To ring out the old year, MMA Payout ran an excellent series of posts about the top 10 business stories in MMA in 2012. Payout is owned by Mark Cuban who also owns AXS-TV (formerly HDNet) and is an investor in Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC. Nonetheless, the site is one of the most independent media outlets covering MMA and one of the best at providing analysis of the business climate. Here's their top 10 with some excerpts:
7. The UFC-Fox relationship
It will be interesting to see where the UFC-Fox partnership goes in 2013. It appears that Fox will establish a new sports channel in which the Speed channel will be a part. It’s likely that Fuel TV could be integrated into the new channel as well. This would definitely solidify the UFC-Fox relationship for years to come as the UFC would be a great source of content for the network.
5. GSP returns
4. Bellator moves to SpikeTV
There (are) great expectations for Bellator in 2013. It is moving off of Fridays to Thursdays where TNA Wrestling will be its lead in. Its revamping its rules to allow for potential championship rematches instead of having fighters go through a tournament. The challenge will be to market its fighters and determining whether it should differentiate itself from the UFC. We will see how it does with it available to more households.
3. Ronda Rousey signs with the UFC
Realistically, the hopes of women’s MMA in the UFC hinges on Rousey winning in February. The marketing and promotion for the fight should be high considering how much the UFC has already backed her. A loss (or an injury) could undo everything.
1. UFC 151 cancelled
The decision to call off the September 1st event raised a number of issues that the company may need to address going forward. The cancellation of 151 amakes it the event that never was. It was estimated that the UFC would lose $40 million due to the cancelled show. The cancellation also caused a trickle-down effect as nixing the show likely meant hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars lost out on potential revenue from UFC fans coming out to Vegas. Of course, the fighters on the card felt the economic effect as they had to wait for another fight although it was reported that some were compensated despite the cancellation.
All in all there were a number of positive developments for MMA in 2012 as the list illustrates even though it was a tough year for the UFC. To my mind reversals like poor ratings for The Ultimate Fighter on Fridays on FX and the cancellation of UFC 151 were problems that were a long time coming and required reaching an obvious crisis point to trigger corrective action on the UFC's part.
While moving TUF to Tuesdays and using more high-profile coaches in Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen should at least temporarily improve ratings for the show, the fact remains that it is a very stale format and further changes will likely need to be made to keep it going much beyond 2013.
Other developments like the end of Strikeforce and Ronda Rousey's move to the UFC were purely positive and a long time coming. Women's MMA has the potential to continue the sport's expansion by bringing in increased media attention and new fans over the long term.
Bellator's move to Spike TV present the UFC with its most serious potential competition since Strikeforce allied with CBS and Showtime and signed away Fedor Emelianenko. Time will tell if Bellator can draw the fan interest to actually compete for top fighters.
All in all, it was a year of challenges and growing pains for the sport but with many promising developments for the future.