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UFC’s media battles with Spike/Bellator, photographers, and rankings

By Zach Arnold | February 1, 2013

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Before I digress about UFC’s media battles that have taken place this week, I would be doing Scott Stern of the Las Vegas Fight Shop a disservice if I didn’t mention the autograph bonanza at his store this weekend. If you’re in the Las Vegas area, you have to check it out. Details here. He’s got a lot of big names in the MMA world signing autographs and meeting with fans. It’s a hell of an experience. Scott has always had a reputation of being a first-class professional and I can’t stress enough how well he takes care of his customers. I normally don’t promote things like this, but Scott’s worked really hard to make his store successful and he deserves credit for the job he has done.

One of the guests for the autograph bonanza will be Randy Couture, which is great timing considering that he reportedly just inked a deal with Spike TV to be a coach on Bellator’s new MMA reality series coming up. Will it be a success? Will Rampage show up to be a coach as well? Lots of possibilities. Do I think Bellator’s new show will draw eyeballs? Not as many as The Ultimate Fighter, but probably enough to where both Bellator and Spike will be happy. The expectations are lower for the #2 promotion and landing a name like Couture will give them some credibility amongst the casual fans.

The move led Dana White to go back to trashing Couture in the media again…

“I’m happy I never have to do business with Randy Couture again. He’s the furthest thing from Captain America.”

Which leads us to what is happening with The Ultimate Fighter and the ratings that the show is attracting on Tuesday nights. The first show drew 1.51 million viewers and episode two drew 1.27 million viewers. It’s better than last season, but that’s not saying much. The move from Friday nights to Tuesday nights naturally should increase viewership, but it doesn’t appear that the show is outperforming expectations at all.

As our friend MMA Supremacy puts it:

TUF Ep 2 drew 919K live & w/ same day DVR, it was 1.27M. It’s performing about the same as old Friday night slot for TUF 15 Live w/ additional costs & w/ Sonnen and Jones.


that 9PM timeslot averaged around 1.8M and FX expected “epic” ratings. DW predicted 3M viewers on FX move.

If the bickering between UFC/Fox and Bellator/Viacom isn’t enough, now there are two media developments that have the “MMA media” scrambling.

Over two years ago, UFC had put out a release touting a deal with Getty Images to distribute photos taken by UFC photographers. Now they’re ensuring the deal has more teeth by telling outlets to go to Getty for images, which means photographers like Tracy Lee are basically finished photographing UFC events for Yahoo.

To throw a bone to the MMA media and keep some sycophants in line, UFC has announced that they are creating their own Associated Press-style voting poll with MMA media members to rank fighters. Insert your own punchline here.

So, what will it take to get on the voting panel? Here’s a clue.

MMA Media Checklist: 1) Become friends w/ org staff 2) Accept Gifts 3) Become friends w/ fighters 4) Root for said friend fighters.

Tim Marchman nails what the UFC’s end game is here:

I ridicule UFC all the time, but any steps toward a public benchmark even as bad as an AP poll are crucial steps toward being a Real Sport.

Adam Martin sees an upcoming dilemma:

How can media members vote on the top 10 of the #UFC women’s bantamweight division when there aren’t even 10 fighters in the division?

Dana White, who still froths at the mouth when it comes to the name Josh Gross, will be relieved by this:

Truth be told, I wouldn’t vote if I could. Consider it a conflict of interest. Just me though. I’m a real stickler about that sort of stuff.

Brent Brookhouse encapsulates the Zeitgeist:

In a perfect world MMA media members would aspire less to having access and more to being honest about what they see, hear and think.

Instead, Adam Hill tells you what MMA media members are really worried about:

MMA media basketball game back on for tomorrow…..Commence the Twitter trash talk. Everybody tell @arielhelwani to stay out of the lane.

Some of the agents for MMA fighters are less than thrilled that these are the kinds of people ranking fighters and putting fighters in positions that can cost or make money. We know what will happen next.

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

22 Responses to “UFC’s media battles with Spike/Bellator, photographers, and rankings”

  1. 45 Hudle says:

    White said that Couture still had one event left on his contract when he signed with Bellator.

    I could care less where Couture goes…. but he does have a horrible track record. I read his book. First, Hunt can not write. Second, Couture came off as a bad guy in his own book.

    Long term it is a foolish move by Couture. If Bellator goes under he will be blackballed by Zuffa.

    I am interested in seeing what the Bellator ratings for last night was. It was not a good event. I predicted 650k.

    Rumor is that there is a failed drug test and most people are assuming Belfort. Have to feel bad for Bisping if this is the case. I think he is one of the few clean fighters in the sport and he gets getting beat by drug abusers…

    And you are completely right about the rankings. Just another way for them to dominate the industry.

    I do think it is great. Too many weight classes for people to follow. Many casual fans have no clue when a lower weight Top 10 guy is fighting. I hope Buffer announces their rankings before the fight. Gives the fight perspective…

  2. The Judge says:

    Rankings are the worst idea ever. They worked wonders for college football and are bound to do even worse in an ultra-subjective, friend- and bias-heavy world of martial arts coverage. If you can’t find 3 competent judges, how can you hope to find 20 competent reporters? Let’s hope this is just another of those “accidentally said the wrong thing that was blown way up” comments.

  3. Alan Conceicao says:

    Actually, I’m happy with the concept of the rankings system; just expecting little in terms of implementation and transparency. Even if it sucks it’ll probably be better than the boxing alphabet soup rankings, right? Right? Watch it be wrong and anyone in a bout with a ranked opponent suddenly appears at #9.

  4. Mr. K says:

    Rankings don’t do anything to address UFC’s dartboard matchmaking style unless they follow the rankings. Bellator has a far superior competitive structure.

  5. Mr. K says:

    Dana White had no problem promoting the lie of Captain America to his own fanbase when it was made him $$ and now he wants to be morally correct all of a sudden lol.

  6. 45 Hudle says:

    Bellator did 705k for yesterdays event. They didnt even make the Top 100 cable shows for the day for the key demographic.

    Should be interesting to see if the ratings continue to fall. They have to be close to the floor just based on the channel they are on.

    I predicted 650k for the third show but I have been close in all 3 predictions.

    SpikeTV is either going to minimize their losses and sell the company by the end of the year or they will shoot for the moon and try to sign Rampage and maybe a few otherd ratings grabs. Would not be shocked if they tried to sign Kimbo…

    • edub says:

      Done in two years isn’t fast enough for you anymore?

      Will you actually admit you are wrong in a year or two on this one or spin it (which is kind of the norm)?

      • 45 Huddle says:

        2 years is fine. I believe they will go the freakshow route to give themselves another year.

        I have a great track record with predicting companies going out. While everybody was praising SF for great ratings, I was being bashed for saying they were over spending and where on a downward slope….

        • nottheface says:

          Unless someone predicted that Zuffa was going to outbid every other potential buyer and remove Strikeforce from the market their predictions for what happened is wrong

        • Jay says:

          LOL 45…

          You keep pushing this and you know what you are saying is wrong. You keep talking as if your trends for Bellator are on point. When anyone can predict the downward trends of a TV show.

  7. Mr. K says:

    45 huddle continues to make a fool of himself…..

  8. Mr. K says:

    The ratings for the third Bellator show on Spike TV have been returned, and while the numbers are down slightly, the promotion still reached highs in one particularly strong category.

    Industry sources confirmed to that Bellator 87 averaged 705,000 viewers over the two hour broadcast on Thursday night.

    The re-broadcast at 12 midnight pulled in additional 323,000 viewers, with the totals for both shows at 1.028 million viewers
    Now the 705,000 viewer mark is down from the first and second shows on Spike TV, but overall not a dramatic drop considering this card featured no title fights and also had a late change to the main event when lightweight Patricky “Pitbull” Freire was forced out of his scheduled bout.

    One mark that bodes well for Bellator are the ratings in the coveted 18-34 male demographic where the reached a .6 rating, which is the highest for the promotion since moving to Spike TV three weeks ago.

    Overall through 3 shows on Spike TV, Bellator has averages 858,000 viewers thus fa

    • 45 Huddle says:

      That is a SpikeTV press release.

      The fact that Bellator is now averaging below 50% of the TNA audience and are still sinking is a horrible sign.

      • Dave says:

        Yep, 45 is in the right on this. I know people like to rag on him, but when he’s right he’s right.

        UFC puts out the same kind of garbage when they have lower ratings; “oh, we did great in key demographics, we are happy.”

        Sure you are.

        • nottheface says:

          it really is too early to tell. Are the ratings declining because there’s really no interest in Bellator or because they just held a show with no titles or name fighters? Obviously if ratings keep going down they’re in trouble but those in the know already said Spike would be really happy with a 750k avg this season, so if it yo-yos around that it might be a success for them.

          We’ll just have to wait and see. Personally I think they’re fucked unless they can produce some stars.

  9. Mr. K says:

    UFC lost over half of the WWE Raw lead-in every week during TUF 1 and look where they are now. UFC huddle said Bellator would be dead in 2 years when it first started at some point it’s just a broken record with him.

    • 45 Hudle says:

      The UFC was getting half of a highly rated show and one hour later.

      Bellator is getting less then half of a moderatr show.

      Two completely different types of halves…

      Bellator didnt even get on the Top 100 cable shows for Thursday Cable. That is bad.

  10. Mr. K says:

    UFC was getting over 3 mill lead-in every week and struggled to draw a million viewers during season 1 of TUF.

    • Chris says:

      mma was nothing back then, today its much more accepted and popular and on tv.

      Not sure how you can compare something now to something 7/8 years ago.

  11. Chris says:

    man the mma media loves to complain, doesnt matter what it is they are always bitching and crying about something.

    They say shit is boring and stale and needs to be changed, change happens and they think of 100 reasons why the change is horrible.

  12. shocbomb says:

    Bellator would of been done in at most 3 to 4 years if not for Viacom. I myself go with Jordan Breens opinions if they can’t eventually create Huge stars and move to a PPV platform they will be the next org to sell there assets off to Zuffa.

    I am sorry Viacom is not in the business of loosing $.Ounce that starts to happen on a regualr basis and they played all there hands they can for eye balls they will have to sell Bellator off. Only time will tell if they can make it and become a real #2 in the industry ? I myself would not be betting on that the rating slips don’t look good at all even Dave Meltzer has said this.

    You can spin it all you like the Bellator loves or the Zuffa haters but the fact remains just this MMA’s Boom period from 2006 to 2010 is long over unless you are a regional organization all you will be doing trying to compete with the UFC is playing russian roulette ! Sooner or later when the ratings get to low and all the tricks to get eye balls fail that Bullet is going to be in the chamber.

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