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UFC’s debt financing is making rich fighters wealthier but the window is closing fast for everyone else

By Zach Arnold | July 30, 2017

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The House always wins … unless the house is entirely leveraged or the book has suffered hemorrhaging one-sided losses.

The era of Ari Emanuel and WME-IMG ownership of UFC is quickly being defined by the notion of the “super fight.” The twist is that the super fights proposed are not the most competitively balanced and go against the ethos of old UFC management. Lorenzo Fertitta built UFC on the backs of the highest level MMA fighters in the world fighting each other. Dana White convinced a skeptical public that he would book the fights that other promoters couldn’t.

A year after WME-IMG’s purchase of UFC, we’re left with fighters like Jon Jones rightfully proclaiming Dana White to be a public face and errand boy for Ari Emanuel.

The nauseating circus of Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor has brought out the worst in everyone. The utter money-grabbing transparency of soullessness has helped lower the betting odds to a ridiculous 5-to-1 Mayweather betting range but people aren’t rushing to pay their life savings for tickets with ridiculous “service fees.”

The fight will benefit all parties involved but it not will be of benefit to boxing or MMA itself. This same pattern is what will define the future “super fights” coming to UFC.

We know the next two “super fights” on the table will be Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre vs. Michael Bisping. Ari Emanuel decided from day one of ownership that he would go for the homerun every single time rather than play moneyball the Joe Silva way.

Lost in translation and reporting by the mainstream sports media is a key motive behind making these fights that have created new leverage that undercard UFC fighters have yet to take advantage of: massive debt financing.

The United States is $20 trillion dollars in debt. The interest to service the debt is skyrocketing out of control. WME-IMG purchased UFC for $4 billion dollars on the back of debt financing. The difference between Uncle Sam and UFC is that the Feds can print monopoly money at any time and call it Quantitative Easing. UFC, not so much. The venture capitalists can spin all they want but their backs are against the wall because the clock is ticking.

To their credit, Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar is more the kind of super fight that the old ownership of UFC would have booked rather than Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather. Jones should be a prohibitive favorite over Lesnar and his chinny chin chin but you can at least make the argument that Lesnar has a chance to smother Jones with his size. Plus, Paul Heyman is easily the best mouthpiece in all of fight sports today. He knows what sells and what doesn’t.

I’m most interested in the following two questions as a result of the fallout from UFC’s new matchmaking strategy:

  1. How will it impact interest from television networks in regards to what they will pay for a new television deal? Ari Emanuel reportedly thinks he can quadruple television rights fees.
  2. How many new sports agencies are going to enter into the MMA space and replace the old guard?

Fighter representation has never been more critical. The adoption of an Ali Act for MMA has never been more important to give fighters a legal tool to challenge adhesive contracts. The window for fighters to amass leverage and entrench new-found power will slam shut once WME-IMG can pay back their debt financing or spin off UFC to yet another venture capitalist group. The top names have been able to take advantage of this window so far but the majority of fighters have not.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

3 Responses to “UFC’s debt financing is making rich fighters wealthier but the window is closing fast for everyone else”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    The UFC continues to be a joke.

    1. Dana White decided no Woodley/GSP in round 5 of the WW Title Fight because Woodley was too boring. He openly admitted it. WTF!!

    2. Jones/Lesnar is a joke of a fight to even talk about.

    3. Bisping/GSP is a joke of a fight especially when they are letting go contenders like Mousasi.

    4. Letting McGregor box.

    Can they make any more of a joke of the integrity of the sport at this point? I would hope not, but something tells me it is only going to get worse….

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    At least ufc got a thrilling main event.
    They have problems with Woodly and Cyborg being hard to watch. I cant watch cyborg because she looks like the creature from the black lagoon. And wooden is just terribly boring in all his fights. Woody is to blame for that stinker that was worse than Severn Shamrock II! I gave 2 rounds to Maia for aggression took a point from woodly for fence grabbing and scored the fight a draw.

    You have to wince when thinking about paying to view those fighters. So maybe just have woodly and the ugly broad on fightpass from now on.

    Im all for Bisping GSP, that should be a solid ugly fight like bispings last three incredible fights. Woody deserves nothing more than a Lawler rematch after producing three stinkers in a row.

    And letting Cmac box is the best thing ufc has done in a decade.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Has anybody else watched the DW Contender Series? This type of show should really be for the level of talent that is currently in the bottom half of the main roster.


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