Earlier today, Kid Nate wrote a blog in response to criticisms of Dana White signing of Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields. His contention is that this signing shows that Dana White is "committed to the sport of MMA". Whether or not White is committed is a question in and of itself for some people (not me), but it is my assertion that this signing is not indicative of that commitment. Instead, this signing is primariky "business as usual" for Dana White; one of a series of moves motivated by personal vendettas and grievances.
Don't be mistaken. Jake Shields is a phenomenal talent. He is a top 3 MW in a division lacking in challenges for the champion Anderson Silva with wins over Dan Henderson, "Mayhem" Miller, and Robbie Lawler with quality wins at his natural weightclass of 170, a division also lacking in challengers for champion Georges St. Pierre. The signing of Jake Shields IS a great move for the sport of MMA as he will provide some interesting matchups at two possible weightclasses. That said, the primary reasoning is not influenced by the sport side of the UFC and MMA in general.
"If Jake Shields could pull that off, that would be incredible, and good for him,"
"He's going to get paid because what's going to happen is we would love to take him from there, and I'm sure they'd love him to stick around."
"I will help drive that [expletive] number right up through the roof and let the Showtime boys pay him a lot of money so that Jake can stick it right up their ass."
The above quotes are a response to a reporter asking about Jake Shields coming to the UFC after the Henderson fight. Notice in the whole response, Dana says nothing about Shields as a fighter (in fact, I've never heard much of Dana's opinion of Shields as a fighter). His whole response is about how messed up an organization Strikeforce (and Showtime) is and how it would be good for Jake to win so he could stick it to Strikeforce and Showtime. He wasn't asked about the companies, he was asked about the fighter and the answer he came up with showed a vendetta. If you look at the 2nd quote, he blatantly says if he wins we would "love to take him from there", not we would love to sign him, "we would love to take". That use of verbiage shows the mentality behind the Jake Shields signing in Dana's mind.
Soon after Jake beats former UFC fighter Dan Henderson, Dana began to crow about signing Shields. He was more excited about this potential signing than he was years ago with undisputed number one heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. It certainly wasn't because Shields is a better fighter. Not only could he stick it to Strikeforce (a competitor) and Showtime (a channel he hates), but in the eventuality that he signed Shields, he could rub his dominant victory over disgruntled UFC MW Dan Henderson in Henderson's face. Shields began appearing at all the UFC events in the crowd with Dana next to him smiling like a Cheshire cat for a well-placed photo-op. This was to, as Dana so eloquently put earlier, "drive that fucking number through the roof" as Strikeforce would feel that Shields was close to signing with the UFC and engage in a bidding war. However, that blew up in Dana's face as Strikeforce announced that they weren't signing Shields and stripped him of the Middleweight Title. Dana then signed Shields to a moderate amount of fanfare and ballyhoo. Though it is a great signing for the sport of MMA and getting all the top guys in one organization, I believe it was primarily motivated in the desire to "stick it" to Strikeforce.
I also disagreed with some of Kid Nate's other points.
Personally, I loved the Mayhem vs Shields match as a great grappling battle. It was just wildly inappropriate for prime time on CBS. On a UFC PPV, I think the fans could appreciate the skill and drama of two top grapplers battling, plus elbows are legal in the UFC and that will make Shields' game much more violent and entertaining.
That's unfortunate as the TV viewers diagreed with you. That match peaked in the 3rd round and about 100,000 fans changed the channel by the end of the fight.
I also disagreed with Zach Arnold's point about the New Jersey Devils' games being aired by ABC:
This is a real sport. As much as I'm sure ABC or other networks didn't want to air New Jersey Devil NHL games when they were the masters of the ‘neutral zone trap,' they aired the games because, hey, it's a sport.
This analogy is not analogous in two ways. First, ABC aired the games because they were playoff games and they HAD to air them as the Devils were in the playoffs. You can't pick and choose playoff games. In addition, most of their games were regional like football; so depending on where you lived, you saw a different hockey game. Second, Dana White has no obligation to a contracted fighter to put them on the "televised portion" of the show. Jon Fitch was relegated to the unaired portion one fight after losing to the champion. Yushin Okami was on a winning streak and was a prelim fighter. Former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski was demoted while winning. Recently Kendall Grove was removed for televised fights after saying comments about Spike. So they aren't obligated to air Shields' "boring" fights. If he puts on a snoozer with Kaupmann, he won't get a title shot.
It's also very important for the longer term growth of the UFC that they continue to market themselves as a sport. That's what will develop the serious fans and press coverage their MMA offerings will need to weather the inevitable downturns ahead.
The UFC is not in the pure sport business. It's not mainstream enough frankly. It's still a "niche" sport, just a very large one. Boxing isn't in the sport business either. It was, but it has fallen. Both the UFC and boxing are in the "entertaining sports" business. This is different than "sports entertainment", a term you've probably heard associated with the WWF and other pro wrestling shows. Sports entertainment is a show primarily based in entertainment that tries to (much less these days) present itself as a true sport. It's the opposite for entertaining sports. They are actual sports that thrive on drawing fans by being entertaining. NBA, MLB, NFL, PGA, WTA, etc can be "boring" and still draw based on the sport of the show. The UFC cannot. MMA as a pure sport (as well as BJJ, amatuer wrestling, etc) aren't in the public scope as much as the other sports. It will take a generation of MMA to enter into the public's lexicon like the other sports. That development is accelerated to more entertaining the sport is. PPV's filled with wrestler vs BJJ stalements while being interesting to the hardcore fans will kill viewships faster than anything outside of a live death.