By Zach Arnold | December 6, 2014
Oh my god it's CM Punk. He's in UFC. Not making this up.
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) December 7, 2014
The headline coming out of UFC 181 in Las Vegas was the signing of CM Punk by UFC.
“This is obviously gigantic news for a lot of people.” – Ariel Helwani
CM Punk credited Ariel Helwani with him getting a fight in the UFC. Punk stated that he had a meeting in Chicago with Dana & Lorenzo.
When pressed about the critics trashing the promotion for hiring a guy with no experience, Dana White agreed with the criticisms and said he is skeptical, too, but would be willing to give Punk a fight. He estimated that it could happen within the next six or seven months.
Immediately, several UFC fighters smelled blood in the water (and money) and challenged Punk to a fight.
First Question: If Bellator had signed CM Punk to a fight, would they be receiving the same amount of criticism as UFC is getting right now for the hire?
Second Question: Given CM Punk’s admitted history with concussions, should he be cleared to fight by a high-profile athletic commission?
And on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of talent & experience, there’s Anthony Pettis. The UFC is pushing him hard as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in MMA.
This dude just coolly finished Donald Cerrone, Ben Henderson and Gil Melendez consecutively. He did the Showtime Kick. Just… fuck, man.
— Jordan Breen (@jordanbreen) December 7, 2014
Pettis has the total package except for consistent health. He attracts a lot of female fans, which is very important right now for UFC. He has the potential super-fight with Jose Aldo. Really, everything you could ask for. Plus, Ben Askren is working alongside him.
As for the Welterweight division, Las Vegas judges really do not like Johny Hendricks. The Welterweight division has a bunch of really talented fighters who all possess different styles that will likely end up cannibalizing each other in fight after fight. Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler likely in Montreal. None of the guys in Welterweight have the star potential of Georges St. Pierre but they are all extremely respectable & diverse in skill and present some interesting match-ups on paper. I’m not sure if any of them will shatter the current glass ceiling for stardom but you never know.
Everything that took place at UFC 181 happened admist a back-drop where the company is basically greasing the skids, in my opinion, to make managers extinct with the new Reebok uniform/sponsorship deal. If signing with the UFC means they control your fight booking pay slots, have your rights/likenesses forever, and now control your sponsorship deals, why have an agent? Conversely, the company is exerting & maximizing business control during a time in which their (reported) estimated EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, etc) has gone down 40% this year.
Lucky for UFC, Bellator exists. In one respect, Bellator is a gnat in their face. In another respect, Bellator presents great cover whenever someone starts pushing against UFC for being a monopoly. The UFC has the best of all business controls right now. Everyone’s an independent contactor. They will control the sponsorships. They get to pump out merchandise for years to come with the images & likeness of past and present fighters. On one hand, UFC is facing some very difficult challenges. On the other hand, they are insulating themselves with more international TV deals.
By Zach Arnold | December 3, 2014
It turns out that Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons may get his wish regarding a new TUE policy in the state of California.
The California State Athletic Commission, controlled by the Department of Consumer Affairs, as far as I know/recall didn’t bother posting a direct link to an October 31st notice by OAL in Sacramento. This notice starts the clock on public comment for a 45 day period. The Athletic Commission, for unknown reasons, did not post a direct link to this notice on their web site. Here is the notice link.
There will be a hearing at Consumer Affairs in Sacramento on Monday, December 15th at 10 AM regarding the new proposed regulations to adopt Dr. Lemons’ new TUE policy. Currently, state law disallows any sort of TUEs for fighters. However, this proposal would officially change the rules on the books.
All public correspondence supporting or opposing this new measure must be sent within the next 10 days to the Athletic Commission’s front office.
2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 2010
Sacramento, California 95815
Without any sort of public opposition, the measure will be implemented. For those who want to see the actual text of this new proposed TUE policy, they have to contact the Athletic Commission ahead of the December 15th hearing.
By Zach Arnold | November 28, 2014
Mickey Rourke, at age 62, had a boxing exhibition fight in Moscow on Friday against a California journeyman boxer named Elliott Seymour. The bout was stopped in round two. Seymour is only 29 years old. He’s also 1-9 as a professional.
Seymour came into the Rourke fight with four fights under his belt in 2014. All in California. All losses. Seymour’s last fight before the Rourke bout on Friday was only one month ago.
Our opinion: it’s time for Andy Foster and the Athletic Commission board to strip Elliott Seymour of his boxing license for health & safety reasons. Continuing to allow Seymour to fight, in our opinion, is dangerous and creates potential issues regarding liability. If he wants to re-apply for a new license in the future and can demonstrate proficiency in boxing skills, then let him go through the process.
In his four California fights in 2014, three different referees have officiated Seymour’s bouts: Jack Reiss, Jose Cobian, and Tom Taylor. Nine different judges have scored Seymour’s 2014 bouts: Max DeLuca, Michael Bell, Tony Crebs, Alejandro Rochin, Fritz Werner, Nelson Hamilton, Big John McCarthy, Fernando Villareal, and Raul Caiz Jr. In other words, there’s a whole lot of people who have worked California shows this year that Andy Foster can pick up the telephone and call to solicit opinions on whether or not Elliott Seymour should continue to be actively licensed to fight in states like California.
If other states want to grant Seymour a license to box, then that’s their choice and they will have to live with the ramifications. It’s our opinion that Andy Foster should take this opportunity to set an easy example that California has health & safety standards that need to be met by fighters in order to keep their licenses active. This is a matter that should be addressed in Sacramento sooner rather than later.
The Feds may really get their show trial regarding allegations of extortion of California athletic commission
By Zach Arnold | November 27, 2014
One of the more complex, yet intriguingly fascinating stories of 2014 that we’ve been following in combat sports involve allegations made by the United States Government against California state senator Leland Yee. Yee, a powerful California Democrat, is accused of being affiliated with alleged Chinatown mobster Shrimp Boy. A multitude of charges from a multi-year investigation by the FBI produced criminal charges claiming extortion, gun-running, and other unsavory acts.
One of the allegations levied against Yee is based around claims of supposed extortion of individuals who wanted to keep the California State Athletic Commission alive in March of 2013. It was around this time period in which there was a sunset bill in the California Legislature to extend the life of the athletic commission for two years. Andy Foster had just gotten the job as Executive Officer in November of 2012. The Feds claim Yee extracted money and political support from multiple individuals in order to get his support to back the sunset bill.
Despite a few embarrassing episodes (like an undercover agent that supposedly may have gone rogue with cash), the Feds have largely gotten what they wanted so far in San Francisco court. Given the wide scope of charges the Feds have charged Yee & associates with, the judge in the case has split off the political corruption charges from the Feds monstrous criminal complaint. Translation: there could be a trial early next year relating to Yee, his associate Keith Jackson, and others regarding the Feds claims of bribery. This would theoretically include any charges the Feds filed against Yee in regards to the California State Athletic Commission.
It’s “Let’s Make a Deal” time for Yee and company. We know the track record of Federal prosecutions — over 90% success rate in getting convictions. History also largely tells us that deals will get cut in order to save face and to perhaps keep some records sealed permanently.
However, Leland Yee is a fighter. His defense team has chipped away aggressively at the credibility of the Feds in the case. Yee is no ordinary politician and certainly an extraordinary man in California politics. Under any other normal circumstances, Yee would cut the best deal possible and move on. However, the Feds have created enormous leverage here by throwing the kitchen sink against Yee in their criminal complaint. Yee may simply fight on because he’s cornered by the Feds. It’s entirely possible the Feds could drop the other charges against him if he waves the white flag here on the political corruption charges. It would be the predictable outcome. It’s a move most people would rationally expect.
If Yee and Jackson cut deals with the Feds, it’s hard to say how much evidence in the case will remain sealed by the judge. If it goes to a show trial, that is when all hell breaks loose and we could find out all sorts of information about what the Feds claim exactly happened with the Athletic Commission. It would be highly embarrassing if there were wire taps and other sorts of secret communication that revealed some very ugly secrets. It’s the last thing the Department of Consumer Affairs wants to deal with.
My expectations are low that we will really find out the full scope of what exactly happened. It’s all in the hands now of Leland Yee.
By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2014
I’ve been absent. Maybe you noticed. Friends (and enemies) did. Perhaps some of you didn’t. Good for you. Sometimes, real life beckons and you have to deal with issues outside of the MMA bubble. That’s where I’ve been the last 45 days.
While I’ve paid attention to everything that has happened in the industry and stayed (somewhat) in the loop, the recent absence has kind of forced me to step out of the information bubble and look at the MMA scene from a distance. What I see is not very encouraging for the sport’s long-term health unless dramatic changes are made by UFC.
The UFC may be making solid cash, but you don’t lose 40% of your EBITDA without some major problems. Cancellations & injuries helped dig the hole but there is a much larger issue at play here. The UFC has done its fighters and itself a major disservice with the brand-first approach. There are simply too many television & internet fights and too much of a “random guy A vs. random guy B” vibe. Nothing is special any longer. This vibe discounts all of the hard work & sacrifices made by so many who are chasing a dream that only the top 2% in the sport can attain. The pool of cash is shrinking unless you are a big name or made yourself into a big name outside of the sport (see: Brock Lesnar). I’m extremely concerned about this. The industry continues to rely too much on either casino cash or dark money and the pool of dark cash has evaporated in a hurry. Once PRIDE left the scene, so did a lot of the loose cash in the Asian fight scene. Morally and ethically, I support what police & politicians have tried to accomplish on this front. But the damage has been very real to combat sports, even deeper than I first thought.
Bellator’s success feels largely independent of UFC right now. It may last a few years and go away. It may last longer. I don’t think Bellator right now really is expanding the pie. What I do think Bellator’s November show in San Diego proved is that they can win over some disgruntled UFC fans and also bring in the casual MMA fans who simply haven’t kept up with the current scene. Any time some of the older fighters can continue getting pay days, that’s a good thing. As long as those fighters are still in good enough physical shape and are not in danger of permanently damaging their bodies, then there’s nothing wrong with veterans getting fights. At the same time, I will be interested to see if Bellator & Spike can get the star rub onto guys like Will Brooks and make them into household names. The UFC will undoubtedly poach Bellator’s top stars with higher frequency. Bellator will be able to survive as long as they are able to attract some big names and mix them onto cards with fights of importance and value.
The UFC, on the other hand, needs a complete reboot. From the production values to the matchmaking, there needs to be a dramatic overhaul and it needs to be done fast. 45 shows a year is putting so much pressure on the production staff that it simply does not allow the hard-working employees any time to breathe or gather their collective thoughts. It’s backbreaking work. Burt Watson and others get paid a respectable wage but it’s not nearly enough for all of the turmoil they have to manage & put up with. Dana White is skipping more and more shows. There’s this processed, antiseptic, automated feel right now for the UFC product that feels stale, old, and unimportant. Even the current 115-pound female version of The Ultimate Fighter on Fox Sports 1 is underwhelming in presentation.
In pro sports, you fire the GM and the coach when you need to shake up the scenery. There are also off-seasons where the athletes have a chance to catch their breathe and regroup. The UFC suffers from the worst of both worlds — ownership can’t remove itself from the scene, isn’t willing to make dramatic changes, and they have no desire (like WWE) to implement a seasonable format. Every time you compare a UFC event to a college football or pro-football or NBA game, it will always feel like a last-place sports product for importance.
UFC management has become the one thing they mocked a decade ago — conservative.
I enjoy Mixed Martial Arts. I have great respect for the athletes who have so much at risk in attempting to accomplish their professional & personal dreams. I also know that the industry’s long-term shelf life has some real question marks and I’m not sure the power brokers in Las Vegas fully understand the gravity of the current situation they are facing.
I’m not sure ESPN gets it either by hiring Chael Sonnen to be the face of their MMA coverage. You go from Josh Gross & Mike Fish exposing the industry’s testosterone plague to hiring the poster child of said plague and making that person the face of your MMA coverage.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
By Zach Arnold | October 22, 2014
Cain Velasquez out with a right knee injury, derailing the building of Ultimate Fighter in Mexico and the highly anticipated main event against Fabricio Werdum in Mexico City. In steps Mark Hunt. Werdum is putting his best motivation forward.
When Cain Velasquez fights, he is one of the most gifted giants we’ve ever seen. His determination to be the best has made him an incredibly gifted heavyweight. The problem is that, like Chris Weidman, he has the injury bug. The toughest champions in UFC also seem to absorb the most punishment to their bodies. In retrospect, it makes Georges St. Pierre’s decision to temporarily step away look smart.
The UFC has invested so much into promoting Cain Velasquez and for good reason. However, he has difficulty maintaining his health to frequently defend the championship. What do you do if you’re UFC? I don’t know.
Guys like Cain are once-in-a-generation type fighters. In MMA, generations usually last 7 years or so. How much longer will he be able to last as an upper echelon heavyweight? It’s the heavyweight division. The lifespan of a solid heavyweight lasts much longer than fighters in other weight classes. We’ll see more of the big man soon enough. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.
By Zach Arnold | October 10, 2014
Some days, being an MMA fan feels like fighting a two-on-one handicap match.
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The current UFC business model is proving to be very unique. How can the UFC be experiencing record international business growth in markets like Mexico and yet face real uncertainty regarding their next television deal in Canada (!), an office closure in China, the release of Asian middleman Mark Fischer, and now the reported mass resignations from UFC’s Singapore office? With a Singaporean report claiming that UFC is only interested in sold show-type zero-risk deals to run in big Asian markets due to their supposed unwillingness to change their product & business practices to mesh with cultural concerns, what is UFC’s plan for growth in Pacific Rim markets outside of Australia?
The UFC is allegedly experiencing big time TV growth internationally and yet their PPV revenue has declined substantially. One minute, Dana White is claiming that Conor McGregor is bigger than Brock Lesnar or GSP and the next minute you have estimates of UFC 178 drawing 180,000-230,000 PPV buys. Additionally, none of the current UFC champions appears to be an all-time Top 10 UFC PPV box attraction.
Dana White is busy telling The Financial Times that UFC could be worth billions. The next minute, another publication claims they’re worth a billion. What is the UFC brand really worth without Lorenzo Fertitta or Dana White? If UFC’s growth is so explosive, then why do the people who have an interest in Zuffa’s debt seem concerned about the company’s future earnings?
Envelope math based on S&P tea leaves suggests ballpark of $109M EBITDA / $500M revenue for Zuffa in fiscal 2014.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) October 9, 2014
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) October 9, 2014
If you’re a manager or agent, how do you navigate the negotiating waters now with UFC given that their PPV buys are declining? Do you have more leverage given the volatility of UFC’s current business situation or do you have less leverage given that UFC has said the hell with it, we’re going to proceed with a McDonaldification of four or fight cards a month with line-ups consisting of bouts where fans only know 25% of the fighters participating?
It’s one thing to experience international growth. It’s another thing to maintain that growth & to retain, let alone maximize, your gains.
With so many UFC events happening globally, expect more colossal mistakes like the botched HGH drug test of Cung Le to happen. The amount of stress on the employees involved in regulation & the production teams is enormous and things will slip through the cracks. When mistakes are made, UFC rarely admits or takes responsibility for their problems.
So, what’s next for UFC? What’s next for the fighters? What about the fans? Jeff Thaler & I discuss all of these angles on this week’s edition of Fight Opinion Radio.
To Zack Nelson for his past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio.
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By Zach Arnold | October 8, 2014
Is UFC’s HGH drug testing of Cung Le their ugly Roger Goodell moment?
I'm for cleaning up the sport, but also think the fighters deserve a fair process, with re-tests and appeals..what the ufc is doing ain't it
— Robert Joyner (@robnashville) October 6, 2014
Cung Le went into his Macau fight against Michael Bisping with a ripped physique. After he got Freddy Krueger’d by Bisping, UFC announced last week that Le had failed a post-fight HGH drug test. UFC initially suspended Le for nine months, then came back and stated that they made a mistake and the suspension would be a year-long ban.
Le’s camp argued that the Hong Kong lab UFC used wasn’t WADA-approved. The blood sample was collected after the fight. The IGF-1 test wasn’t used for HGH detection. The HK lab only kept the blood sample for one week. The WADA standard for keeping a blood testing sample is 10 years. There was no chance for appeal (the B sample) because the blood sample taken had allegedly been destroyed.
These are very specific allegations being made here. The claims should be easy for UFC to refute. Instead, UFC issued a no comment.
IMO @ufc "self-regulated" anti-doping team is INCOMPETENT. Protocol 4 total hgh test is fasted & rested. NOT POST FIGHT SAMPLE COLLECTION
— Victor Conte (@VictorConte) October 6, 2014
The blowback from defending Le’s protest was swift. On Twitter, Scott Carasik argued that the fighters signed contracts agreeing to let UFC handle the testing and that it is up to Le & other fighters to prove that UFC violated their own drug testing policy & protocols. In other words, UFC isn’t guilty of anything unless they contractually stated that their HGH testing had to be done at a WADA-approved lab. The counter-argument to that point is that UFC attempts to mirror various state athletic commissions and commissions like California and Nevada use WADA-accredited labs.
Whatever your opinion of the situation may be, it appears that UFC got caught with their pants down here. It is entirely reasonable for fans to believe what UFC is claiming regarding Le’s supposed HGH usage while at the same time recognizing that they screwed the pooch here on the process.
Smelling blood in the water and providing an appropriately aggressive defense, Cung Le’s camp is firing back again in the press. Previously, no appeals process was going to be granted by UFC. How can you have an appeal if the blood sample taken was allegedly destroyed?
Then came the U-turn today with ESPN reporting that UFC will allow Le to appeal his HGH test with a third-party arbitrator. The arbitration process will take place in America even though the testing happened overseas. UFC is now claiming that they will never use a non-WADA accredited lab again for blood testing. If you’re a fighter competing on a card where UFC is controlling the drug testing, how can you trust their protocols now? How can UFC stop the paranoia in which fighters & managers will be suspicious of drug testing results being used against their clients as a hardball financial negotiating tactic?
Gabriel Montoya published this damning article today at Bloody Elbow with comments from Don Catlin & Gary Ibarra (Le’s manager). Le’s camp claims that the drug testing results were not in English.
By Zach Arnold | October 8, 2014
It turns out that the Rory MacDonald fight that aired on Fox Sports 1 after the marathon baseball game between the Giants & Nationals drew around 800,000 viewers. Not bad. I’m not sure if this should be celebrated, but everyone seems to be grading on a curve these days given the oversaturation of Zuffa’s TV product.
There was the recent report that the ill-fated UFC 177 Arco Arena show in Sacramento with TJ Dillashaw vs. Joe Soto drew 125,000 PPV buys.
As for the fate of UFC 178 Las Vegas PPV buys…
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) October 7, 2014
No matter how you spin the numbers, UFC is falling off a cliff on PPV right now. Sure, they can pop 500k for a Chris Weidman/Ronda Rousey dual event. That appears to be the ceiling. Without GSP & Anderson Silva, it’s a rough go of things. Johny Hendricks is really their best hope at this point in time.
As WWE got overexposed on PPV and stunk up the joint, they cut the cord on PPV and gambled with their online WWE Network. UFC is headed down the same path. They may not give up entirely on PPV but their own business practices are ensuring a one-way outcome for their PPV future.
A series of news items from the estimable Adam Swift indicates what the future looks like for UFC:
By Zach Arnold | September 29, 2014
The celebration after he wins is the best part of a Rory MacDonald fight. He studies tape just to mimic the human emotion of happiness.
— Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) October 5, 2014
The good news? UFC did some very solid business in Sweden and Halifax with their Saturday double-header. Over 10,000 at the Metro Centre. Over 10,000 in Sweden for a million dollar gate. Rory MacDonald tore apart Tarec Saffiedine and is ready for Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler. Raphael Assuncao had no trouble with Bryan Caraway but now is the odd-man out with UFC giving
Conor McGregor Dominick Cruz a title shot against TJ Dillashaw.
The bad news? Rick Story exposed Gunnar Nelson. And most people didn’t see the Halifax fights on TV because UFC got pre-empted on Fox Sports 1 for the 18-inning marathon game between the Giants and Nationals. The UFC running on Saturday nights during college football season is a risky move and they will get pre-empted for a Big 12 game. Running against Major League Baseball is another no-no. Fox will always choose a NASCAR race, an MLB post-season game, or a Big 12 game as lead-in programming for Fox Sports Live any day of the week.
Rory MacDonald had exactly the type of performance needed after no one watched his PPV fight in Vancouver four months ago. UFC has to hope and pray that fans stuck through their FX impromptu telecast and watched the fight. Otherwise, another scenario where few people witnessed Rory do his thing.
The UFC can continue their global schedule but it comes with a price domestically in the United States when you are running against bigger sports fish on television. The only solace they can take is that FS1/FX didn’t get dropped from Suddenlink cable like Spike & other Viacom channels did. If you’re a Bellator fan, not a happy time right now if you’re stuck with Suddenlink.
Event: UFC Fight Night 2014 on October 4th in Stockholm, Sweden at Ericsson Globe Arena
- Featherweights: Zubaira Tukhugov defeated Ernest Chavez in R1 in 4′21 by TKO.
- Lightweights: Mairbek Taisumov defeated Marcin Bandel in R1 in 1′01 by TKO.
- Middleweights: Krzysztof Jotko defeated Tor Troeng after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Middleweights: Cathal Pendred defeated Gasan Umalatov after 3R by split decision.
- Featherweights: Dennis Siver defeated Charles Rosa after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Welterweights: Nico Musoke defeated Alexander Yakovlev after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Middleweights: Magnus Cedenblad defeated Scott Askham after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Featherweights: Mike Wilkinson defeated Niklas Backstrom in R1 in 1′19 by KO.
- Light Heavyweights: Jan Blachowicz defeated Ilir Latifi in R1 in 1′58 by TKO.
- Featherweights: Max Holloway violently defeated Akira Corassani in R1 in 3′11 by KO.
- Welterweights: Rick Story defeated Gunnar Nelson after 5R by split decision.
Event: UFC Fight Night on October 4th in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the Metro Centre
TV: Fox Sports 1
- Bantamweights: Pedro Munhoz defeated Jerrod Sanders in R1 in 39 seconds with a guillotine choke hold.
- Welterweights: Albert Tumenov defeated Matt Dwyer in R1 in 63 seconds by KO with a head kick.
- Lightweights: Paul Felder defeated Jason Saggo after 3R by split decision.
- Welterweights: Olivier Aubin-Mercier defeated Jake Lindsey in R2 in 3′22 with an inverted triangle kimura submission.
- Welterweights: Nordine Taleb defeated Li Jingliang after 3R by split decision.
- Lightweights: Daron Cruickshank defeated Anthony Njokuani after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Flyweights: Chris Kelades defeated Patrick Holohan after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Bantamweights: Mitch Gagnon defeated Roman Salazar in R1 in 2′06 with a choke sleeper hold.
- Middleweights: Elias Theodorou defeated Bruno Santos after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Lightweights: Chad Laprise defeated Yosdenis Cedeno after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Bantamweights: Raphael Assuncao defeated Bryan Caraway after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Welterweights: Rory MacDonald defeated Tarec Saffiedine in R3 in 1′28 by TKO.
By Zach Arnold | September 27, 2014
MMA optimists stated that the momentum would pick up for UFC after a lackluster Summer 2014 business campaign. All signs pointed to UFC 178 being that launching point over the next five months to re-heat interest.
Heading into UFC 178, a legitimate question: was it the right call to put Demetrious Johnson in the main event slot as opposed to giving Donald Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez potentially five rounds? The results turned out to be rather interesting:
- UFC Flyweight title match: Demetrious Johnson defeated Chris Cariaso in R2 in 2′29 with a kimura submission lock.
- Lightweights: Donald Cerrone defeated Eddie Alvarez after 3R by unanimous decision.
Just like in Vancouver, the Las Vegas fans walked out during a Demetrious Johnson title fight. (Ed. — Those in attendance claimed the fans rushed out right afterwards rather than during the fight.)
You can sell a lot of things as a Mixed Martial Arts promoter, but selling tickets today is the hardest
By Zach Arnold | September 24, 2014
It’s tough to promote Mixed Martial Arts. On paper, it sounds easy. Selling hope. Selling the future. Selling fun. Selling violence. How can it be that hard?
Try selling the rash of injuries to top fighters booked in main events. Grab the antacid every time Chris Weidman gets hurt. Hold your breath every time Cain Velasquez fights after the main event. Just pray that Anthony Pettis doesn’t get hurt in training before a big PPV date. To put into perspective the fragility of UFC’s top champions, consider the following: Velasquez, Pettis, and Weidman combined have fought 8 times since July of 2012. During the same time period, Donald Cerrone has fought 9 times. The guys who fight the most aren’t always rewarded with top spots on PPV.
This is why you get PPV main events like TJ Dillashaw vs. Joe Soto. This is why MMA was not meant to have three or four cards a month being promoted by one promotion. There simply isn’t enough talent to book given the absolute attrition this sport inflicts on top fighters. If it’s not injuries, it’s bad weight cutting. It’s drug suspensions. Guys use drugs for performance enhancement in and out of the ring. They’re more likely to use drugs if they have to fight as often as promoters call them with offers. Nobody can help themselves here.
Put into perspective all the craziness that went down with PRIDE a decade ago. Even running one card every 45 days resulted in a ton of last-minute fighter replacements, a wild west atmosphere for supposed drug testing, and lots of guys fighting through gruesome back & leg injuries because PRIDE was the biggest show in town. $50 million dollar years. A Fuji TV broadcast platform. And lots of colorful characters at ringside flaunting a lot of cash.
If you think the promoters and their backers are crazy, the fighters they book & their handlers are just as crazy if not more so. Dana White infamously remarked that every day he wakes up from bed he is prepared for the worst. Fighters say and do really stupid & violent things.
Jon Jones should be MMA’s most celebrated golden boy. An amazing fighter by in-ring standards and just as amazingly obtuse outside the cage.
Nick Diaz can’t help but get into trouble. One minute he’s holding out, the next minute he’s retired, and a few months later he’s in a headlining fight only to get exposed for having two DUI arrests.
Wanderlei Silva is running away from a drug test while claiming the process is a conspiracy to target him unfairly. When he tries to sue to get out of a sticky situation, he digs the hole deeper for himself by claiming the need to use a diuretic… for a wrist injury. Even worse, he can’t help himself from saying stupid things on social media. I wonder who produces his videos. A week before he was going to get hammered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Wanderlei claimed he was retiring from Mixed Martial Arts and let ‘er rip on the UFC. He skipped Tuesday’s meeting in Las Vegas where he was issued a supposed “life time” ban and $70,000 fine. Wanderlei is claiming that his personal war against the authorities “is just beginning.” So much for that retirement thing.
At least the guy didn’t go to jail on domestic violence charges like War Machine or Josh Grispi. Heaven help us if an active, PPV-drawing headliner ends up in jail over domestic violence. In an industry where a quarter of the fans are female, attracting new fans who control the finances in your typical, every day household is critical for financial survival.
This is why promoting Mixed Martial Arts is so difficult. Not only do you need a bank account with at least $10 million dollars, you need experience & knowledge of an extremely volatile business that is entirely reliant on a strong television platform. The margin for error is very slim. The only way to attract money marks, as noted by MMA Supremacy on Twitter, is to sell the hope that you’ll get onto PPV within a few years. Without PPV to dangle as a financial carrot, you simply can’t attract the kind of cash needed to become a serious player. There is no college course or textbook you can buy to understand how to be successful in an industry with a failure rate above 95%. Good luck with that.
By Zach Arnold | September 23, 2014
The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined Jon Jones $50,000 for his brawl with Daniel Cormier and ordered him to do 40 hours of community service. Yes, an athletic commission acting like a courtroom judge. Laughable, but the point is that Nevada’s commission has always been about politics and public relations. This is the same athletic commission that praised Floyd Mayweather for his conduct before giving him a promoter’s license, only to see Mayweather get sued over domestic violence allegations. The same guy who spent time in jail over DV charges.
Essentially, Nevada gave Jon Jones a lifeline here. Pay a fine which will end up being worth it if it means a substantial increase in PPV buys and interest for his fight with Daniel Cormier. Do 40 hours of community service to put himself over as a babyface in Las Vegas. Of all the punishments that could have levied against him, this was tailor made public relations.
And right after Nevada gave Jon Jones his lifeline, he took a giant dump on it. He claimed that he lost his Nike sponsorship and lost an opportunity to get a six-figure sponsor. I find it hard to believe that he lost such opportunities because of a brawl with Daniel Cormier. The guy isn’t a sponsorship magnet because he isn’t likeable, isn’t going to move merchandise sales, and is completely socially awkward. He’s as obtuse about his lack of awareness as Jameis Winston but doesn’t have Winston’s smile or charm.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Jones decided to go public and complain about doing 40 hours of community service.
40 hours of community service in Vegas with a fight coming up is the only thing that really concerns me.
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) September 23, 2014
He can’t spend one week in Las Vegas and do 8 hours of community service a day? This guy has three months to complete 40 hours of community service in Las Vegas. He probably has to go to Vegas anyways to do some promotional work with UFC to record footage to get the hype machine revved up for the Cormier fight. This is a no-brainer. Or maybe not.
The fact that this needs to be completed before the fight is definitely going to have effect on my camp. I respect the commission though
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) September 23, 2014
Any respectable agent or manager would get a guy like this off of social media permanently. Some people can’t be saved from themselves no matter how many Herm Edwards-style Twitter symposiums you put them through. Jon Jones has this uniquely disgraceful ability to wow the masses with his brilliant in-ring talent and yet completely suppress their desire to cheer him on because of all the stupid things he says and does.
Jon Jones is an idiot savant. A savant in the UFC cage and a complete idiot outside of it.
On the bright side, at least he’s not in Wanderlei Silva’s shoes right now:
Official: Wanderlei Silva has been given a lifetime ban in Nevada and fined $70,000 for running away from a random drug test.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) September 23, 2014
@yay_yee State commissions cannot issue lifetime bans. This was already decided in boxing cases. They can just refuse to license fighter.
— Eddie Goldman (@nhbnews) September 23, 2014