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UFC: Used For Cash?

By ditch | September 25, 2006

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By Dave Ditch

UFC is the cool kid everybody wants to be around. Some get to be real friends, while others just want the rub of popularity. PRIDE has been looking for the rub. Kurt Angle’s reference of UFC several months ago on ECW was an attempt to get some rub. Was Kurt Angle’s inference of UFC last week just another example, or was it legitimate?

Let’s set the stage. Gold-medal Olympic wrestler Kurt Angle becomes a man worth millions in pro wrestling. He leaves WWE once his addiction to the thrill of performing (combined with drug testing) makes him a liability. Overnight he’s the biggest free agent in combat sports, both those with outcomes set in advance and those with actual competition. The Japanese want him, the MMA outfits want him, America’s #2 wrestling promotion TNA wants him. All could care less about his physical or mental health. Once the full situation was clear, the assumption was that he’d follow the money.

TNA has itself a parent company in Panda Energy, one that has been willing to use TNA as a loss-leader in the hopes of earning profit down the line. It has itself a deal with Viacom’s Spike TV, a network that misses the ratings that came along with WWE’s Monday Night Raw. TNA/Panda and Spike/Viacom worked out a deal several months back to split the cost of hiring wrestling legend Sting. Now, they have obviously colluded to sign Kurt Angle; it’s no coincidence that Angle was announced at the same time as TNA’s new weekday prime-time timeslot. It’s this collusion that has my interest piqued.

The reason is that last week, Kurt Angle’s “people” sent out press releases making it clear that Angle was heading to UFC. This was entirely plausible given UFC’s recent income and Angle’s amateur wrestling background. At the same time, TNA was hyping a big announcement for their PPV. These actions took place in parallel, and they fooled absolutely everyone leading up to the event. Angle’s use of UFC brings up three scenarios.

1. Angle has also signed up with UFC as part of a three-way deal with TNA and Spike. A crossover star like Angle could help ratings on two of Spike’s centerpiece shows, and thus Spike would be willing to pay an even larger portion of Angle’s salary. This would be a very risky proposition, because if Angle doesn’t put all his energy into training for a potential shootfight he’d be liable to get crushed. Angle’s appeal is heavily tied to his mystique as a legitimate badass, something that has been garnished by tales of his wins in friendly backstage shoots against the likes of Big Show and Brock Lesnar. If Angle goes down hard, everyone loses big in the long-run.

2. Angle hasn’t signed with UFC, but UFC agreed to let TNA use them as cover to help protect the big surprise. This isn’t out of the question because of past UFC/TNA tie-ups and the Spike TV relationship. At the same time it would be odd for UFC to allow itself to look bad in a ‘TNA signs Angle out from under UFC’s nose’ way, when TNA can’t do a whole heck of a lot in return. TNA needs UFC a lot more than UFC would ever need TNA.

3. Angle hasn’t signed with UFC and UFC wasn’t informed that they would be part of a pro wrestling marketing gimmick. I don’t think this is out of the question either. TNA/Angle might have figured that their subtle-but-not-explicit use of UFC on the internet would fade from view quickly enough that UFC wouldn’t care. If that’s the case then UFC got used for the rub by what should be an ally. And what’s more, given Spike’s obvious role in the Angle deal, Spike would have had to sign off as well. That would be a lot harder for UFC to swallow.

If scenario 1 is true, we’ll know before too long. TNA and UFC would want to capitalize on an Angle shootfight as soon as possible. If it’s 2 or 3 we might never know, but either one would be very unusual considering that UFC should be holding all the cards after its PPV successes.

Topics: All Topics, Dave Ditch, MMA, Pro-Wrestling, TNA, UFC | 13 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

13 Responses to “UFC: Used For Cash?”

  1. deadandrestless says:

    I don’t think its an issue, because aside from pro wrestling fans, the idea that Angle was stolen from the UFC won’t even come up. Angle was never mentioned on their programming, after all, and never agreed to a contract with Dana or any other group.

  2. I wish Kurt Angle would channel that same energy and drive that he pours into competition into getting healthy.

  3. TorontoMike says:

    Scenario #1 and #2 don’t seem anywhere near as likely as Scenario #3.

    Am I mistaken here… or did Angle’s announcement say that he was heading for MMA in 2007? I don’t recall him suggesting that he was headed for the UFC in particular.

    If Angle and his agent metioned the UFC, I’m sure it was only for leverage with any and all interested buyers.

  4. Chuck says:

    I guess some here don’t read wrestling sites. Kurt Angle is now in TNA. That was the big announcement TNA planned (along with TNA being on Thursdays at nine starting November 16th with a two hour special.)

    I will admit it, I marked out like a little bitch when I saw the video and seeing Kurt say to the camera (it was a pre-taped vigntette) “It’s Real! It’s Damn Real!!!”. I saw the ppv last night, and it was very good (a few stinker matches, but the good outweighed the bad). And Don West yelling out “Holy shit!” was pretty priceless to seing the video.

  5. SamScaff says:

    First of all, If UFC was not actually in negotiations with Kurt Angle, then I dont see why they would care at all that he dropped some false hints on the internet. If anything, that would only help their notoriety and hurt his. And even if UFC (Dana) was a little peeved about it, what are they gonna do? I dont think that SpikeTV is necessarily implicated in Kurt Angle’s hint dropping either. If he did it on his own then there is nothing to be done by UFC. And what is Spike going to do, scold him? what is UFC going to do to Spike? Move to another station?? HA. Angle will sign with who he wants to sign with.

  6. deadandrestless says:

    >>what is UFC going to do to Spike? Move to another station?? HA.

  7. deadandrestless says:

    Argh…so much for that attempt at a reply. Damn you, HTML.

    Anyhow, if UFC wanted to leave and go to another network, does anyone think they’d have a tough time right now? I doubt losing *Kurt Angle* would be something to set them off, but c’mon.

  8. SamScaff says:

    UFC has like a 30-show-a-year schedule on Spike. Spike has allowed UFC to become as successful/popular as it is, they are not going to leave and start over from scratch..period. Plus where will they go?? FSN? ESPN? HBO?(yeah right). No station would give UFC as much air time as Spike. not even close.

  9. ditch says:

    UFC is going nowhere, certainly not over an issue like this even if you use the most extreme ‘TNA plays it fast and loose with UFC’ scenario here. UFC certainly wouldn’t make a public stink about something like this.

    The potential is more in souring the relationship between UFC and TNA/Spike, unless as I say UFC is in on it all.

  10. ditch says:

    Dave Meltzer is reporting that Angle’s contract would allow him to do MMA (and other non-WWE pro wrestling). Angle’s camp still seems to be pointing to MMA next year. What would be REALLY interesting is if he went to PRIDE or K-1 for an MMA match, one which would without a doubt be heavily promoted in the US. That, certainly, UFC would care about.

  11. SamScaff says:

    These days though UFC is in a position to make a big money offer like never before. However, my guess is Angle in Heros vs. Brock Lesnar in ’07. A big PPV splash for Heros in the US. Or maybe the event will even be in the US…who knows.

  12. Jeff says:

    Angle could do MMA but I never thought that he would do it. Now, that he is part of TNA, Spike could make a lot of money doing this.

  13. Danangeau says:

    Call me a “mark” or a “smark”……….I DON’T CARE……….anywhere ANGLE is, I will tune in.

    Congrats to TNA. WWE has a big lead, but you have the ball……now run with it!!

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