Randy Couture wears a Full Tilt Poker patch at UFC 91. Photo via UFC.com.
The government's shakedown of the online poker industry will have wide-reaching and unintended consequences. Attendance at the World Series of Poker will suffer. Shows like Poker After Dark and The Big Game will hit the graveyard. Media entities will slash their poker coverage in a mass culling. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of Americans will have their money in online limbo over the next year.
It turns out that the UFC loses in this deal too. CNBC sports business reporter specialist Darren Rovell tweeted:
The UFC had a huge new sponsorship deal on the table with Full Tilt that will now go out the window with the feds bust.
Station Casinos, owned by the Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, and Full Tilt Poker agreed to a partnership deal within the last month in response to a similar arrangement between Wynn Resorts and PokerStars. The partnership relied on federal regulation of online poker. Naturally, a deal with Station Casinos opened up doors for Full Tilt to enter the Octagon once again.
The other question that you have to ask here is that with the big sponsorship void left by Full Tilt Poker in MMA, what type of companies will step in and take their place? We also have to wonder what it says about MMA as a sport considering that one of its biggest sponsors was an illegal gambling company that had been operating and generating revenue through banking and legal loopholes. Big mainstream sponsors is something that the UFC and MMA has coveted for years, but luring them in hasn't been as easy as once expected. The addition of new sponsors and TV networks could reveal a telling story about the ceiling of the sport in the next few years.
Focusing on the fighters, they have been taking bigger blows outside of the ring/cage than inside as of late. The removal of Full Tilt Poker as one of their bigger sponsors wasn't the only blow dealt to them in the past year. When Authentic Brands Group purchased Sinister, TapOut and Silver Star (MMA apparel) and then decided to scale back their sponsorship money in MMA, it dealt an equal sized blow. One has to wonder with the lack of big MMA protions outside of Zuffa and with the recent trend of dying sponsors, how difficult it will be for fighters to make a living in the sport, which wasn't an easy task before either.