In the conclusion of this feature for the Journo To Journo series, Kid Nate gives his thoughts on a variety of topics for the 2013 year in review. Subject matter included GSP stepping away from the UFC, Dana White, Ronda Rousey, Bellator, Invicta, World Series of Fighting and more. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.
MMA Sentinel: Give us your thoughts on GSP stepping and away from the title.
Kid Nate: Well it's definitely big dealings for the UFC. It's the end of an era. GSP, along with Anderson Silva, was the last of the second generation of UFC stars in the US, and he was the only one completely home-grown in the UFC. He had grown to become their biggest Pay-Per-View draw, and he will be much missed by the bean counters at the UFC, if not by fans who are tired of watching decisions.
MMA Sentinel: Bloody Elbow had a roundtable recently, but you didn't really weigh in on it. I want your opinion on who the GOAT is.
Kid Nate: The Greatest Of All Time? I guess that would be Anderson Silva, just because his parade of accomplishments is hard to match. I think GSP had tougher competition, but he petered out in the second half of his career and became a decision machine, and that just began to wear on fans. I think if Silva comes back and beats Chris Weidman, he's easily the greatest of all time, no problem, no debate.
If he loses to Chris Weidman, particularly if he loses badly to Chris Weidman, which I think is a very real possibility, I think that will hurt his legacy. That being said, I really think it's short sighted of fight fans to judge a fighter's legacy based on their final couple of fights. I try to judge fighters by the peak of their career.
Either way, GSP and Anderson Silva both accomplished amazing things, and they're both right up there. GSP is definitely a hall of famer. The only people whose accomplishments are comparable to what GSP accomplished in MMA history, would be Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba.
MMA Sentinel: Most recently, we've seen a very ugly side of Dana in the way that he handled the press directly following GSP vs. Hendricks. Give me your thoughts on Dana White over the course of this year.
Kid Nate: I think he's been under tremendous pressure. I think fans forget the impact that his Meniere's disease has had on him. Most fans can't even fathom the workload that Dana White is under and the kind of pressure he's under, much less doing it with a very debilitating disease, so mad respect to Mr White for all he's accomplished over the years. I'm just frankly amazed that he can continue to do it.
I think some of the strain has started to show. I thought his behavior after the GSP fight at UFC 167 was bad, even by Dana White's standards. He's somebody who has very shrewdly carved out a space for himself as ‘Oh, Dana just says shit like that,' you know? Any time you can carve a niche like that for yourself, you should go for it.
I remember seeing Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, that probably dates me, but he was talking about how he trained his girlfriends to expect him to cheat on them with groupies. He was like, ‘look, if you just establish from day one that you're a complete rock and roll scumbag, they know what they're getting into.' Dana White established from day one, ‘Hey, I'm a complete loudmouth asshole, I'm going to say what I think and tell you how it is, and I'm going to do it with obscenities, so there you go.' That gets him a tremendous amount of slack.
It's kind of the opposite of Jon Jones coming out and saying, ‘I'm an all all-American, churchy, super-nice choirboy,' and then getting a DUI with a couple of strange girls in the back of his car. I think fans seem to react to Dana's honesty, or perceived honesty.
I don't think his outburst cost him with GSP, but I think other fighters were watching how he treated GSP, and I think it was noted. I don't think it did anybody any favors.
MMA Sentinel: This year has sort of been a coming out party for Ronda Rousey, and perhaps it hasn't been as flattering as we all expected it to be. What are your thoughts on Ronda's behavior on TUF, and across the media as a whole?
Kid Nate: I think it's just one of those things, where the very character traits it takes to become an Olympic athlete and UFC champion don't look good to people when they see them up close, or see a version of them on a reality TV show.
Always remember, reality TV is not reality. It's an edited package created by people to give the illusion of reality, though it may be closer to the truth than just seeing Ronda Rousey for five minutes in the cage after a fight or at a press conference. I don't think she did herself any particular favors, but I don't think she really damaged her brand either.
Her job is to armbar people until their limb snaps or they tap in submission, so it's not like she's Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm, here. She's Rebecca of Donnybrook farm, and she and Miesha Tate have been donnybrooking it up. I don't think it hurts her as a long term draw. I think if she loses to Miesha Tate, that's a whole different question.
I do think it creates the possibility for Miesha Tate to get over as a star, should she beat Ronda, or give her a really close fight, which I think is good for the UFC. Otherwise, they're in this position where they are completely dependent on Rousey, just like women's MMA was completely dependent on Gina Carano a few years back, and we saw what happened when Carano walked away. I think it's OK, though. I think everything will be OK on the Ronda Rousey front.
MMA Sentinel: Let's talk Bellator for a minute and their complete and dismal failure with their first projected Pay-Per-View, and what you thought of their performance over the past year.
Kid Nate: I thought Bellator really blew it. I think most people are going to have a different view than I do, but I think they had an opportunity to book Rampage Jackson vs. Roy Jones Jr in a freak show boxing match that would have gotten a lot of attention. It would have got mainstream media attention and it would have got attention from fans.
Hardcore fans would have been pooh-poohing it, and boxing fans would have been pooh-poohing it, but people would have tuned in, and had they been able to put that on a program with Alvarez vs. Chandler 2, and had that fight turned out how it did in this reality, I think they would have had a huge success on their hands. I don't think they would have sold UFC numbers, but I think they could have cracked 100,000 buys, and they could have exposed a lot of people to Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler as a Pay-Per-View product, and left with a lot of momentum.
Their decision to go with Tito... I don't have any insight as to whose decision that was. My suspicion is that the Spike guys, who have had a lot of success working with Tito Ortiz in the past, were trying to go back to the well with someone they see as a proven success, and just didn't realize that Tito in 2013 is not Tito in 2006. As we've seen, he couldn't even make it through a training camp for a fight. Even if he had made it to the fight, who wants to see that anyway? I think Rampage vs. Tito would have been awesome in 2003. It would have been really fun in 2007. It would have been OK in 2010. In 2013 it was just irrelevant and of very little interest. I think Bellator really blew it with that.
I think the decision to f**k Eddie Alvarez as hard as they did, excuse my language, really came back to bite them in the ass. It definitely damaged their brand and reputation with hardcore fans, in combination with Spike and Bellator not doing any kind of job promoting their live fights, or promoting their fights online. Basically, the online audience; the hardcore fanbase, which is the group that buys Pay-Per-Views, and is who they're hoping to monetize, has really been turned off of their product. That's not a good thing.
I think they've got a casual audience of Spike fight fans that are reliable enough to tune in, even on a Friday night, but they're going to have a very hard time monetizing that the way they are aspiring to.
MMA Sentinel: With Invicta losing the majority of their Strawweight division, and the big news that the UFC is adding that women's division, what do you think happens to Invicta, and what do you think of their story over the past year?
Kid Nate: I think Invicta is somebody who has done good things, accomplished amazing things, really. They've put on a lot of good fights, built up some careers and been really good for the sport, but I have to wonder about their bottom line. I just don't see any way they made any money this year. The internet Pay-Per-Views were all disastrous. I don't think the technology is there to do livestreaming internet Pay-Per-Views. I mean, if Ustream can't handle it, who can? They changed vendors, but that didn't work either.
I think Invicta is going to go down as another one of these promotions that had a really good package, but couldn't take it to the next level. I think their only hope would have been to sign a deal with Showtime eight months ago or so, but I think the windows has closed on that. I think the UFC is cannibalizing their talent, and I think that's that.
MMA Sentinel: Worlds Series of Fighting have announced that they're going to have two NBC cards, however their TV ratings are dwindling at a rapid rate. This last card saw their lowest ratings yet; they didn't even break 100,000. What do you think is going to happen there? Do you think they're a feeder league for the UFC, and are they going to be able to be the ‘other Bellator'?
Kid Nate: Well there's barely a market demand for Bellator, so there's virtually no market demand for the ‘other Bellator.' I think the WSOF has some good fighters, but I don't think they are very adept at putting together shows. I think their TV product is extremely lacking. Even when they manage to put together good fights, the show itself doesn't watch very well. I don't think they've really established any momentum; they're not getting any promotion from NBC Sports.
However, having said that, it is impressive that they managed to get on NBC, the broadcast network, for a couple of events. It's impressive that they're carved out what appears to be an alliance with the UFC, and it may be more; Zach Arnold at Fight Opinion seems to view them as a stalking horse, pointing out the connections between the WSOF's financial backers and the Fertitta brothers. That all seems very plausible to me. The UFC has a track record of using companies that they own, but have different brands, as placeholders on TV.
That's their biggest fear; that a rival is going to get quality airtime in the US. They've done everything they can to prevent that, whether it's buying the WEC and grabbing space on what was then the Versus network, and is now NBC Sports, or buying Strikeforce and grabbing their Showtime deal. What they've learned is that nobody in the network business wants off-brand UFC. If they want to do competing MMA, they want it to be competing MMA.
It's quite possible that the WSOF is really little more than another try at that. Now, I'm not accusing anybody of collusion or of anything illegal. From my experience in politics, which is a heavily regulated field, you learn how to do things without communicating directly, so that there's no collusion, but you just happen to be doing exactly what the person you are trying to help would like done. Sometimes you misstep and do the wrong thing because you're not in direct communication, but it's not that hard to figure out what they would like.
I think it's telling that the UFC let go of Fitch and Okami, and tried to send Askren there. Those are all guys who have upsides and downsides. The upside is they're known to fans and are very capable fighters. The downside is their fighting style is not all that exciting. [It seemed like] they were trying to beef up the WSOF's roster, and they wouldn't have been doing that, I don't think, if they didn't have a pretty good relationship with the WSOF. I think it was remarkable that Dana White was publicly and vocally pushing Askren to the WSOF, which backfired on him. I think that's a case where Dana would have been better off keeping his mouth shut and playing a little bit of kayfabe, but that's not really the UFC's strong suit, which adds more credence to the theory that the WSOF is a stalking horse or placeholder for the UFC.
As far as them doing a show on NBC... The UFC would have to cut some remarkably good fighters to get any interest there. I just don't see the talent pool being there right now. I don't know what the WSOF could possibly do to put together a show on NBC Sports that would get any major league intrigue. I just don't see second-tier MMA having an intrinsic draw. It's not 2007, there's no novelty to it anymore. You're not going to get media attention just for putting MMA on NBC.
There's also a real paucity of freak show draws. There's no Kimbo Slices out there to grab. There's nobody fighting in Pride anymore. There's no Fedor off on the horizon that you can bring in with this aura and mystique. Hopefully they'll surprise me, but at this point I can't envision anything they could do that would be a compelling program on NBC.
You can follow Nate via his Twitter account, @KidNate
If you missed Part I, you can read it here.