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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

For mobile & tablet users, access our boxing & MMA headlines here

By Zach Arnold | November 22, 2017

To make our site theme more compatible with mobile & tablet devices, we had to trim off the news sidebars. We’ve developed a temporary solution to address this problem: separate feed pages.

Access the latest MMA headlines here.

Access the latest boxing headlines here.

As you might notice, some RSS links we are trying to access don’t load properly or are dead. We are searching for updated RSS feed links. Send us some tips.

Help wanted

We need your advice on finding a two-column theme compatible for PC, mobile, and tablet devices. E-mail me at zarnold9000@gmail.com with all suggestions. If you can’t help us out with technical advice, send us a donation to help pay for a solution. We can and will make this happen.

Topics: Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The $400 million dollar TV question for UFC: Balls (Amazon 100M subs) or brains (ESPN/Fox)?

By Zach Arnold | April 18, 2018

Venture capitalists want guaranteed cash. It’s their fiduciary responsibility to keep foreign ownership of company debt very, very happy. It’s why the reported ESPN/Fox dual offer for television rights is so tempting. An offer reportedly worth $400M/year with two stable broadcast television partners.

Betting against Disney is risky. Rejecting $400 million dollars yearly is crazy. Disney is all-in with the new ESPN+ online streaming platform. They need UFC.

The risk for Disney is that they are still renting sports content. They are not owning the content they produce, which is why Netflix has as big a market share as Disney right now. Paying $200 million a year for limited UFC rights is a huge premium for Disney. ESPN+ faces an enormous, uphill climb.

Which is why Wednesday’s memo from Amazon king Jeff Bezos about 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers is a game changer. My argument for a UFC/Amazon marriage was based on 80+ million subscribers. 100 million subscribers is 25% more juice.

ESPN & Fox are offering $400 million in guaranteed cash yearly. Amazon can’t make that offer but what they can offer UFC is the kind of upside on supercharging merchandising sales and streaming of live events that no one else in the world can compete with. I am a believer that Amazon’s marketing power is worth tens of millions of dollars to UFC on merchandising alone. Reebok would be estactic.

Amazon was always a dark horse, at best, to get a foothold in the UFC television negotiations. Amazon can offer potential but no guarantees. Venture capitalists sell potential but take the easy money when it’s on the table.

If Lorenzo & Frank Fertitta still owned UFC, would they take the guaranteed cash or would they gamble and become pioneers by expanding their sports empire with Jeff Bezos in their corner?

If current UFC ownership won’t take the plunge with Amazon, a major sports entity will do so and reap the future rewards.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

Conor McGregor lost his UFC belt and maybe his freedom but what about UFC’s TV deal?

By Zach Arnold | April 5, 2018

Conor McGregor channeled his inner Mike Tyson and attacked UFC vehicles transporting fighters for their UFC 223 event in Brooklyn.

Well, on the bright side… UFC 223 got publicity.

“This is the kind of thing bad boys do in sports,” chimed Fox Sports social media honcho Jason McIntyre.

Now we have Fox Sports, UFC TV partner, debating whether Conor McGregor’s Brooklyn attack is worse than Malice at the Palace. MatP was considered the NBA’s darkest moment even though sports fans react to it as strongly today as they did when the incident actually happened.

“He has really burnished a brand as a thug,” Jason Whitlock claimed. “Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.”

Four months ago, people were worried about Conor McGregor’s safety after a reported bar brawl involving some powerful & organized individuals.

The TV angle

2018 means everything for UFC. The vulture/venture capitalists want their new television deal. There’s a reason UFC went all-in on Brock Lesnar 24 hours ago. I think the water has largely been squeeze out of that sponge but I could be wrong.

The Conor McGregor situation inflamed an already delicate business situation into a crisis of confidence.

TV executives want stars. Jon Jones. Conor McGregor. Ronda… well… The stars are vanishing. Daniel Cormier will likely retire as the non-Jon Jones 205 champion. Stipe Miocic is slowly building his American profile. They’re great fighters and I care about them. I’m not sure television executives are as enthused.

McGregor likely faces criminal charges and a suspension. He needs the UFC to stay active both in and out of the ring but does he need the money? Fighters always need money. UFC needs a television deal and all the money that comes with it. Are we headed for a separation?

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

Canelo Alvarez clenbuterol suspension: Why bother fighting in Nevada?

By Zach Arnold | April 3, 2018

The fight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez will be pushed back a few months due to Alvarez testing positive (twice) for clenbuterol.

The best MMA writer today, Iain Kidd, has a simple & accurate Bloody Elbow read on what likely went down.

The re-match will happen in a few months. The media and Golovkin’s team will take their doping shots at Canelo to juice up interest. Always happens in these kinds of scenarios. The fighters and promoters will still make their money.

However, there are bigger questions to be asked now because of Nevada’s actions to suspend Canelo Alvarez.

Why bother fighting in Nevada?

This is the big question now. If you’re a top fighter, why do you need to fight for a WBC belt if the WBC is going to require you to go through third-party supplemental drug testing that the Nevada State Athletic Commission treats differently than by WADA/USADA standards for punishment?

Nevada’s commission made it clear to third party drug testing operations to work with them and to go by certain guidelines. If this is Nevada’s long-term policy, then the results of those tests must be treated exactly as they would be on a global stage.

Erik Magraken neatly explains Nevada’s legal policy on mitigating circumstances regarding ingestion of contaminated products.

The end result of the Canelo Alvarez incident is the formulation of Nevada administrative case law where a positive test for clenbuterol is being adjudicated differently by a state athletic commission than it would be by an actual testing agency.

The tax breaks aren’t worth Nevada’s administrative headaches

You can fight in Texas or Florida and not pay state income tax. Television taxes are also relatively competitive.

Fights featuring the level of boxers like Gennady Golovkin do not require casinos to prop up for interest. You don’t need to rely on sold shows.

Why are we stuck on Las Vegas? You can make your money elsewhere without as much interference, inconsistency, or incompetence. You can still do VADA testing as well.

Nevada doesn’t have the prestige that it once had. Motives are constantly questioned. The state’s athletic commission is no longer attached to general funding. How is it any different than other garden variety administrative agencies? The power of the purse gives promoters much better options inside and outside of America to produce fights. Better deals are to be made outside of Nevada in 2018.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Pre-suading the public for full blown WWE/Fox Sports, UFC/Amazon marriages

By Zach Arnold | February 28, 2018

It doesn’t take a genius to see how the following two stories are interconnected:

I hate to say I told you so. OK, no I don’t. About a marriage between Amazon and UFC? I think it’s a great business move by all parties involved.

I also think a marriage between Vince McMahon and Rupert Murdoch makes great sense for 2019. I still believe that we will eventually get a deal between UFC & Fox Sports but it will be a slimmed down agreement with more exposure on Amazon to hedge the bets. UFC helped launch Fox Sports 1 but FS1 is a treadmill channel — running a lot but heading nowhere. It needs weekly WWE programming. You can do weekly WWE. Weekly UFC is a killer.

All of this news sounds good to me. The return of Brock Lesnar to UFC? Boring, but predictable. WWE got Ronda Rousey. Conor McGregor learned his true marketing value.

Jon Jones sabotaged his career and continues to demonstrate that he has learned nothing. California did the minimum they could do but you can’t rip the athletic commission too hard because it’s really the UFC’s call as to whether or not USADA will finish the job. Even TMZ Sports was dumping on Jon Jones yesterday. I felt bad watching Howard Jacobs, the attorney for Jon Jones, at Tuesday’s AC meeting. It was like watching Ben Brafman deal with Martin Shkreli in public. How many more bites out of the apple can you get? UFC can’t build their business plan around Jon Jones any more. It’s time for fresh media deals to build a new group of aces.

Topics: CSAC, Media, MMA, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, WWE, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

When is paying yourself a crime? UFC’s financial landscape after Fertitta family ownership

By Zach Arnold | January 25, 2018

Over the many years of covering UFC financing on Fight Opinion Radio, my trusty co-host Jeff Thaler and I noted that Lorenzo & Frank Fertitta had no problem paying themselves in many different ways from UFC.

One of the golden rules of running a business is never to forget to pay yourself. The problem is that many businesses, at least small-to-mid-sized businesses, don’t make ends meets and owners take the haircut. The bigger the stakes, the more you are encouraged to not only pay yourself but… if you’re smart… create as many companies as possible to profit off of the original operation. Why just pay yourself when you can pay yourself and pay vendors that you have ownership in?

That’s what the old UFC ownership did. They paid themselves quite handsomely. On the surface, nobody has presented any facts to show that there was illegal activity involved in this process. If you can pay yourself twenty different ways and financial institutions are willing to continue backing you, then that’s the system in place.

What happens when you get new ownership that has its own venture capitalists? Everyone wants to know who is getting paid what — especially when some of those investors are representing foreign governments in the form of retirement pensions.

You can squeeze out extra cash by analyzing the accounting. New ownership (WME) is paying itself a yearly fee of $25 million USD. They’re getting cheaper when it comes to expenses.

When WME purchased UFC, I pondered if they would go the Bain (vulture) Capital route. The gamble was that the television landscape for sports TV rights would continue to explode. That gamble appears to be on really shaky ground right now:

Before Rupert Murdoch unloaded many of his sports TV assets to ESPN & Disney, I wrote an article at Bloody Elbow stating that Amazon would be UFC’s best bet for a new television deal. In order to maximize such a deal, UFC needs to maintain some sort of presence with a broadcast network. Why? Take a look at the new ATSC 3.0 over-the-air USA TV standards coming in 2019. Ultra HD 4k 120 frames per second with complete internet integration. For free.

UFC needs Fox a lot more than Fox needs UFC. A combo marriage between Amazon and Fox Sports keeps UFC as a relevant American sport with room to grow internationally. Fight Pass needs a lot of help. The room to explode UFC’s bottom line on merchandising clearly exists. You need the right players, especially if you are shifting away from a heavy-on-PPV business model to a volume programming model based on television fees.

The ratings for UFC go up and down. More positive than negative but everything is relative right now. $400 million USD a year from Fox Sports is not going to happen. UFC should pray to maintain their current deal with Fox Sports and make up for lost projections elsewhere. The last thing UFC needs is to get dumped by Rupert Murdoch in exchange for a reunion with Vince McMahon & WWE.

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

Some counterintuitive advice on making money in MMA media: build offline

By Zach Arnold | January 12, 2018

I have enormous sympathy for many of my long-standing colleagues in the media, past and present. I’ve had the great honor of meeting some very salt-of-the-Earth people who grinded out a living and found their dreams crushed by a dreaded pink slip. Some of us never even got that courtesy.

I grew up around the combat sports as a child, so money was never the primary motive. It was a cultural issue for me. That’s what made the political blacklisting and backstabbing all the more frustrating. I had several high-profile opportunities spiked by powerful politicians and businessman.

I never anticipated making a steady income covering a massively corrupt industry. I never blamed those who had a dream and tried to make the impossible happen. Those who made a paycheck were the lucky ones. They were fortunate. I felt sorry for individuals who bought into the dream of covering combat sports as a sustainable career. A hard way to make a hard living.

The smartest media players were the ones who figured this out long in advance and tried to spin the publicity they gained into a different venture.

Over the last two decades, I’ve received numerous requests from young readers who wanted to build a career in the sports media landscape. I always gave an honest answer, one that often included a warning about a majority of writers having to survive on a stipend from a promoter or event benefactor. We were embroiled in debates about Fusion GPS-style payoffs long before the masses knew what a Fusion GPS was.

The future of the sports media landscape is in quicksand. Can you build any sort of career covering combat sports? Part of me is bullish and part of me is horribly bearish about the future of MMA writing.

Why bullish? If promoters and their friends aren’t paying off as many writers as they used to, at least readers will get more honesty. The trade off is less access.

Why bearish? Where to start? The truth doesn’t sell. Fights sell. Promotional work sells. How do you tell the truth about a fight business that’s largely built on a con? Part of selling a con is having an inventory of stories to write and tell. Right now, there’s not a lot of inventory to work with. We read the MMA sites daily. It’s a chore just to read the content that is available. I tip my cap every day to the grinders at Bloody Elbow and Sherdog who really are working their asses to produce content that makes you think.

The biggest factor working against MMA media, besides a cold fight product, is social media. Social media is a vacuum that sucks up all the spotlight. The Silicon Valley barons created a system where everyone does the work for them to produce content, for free, and in such a mind-numbing way that it has wrecked the world’s attention span. Forget trying to sell anything other than a 1,000 word article. 750 words may be pushing it.

How do you rebuild and reframe the structure of MMA media?

Go against the grain. Build a local and regional audience and then carry it over to an online platform.

Systems over goals, always.

Build a portfolio with multiple communication channels – snail mail, e-mail list, texting, web site. Avoid social media. Make your communication as direct with an audience as possible. Media is ultimately a relationships business.

Once you build your system, grind away at each part in equal measure. Constantly engage in A/B testing to see what gets more response, then reconfigure your communications model. Find out what subjects spark a fire locally and regionally. Hammer away on it. Once you build in-roads with an audience, you can expand your topic selection.

Be selective on who you build an audience with. Make sure your splits between insiders, well-to-do supporters, and common fans is balanced. Just because you make friends with a rich person doesn’t mean they’re going to spend any money on you. Rich people got rich for a reason and it isn’t because they spend heavy money on media.

Have a portfolio of content you want to sell: media (articles/books), videos (including documentaries), merchandising.

Once you establish an audience and establish your communications system, connect and network with advertisers or advertising agencies. Rely on an expert. Many experts. Develop an audience that’s majority female.

Follow this advice and you’ll be ahead of where I am. If you can hustle more cash than I have without taking a handout from a promoter, you’re a better person.

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

UFC is running out of time to make the marriage with Fox Sports last

By Zach Arnold | January 1, 2018

They’ve got one year left on the clock.

The good news for Dana White & Ari Emanuel is that Cris Cyborg remains the most complex and compelling female fighter over the last decade. The numbers for the UFC 219 PPV look to be very promising.

The bad news is that the successes for UFC are decreasing, not increasing, at a time when the television landscape is becoming brutally unforgiving in contract negotiations. Amazon is looking like a better option each and every day moving forward.

Take Cyborg’s success for example. Cris Cyborg is succeeding entirely on her own merits and without much support from UFC. Every other word out of Dana White’s mouth has been entirely negative about Cyborg and yet she remains a survivor in a women’s MMA business that chews fighters up and spits them out.

Remember Georges St. Pierre? He came back for a fight at Madison Square Garden with Michael Bisping and won. Bisping got squashed weeks later in China by Kelvin Gastelum. And immediately after winning the MSG fight, Dana White was back to tearing down St. Pierre after popping a big number. Instead of talking about what big fight St. Pierre would be involved in next, Dana is back to the “does he or doesn’t he?” retirement spiel.

The successes are being overshadowed by UFC’s failures. The biggest success of 2017 for UFC was due to Floyd Mayweather.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor drew under 5 million PPV buys but still made all the parties involved an incredibly obscene profit. It was also the beta testing of a possible boxing marriage between Al Haymon and Dana White. Haymon’s PBC needs a boost and UFC is looking for the right carrot to entice a television partner to bite on. Enter Zuffa Boxing.

Zuffa Boxing doesn’t work without Al Haymon and the parties involved know it. Zuffa Boxing works with Al Haymon. It works in helping Fox Sports keep the PBC brand afloat. It works in possibly getting UFC fighters to sign dual sport contracts. From Al Haymon’s point of view, Dana White can help him very much. But what about Floyd Mayweather? Floyd Mayweather doesn’t need Dana White. That’s why Floyd Mayweather is checking Dana White’s claims in public.

Dana White says he’s negotiating with Floyd Mayweather’s team. Floyd Mayweather tells the public that he’s not going to let Dana White use his name to build Zuffa Boxing. The false hope of Floyd Mayweather fighting under MMA rules. Floyd Mayweather believes he is telling the truth when he says that Dana White is using his name because of the current negotiations UFC is having with various television partners.

This smells like desperation. Why is UFC focusing so much energy on Zuffa Boxing? Lorenzo Fertitta would have never gotten this obsessed over creating a new business system. He would have focused entirely on rebuilding and reloading the UFC system. He would have focused on building a little bit more loyalty, real or fake, with top fighters. Eventually, this kind of constant politicking will catch up and erode UFC fan loyalty. Nobody is teflon. Not even the NFL. Rupert Murdoch just sold a heavy portion of his sports assets to Disney. ESPN has chosen to go with boxing and not MMA. Fox Sports 1 still is a roller coaster. At a time when discipline is most needed, UFC’s behavior seemingly indicates that they are making it up as they go along. They may still win despite themselves.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The ESPN & Fox Sports TV universe just exploded in UFC’s face

By Zach Arnold | December 18, 2017

The financial backers of UFC have found themselves in a precarious position for getting a new TV deal, thanks to the proposed dissolving of many of Rupert Murdoch’s sports assets and an internal meltdown with ESPN management.

Many of the Fox sports properties (not FS1, however) are being sold to ESPN to boost their streaming platform in 2018. Rupert Murdoch is cashing out. He didn’t see a long-term future in sports programming on pay television. The old man is getting out while the getting is good.

One of the incredible rumors swirling around the Fox/ESPN deal is that Rupert’s son, James Murdoch, would end up with a gig at Disney or ESPN. James, like Lachlan, isn’t exactly in the Fox News management mold. Such a proposal looked preposterous on paper until Monday’s bombshell announcement of ESPN President John Skipper resigning. The publicly stated reason for Skipper’s resignation was due to substance abuse issues. However, ESPN found themselves caught up in a nasty sexual harassment scandal over the weekend because of a Boston Globe report detailing allegations against personalities John Buccigross and Matthew Berry. ESPN released some of the conversations in question to the allegations but it was reportedly an issue of selective editing. Now the question is when the other shoe drops in Bristol.

ESPN management has been melting down for years despite Bob Iger’s best assurances. Iger just gave Skipper a multi-year extension and now Skipper quits?

Making things even more bizarre, ESPN just demoted Teddy Atlas from their boxing telecasts and banned him from live fight commentary. He’s now stuck doing post-fight Don Cherry-wannabe shtick with Stephen A. Smith. Mark Kriegel, poached by ESPN from Fox Sports/Al Haymon, is a total dud on the Top Rank telecasts with Tim Bradley. The reported reason for Teddy’s demotion involved, you guessed it, complaints about Teddy ripping into athletic commissions and officials.

You can rip Teddy Atlas for many things. His behavior is wildly erratic. However, if you’re going to rip Teddy Atlas for ripping into combat sports corruption, rip Teddy for not being specific or effective enough in his criticism of obvious problems. Removing Teddy Atlas and censoring his voice makes him a martyr for no obviously good reason.

To throw a further monkey wrench into UFC business with Fox, the company just drew a lousy TV rating for the Robbie Lawler/Rafael Dos Anjos fight that got next to no publicity on network television.

All of the turmoil at ESPN & Fox Sports makes Amazon look more attractive as a future UFC broadcasting partner. Turner Sports is lurking but Amazon is Best of Breed on digital technology and can monetize UFC in ways no other business partner can. The television lifelines are starting to get yanked away from UFC and thinking out of the box is required for UFC’s financial backers to make a return on their investment.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Rupert Murdoch is preparing to cash out Fox assets and UFC better respond fast

By Zach Arnold | December 5, 2017

Bulls make money, bears make money, and pigs get slaughtered. Old man Rupert Murdoch isn’t going to go to his grave getting slaughtered.

CNBC is reporting that final touches are being negotiated for a $60 billion USD Fox asset sale to Disney. The reasons for both parties to make such a monumental content deal are obvious.

But what does it mean for UFC? They have to get a new television contract soon and so far, media networks aren’t producing the kind of cash offers Ari Emanuel is supposedly looking for. Which is why I continue to say that Amazon is a Best of Breed long-term play for UFC in a content package-split. Best digital platform distributor and best at monetizing Fight Pass.

The future of Fox & ESPN in sports programming

Seven months ago, Fox Sports numbers guy/fixer Michael Mulvihill was gleeful about how much of a cash cow Regional Sports Networks were for Fox Sports. Mulvihill was also gleeful about the NFL being largely bulletproof in the new digital economy and how UFC was a great programming value because fights can combat the problem of “time poverty.”

Today, the NFL’s major network partners are taking a hit with sponsors and will either have to do make-goods or eat losses. Fox Sports is reportedly offering $200 million a year to UFC when Ari Emanuel wants $400-450 million a year. And now the vaunted RSN chain that Mulvihill said was a cash cow for Fox Sports is about to be sold to Disney/ESPN because Rupert Murdoch is bearish on sports due to rising rights fees.

Rupert Murdoch gets to cash out while he’s still flexing his financial muscle. As for Disney, they are about to load up their ESPN streaming service in 2018 with a massive buffet of sports programming rights thanks to acquiring Fox’s RSNs. ESPN is continuing to pay a premium to rent out sports programming. They need to get in the game of owning actual content. Some of the RSNs have sports team ownership. Can ESPN maintain long-term relationships with the RSNs (like the Yankees/YES)? If they can, they have a shot. If they can’t, they’re in trouble.

Disney acquiring all of the Fox RSNs is also a hedge if they end up losing Monday Night Football and need to replace the NFL with MLB or NHL content. It’s apples and oranges but the premium that ESPN has paid for the NFL has been rather costly.

The future of UFC

Fox Sports and UFC really need each other. It’s the right marriage. FS1 has no real purpose for existing without regular UFC content. UFC needs Fox Sports and its resources. However, we may be heading towards irreconcilable differences over issues such as production. Remember when Lorenzo Fertitta was criticized for wanting to keep UFC production in-house in order to maintain editorial control? Zuffa knows the product, so let them produce the product. Then came the chorus that Zuffa wasn’t a respectable sports league because they wouldn’t cede editorial or production control to a sports network. The Fox Sports deal arrived and a blended marriage of resources came about.

Now the major television players are looking to offload production costs. ESPN just fired 140 behind-the-scenes employees last week. Under Lorenzo’s ownership, UFC was happy to take on production. Under Ari Emanuel’s new ownership, UFC has reportedly being itching to offload production onto whoever their next television partner will be. If the marriage with Fox doesn’t survive, then a marriage with Amazon will require UFC to go back to in-house production. Amazon wants to stream, not produce a sports product. Amazon got the best of all worlds with NFL Thursday Night Football. If UFC wants to play with Amazon, UFC will have to go back to their production roots to make it work.

There are still too many positive reasons for the Fox Sports/UFC marriage to continue but don’t be surprised if Fox wants a new arrangement after cashing out a big chunk of their sporting assets.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Conor McGregor & Harumafuji: Bar fights and mafia revenge plots

By Zach Arnold | November 29, 2017

I built a name reporting on the largest crime families in combat sports. Skip Bayless has made tens of millions of dollars trolling athletes for saying nothing good happens at a bar or night club. The wrong guy made millions of dollars but he keeps finding suckers who prove his shtick right.

Conor McGregor is now apparently the target of one of the most powerful Irish mafia figures and is being advised to find safety elsewhere.

Chael Sonnen has correctly identified the disease that has penetrated Conor McGregor’s brain. Conor McGregor has become his own biggest fan. Of the many differences between Conor McGregor & Ric Flair, Flair understood when to put over the local rival while still getting what he wanted in the end.

Conor McGregor is on the reckless path of either dying young or going broke, possibly both. That’s a combat sports story as distinguished as The Old Testament. McGregor is on the path of having someone else writing the end of his career, kind of like famous Sumo champion Harumafuji.

Harumafuji got caught up in a timeless Japanese fight scandal: beating the crap out of a young boy and losing a career over it. Shame matters in Japan, even in 2017. You lose your career or, at a minimum, lose your hair when you shave it off when a disgraceful incident goes public.

Harumafuji’s career is over and he can’t be a stablemaster in retirement. That’s the least of his worries. Civil & criminal investigations are in play. Sumo also has a history of attracting rather colorful characters who are ready to go for the throat.

I’m having flashbacks to Asashoryu, the former Sumo champion who was offered a lot of money to go into Japanese MMA. I wrote an article ten years ago about K-1 making a big push for Asashoryu. It’s possible that Harumafuji could get an offer from RIZIN but it will be nowhere as lucrative as the offers Asashoryu received.

Just like Conor McGregor’s bar troubles are receiving worldwide attention, Harumafuji’s resignation capped off a month of heavy Japanese media coverage. One man lost his career but may have managed to save his freedom. The other man has plenty of earning power left but may never fully realize or appreciate the tenuous position he is in.

Topics: Japan, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Thanks for nothing: Is Congress looking to bail UFC out of Ali Act change?

By Zach Arnold | November 22, 2017

MMA fighters deserve the same limited legal protections as boxers. The fact that this is in dispute heading in 2018 is a disgrace to the American combat sports industry.

An even bigger disgrace? Offering a bailout carrot to UFC to get out of amending the Ali Act to cover MMA. The carrot? Nice business you got there, would be a shame if we changed your business model. The Department of Justice likes to call this “behavioral remedies.” In private industry, this would be called extortion – obtaining property or influence because of excessive and undue forces.

The kicker? An Oklahoma Republican is the one pushing for a big government solution in order for UFC to avoid amending the Ali Act.

When you boil it all down, there’s basically one principle from the Ali Act act that should apply to MMA fighters — the private right to sue to get out of an adhesive and unconscionable contract. The athletic commissions don’t enforce the Ali Act. Athletic commissions hate the Ali Act. If the Ali Act was enforced, how many boxing promoters would still be doing business?

Those in combat sports who have been pushing for changes to the Ali Act are doing so based on good intentions. Giving a fighter the right to sue in Federal court as opposed to state court is a minor but important gesture. It’s really the main benefit. Arguing over rankings, sanctioning bodies, OK, fine. I’m willing to listen but it’s a secondary concern and everyone knows it.

So instead of focusing on the single most important part of the Ali Act, we have a former fighter and Oklahoma Republican wanting to play fantasy matchmaker.

In general, I agree with the Congressman’s assertion that the current matchmaking we’re seeing in UFC largely stinks. It’s insulting that Marc Ratner says UFC has a fair ranking system because a bunch of goofy writers and sycophants are selecting which fighters are ranked where. But that’s not my problem. If I don’t want to watch the UFC product, I won’t pay for it. So much for the ideology of free markets with an Oklahoma Republican. I don’t need a government bailout of UFC to avoid giving fighters the right to sue out of coercive contracts in exchange for the Feds controlling matchmaking practices.

What Markwayne Mullin’s proffer tells me is one of two things:

a) He’s looking for a way out of amending the Ali Act because Trump doesn’t want to change it or the pressure from lobbyists is too great, or;

b) Mullin never was serious about giving fighters legal rights to sue and that this whole exercise was basically about him being a giant fanboy because he doesn’t like what fights are getting booked

The notion that fighter rankings matter in negotiations is delusional. Conor McGregor shattered that myth with the Floyd Mayweather fight. Georges St. Pierre shattered that notion when he fought Michael Bisping at MSG.

Title belts mean one thing to UFC and MMA promotions – the dreaded Champion’s Clause of being able to extend a fighter’s contract and pay scale. You want to give fighters a chance to make more money in business? Give fighters a private right of action to sue in Federal court. Eliminate the Champion’s Clause. Start there and everything else flows from that change.

Focusing on rankings and “real league systems” is message board malarkey.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

Zuffa Boxing bailout? The potential 2018 fight with Fox, UFC, Al Haymon vs. ESPN & Bob Arum

By Zach Arnold | November 14, 2017

The biggest UFC story for 2018 may not even involve the Ali Act being amended to cover MMA. No? What could possibly be bigger? A marriage between UFC & Al Haymon that would create a two-headed enemy against Bob Arum.

So why is the media so silent on what looks to be a major combat sports story in 2018? For the same reason there has been relatively scant mainstream media coverage of Al Haymon himself. Those who don’t know don’t care and those who know are largely on Team Haymon’s side.

ESPN, which kicked Al Haymon’s PBC off their network, poached two of his Fox guys (Brian Kenny & Mark Kriegel) with zero publicity. 2018 is now the year of a potential boxing war between ESPN & Top Rank (Bob Arum) vs. Fox, UFC, and Al Haymon.

How did we get to this point?

The Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight constructively turned out to be a dry run of a business relationship between Dana White & Al Haymon. Dana White has publicly trashed just about every power broker in the history of American combat sports… except Haymon. 100% nice words about Al Haymon the entire time. Huh.

Haymon is back in manager/Svengali mode with a stable of fighters who need fights. Depositions are ongoing in the Kansas shareholder derivative lawsuit against the hedge fund that reportedly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into backing Premier Boxing Champions. The lawsuit is attempting to claw back the money that was spent by the hedge fund.

Haymon has made his tens of millions of dollars. Premier Boxing Champions was his promotional vehicle to keep his stable of fighters active and dominate the boxing scene on broadcast television. It didn’t work out as planned, which is why Golden Boy’s anti-trust lawsuit against Haymon failed.

Haymon needs promotional vehicles to keep his fighters active to fulfill contractual obligations and to recruit new talent. Enter UFC Boxing.

UFC Boxing is a negotiating carrot that appears to fit the agenda of Fox Sports. Fox inks a new deal with UFC and here comes UFC Boxing as a promotional banner to book fights involving Al Haymon guys. It’s a win-win-win scenario for all parties involved. Fox gets boxing action, UFC gets to diversify their portfolio, and both UFC & Al Haymon get to recruit boxing talent that may have signed with another promoter — like Bob Arum.

Arum sniffed out what was going on when he publicly announced that UFC was attempting to buy out Top Rank’s video library for their Fight Pass web site. But that’s an agenda that appears to be skin deep at best. Arum figured something else was up. Once momentum for amending the Ali Act became real and Fox’s current TV negotiations broke off with UFC, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.

All the confirmation bias you needed came in the form of two lines of press:

1) Dana White never denied working with Al Haymon in the future.
2) Lance Pugmire in The LA Times floated the trial balloon. Lance doesn’t talk out of turn regarding UFC.

What if Fox doesn’t buy into UFC Boxing?

Fox Sports needs UFC programming for their platforms. They have to do it. I’m surprised Fox hasn’t been able to buy out UFC altogether but the complications from amending the Ali Act for MMA may make this an issue of mootness.

But what if Fox blows it? It’s a highly unlikely scenario but… if Fox won’t play with UFC, then someone in Silicon Valley will step up. I argue that Amazon is Best of Breed when it comes to buying future sports programming. The demographics also make great sense for Amazon. 18-to-49 year old demographic, perhaps getting a little older but still pliable in terms of shopping habits. It makes too much sense.

And right in the thick of all of this action is Al Haymon. The guy is a boxing zombie. He just can’t be killed. A marriage between Haymon and UFC makes a lot of sense. It has the potential to be explosive and draw the line in the sand against heavyweights ESPN & Bob Arum.

This is the kind of material sports writers would normally dream of writing columns about. So why are so many major names in combat sports writing so silent? Don’t chalk it up to ignorance. There are people who have inside knowledge and not talking for one reason or another.

Topics: Boxing, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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