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Media day: 10 things I think I know are true in #UFC & #MMA (part one)

By Zach Arnold | July 19, 2011

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I spent the day doing the media rounds, doing a couple of in-depth interviews that I thought turned out really well in terms of discussion content. I’ll elaborate on the first interview here and some points from it.

Earlier this morning/afternoon, I did an interview with Bryan Alvarez talking about, well, everything imaginable under the sun that is related to MMA.

Which leads me to bring up some points from the interview that I think are true and noteworthy.

1. The 9-year rule article on Fight Opinion may be the most successful article ever written on this site

I’ve covered every MMA scandal, some moreso in detail than others. And, yet, it appears that the 9-year rule article written by David Williams is probably the most successful article ever published on the site. I have plenty of people who still ask me about the piece and how it came about.

David does a great job of writing articles over at his Fantasy Fights web site, so you can check out more of his work there or check out his latest thoughts on Twitter @dwilliamsmma.

2. The TV landscape is not what the UFC thought it would end up being for a new television deal.

During the interview, Bryan & I talked a lot about the concept of UFC going all-in with Versus and the potential turnkey operation of converting the G4 network into the UFC network. In the end, the safe bet is to assume that a new deal between Spike & UFC will get worked out. UFC’s audience from Spike does not seem to be that portable in terms of shifting over to other television platforms. The HBO carrot may or may not be out there, but UFC wants full control and right now no other cable operation is willing to give them that outside of their current television situation.

Bryan mentioned the potential of the UFC & WWE working together for a combat sports channel, but I largely don’t see that happening because of the increasing polarization of the two audiences and growing contempt/indifference they have for each other.

3. UFC re-upping with Spike likely means the financial death for Bellator.

It’s really hard to see what way Bellator can stay solvent if they do not get the Spike TV deal. If UFC leaves Spike, suddenly there’s a golden opportunity. If UFC stays on Spike, Bellator has no shot. It’s not like MTV is going to buy out the promotion and run it as a feeder system. Maybe UFC would, but more than likely not because they’ve had enough of buying out other organizations (PRIDE & Strikeforce). It’s too much work. With that stated, the Bellator contracts could be used against the fighters should the promotion go under.

4. Showtime and UFC will probably be mutually happy to end their relationship sooner rather than later.

With Ross Greenburg out at HBO, Ken Hershman at Showtime has to be feeling his oats. Chris DeBlazio of Showtime recently said that boxing is their marquee sport, which all but indicates a lack of interest in Showtime getting heavily involved in the MMA scene. After all, they know the boxing business model of paying promoters a lot of money and buying fights. That’s not what UFC’s business model is at all. I was told early on when UFC bought out Strikeforce that Ken Hershman was happy with the deal, but it seems clear with the poaching of Nick Diaz and the departures of Gina Carano & Alistair Overeem (on the sidelines) that the oil/water comparison is apt. Showtime does business their way and UFC does business their way. Where M-1 fits into this equation is anyone’s guess. Can they step up and fill the role that Bellator is currently filling should Bellator go under?

5. The action right now is in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau for Asian MMA. It’s not in Japan.

If there was one universal topic that I was asked during my various media interviews today, it was about the state of the Japanese combat sports landscape and when things will bounce back. There is a real romance and emotional connection fans have with the history of the Japanese scene. It is hard for so many people to fathom just how far things have declined, but they have. Read these items (Middle Easy talking about One FC and this press release about the former News Corp. COO investing into Legend FC in Hong Kong) and take into account that the smart money for Asian MMA is not going anywhere near Japan. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s read my warnings for the last few years about what the PRIDE scandal would mean for the country’s fight scene…

And, on that note, this will be the starting point for the next summary of ‘things I think I know’ when discussing the next media interview I did.

The link to the audio interview I did with Bryan Alvarez is here if you would like to check it out. I think you’ll have a fun time listening to it. I did briefly bring up the book written by June White about Dana, but it really has not gained much traction or interest online.

Topics: Japan, Media, MMA, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

5 Responses to “Media day: 10 things I think I know are true in #UFC & #MMA (part one)”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    #2) I agree. NBC just isn’t a good fit at this point. The options for the UFC should be…. FOX, FX, SpikeTV, & HBO. I only put FX in there because the UFC is currently talking with FOX, and it would make sense if they did switch stations, to do the majority of their programming on FX and then a few big shows on FOX. Besides that, I wouldn’t mind seeing the UFC stay on SpikeTV and also supplement it with either HBO or a few FOX shows per year.

    #3) Good riddence to Bellator. I like the concept of building new contenders in 3 month tournament styles (that’s what TUF basically does). I don’t like holding onto those fighters with iron clad contracts that hurt their career progress. And then if a fighter loses in a title fight, he is right back into the tournament format to build himself back up? That’s a sure fire way to burn out the athletes. Fighters should go through that tournament format ONCE if they even make it to the finals.

    The next logical question is… What then happens to Bellator’s fighters? Zuffa might be afraid to purchase the company because they don’t want to come across as even more of a monopoly. And I can’t imagine their CEO letting go of the athletes without a huge fight. Pro Elite perhaps tries to purchase them? They seem insane enough to make another major run at it. Should be interesting….

    #4) Showtime has nothing to offer the UFC really. The viewer base is far too low. The money won’t be as good. It’s just not a fit from my pespective.

    #5) Wake me up when they have a few Top 10 level fighters on their roster over there in Asia. We have already seen that overall Asians cannot compete at the same level as their American and Brazilian counterparts….

  2. Bad News Allen says:

    All talk of the June White book on Dana has been deleted off the Underground Forum.

  3. Chromium says:

    Man I wrote way too much.

    #2) You know, I think it’s dead on that there likely is not a superior home out there for the UFC to Spike, and I also think HBO would be best served in a complimentary role (which Versus is doing right now) but them staying on Spike would contradict everything that’s been reported on the situation. And yeah from a business perspective buying a controlling interest in G4 would be an XFL-level catastrophe.

    The WWE and the UFC working together promotionally is not something I ever see happening, beyond maybe Brock Lesnar or whoever working as a special referee at Wrestlemania or something, but my understanding is that Dana White and Vince McMahon both try to avoid conflict and actually do talk on the phone a couple times a year (Dana White said as much in an interview), probably to avoid scheduling conflicts and for diplomatic reasons.

    #3) If the UFC stays on Spike for more than an extra year then yes, Bellator’s chances of survival are very low. Supposedly Bjorn Rebney is the best salesman in the business and could potentially convince Plainfield Asset Management to give him one more chance, allowing for a sixth season on MTV 2 or some other money-losing platform, but that would probably be the end of the line. No more oxygen.

    While I could see the UFC being interested in Bellator’s tape library (within reason), I seriously do not see them buying the promotion. Strikeforce at least made a profit at some point, and is well positioned to make a profit again. Bellator’s never come close. Whether or not the UFC is interested in Bellator’s contracts probably depends on how they’re worded. If Rebney is as sharp as I suspect he is I assume they’re both transferable and non-guaranteed, just like Zuffa’s are, and it appears they retain the right to veto outside bookings. While I estimated at one point there are something like 35 potentially Zuffa-level fighters in Bellator (not including women even), which was very surprising, I think the UFC would only buy contracts for about a dozen or so of their top stars, if they even decided it was worth it to buy them out.

    #4) M-1 I suspect will continue to exist as filler sports programming on Showtime, but they are not Bellator. Even among hardcore MMA nerds, Guram Gugeshnivilli is the only fighter they have that anyone cares about right now. Comparing Bellator’s roster to M-1’s is like comparing the UFC and Strikeforce’s combined roster to Bellator. If M-1 happens to get Fedor to fight for them (he is part owner after all), certainly people will tune in for that, but the promotion will still be a one-man show and they’ll quickly run out of opponents. Seriously, who’s out there that wouldn’t look like a joke? Guram, Gabriel Gonzaga, Pedro Rizzo? Pretty slim pickings there. Beyond the slight possibility of Fedor doing a few shows for them, M-1 will continue to be about as relevant as MFC, maybe even less so.

    #5) Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines are all clearly growing markets for MMA, and Korea has loved MMA for a while now last I checked. Korea and the Philippines are the only ones who have indigenous talent worth a damn though. As far as Japan has fallen though, they are still the regional powerhouse and I don’t see that changing all that soon.

  4. David M says:

    There is some talent in Bellator, and I seriously hope they are able to find a financier because mma can’t exist without some smaller promotions that at least pay their fighters enough to keep them in the fight game. Askren, Lombard, Alvarez, etc all would have success in the UFC.

    If Bellator collapsed, I wonder if HBO or Showtime would do mma shows like they do boxing, in terms of just a purse bid for some fights. If Strikeforce doesn’t stay on Showtime, there will be a lot of talent out there.

  5. […] I wrote the first 5 things I think I know are true about the UFC & MMA landscape based on my interview with Bryan. Today, things 6-10 that I think I know are true based on my […]

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