Josh "Negative Nancy" Gross' latest article is out there making some waves. Kid Nate calls it "compelling." The commenters are basically calling it poop. I call it full of holes, but let me give you my reasons in my break-down of Josh's work.
I understand the difference between journalism and commentary, but Josh ignored something vitally important regarding business: the proof is in the pudding.
Anyone can throw out coulds and shoulds and what-ifs but no rational person can dispute that in its current state, the UFC is incredibly successful, and by all indications, highly profitable. Josh's lack of appreciation for this point makes his article lame.
Frankly, any editor with knowledge of MMA would have sent this back to him requesting MANY revisions, as many of Josh's assumptions and predictions don't jive with reality.
Josh is in the highlighted text, I'm in plain text. Game on!
UFC president Dana White may have prophesied that his company will drive MMA to become the biggest sport in the world by 2020, but there aren't any guarantees its rise will continue at all, let alone at the rate it has since 2005.
Dana White is a PROMOTER and thus prone to hyperbole. There's no reason to pretend that you don't get that.
Nothing grows in a straight line. Every business, no matter how fast-growing it is, has its ups and downs, including revolutionary world leaders like Google. It's completely normal for things to slow after a period of hyper growth, such as the post TUF-1 boom. And think about all the crazy stuff that happened in MMA in 2009. Dying promotions, crazy injuries, Rampage in the movies, etc. The post-injury rebound alone could help the UFC, and thus the sport, generate significant growth in the second half of 2009.
Concerns of oversaturation on American television will be met head on in 2010.
There is some oversaturation of UFC PPV events. I think we can all agree on that. But the numbers still look pretty damn good, don't they? More often than not, the numbers are defying skeptics, including yours truly. But free MMA on TV doesn't hurt anything. In fact, it increases the growth potential of the sport because more people can be reached.
The impact of collective bargaining for fighters could begin to play out in a real way.
Actually, it can't without the cooperation of the sport's biggest stars, who need it the least. Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz were outspoken about fighter pay and treatment - until they signed their big fat new contracts with Zuffa, LLC. Randy's sh*t-eating grin at the UFC 102 press conference said it all. Nothing changes until a bunch of the big boys refuse to fight, and that aint happening.
A dire need for competent regulation and judging is underscored each time fighters step in the cage.
I will agree on this point - the sport needs to do a better job of recruiting and training judges and refs. It would also be nice to find a doctor that can detect major injuries BEFORE a guy gets into the cage.
And on the home front, a promotional war between the UFC and Strikeforce is likely to intensify.
It's not much of a war. Strikeforce still doesn't have enough fighters to fill out all of their cards, and their belts are relatively meaningless. I hear that Mousasi uses his belt to prop up his coffee table.
Between Spike TV, HDNet, Showtime, Versus, CBS, Fox Sports and pay-per-view, MMA fans will have the ability to watch more than 100 live fight cards in 2010.
Seriously, as long as there are plenty of free fights, where's the problem? If promotions lose money showing fights, they'll simply cut back.
I've often wondered about the point of it all if the game isn't rooted in seeing the very best fight the very best. How much longer will mixed martial arts remain palatable to Americans if the premise is skewed more toward watching a good fight, rather than determining who's No. 1?
The fact that the sport is rooted in "watcing a good fight" is actually beneficial to the sport's long-term health. It's good for people to attach themselves to the sport just as much as the athletes. It keeps them watching. There were probably just as many Mike Tyson fans as boxing fans in the 1980's. But who's still watching boxing today? (no jokes, it's too easy!)
The way the sport is structured, with UFC running as its own independent "league" -- though that's hardly the word for it -- too many important fights are in jeopardy of not getting made. Plenty do, of course. But we've already seen several major matchups get tossed aside, such as Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture, and, down the road, perhaps B.J. Penn against Shinya Aoki. There's little reason to believe that won't be a trend.
Yes, it would be nice to see Fedor and BJ destroy Randy and Aoki, but exclusivity also has its benefits. UFC-signed guys don't waste time fighting freakshows in Japan when they could be battling legit contenders. UFC fighters also don't ignore their belts (cough, Overeem, cough) Of course there are matchups I'd like to see that can't happen, but I can live with it.
In the beginning, White and Lorenzo Fertitta spoke of ensuring that the best fights were made, and spoke highly of the idea of co-promotion. Not anymore. Now they consider the idea counter to everything they hope to accomplish.
And what did co-promotion ever give the UFC? The UFC put then-rising star Chuck Liddell in the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix and got NOTHING in return. Again, Josh is making himself looking extremely biased by not listing the many benefits of a closed promotion.
Where has it led us? An increasing pattern of championship fights with contenders perceived to be weak. That may be a result of dominant champions planting themselves at the top, but it could also be the start of a disappointing trend.
Yes, some guys, like BJ, Anderson, and GSP look unbeatable now. But so did Lyoto Machida until his run-in with Shogun. New contenders will slowly emerge, and all three of the UFC's dominant champions could move up in weight class, where they could face greater challenges.
And is it the UFC's fault that these guys are so damn good? What do you want? Maybe Dana White should tell GSP to only go for three takedowns per fight to give the other guy a shot at winning?
Have you heard the complaints about Frankie Edgar challenging Penn ahead of Gray Maynard, who defeated Edgar? (Many fans say it doesn't matters much, as neither guy has a chance against Penn.)
And those many fans are right. Aoki is an interesting opponent but BJ is likely to crush him. And if the UFC ever did co-promote, it wouldn't be for a guy like Aoki!
With major organizations such as Strikeforce and Dream proponents of making fights across promotional lines, 2010 will be a true test as to which business model is better for the sport.
No it won't. The UFC has already proven that it has the best business model in the history of the sport. And as others are pointing out, where did co-promotion get boxing? Cough, epic Floyd/Pac-Man fail, cough...
I'm firmly in the camp that co-promotion makes sense. MMA is an individual sport. Is it realistic to think any one entity will control every top fighter?
And yet co-promotion failed in boxing, and hasn't worked in MMA either. The answer is obviously no because Fedor doesn't care about the UFC, and there are enough good guys that don't feel compelled to sign. But the UFC doesn't need every top fighter - it just needs to consistently put on good fights.
Is it fair to tell a mixed martial artist he or she must be attached to a specific promoter in order to be considered the best?
No, but the reality is that the UFC has more top fighters under exclusive contract than any other promotion, and the #1 fighter in each of 4 weight classes. You want to be considered the best, you fight the best. That means the UFC.
Certainly there are flaws to co-promotion. Reputations, big money and egos often get in the way. But it allows for the possibility of important fights fans want to see. If the demand is high enough, things will get done unless the people doing business are suicidal.
Agreed, there are flaws to co-promotion, just like there are many many benefits to having control under one roof. The more @ssholes in a room, the more messed up things become. You know what's great about having two guys controlling the UFC, and by default, much of MMA? $hit gets done.
Unfortunately, as Mike Brown knows, the standard is different in MMA. Winning isn't enough, or at least it isn't always important enough in determining who gets what. Urijah Faber will fight Jose Aldo in April or May because the WEC feels he's more marketable. Apparently, it doesn't matter that Faber is 0-2 against Brown. Perhaps that's residue from MMA's early roots in the U.S. as a pay-per-view spectacle, or the conflation between sport and pro-wrestling in Japan (and the U.S., too, in recent years). Regardless, determining the best must supplant entertainment if MMA is going to be as relevant as it should.
I agree that Faber does NOT deserve the title shot, but let's face facts: MMA is just as much entertainment as it is sport. Hardcore MMA fans will watch pretty much whatever's thrown at the wall. Casual fans, however, have a much greater chance of being reached by a 'marketable' guy like Faber.