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How not to do spin for UFC Sweden 2013

By Zach Arnold | April 3, 2013

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Video courtesy of Fighters Only

“It’s our job, we have a lot of fighters on the card. No one fighter is bigger than a UFC event. And so it’s important for us then to work really hard to find a replacement.”

David Williams: Ilir Latifi’s path to victory against 13-to-1 favorite Gegard Mousasi

Meet Garry Cook, the new front man the UFC hired for European operations. He’s formerly of Manchester City FC. When you have a delicate situation on your hands like the cancellation of Alexander Gustafsson from the main event of UFC Sweden 2013, the fans are going to be very upset in Stockholm. It’s largely a one-fight show to the masses and that fight just got canceled.

So, when you talk to the media about the fight cancellation, there’s an important adage to follow: know your audience. When you speak to the press, you’re speaking to intermediaries who then communicate your message to the fans.

Which means you probably don’t want to communicate a message as tone-deaf as this.

“We looked at every option. I’ll be very clear. We always look at all the options. The guys are great at that. It goes everything from should we cancel the whole event, should we move the date, and of course none of that makes any sense. What we really wanted to do was meet Mousasi’s needs and what he wanted to do was fight. So, then it was case of, you know, who’s best suited. Lorenzo Ferttita, I think, made one of the greatest statements when I said to him, ‘What do you think?’ and he said, ‘Hey, great, another Swede.’ ”

I thought Garry did an OK job answer the press questions but it felt like he was missing the most important aspect of communicating news like this and that was what the paying fans think about how the situation is handled and what can be done for the fans. Replacing Gustafsson with a sparing partner doesn’t cut it.

Dana White’s message to writer Michael David Smith doesn’t cut it, either: “shut up dickhead this fight isn’t costing u a dime.”. Perhaps this new article appropriately sums up what is happening now: UFC fans slowly but surely learning to tune out president Dana White.

The video itself is interesting because there’s some insider baseball chatter about how 96% of UFC’s programming in Europe airs after 2 AM and how Zuffa wants new television deals in Europe where there is ‘magazine programming in prime time’ to grow the audience base there. It seems that no matter how much money UFC pours into Europe, they take one step forward and then two steps backwards.

Topics: All Topics | 34 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

34 Responses to “How not to do spin for UFC Sweden 2013”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Dana White still has not learned these lessons:

    1) Booking cards with one decent fight more often then not blow up in his face.

    2) Holding back a championship fight in order to get the guys on TUF more often then not results in an injury and everything blowing up in his face.

    3) Booking 3 to 4 cards a month spreads the top talent too thin and results in garbage like this.

    Sometimes I swear the UFC is successful despite White’s glaring issues as President. He is completely screwing over every Swedish ticket holder. and instead of apologizing for his own mistakes…. he doubles down and blames everybody else around him.

    At the end of the day…. Cards like this one on FUEL have no business being under the UFC label. It shows they don’t have enough roster strength to put on this many cards a year. They need to get rid of the 75 to 100 worst fighters they have right now and consolidate everything into better cards. When the smaller weight classes mature over time…. then they should expand.

  2. Mark says:

    But with the FOX deal they’re in a no win situation if they cut back or stop it. They got all of that money to build Fuel into a top rated station by running a bunch of free shows on there. If they take away that, all they’ve got is a few FOX specials and FX specials that don’t set the world on fire with ratings. FOX isn’t going to pay all of that money for a show that gets 5 million viewers in prime time when the cheap reality show that usually has its timeslot gets 4 million. But it’s worth it if it draws attention to their struggling cable network Fuel.

    If they told FOX “No more Fuel shows, we’re just doing Fight Night level shows for FX and the FOX specials”, their deal would be terminated at the first opportunity. And then where would they go? Dana alienated so many networks by publicly bashing them in his “HOW DARE YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” rants.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      No. That is just not right.

      All of the FX & Fuel events are being combined and sent to FOX Sports 1. So the building of Fuel is done with.

      • Chris says:

        Dont even listen to what Mark says, the guy has no clue what he is talking about.

        Faber/Pulver did 1.5 mill viewers not 2 mill, Spike is in 100 mill homes compared to 36 mill for Fuel and Versus/NBC Sports is in double the homes Fuel is in.

        The guy doesnt know what he is talking about.

        • Mark says:

          They got almost 2 million viewers for the Faber/Pulver show

          1,540,000 is rounded to 2 million. Learn to read if you’re going to troll.

  3. RST says:

    Thats an interesting and good point about the show being in Sweden and it pretty much being a Gustaffson event.

    (The ole one selling point show debacle again? Already?!)

    I still think the Latifi fight is better right now from an overall roster perspective,
    but maybe throwing Vanderlei in there to get beat up would have been the best consolation for the Swedish fans.

    Maybe not giving Gustaffson such a dangerous match for his Hometown showcase would have avoided the kind of stringent training that could lead to a injury.

    “they take one step forward and then two steps backwards.”

    Thats funny that you used that exact phrase.

    Thats the same exact phrase that keeps circulating through my mind everytime I read about zuffas latest shenanigans.

  4. The Gaijin says:

    “It’s our job, we have a lot of fighters on the card. No one fighter is bigger than a UFC event. And so it’s important for us then to work really hard to find a replacement.”

    UFC 151…?

  5. Alan Conceicao says:

    The Fuel experiment worked out brilliantly, which is why of course it is getting scrapped with the quickness. Just like WEC, amirite guys?

    My favorite thing on the internet are people who are trying to play that they are smarter than everyone because they love Dana White and that he lies to them. You know those people; the ones critical after someone dares to ask “Why is Dana even lying about this?” with a “LOL it is promoter speak, don’t trust Dana, isn’t he great?” It is truly an amazing thing, that.

    • 45 Huddle says:


      The FUEL experiment was a success from FOX’s point of view. It increased the number of homes by double. It got them on Comcast. And moving forward I am sure all of the FOX Sports 1 prelims will be on there. Heck, they got 500,000 viewers for a Fuel show and over 200,000 for a post fight show.

      For the UFC…. The move to FOX Sports 1 is the best long term, although I am sure ratings will go down slightly at first.

      • Alan Conceicao says:

        The FUEL experiment was such a raging success they are re-branding the network and stripping it of its only television entity of any value. Clearly totally throwing out FUEL and moving the UFC’s programming to a different network is highly indicative of great success for both parties.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Yes, because I am sure the re-branding has everything to do with the success of the UFC and nothing to do what was already in the plans by the time the UFC signed the deal with FOX. Because changing network names is something that happens over the course of a few months of planning.

          Dana White has said that he has known about the move to FOX Sports 1 for a long time.

          And there are perfectly successful shows being moved over from FX to FXX in September. FOX is taking their lower tier channels and trying to find a way to make them more popular. FOX Soccer is becoming FXX…. FUEL TV will become FOX Sports 2…. SPEED will become FOX Sports 1.

          At the end of the day…. The UFC did their job and got FUEL TV into more homes. The change of networks has nothing to do with anything.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          If something is a raging success 45, you don’t scrap it entirely. Regardless of how you want to mark UFC on Fuel as another “UFC success story” it hasn’t markedly changed the ratings for non UFC programming and it would seem that the UFC wants to get their first run programming off that network and onto something people can see.

          Ultimately, Fuel TV will get into far more homes as Fox Sports 2 than it ever did because of the UFC.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You two guys are using the term “raging” success. I merely called it a success. From FOX’s point of view they increased the number of homes and increased the ratings dramatically for a station nobody heard of 18 months ago.

          I know you might not fathom this idea…. But it is highly highly likely that no matter what the ratings for the UFC were on FUEL TV…. It was always planned to become FOX Sports 2. They wouldn’t of even turned it into FOX Sports 1 with the UFC’s success, because the SPEED Network is already in more homes in in HD in most places.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          Feel free to give me some examples of commercial success where the product was promptly removed from the market in the midst of its success, 45. I’m sure there’s a few out there where there were circumstances like “it killed people so they stopped sale” but I don’t think those are terribly valuable comparison points to make to FUEL. Until then, I think it is a stupid argument to make.

        • cutch says:

          Well News Corp has created hundreds of Sports channels around the World, most of them are Fox/Sky Sports 1 and then 2 and so on, so that is how they usually create Sports channels.

          Fox Sports 1 is what they will be focussing on right now, then they will be looking to build Fox Sports 2 because you usually need at least 2 Sports channels in case one Sport over runs.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          The purpose of a Fox Sports 2 is obvious, cutch. But they could have easily converted another network (say, Fox Soccer) into that specific channel or simply developed a new one if they felt that FUEL was such a “home run”. I’m sure the distributors are more aware to the decision to re-brand FUEL than MMA commentors are given how completely in the dark people were when I brought this whole rebranding up on FO about 5-6 months ago.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          But FOX Sports was already selected to become the comedy arm of FX….. And it makes sense.

          SPEED is in the most homes…. So by default it becomes FOX Sports 1. Has nothing to do with the success/failure of the UFC on FUEL TV. SPEED has the most homes so that by default becomes SPORTS 1 and the channel the UFC goes to.

          This isn’t rocket science….

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          You’re not even making a cogent argument, 45. No one is asking why SPEED was turned into Fox Sports 1.

      • Mark says:

        So the events were all a raging success because they got one decent rating for one event? Shouldn’t they have been expected to build something consistent, like SPIKE shows did (where the duds still did a 1.1 or so)?

        A list of ratings:

        UFC on FUEL 1: 217,000
        UFC on FUEL 2: 197,000
        UFC on FUEL 3: 173,000
        UFC on FUEL 4: 211,000
        UFC on FUEL 5: 251,000
        UFC on FUEL 6: 88,000
        UFC on FUEL 7: 195,000
        UFC on FUEL 8: 485,000

        And the first SPIKE Fight Night did 1.5 million viewers and the last did 1.8 million viewers for a comparison.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          And SpikeTV started off the UFC right after the WWE which was getting over 4 Million viewers a week.

          FUEL TV wasn’t even on the Neilson Ratings because the viewership was so low. And getting almost 500,000 for a live event… And without Comcast being live yet…. Is a home run. Networks just don’t have overnight success.

          Based on where FUEL TV started…. Both in viewership numbers and in the number of available homes…. What they have become before they are being converted into FOX Sports 2 can be considered nothing but a home run.

          That has nothing too do with it from the viewpoint of the UFC. For them, it has actually hurt them slightly. They have put main events on that card with fighters who should have had more exposure. Weidman/Munoz would have been better for FX. So would have the Interim Bantamweight Title Fight.

          But for the viewpoint of FOX, the UFC his a homerun with FUELTV in the 18 months they will be on it.

        • cutch says:

          The channel is in less than a third of the homes as Spike was and I would assume most of the people with Fuel didn’t even know they had it and wouldn’t be intrested in anything that chanel aired. There were 4 European shows and one from Macao, so those were held much earlier in the day/morning so obviously hurt the rating.

        • Mark says:

          And SpikeTV started off the UFC right after the WWE which was getting over 4 Million viewers a week.

          Yes, but UFC was also fairly unknown in 2005. Now everybody knows they exist. And it wasn’t some big classified CIA secret they moved to FOX/FX/Fuel.

          If you think Spike isn’t a fair comparison, then look at the WEC shows before they got dropped by DirecTV. They got almost 2 million viewers for the Faber/Pulver show. For a non-UFC brand named show. With two guys who didn’t have nearly the level of exposure Wanderlei Silva has had, having been on a few best selling PPVs.

          But it’s funny: they get decent ratings and “See, Fuel has been a massive success for everyone.” They get mediocre buyrates on PPV and it’s “Well, see, the Countdown shows aren’t seen by as many people as Spike because Fuel is crappy.” People can make whatever they want to make out of this. Just like we saw “Well, CBS has more affiliates than FOX does, so EliteXC/Strikeforce ratings weren’t as impressive as the good UFC on FOX ones” by people.

        • Mark says:

          The channel is in less than a third of the homes as Spike was and I would assume most of the people with Fuel didn’t even know they had it and wouldn’t be intrested in anything that chanel aired. There were 4 European shows and one from Macao, so those were held much earlier in the day/morning so obviously hurt the rating.

          Maybe some of the casual fans. But if you’re a UFC fan and you heard they moved to the FOX conglomerate from SPIKE, you’re going to stop and ask yourself “Do I have the networks they are on now?”

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You do realize you are comparing Versus which was known with hockey and is in a good channel location thanks to being owned by Comcast…. To a channel to isn’t even in HD, wasn’t even in the Nielson Ratings, and had an average viewership of like 25,000 viewers.

          Versus was at least established to some point…. FUEL TV was basically starting from scratch.

        • Mark says:

          Please. The NHL isn’t some superforce in America. The NHL on Versus games did 0.7 ratings during the peak of WEC doing a 1.5.

          Hey, they had Arena Football on at the same time, too. I guess that made Urijah Faber a star, right?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You are right, the NHL is not a huge sport…. But it does put Versus at least on the map.

          But it was still ten times the station FUEL TV was when the UFC started the programming there. Not even in the same ballpark.

  6. david m says:

    This card sucked before, and it still sucks. How do people have time to watch all these events? I can dedicate one night a month to watch a pay per view, but otherwise, expecting people to go out of their way to watching mediocre fighters is ridiculous. The UFC brand hasn’t been watered down per se, but UFC events have.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    It is time for Bellator to start signing all of the UFC rejects they said they didn’t want to.

    If Doug Marshall is the best they can come up with for a Middleweight Title Challenger…. Then there system for creating stars is truly broken. And if they are going to sign former Zuffa rejects like Marshall…. Mine as well get the better rejects in the future.

  8. liger05 says:

    Garry Cook. How did he end up with this gig.

  9. The Gaijin says:

    Dana White’s message to writer Michael David Smith doesn’t cut it, either: “shut up dickhead this fight isn’t costing u a dime.”.

    What’s the argument for the fans that bought tickets in Sweden then?

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Well, technically the Swedish Krona doesn’t have dimes…. So it didn’t cost them a dime either.

      But seriously, White is a tool for not admitting his error here. Dave Meltzer wrote a very good article about why the blame needs to be on the UFC. For example, they didn’t even have a 2nd Light Heavyweight fight on the card.

      This was a complete slap in the face to the Swedish fans. He sold them a card based on their local hero fighting in the main event…. It even got Zuffa a $2+ Million gate. And they completely screwed those fans over.

      Completely short sighted way of doing business for White. He is going to piss off entire markets if he continues with his methods.

      • Megatherium says:

        Hmm. It would seem that the Swedish governing body, if there is such a thing, doesn’t have a ticket refund provision in the case of a cancelled or changed main event like California and Nevada do. Hence the Swedish fans enjoyed a very Calgary experience.

        ZUFFA must love running events in these regulatory backwaters.

  10. RST says:

    They sure got a bunch of fanboy idiots writing articles for “MMA media”.

    Some guy named Bohn(head) had to go out of his way and stress how disappointed he was in Gegards utter shellacking of Latifi.

    Because he should have put more “zeal” in it.

    Go watch an expendables movie bonehead.
    The good guys always have more zeal.

  11. RST says:

    The McGregor fight was fun enough to look at.

    But I didn’t think it showed as much as some people are saying it did.

    Not saying that he isn’t good,
    but Brimage landed pretty easily a few times while it lasted with McGregors hands wide open like that.

    And if his opponent wasn’t so much shorter and stubby armed Mcgregor might have been in a lot more trouble.

    dana’s trying to have pseudo Irish pride about it.

    But thats cool since its probably his only charming attribute these days.


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