main events are pathetic Holm vs Beth in singapore!?!? both coming off losses.

    Cub vs that guy that conner knows? Cub isn’t quite shot but nowhere near championship material and is being used while he still has a few miles on him.

    Chiesa vs. Lee? majority of the card is made up of shot fighters. Why is Lir swede latifi on this US card when he should be fighting on the sweden card a month earlier?

    Nicks suspension has been up for a year! still absolutely no indication that he will fight. Neither of the Diaz bros are fighting this year yet they are top 5 fighters as far as popularity goes. But of course dana claims that people want to see people fight for the title, just like Nate and connor did, twice… oh wait.

    And no one but the entire US viewing audience knows Nates worth, but dana isn’t speaking with them.

    Connor has a whole (small) country behind him?
    Nate has the entire pot smoking population on the planet behind him!

    Nate is an incredible opportunity for them… a real fighter, person and pot smoker, but the new zionist vision is limited to creating new “plastic personalities” to be molded into “other” entertainment fields such as dancing w the stars surfing with sage, movies about fighting terrorism etc…

    UFC could have the great fights people want to see like diaz ferg, but even now with their “other” big stars ‘not” fighting they are tighter than ever with the purse strings.

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    I listened to about 1/2 of Nates rant on the MMA hour(thats all I could take), he makes some good points but his ranting skills are weak when it comes to rationalizing not fighting for the interim title. While I understand his feeling I thing they are more excuses for not wanting to fight at all. Personally I don’t see any down side to nate doing the interim fight win or lose.

    Right now Connor is 155 champ. Khabib is pretty much out of the picture and Ferg is the #1 contender by default. Nate wants the big money fights, Ferg wants the fight everyone wants the fight, but Ari doesnt want to give Nate the money. Nor would Ari save a co main event by paying ferg the same exact same $ he was promised for the fight, while simultaneously saving the $250,000 saved by Khabib no showing. But by ditching the fight altogether he saves what $350,000? but that fight would have brought that amount or more in ppv sales if you consider that maybe 10,000 or more people decided to not buy it because the co main was cancelled and not replace with any co main worty fight.
    but I digress…

    If Ferg fights Nate in the main, no matter who wins they both get ppv points and maybe fight connor. Nate, and dana, finally find out how much he is worth, sits out and fights the winner or looser of that fight. If ferg looses he fights someone else Alvarez or raging Al;), while Nate and connor fight. Then ferg(if he wins) fights the winner of that fight, or the loser should Ferg also lose.

    • klown says:

      WTF is your problem with the “Zionist” crap? Cut that shit out!

      • Diaz's packed bowl says:

        Problem is the guy is a zionist, zionists are fascists, I have a problem with fascists so f@$# fascism and zionism.

        Why not tell the zionists to cut out their “shit”, namely killing Palestinians and stealing their land for a greater isreal.

        • David M says:

          Why don’t you just say Jews, you aren’t fooling anyone by hiding behind the word Zionist. Amazing that the most democratic country in the region, the only one in which all religions can practice openly, in which women and homosexuals and minorities can prosper without fear, and which spends a good amount of money on foreign aid to help actual poor countries, is what you call a fascist state. What a fucking moron you are. Go try to have a gay pride event in Jeddah like they do in Tel Aviv and see what happens to you. Go see how many Jews are members of parliament in any Arab country and then go look at all the Arabs in the Knesset. The country with a free press, with the most entrepreneurial high-tech sector in the world, in a region surrounded by monarchs and fanatics, is the country you choose to complain about. Classic.

        • Diaz's packed bowl says:

          David M you have some obvious issues, I have no issues with jews and never have.
          I guess you are too stupid to understand that zionism like bigotry or fascism is an idealogical belief held by “people” and not just jews. Did you know everyone in the us gov support zionism? Do you even know what a christian zionist is? There are more non jew zionists than jews!

          Also many jews are not zionists. Haven’t you heard of jews against zionism?

          The zionist regime controlling Israel is fascist and needs to disappear from the history books. They need to be replaced with true torah jews who will practice true Judaism.

          Im denouncing an ideology not a people

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    New management is incompetent.

    Ratings are down. Champions are not fighting worthy contenders. Contenders are getting very pissed off.

    I haven’t purchased a UFC PPV all year. I might buy Miocic’s PPV this weekend because I am a fan of his. I don’t see another PPV to purchase until after the summer is over. So 8 months and 1 PPV purchase from a former devoted fan such as myself. They are doing something really really wrong.

    • Diaz's packed bowl says:

      tell me about it, seen aldo vs holloway? The card has nothing, not even Androstane silva, even though they could have paid someone else to fight him. They balked because they already had the budget planned. This is a new round of cost cutting. We are seeing more legends vs guys making approx $30,000 like gastelum. Instead of more legend vs legend fights… And of course Dana says he “can’t have enough womens divisions” because they are the cheapest fighters on the roster bar none, and desperate to prove themselves.
      That’s how sleaze balls Ari and Dana like em, cheap and desperate.

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