Nothing irritates me more than reading professional sports writing by people who have no idea what they are talking about.
Sports Illustrated seems to have one of the worst when it comes to MMA. Yahoo is far and away the worst of course, but that’s like saying the Yankees have made a few bad contracts in their history.
Latest example: SI article
So not be looked as “out of context” I’ll go VERBATIM and add comments at the end of the paragraph. To not be confusing- the non Dumbass comments are mine.
Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce, late subject of much consternation and confusion, was a surprise only in its timing. Given long term trends in the fight game, a buyout was always inevitable. Whether it will turn in the end to be a good thing, I have no more idea than anyone else does.
–Timing? They have been working on this since DECEMBER. The timing is great, as the Heavyweight Grand Prix is throwing up a TON of press. The UFC is also putting together one of the BEST top to bottom cards in a LONG time, (see my Do You Care column) headlined by their home-grown star in the making, Jon Jones, while Strikeforce is coming off a successful Dan Henderson title win.
There are clear reasons to think it will be. Most obviously, it offers the potential for some great fights that we might not otherwise have seen, such as Gilbert Melendez vs. Frankie Edgar, or Phil Davis vs. Muhammad Lawal, or Mark Hunt vs. Chad Griggs. Somewhat less obviously, it offers the promise of help and fresh perspectives for UFC’s overworked matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby.
–That is a laughable comment. Ok, this guy does NOT watch MMA apparently. Saying Strikeforce could help Joe Silva with matchmaking is like saying Shawn Bradley can come in and help Derrick Rose with his passing. Matchmaking in SF is hit or miss for the most part, and the undercard could be done with a dartboard with similar results. Look at the imbalance of the Grand Prix itself! There is NOTHING SF’s matchmakers could teach Joe Silva!
Mainly, it marks the point where UFC stops competing with fight promotions and starts competing with the real players in sports. Mixed-martial-arts fans tend to have comically low expectations, thinking that their sport has gone mainstream when Georges St-Pierre scores an underwear ad, or when Anthony Pettis makes an ESPN highlight reel. They forget, or don’t know, that the Chicago Cubs’ fifth starter makes more money and is more famous than GSP, and junior high school girl’s volleyball players make ESPN highlight reels, too.
–GSP earned 900K from his fights in 2010, that is NOT including PPV points, TUF bonus or any DVD residuals.That base puts him as the 16th highest paid player on the Cubs, Carlos Silva. True, Silva might out-earn him, but GSP isn’t on the road for 82 games and I would be willing to bet GSP can get a better table at a restaurant in New York than Carlos Silva.
Hits on Google
Georges St-Pierre: 6,200,000
Georges St-Pierre UFC: 2,250,000
True, Carlos Silva gives you 10,100,000 hits, but there might be a few Carlos Silvas.
Carlos Silva Cubs: 174,000
Carlos Silva Pitcher: 870,000
Carlos Silva has 19,800 Videos- Of course, you have to scroll down to the 16th one to find the Cubs one – unless he’s a fighter or in a band.
I have to share this:
The ESPN highlights are more an issue on ESPN’s side than the UFC’s. The Host of MMA Live said on Sherdog radio that they are happy just get ON the countdown. ESPN is not a broadcast partner of the UFC. If the UFC had a contract with ESPN instead Versus, you can bet you would see highlights more often. ESPN has been dragged kicking and screaming into the MMA world.
I have high expectations. I don’t think fighting will ever be as popular as the NBA, but I see no real reason why there shouldn’t be fighters as famous as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant at some point. Clear of serious rivals, UFC can now focus on making that happen.Throat clearing aside, I rolled my eyes when I heard the news Saturday, in a way I hadn’t since I saw the arrow shaved into Brian Ebersole’s chest hair at UFC 127. This isn’t an obviously bad move, but it’s a dubious one, with implications even broader than it seems. The following, in no particular order, are reasons why.1) UFC needs competition. I don’t mean this abstractly, in the sense that Dana White needs an enemy to do his best work. I mean it concretely. UFC doesn’t have enough work for all the good fighters in whom they’re interested. Until they can offer it, they need a place where promising fighters can learn, and where veterans in ruts can rehabilitate themselves, before being brought back and being put in a position to make money for the promotion. An independent Strikeforce served that role, served as a place where someone like Nick Diaz who hadn’t done well in the latter stages of a UFC run, could fix his reputation as a major league fighter. One under Zuffa control that is used that way is just a minor league; as we learned with WEC, success in a Triple-A affiliate means nothing to UFC fans.
–Ok, What is it? Is the UFC competing with the NBA/NFL, “junior high school girl’s volleyball players,” or what? The NBA bought the ABA and got an infusion of talent, and I’m old enough to remember the NFL taking over the USFL. Oddly enough, both those leagues seem to have survived without a clear #2 since then. You want to know “where promising fighters can learn, and where veterans in ruts can rehabilitate themselves?” Smaller shows. Just like baseball sends people down to the minors. Eliot Marshal was cut from the UFC, fought 3 times in the minors, and earned a return to the big stage at UFC 128. MMA has places people can go. I’m in Shreveport, where you had Bellator a week ago, home to Cage Rulers/Ring Rulers and Ascend Combat. If I drive south, I pass Alexandria, home of Global Fighting Alliance. Continue to Lafayette, I find the home of USA-MMA. Bellator is home to the best non-Zuffa fighters right now, but it’s not like someone else can’t popup and have another upstart organization. There is a REASON Zuffa keeps buying promotions. THEY MAKE MONEY, AND LOTS OF IT. Pride was run into the ground, Affliction was BADLY run and the IFL had a list of problems. If Mark Cuban wanted it- he could have bought Strikeforce, but he didn’t. Someone will. USA-MMA has had Ricco Rodriguez, Ken Shamrock, and several other “name” stars on it’s shows, (Charlie Radar is going to be on TUF) so it’s not like Paul Daley can’t find a home in South LA.
2) Zuffa is now in business with Showtime. It isn’t a closely held secret that some of Strikeforce’s more puzzling decisions over the past few years have been influenced by television executives who seem to know as much about the sport as your Aunt Bertha. That surrender of control is part of the price of working with a network or pay channel, and not being willing to pay it is some of why UFC isn’t on one. However operations actually work, Zuffa is now in business with these people, presenting a product over which they may not have quite the control to which they’re accustomed.
–See the “hands off” statement Dana made. Part of the reason the WEC survived so long was Spike had a contract with Zuffa that the UFC could not be on another cable network. So Dana left the WEC alone- until the renegotiation, then absorbed them. Coker will handle SF for the time being, and I’m sure Lorenzo Fertitta will handle Showtime.
3) The entourage. Whether or not anyone wanted to talk about it openly, one problem UFC always had in its negotiations was Fedor Emelianenko was, putting this as neutrally as possible, that there was some concern about perception — a worry that Emelianenko might have associates with whom a casino owner would not want to be seen as involved. They’re involved now.
–M-1 is a whole other argument, from co-promotion to overseas rights. Other than Fedor, who now has a FRACTION of the power he did last year, who else is a problem?
4) Overstretch. Zuffa doesn’t seem, now, to have enough people working for them on the back end — in public relations, in merchandising and so on — to operate UFC at its full potential. They’ve now taken on a promotion that certainly isn’t staffed up enough, and which will have to be run as its own entity for some period of time. There will be ways to integrate operations, but adding one undermanned shop to another seems a way to run into serious problems.
–Zuffa seems to enjoy being understaffed. They obviously can pay whomever they want whatever they want. Again, how many Pride people still work for the UFC? WEC added a few employees, but its not like they can’t add payroll in a second. (and yes, I am available Dana!)
5) Opportunity cost. This is related to the point above: Is putting work into running a second major promotion really the best possible use of Zuffa’s time? When pay-per-views featuring the quite brilliant lightweight champion Edgar aren’t selling, when WEC has yet to be digested, when fighters like St-Pierre and Anderson Silva have yet to reach a fraction of their potential as crossover stars, when MMA is still not yet legal in New York, when major decision-makers in journalism and advertising still don’t know what the sport is or who watches it and so on, this is an open question.
–Again, I’d be willing to bet Dana is going to let 80% of the SF day-to-day operations fall to Coker. Until 2013. Then Dana is REALLY going to start caring. by that time, he will know what he is going to do. White, by all accounts, is a driven workaholic who I’m sure has about 5 million ideas on what to do, down from 178 million at this time last week. He will have a plan by 2013. Count on it. Thinking Dana has too many things to do is like telling Mel Kiper we just added another round to the NFL Draft and Mel saying, “Thats too much for me!”
6) Timing. Reportedly, Zuffa’s main competition for Strikeforce was Pro Elite, the group that brought you EliteXC and Kimbo Slice’s marvelous fight against Seth Petruzelli. Given their past forays into MMA promotion, one might surmise that the clever move might well have been to let them have it and then pick up whatever assets were left six months from now after they’d run the thing into the side of a mountain.
–That would be like having the money to buy a new Maserati, but waiting to get a used one after a pot-smoking 18 year old who can’t drive a stick have it for the first 6 months first.
7) Saturation. Apparently one reason for the purchase is that UFC wants to expand fairly aggressively, especially running far more shows overseas. They know their business better than I do, but there’s not much reason to think the market is right now ready to bear a lot more MMA shows. Television ratings are down and fans seem to be getting slightly pickier about which shows they’ll pay to see.
8 ) Dilution. Relatedly, if the plan is to leverage Strikeforce’s assets into a serious increase in the number of shows, it’s not clear that this makes sense. Strikeforce has a lot of very good fighters and some great ones, but it doesn’t have many stars who can be expected to headline a show. It also doesn’t add an immense amount of depth to Zuffa’s portfolio — some, surely, but not in a way that changes the game. Since UFC has only fairly recently begun to consistently promote shows that run deep with five fights really worth watching, expansion, even with Emelianenko, Diaz, Dan Henderson and co. on board, is likely to lead to some dodgy mains and perhaps, depending on what is scheduled, some sketchy undercards.
–Dana has stated he wants to run 40 shows a year. Give me 15 PPVs, a bi-weekly (26) LIVE/Fight night card, 2 TUF Specials and a monthly Challengers card- and I’m there. The NBA/NHL/MLB are almost daily now, and football is on 5 days a week now during its season. There is no reason Zuffa can’t have LIVE fights every Saturday, and a monthly PPV on Spike/Versus/Showtime since the WWE had shows on USA/Sci-Fi and whatever network Smackdown was on.
9) Enemy fighters. You can make too big a deal out of this, but there are reasons why people like Josh Barnett and Paul Daley weren’t under contract to Zuffa. No one is going to make a fine distinction between UFC and Strikeforce when they do something embarrassing.
–Josh Barnett can’t get past a roid test and Daley did something that would get him banned in almost ANY sport. Imagine if after a game, Ray Lewis took his helmet off and smacked Tom Brady in the face with it during a postgame interview on ESPN. Think Ray Lewis plays anytime soon? People like Hendo might have an issue, but Shogun/Jones tells me I’m not missing Hendo in the title picture. That’s a HENDO problem, not a ZUFFA problem.
10) The structure of the sport. This is a big deal. Before now, any UFC main eventer who had an issue with Zuffa knew that he had an out — maybe not a perfect one, but a credible one. That’s gone now. It also means that any serious star who has an issue over which he feels strongly enough to leave — and there have been many over the years, even if the departures of the likes of BJ Penn, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture have proved temporary — would have only one option if he wanted to get paid, that being to promote his own fights. That’s the last thing Zuffa would want to see, because it will only take one star of the magnitude of GSP or Brock Lesnar mounting his own pay-per-view card, and reaping the attendant profits, for top fighters to realize that at this point there are stars big enough to survive without the UFC brand.
–I wonder if Peyton,Brady, and a few other players could get together and make a pro-league. With no union, why not? But again, Zuffa makes MONEY, and the MMA landscape is FULL of promotions that lost buckets of cash.
11) Nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum. There is an empty space in MMA right now, and someone is going to fill it. Strikeforce was, in a sense, the best competition UFC could have: It was just credible enough to keep other would-be rivals out of the sport, and just small enough not to pose a serious threat. They were a safety valve, one that’s now gone. It’s easy to forget this, but UFC is, by sports standards, a mom-and-pop shop. All it would take is one rich lunatic like Roman Abramovich or James Dolan deciding that he likes cage fighting and wouldn’t mind throwing some pocket change to hire a guy like Lesnar to give UFC a kind of competition it has never faced.
–Good luck getting Brock out of his contract. I have no doubt that someone will dump a ton of cash to make another promotion. But the issue is, a good bit of Strikeforce’s top guys are either UFC castoffs (Hendo, Diaz, Daley) or Pride vets (Fedor). Strikeforce did a HORRID job growing their own guys, while the UFC has replaced everyone that got them where they are today (Jones/Rua over Chuck, Brock over Randy, GSP over Hughes, Anderson over Franklin, plus JDS, and a ton of 155ers). Who is the homegrown SF star? Rockhold? JZ? Find me a guy headlining a SF show that has NEVER fought for Zuffa. The only real issue with with women’s MMA, but you got till 2014 to figure that out.
Of course a lot of this is speculative, and if I were laying a lot of money on it I’d say this will in the end turn out swimmingly for everyone save the fighters, who if they aren’t going to unionize or employ their leverage honestly deserve what they get. But there are sound reasons to be skeptical.
–Dumbass. Tell you what, I’ll back Zuffa and Dana in whatever they want to do, and plunk down my 50 ducats when I care about the fights, and watch them on the net when I don’t, and buy the DVD when it comes out. In the meantime, I’ll be going to my local shows and wonder if Quentin Henry can compete with Jorge Rivera, or how Cale Grady would do against Anthony Pettis while I’m breaking down Overeem vs. dos Santos at UFC 150.