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Image matters: UFC business & media politics

By Zach Arnold | February 14, 2012

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Here’s the fight card for UFC on Fuel tomorrow night. If you’re looking for last-minute updates on odds for the card, check out Nick Kalikas and Luca Fury.

Our friend MMA Supremacy notes that last week, non-UFC programming on Fuel TV averaged around 7,000 viewers. Not 700,000 viewers, not 70,000 viewers… 7,000. So, what’s the over/under for how many viewers UFC in Omaha draws on Wednesday night for Fuel?

Kevin Iole said that numbers for UFC 143 (Condit/Diaz) were lousy. 6,727 paid, 2,288 comps, 751 tickets unsold for a gate of $2.4M USD. He claims casino bought the majority of event tickets. If you had said to me four months ago that UFC Japan would have blown the doors off of a Nick Diaz UFC main event, I would have never believed you. So much for that.

Speaking of UFC Japan, Issei Tamura of Krazy Bee will take on Tiequan Zhang. MMA Planet in Japaense has a fascinating item on why Tamura got picked over Keinosuke “Tattoo Man” Yoshinaga, the young man who made his name in Akira Maeda’s Outsider promotion. MMA Planet says that Zuffa passed over Yoshinaga because of the amount of tattoos he has on his body and how it would be a bad thing for the company’s image in attracting sponsorships to have Yoshinaga in the UFC cage.

Yes, tattoos happens to be ‘code’ in terms of image purposes in Japan for youknowwhat.

It reminds me of an old incident about a decade ago when NOAH wrestlers came to the States and had their matches taped for Nippon TV. One of the American referees working a match with the NOAH guys had to put a white cover/sleeve over his tattoo on his arm because of the image that the tattoo meant to the network suits. So, Yoshinaga getting passed up because of his tattoos is nothing new in terms of Japanese protocol.

Blow up of the week

Dana White went on Twitter in defense of why the Nick Diaz/marijuana test story wasn’t reported ‘officially’ until Keith Kizer made the declaration. Unwittingly, Dana made a remark that would piss me off if I was Ariel Helwani:

“helwani broke Diaz story but didn’t release it cause he was respectful to Diaz and comm.”

How does one ‘break’ a story by sitting on it? Remember – Ariel works for Fuel TV now, so he’s part of the Fox family of networks that has a business relationship with the UFC. Dana was trying to stick up for Ariel but he did so in a way that made Ariel look like was both ‘first’ and yet not willing to pull the trigger.

Naturally, the heat started coming towards Ariel on Twitter and he brought the hammer in response:

The reason I didn’t report it when I had the info was because Keith Kizer wouldn’t confirm the news with me and I didn’t feel comfortable reporting news of such magnitude without his confirmation. I like to have at least two sources confirm a story before reporting, and when it has to do with a drug test failure, it would be a big risk to report something without the commission’s confirmation. I’m not looking to bat .500 here. I try to get everything right every time out. Got any other journalism tips for me while we’re at it?

It was interesting to see the backlash against Front Row Brian for leaking the Diaz story and how, for a 24 hour time period, the other MMA writers that knew about it were cryptically quiet.

Of course, the fallout from this led into Tomas Rios to discuss why other writers didn’t leak the story (legal liability, sources not going on record). His points are all valid except for the fact that Dana was praising a writer for sitting on a story as being ‘responsible,’ especially when a few days later ESPN started airing UFC Undisputed 3 video game spots telling fans that if they buy the video game now that they can get the Contenders pack featuring Nick Diaz. Plus, given Ariel’s relationship with Fuel, Dana’s remark put Ariel in an unnecessarily tough spot here.

Speaking of Twitter trouble, there have been several MMA writers/reporters/pundits who have been blocked by the UFC Twitter account over the last couple of weeks. Well, at least they are consistent with the way they handle media relations, I suppose…

War declaration of the week

Dentsu is backing UFC for what is believed to be several years worth of sold/backed shows in Japan. Right around the time Bushiroad bought New Japan from Yukes, the new owner said that WWE & UFC are his rivals. Well, UFC teaming up with Dentsu is heavy artillery. WWE can also cause seasonal damage for New Japan. A perfect example of this is coming up on 8/9 & 8/10 when WWE will run Smackdown shows in Tokyo at Ryogoku Kokugikan, which is home turf for New Japan. The timing of the move also is bad news for New Japan, given that it’s right around the time they run their biggest series of the year in the G-1 tournament. It’s hard to imagine a generation ago that New Japan would be having to deal with these kinds of roadblocks but now they are.

Article of the week

No Disciplinary Sanction Warranted For Nick Diaz Under A Principled Interpretation Of NAC 467.850

Jonathan Tweedale, head honcho of the Vancouver athletic commission & a man who has clashed with me over the issue of drug usage in combat sports, has this rather fruitful defense in favor of Nick Diaz in regards to whether or not he should be suspended in Nevada for marijuana usage.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “Image matters: UFC business & media politics”

  1. Jonathan Snowden says:

    Here’s the difference, at least for me. I can’t speak for Ariel. I heard about Diaz’s test, like most people who cover MMA, some time before the rumors spread on Twitter. But I’m not reporting anything without confirmation. It’s one thing if “Front Row Brian” makes a mistake and is wrong. If I’m wrong? A multi-million dollar company might get sued.

    What’s the benefit to the reader of getting something incrementally earlier anyway? Especially if there is a potential problem with accuracy?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      I’m not disagreeing with you on this at all.

      What I’m saying is that Dana came out and put Ariel in a needlessly lousy position where he had to defend himself from charges that he knew the story & sat on it for some ill-conceived reason.

      • Tomas Rios says:

        Anyone who puts any stock in Dana’s choice of words concerning most anything isn’t worth bothering with in the first place. To his credit, Ariel gave a concise explanation of what happened and it rings true to anyone who knows how journalists go about their work.

        There is value in citizen/guerrilla journalism, but its value has to be contextualized and, keeping that in mind, the extent of its value is being hotly debated. Having some intrinsic sense of journalistic ethics sans any training or rules is unrealistic and people who stay abreast of the shifting journalistic landscape have seen just how wrong citizen journalism can go. Conventional journalists aren’t immune to the same mistakes, but they’re far less likely to make them in the first place.

        • Norm says:

          Ariel had his brush with rushing “news” w/o 100% confirmation with the UFC 99/Cro Cop to Japan fiasco and ate a shit sandwich for it. He’s a smart kid and won’t make the same mistake twice.

          This whole non-story, story is all the work of Frontrowbrian and his desperate cry for attention.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          I’m pretty sure that was Iole, and he was doing it because Dana told him that specifically and then said it at the presser.

  2. Jason Moles says:

    I concur with Snowden. Being right is far more important than being first.

  3. Norm says:

    Like Rios mentioned on his twitter. “Breaking” a story is putting in the leg work and reporting on a story that otherwise was not going to be reported. The Diaz story was going to be reported at some point anyway and therefore did not need “breaking”.

    Frontrowbrian has spent the better part of a week thumping his chest for being first in race he was running in all by himself. He’s not a “journalist” like he insists, so he was able to publicize the story sooner than legit journos because he has no legal reprecussion to deal with.

    There seems to be an odd sense of jealousy surrounding Ariel because of what he’s been able to accomplish in the MMA world, but the dude’s put in his time and got to where he is on his own accord. Brian is so desperate to move beyond being a MMA groupie that he has been trying to provoke Ariel in the hopes of receiving a rub of Ariel’s heat. It’s pathetic. But such is the case for a vast majority of MMA “journalists”.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    The internet cares far too much about who is first, instead of who is right and who provides quality.

    I was just listening to This Week In Tech Podcast about this vary topic. They were talking about who broke the Whitney Houston story first, and how it was broke on Twitter. It was a lengthy discussion. Finally one of them spoke up and basically said: “Who cares”. And he was right.

    And I think at the end of the day, who cares who broke it, or how quickly the information came out. The most important thing is that the information is correct.

    The only thing I DO NOT LIKE, is seeing journalists say: “Hey, I know, but I can’t say.” It reeks of juvenile behavior. I saw Brent Brookhouse do this in one of the comments section at BE. I have no problem with a person not releasing the information until it is fully verified. I actually preferit. But if you know… and can’t say…. Keep it to yourself.


    Frank Edgar said that Eddie Alvarez is coming to the UFC. I don’t believe it, because it sounds like Alvarez still has some more time on his Bellator contract (that ends this year). But shots are being fired, and I think Edgar is just helping out a teammate.

    How Bellator handles this situation will tell us a lot about their future. If they end up signing him, it will be for above market value, which means they will be over reaching just like the rest of the UFC competitors did in the past. It’s a dangerous path to go down, as there is no good end game.

    If they let him go, or don’t over reach, then they will have lost their biggest “star”. And they are by default putting themselves into a feeder league for the UFC. Which really is the role they should be playing anyways.


    Bad Article Of The Week

    Here is a guy who can’t see past the tip of his own nose when it comes to MMA.

    Before the UFC was only on SpikeTV. They have the same number of shows on FX as they did on Spike TV. They have improved TUF to include live fights. The prelim shows are 2 hours now. They took the 4 shows they were doing on Versus and now have them on FOX (with better fighters). The only hit they took was that the countdown shows and Unleashed shows were moved to Fuel TV. Overall, this deal alone is a huge net positive.

    And then you add in Fuel TV…. Which is just a big bonus. They basically gave the UFC it’s own channel to work it’s magic over 7 years. Including more prelim fights, TUF Brazil, UFC Reloaded, weigh-ins, post fight programs, and MORE live events.

    The UFC will probably do between 150,000 and 200,000 for this show. Within a year they will probably be doing 250,000 to 300,000 for these shows. I think long term these shows (along with the former facebook prelims) have the potential to do 400,000 to 500,000.

    This deal is a huge win/win long term.

    • AfroSamurai says:

      I completely agree. I check BE often because of analysis about current topics and not just BAM heres the news…but three things

      1. Long term after renegotiation FUEL could be in a lot more homes and Wed Fri nights could be perfectly known fight nights.

      2. He mentioned the short term but failed to mention the long term.

      3. The fuel channel was surely a negotiating tactic by FOX but i’m pretty sure in 7 years at minimum all hardcore fans will have it and casuals will probably have it to considering it could very well be on the level of Spike TV by then.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    UFC 144 PPV is 4 hours long with 7 fights.

    The FX show will still be 2 hours long.

    The PPV will now be:

    Edgar/Henderson, Bader/Jackson, Kongo/Hunt, Akiyama/Shields, Boetsch/Okami, Hioki/Palaszewski, & Lauzon/Pettis.

    That has to be one of the more loaded PPV’s that I can think of.

    I wonder if this will be the norm moving forward. Things are certainly changing as they try and figure out how to work in the FOX/FX/FuelTV deal….

    • cutch says:

      They might do the odd 4 hour PPV but I don’t think it is going to be the norm, it would just be overkill for some people.

      FX will show 4 prelims over 2 hours from now on and if they have time they will show the Facebook prelims.

  6. Fluyid says:

    “Frontrowbrian” is an idiot.

  7. chris says:

    Front Row Brian, much like a broken clock will be right atleast two times a day.

    Side note, I too believe the Fuel shows will bring a big upside for all involved down the road.
    The UFC on fuel is Fox’s bargaining chip for cable renegotiations. It makes good sense.
    For the UFC? I’d rather all my live shows on FX, not fuel AND FX.

    Tomorrow on FX from 8-11? Star Trek, that 2009 remark garbage.

    Since the 2 prelims shows on Fuel pulled 144k and 148k? I’m gonna say the avg. will be 250k and the peak will be just over 350k for the main event.

    These midweek, small market shows are a good thing. 1 good named headliner, and fill up the card with fresher faces. Put 3-6000 butts in seats and broadcast it. It’s not heavy on the expenses but will still bring entertainment and for the TV network, some decent advertising spots to sell on a live sports show.

    Still… considering how FX has pulled 4-5x’s more numbers for prelims in the past 6 weeks, it’s just dumb… shooting yourself in the foot doing the show on a small network, even if it is “free fuel preview weak.”

    yeah, I spelt weak that way on purpose.

  8. RunSilent says:

    For whatever bit of anecdotal evidence it’s worth, I canceled Comcast and subscribed to DirectTV this week so I could get Fuel TV.

  9. Alan Conceicao says:

    If Nick Diaz is reneging on taking a fight and is tight lipped about saying why, throwing out that you’re breaking the story that he tested positive for smoking weed is, based on the odds, probably a decent bet. Just sayin’.

  10. […] – Image matters: UFC business & media politics (Fight Opinion) […]

  11. richie7125 says:

    what do the ticket sales for the japan card this weekend look like? also, hasn’t it been a general trend that the ppv sales on cards overseas are significantly less in the u.s. than shows in the states? if so, i hope it doesn’t cause a huge dip in pay for frankie/ben because i have a feeling they’re going to earn every dollar on saturday night and put on a top candidate for fight of the year.

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