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« | Home | »

Dana White and UFC want to pump you up and take over the fitness industry…

By Zach Arnold | January 29, 2009

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Update (1/29): UFC will now employ the branding of fighters to drum up interest in the new gyms.

Original post (1/26)

… by reportedly opening up their own brand of gyms for people to exercise at. Dana White says he’s going after the major players in the fitness industry.

Just what does this remind you of? What are those initials, WBF… what did they stand for…

(Cue up the boxercise jokes that people will start launching about the UFC President.)

You’ll notice that the name 24 Hour Fitness is used here as a reference point. It doesn’t feel like they’re going after the Gold’s Gym type of crowd, but what numbers indicate that this is a ‘growth’ industry right now? It may seem like a ‘low risk’ play in terms of financial output, but what’s the end game here?

For old-school wrestling fans, this business idea conjures up bad memories of what Vince McMahon tried to do nearly 20 years ago. However, for as easily as one can dismiss this new business idea by UFC management… I have to say that if the risk assessment is accurate and costs can be kept low, then they may have a shot of making some money with it. I’m not sure how much they can make, but it does open some new doors for them and allows them to be able to go to sponsors like BSN and say look, not only do we have PPV events and Spike TV shows (fights and TUF) that you can sponsor, but we also have our own brand of gyms that people go to. The average American thinks UFC and equates it to fitness, to toughness, so you can market your product with us on many different platforms.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 57 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

57 Responses to “Dana White and UFC want to pump you up and take over the fitness industry…”

  1. Jeremy says:

    This is one of the dumber things I have heard.

    Dana needs to take his own advice and focus on what he/they know.

  2. Pierre-Luc Allie says:

    If my memory is correct before running the UFC, Dana manage 4 gyms. So, maybe he knows more that you would think.

  3. Mike Rome says:

    It’s a great idea. They’ll further cement the UFC brand with the general public, create further acceptance of the Octagon and martial arts, and push the UFC further as a lifestyle brand.

    This will probably be yet another thing where fans online predict disaster and it becomes very profitable over time.

  4. Donavan says:

    I think this is a very good idea, this doesn’t seem like a reach to me at all. opening up a UFC brand gym seems like a natural extension of the UFC brand and another source of revenue. We’ve already seen fighters like Couture and Gracies opening up gyms with great success, I don’t see why UFC with its brand name can’t be successful.

    I especially think its smart offering martial arts training to children and fitness class for women. They are reaching out to all the demographics.

  5. Fluyid says:

    Overreaching.

  6. D.Capitated says:

    Doing “unconventional workouts”? I guess they could keep costs low by having people hit tires with sledgehammers instead of buying Nautilus equipment, but I’m not sure that’s what people want as a workout. I’m pretty skeptical, personally.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    When I read the headline, the first thing I thought was that this is Zuffa’s WBF… Great catch Zach!!

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    According to Kevin Iole….

    “That was big news in the MMA industry, since the entire announced payroll of Affliction’s card was $3.3 million. The paid attendance was 8,946 for a gate of $1,512,750”

    Now the big question is if they bought any of their own tickets.

    Their previous gate was around $2 Million, and they purchased $500,000 of their own tickets. So they didn’t do any better. That is not a good sign. Makes me think the PPV sales were down from last time. Probably the same amount of interest, only less people purchased due to the event being between UFC 93 & 94.

  9. Grape Knee High says:

    Now I can go “train UFC” whenever I want! Perfect!

  10. Big Bill Bob says:

    According to Tito Ortiz the only way to get swelled out like Dana White is to inject steroids, so to look like BLAF you need to cheat like him, maybe they should have a steroid shootup bar instead of one for smoothies. And I fully believe Tito since he probably has first hand experience along with 99.9% of fighters.

    45, they’ll be able to afford 10 million a time if they only have 3 events a year. Enjoy it for what it is a high quality show to offset UFC occasionally, who cares what they are making since its not your money they are losing, it’s quite obvious Affliction are hobbyists looking to enjoy their own event with top fighters rather then professionals looking to milk every cent (UFC 360). So long as you got your moneys worth, which you did, is all that matters at this point.

  11. I’m gonna be sick… Dana has come full circle.

  12. I’m gonna be sick… Dana has come full circle back to his expertise! Now Dana can micromanage the fighter training, eating, sleeping, pooping… cuz nobody nows more about MMA than Dana, just ask him.

  13. Jim Allcorn says:

    This is just … odd IMHO.

    Not only have Dana’s muscles swelled dramatically, but so has his head. To apparently epic proportions.

    What’s next?
    A chain of “UFC lifestyle” restaurants?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but this seems to be just the sort of thing that could eventually seriously damage or even kill Zuffa. The never ending branching out & branching out of the UFC brand until it loses focus on what it had set out to become the best at.

    As a former legitimate longtime fighter ( an actual boxer with real fights rather than a “boxercise” coach ) & martial artist who spent years off & on working toward an eventual black belt, There’s just something distasteful to me about this idea of a big corporate chain of hybrid 24 hr. Fitness/McDojos churning out tens of thousands of meatheads who will claim to train in “Ultimate Fighting”.
    It just seems to me to be the further watering down of the UFC. Of it’s complete over saturation of the market.

    UGH.

  14. Pierre-Luc Allie says:

    Maybe they have invested no money and they are just lendng their brand name in exchange of equity.

  15. BOB says:

    Zach,

    IIRC the WBF was McMahon’s answer to the Weider’s IFBB (Mr. Olympia).

    I think the franchisee will pay for the use of the name and the ufc will supply
    things like gloves, heavy bags, etc.

  16. spacedog says:

    What’s next?
    A chain of “UFC lifestyle” restaurants?

    yeah what a terrible idea almost as bad as a rock themed restaurant, Lord knows nobody would spend money in a place like that.

    Really a chain of gyms seems like a natural for the UFC and as annoying as the inevitable “Ulitimate Fighting” meatheads would be its easy to see an idea like this paying on so many levels.

  17. The Citizen says:

    Great! Can’t wait to learn my first UFC Kata

  18. szappan says:

    http://www.ufcgyms.com/

    Great! Here’s to fighters being expected to do free promos for them and being reprimanded for training elsewhere – but what’s better than a gym where one can buy an action figure of UFC’s president?

  19. Dannyd75 says:

    I think the gym biz is really quite similar to the fight business. My father is a partner in a gym. Orig. A Gold’s (Private ownership). Which has since dropped Gold’s and partnered with a hospital (lots of rehab). This was the best course of action for this gym with many other franchises coming in and the Gold’s name not as strong as it used to be. Turned it from a slipping business to high profits. Much like the fight game, name and money only go so far (WFA, Bodog, failed mma clothing companies ect…) you really need to know how to correctly go about it in order to be successful. I know gym owners who basically print money in their basements and others who can barely scrape by. Just my 2 cents on it. But knowing a little bit about the men who were involved in 24 hr fitness I believe they have the right guys in upper management to pull it off.

  20. Dannyd75 says:

    My post is just a comment on the business side of it, nothing to do with whether it is a good thing for the sport or fighters ect…

  21. JaredJ says:

    MMA Cafe???

    This is pathetic. As a prior poster mentioned, this is just going to further solidify that bunch of UFC marks who will claim to be training in “Ultimate Fighting.”

  22. Jim Allcorn says:

    spacedog,
    Yes, I’m actually aware that the Hard Rock Cafe chain has been successful. But, for every chain like it that’s been a success, there are dozens of Planet Hollywoods & Kenny Roger’s chickens …

    And, with $$$ & power hungry corporations like Zuffa that want more & more expansion into product beyond what their original focus was ( which was to be the best at promoting MMA, in case you’ve forgotten ) there’s always a tipping point into the abyss of eventual failure. And this chain of gyms could be it for Zuffa/the UFC.

    Sure, Dana & the boys may be making mad money from their live gate & PPV success here in the States. But, to my knowledge, they’re still losing money in their European expansion efforts.
    Not to mention they’ve STILL not made any significant progress toward network television or premium channel deals like all the other major sports that the UFC professes to be like or better than.
    Nor have they managed to get the sport legally sanctioned in NYS.
    They can’t even make any serious strides toward bringing the best fighter in the sport in to compete for them. Which, to me anyhow, is like the NFL holding the Superbowl without the services of the best team in pro football playing in it.

    With all these MMA-centric things that should be priorities for them to accomplish, it just seems to me like they’ve taken their eye off the ball by focusing on things like this health club chain.

  23. Mike Rome says:

    They are making plenty of money in Europe. They reject TV deals because they’re doing amazing without taking horrible deals that kill other companies.

    Seriously, a ton of MMA gyms have been riding the UFC wave and making a lot of money off what the UFC did. Now the UFC wants that piece of the pie. It’s probably going to take a couple years to turn profitable, but it will. It’s an easy sell.

  24. mattio says:

    The UFC should just shut down, they can’t do anything right, can they JA?

  25. Fluyid says:

    ^ He didn’t suggest anything remotely like that, Mattio.

  26. D.Capitated says:

    Seriously, a ton of MMA gyms have been riding the UFC wave and making a lot of money off what the UFC did. Now the UFC wants that piece of the pie. It’s probably going to take a couple years to turn profitable, but it will. It’s an easy sell.

    They are actual MMA gyms that are training pro and amateur fighters. Its quite clear looking at the glorified presser that these are not “MMA gyms”.

  27. The Citizen says:

    Best way to join the UFC is to join their gym. Ultimate Feeder-League-Which-You-Buy-Into Championships

    Brilliant. Now about this Fedor guy. . .

  28. IceMuncher says:

    I don’t see how this is fundamentally any different than merchandising. Do you complain when other sports leagues enter into the home decoration market with team lamps? When the MLB makes sheets for children’s beds? An NHL mousepad? Dallas Cowboys placemats, cutting boards, and plates?

    The market will decide when the UFC becomes over-saturated, and the UFC will adjust their business plan. Until then, I won’t fault them for expanding their business, increasing public presence and making money in market where so many other gyms are already making bank off the UFC’s popularity.

  29. skwirrl says:

    Everything will go great until some poor schmuck getting ready to max out his bench press gets his skull caved in with a sledgehammer. Whatever though… You gotta break some eggs to make a Zuffa bankruptcy omelette.

  30. D.Capitated says:

    I don’t see how this is fundamentally any different than merchandising. Do you complain when other sports leagues enter into the home decoration market with team lamps? When the MLB makes sheets for children’s beds? An NHL mousepad? Dallas Cowboys placemats, cutting boards, and plates?

    The market will decide when the UFC becomes over-saturated, and the UFC will adjust their business plan. Until then, I won’t fault them for expanding their business, increasing public presence and making money in market where so many other gyms are already making bank off the UFC’s popularity.

    Yeah, I tend to agree with this. Whether or not I think its a good idea shouldn’t change how I see Penn/GSP II.

  31. IceMuncher says:

    “They are actual MMA gyms that are training pro and amateur fighters. Its quite clear looking at the glorified presser that these are not “MMA gyms”.”

    If you look at their website, ufcgyms.com, it looks like they will be offering MMA training services on top of the fitness gym services.

    I expect they’ll put together something like Extreme Couture. Check out their website and schedule to get an idea of what the schedule would look like. It’s basically 1 hour blocks of Boxing, Wrestling, Grappling, etc for a few hours in the morning and evening.

  32. D.Capitated says:

    If you look at their website, ufcgyms.com, it looks like they will be offering MMA training services on top of the fitness gym services.

    If you look at the article from USA Today, it clearly states that while there will be martial arts programs, the gyms “aren’t intended for professional or amateur fighters”. I did not say that. USA Today quotes Dana as saying as much.

  33. A. Taveras says:

    Comment 13 echoes my sentiments best. IMHO this kind of business should be left to the fighters and their camps. UFC and MMA are at a great peak right but I really do think this gym idea has ‘jump the shark’ potential. It’s all in the execution, I guess we will see how it turns out shortly.

  34. IceMuncher says:

    “If you look at the article from USA Today, it clearly states that while there will be martial arts programs, the gyms “aren’t intended for professional or amateur fighters”. I did not say that. USA Today quotes Dana as saying as much.”

    The way you said it, I thought you meant they’d only be offering fitness club services. I was simply pointing out that they’d have some MMA classes, which you confirmed. They’ll be more casual MMA training sessions than you’d find in “MMA gyms”, but I’ve seen a lot of casual gyms that offer BJJ and kickboxing classes to their members. The UFC is entering the latter market, not the former.

  35. D.Capitated says:

    The article is pretty specific. They’re looking to create a fitness center based around the “theme” of the UFC. They are not attempting to build MMA gyms to create talent for their organization. If someone started doing spinning classes and called it “Tour De France Spinning” and had pictures of Miguel Indurain in the room, yes, you would be “training” on a bike like mechanism. It is not the same as training to be in the peleton.

  36. Jim Allcorn says:

    ome, IceMuncher & others,
    You make some valid points & you may be right & me wrong. We\’ll just have to wait & see I guess.

    But, I can\’t shake the feeling that this could be some sort of slippery slope. Toward what, exactly? I don\’t know.

    I mean, we\’re already seeing a quick turn over in title reigns of former TUF winners. Now, with this announcement, it seems we \’re headed toward a time somewhere down the line when these UFC Gyms will begin producing some of & perhaps someday eventually, ALL of the future TUF contestants.
    Keeping it all within the same corporate food chain.

    Far fetched? For sure.
    But, who knows?

    Right now, these gyms aren\’t geared toward the actual combatant, but who\’s to say what will happen if they become a break out success?
    Maybe then, come the actual regional training centers, which will then become the Wal Mart to the Extreme Coutures, AKAs, Team Quests & so on …

    Just something to think about.

    Peace guys.

  37. D.Capitated says:

    I’d rather the WEC be a farm league than just Joe Silva’s plaything. What was Carlos Condit fighting journeyman welterweights going to prove?

  38. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Both Condit and Larson belong in UFC.

    Pretty shocking injury though, just two days after they were mega-hyping March 1st on a live WEC.

  39. Ivan Trembow says:

    I don’t see why it has to be one or the other (ie, either a farm league or Joe Silva’s plaything). I don’t see why it can’t be what Zuffa insisted it was going to be when they bought it, which was a separate promotion with its own fighters.

    Also, why is Maggie Hendricks on Yahoo Sports referring to the news about the UFC trying to sign its fighters to 360 deals as being “an MMA Junkie scoop”? That has been talked about on MMA Payout for weeks and weeks.

    Ed. — Can’t afford to prop up a non-Yahoo business partner?

  40. Donavan says:

    What WEC was intended for was an American organization that show cased the lighter weight classes. From what I’ve been hearing Zuffa plans on assimilating WEC welterweights into the UFC and adding flyweights to the WEC. IMO thats a very smart move and and still following the original outline of what the WEC was intended for.

  41. Jeremy says:

    Condit has reportedly been asking to move to the UFC.

    I want to see the WEC as a separate company, but do you refuse to move fighters and risk them being unhappy?

    The WEC should continue to focus on the Fly, Bantam and Featherweights. Keep the LW division but drop the WW division, it has never been too deep in the WEC.

    I think calling a farm system is pretty misleading, they have not been consistantly moving fighters.

    If Carlos has been as vocal as it sounds about moving up to face the top guys, it makes sense.

  42. Steve says:

    Zuffa is just using the UFC brand as they should…to make more money.

  43. Michaelthebox says:

    I think they’d be best off folding the WEC WW and maybe eventually the LW, and getting a couple women’s divisions. This whole halfway thing is never going to work in the long run. Pick some divisions where you can get the best fighters, and build them.

  44. 45 Huddle says:

    I belive they purchased the WEC with visions of making it the size of the UFC and having the champions fight each other. However, they have learned it’s just a waste of time and energy to have two divisions of the same weight class. I do think it will work for the Lightweight division because it is so stacked and deep across the sport.

    In the long run they will perfect WEC’s purpose for the sport. That might mean only Feather, Bantam, and Fly. As suggested above, perhaps a woman’s division. Personally I would rather see the the WEC have fewer, but more stacked divisions. And right now, the Welter class is taking up card space and TV time for the lighter guys.

  45. D.Capitated says:

    MMA fans have a completely irrational view of reality when it comes to the WEC. The fighters at 135 and 145 may be “well marketed” or whatever, but the fighters at 155 and 170 are marketed as being inferior on the whole compared to their UFC brethern. You know why? Its because they are inferior. Condit is not the best welterweight in the world, hell, he’s not even among the top 5. Varner isn’t even a top 15 lightweight. Right there, its clear: the WEC are a minor league. And as such, they do similar ratings to the old MyNetwork TV IFL episodes, because the fighters are pretty much on that same level. Big surprise! Casual fans are blithering idiots!

    To add to all that, the idea that the WEC was ever or should ever be on par with the UFC is preposterous. Creating a pair of non-unified titles that are on the same level does the sport no good whatsoever. It becomes boxing, except that the collusion is even more blatant because its the same guys running both shows. That and it confuses the hell out of the market. The WEC is, has, and always will be a AAA promotion to the MLB of MMA, and that’s the way it should be. The unfortunate downside to that is being the AAA, the little guys will probably never see a similar rise in interest. Too bad, so sad. As it turns out, the interest level in small japanese and hispanic fighters when who are technically superior when compared to their larger and more popular peers at light heavy and heavy is about the only thing like pro wrestling that’s deserved that comparison this past week.

  46. Mike Rome says:

    Hey look, we agree on something.

    They are slowly turning WEC into what it should be: a minor league. There is no end game for that promotion, it makes no money and it really only exists to crowd out the market and keep others of Versus.

    In the end they’ll probably end up adding more UFC shows and merging some of the lighter weights over too. Given the problems they’ve had filling cards of late, I fully expect them to start looking into bringing title fights at those weights over to UFC PPV shows.

  47. D.Capitated says:

    The bigger question with the WEC isn’t whether or not they’ll ever be seen as being on par with the UFC, but how long it will be until its determined to be an abject failure and its weight classes integrated with the UFC. Might be 9 months. Might be 2 or 3 years. They’re gonna want to bleed Versus dry, to the point that they don’t go looking for alternative MMA programming afterwards.

  48. 45 Huddle says:

    I disagree. If anything, they are trying to avoid it becoming the minor leagues at all cost. That is why they folded up the LHW & MW divisions. That is likely why they will fold up the WW Division. And they are adding the Flyweight Division soon. So really, they only have one overlapping division.

    The interest for smaller fighters is not there yet for the general public. Until it is, it makes sense to keep the smaller weight classes in a seperate company. That doesn’t make it the minor leagues. It just means there is less interest for the smaller fighters.

    It’s funny that every company tries and emulate the UFC. Yet Zuffa has already laid out the blue print for how to create a company from “scratch”, which is what they did when they revamped the WEC. Slow & steady they are building the company. The crowds continue to increase in size. It obviously isn’t the size of the UFC, but there is still upward growth, which is exactly what any business owner wants to see with an organization like this.

  49. Mike Rome says:

    Actually, the WEC really isn’t following the UFC model at all. That’s probably why there is no meaningful growth. Running larger arenas at low prices does sell more than running the same small Vegas venue, but the costs are also a lot higher. We have no idea if it’s been worth it. What we do know is there’s essentially zero ratings progress.

    At this point the goals of the WEC should be recognized for what they are: 1) keep others off Versus; 2) Create potential future stars because TUF isn’t really doing it anymore; 3) Prevent opposition groups from utilizing stars at lower weight classes; and 4) providing a platform to build up these lighter divisions (and probably women soon) before moving them over to the UFC.

    WEC is just a UFC subsidy at this point, a small loss they take to crowd out the market. I think it has 3 years or so left in it.

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