Well, here it is New Year's Eve and we get to put another year of MMA in the books. There were a lot of goings on in our community, some good, some bad. In my latest Journo To Journo segment, we get another perspective on the major points of 2013 from Bleacher Report's own, Jonathan Snowden. This shall serve as Part 1 of an interview that featured discussion points on Ronda Rousey possibly being the new cash cow for the UFC, who the GOAT is currently, fond memories of his time at Bloody Elbow and more. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow morning.
*A big thanks to my partner in crime/co-host, Iain Kidd for the transcript help.*
Steph Daniels: We're at the end of the year now, what are your top moments of the year?
Jonathan Snowden: I'm such a simple creature. I can't remember anything past the last event [laughs]. The only thing I can remember is that Anderson Silva broke his leg. I'm pretty sure that's the most important thing that happened all year.
Also, Ronda Rousey becoming a huge star for the UFC. I think the two Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva fights were probably the two most memorable fights and moments of the entire year; the first one because the knockout was so unexpected, and just how grotesque the second one was at the end. Those are probably the two moments that stand out the most.
Steph Daniels: Do you think Anderson Silva will come back? And do you want him to come back?
Snowden: I'd be ok with him not coming back, but I want him to do whatever is in his heart. He's kind of in a unique situation in that he's an older fighter, but he's not a beaten up fighter, especially mentally; he hasn't taken all of those horrible blows to the head that make you kind of worry about guys as they get older.
I think that his leg will heal, and then it's really up to him. He certainly doesn't have anything to prove to anyone. He's accomplished anything that you could want to during his career and he's the best fighter in the sports history. If he walks away right now that's a pretty good legacy to leave behind.
Steph Daniels: Do you think the UFC is going to suffer with both Anderson and GSP hitting the bricks?
Snowden: Oh, of course, at least as far as commercially. It's tough, right? I mean, you have able replacements in Chris Weidman and Johny Hendricks or whoever fills GSP's shoes as fighters. They're great fighters, but as box office attractions? It's definitely going to be diminished. It's going to be a tough year for the UFC at the box office. They've lost so many of their draws, and it's really unclear who is going to replace them.
Steph Daniels: Do you think Ronda Rousey has enough drawing power to replace at least one of them, or do you think they need to start getting their modelling clay out quick?
Snowden: They definitely should have had their modelling clay out for several years, but it's not as easy as simply wishing for it to happen. The alchemy involved in creating a mega star is just... I don't think anyone knows exactly how to do it. Anyone. Not boxing promoters, not wrestling promoters and not MMA promoters.
It's about having the right individual at the right time and creating memorable moments. If those things don't all come together, it's just not going to happen. With Ronda, it's tough to say. I can tell you that as far as mainstream press and the web traffic she does, she's there already; she's a huge star.
What we don't know is whether that's going to translate into the metrics that are important to the UFC; Pay-Per-View and the gate. It's not clear yet whether she's going to be a star that's going to come near GSP or even latter day Anderson Silva, because we don't have the data yet. She did fairly well in her first Pay-Per-View appearance, and we don't know yet about this one. Clearly the UFC thinks she has that potential, because they're pushing her back up there so quickly and I think that speaks volumes.
Steph Daniels: She seems to have turned full heel, and I feel like a lot of the explosion in attention she's getting is because of that. Would you agree?
Snowden: Well I definitely think that's part of why she's getting so much attention. I've been reading about Ronda and watching her since she was a teenager, so I don't think it's really fair to characterize it as a heel turn; I think she's exactly who she's always been.
I remember during the Olympic games she did a blog for NBC, and it was filled with controversy, she just spoke her mind about exactly what she thought about the coverage, what she thought about her team, what she thought about her opponents... And this was as a very young woman. This is nothing new for Ronda Rousey, this is just who she has always been. Maybe fans and people are starting to figure out that she's not who they thought she was, so maybe she's turned heel in some people's minds, but I don't think that's due to changes in her behavior; she's the same person.
Iain Kidd: From my personal experience, so many more of my female friends have suddenly become interested in the UFC since Ronda Rousey appeared on the scene. Do you think that the fairer sex is going to be a legitimate new source of revenue for the UFC?
Snowden: It seems like it's potentially headed that way, and I think it's really exciting. I love watching the women's fights, and I've kind of been trying to figure out why. What is it about them that captures me in a way that a lot of the fights between men fail to?
I think it's that so many of the fights between men are the same. There's something similar about it; everyone fights the same way, you can expect the same techniques happening at the same time in the same order, and you know, you can almost predict exactly what's going to happen. When you look at the women it's almost like you're stepping back 10 years to a time when there were specialists, and there were people that could still impose their will in a way that we rarely see men do anymore, and there's really an unpredictability to it; I don't ever feel like I know exactly what's going to happen when two women square off.
I think there's a lot of potential matches to capture the attention of not just women, but also men. It's almost a different product, and it's pretty cool to have it side by side with the male fights, it's really like they're offering the best of both.
Steph Daniels: Jon Jones started out as this squeaky clean everyman that should have appealed to everyone, and then he made several wrong turns, do you think that he should turn full heel?
Snowden: He's an interesting one, and I say this not knowing him as a person, but I do get the sense that he's one of those guys who acts the way he thinks you're supposed to act; he tries to be classy and he tries to be the nice guy, but you get the impression watching him from afar that that's not who he really is. He's this elite athlete and he's super cocky, and he has some of the habits that go along with that, like going to strip clubs and all these other things that he's trying to hide but are coming out, mostly in police reports.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if he just kind of stopped with all of the pretenses and just decided to be who he is, which is this incredibly cocky - and it's well deserved cockiness - elite athlete who thinks he's above everyone else, because he is. I think that would actually be more interesting, and he would do better as an entertainer if he would let out that part of his personality.
Steph Daniels: The UFC Fight Pass. Do you think that revenue will fill the gap left by Anderson and GSP?
Snowden: I don't expect that they will do very well with this, at least not initially. I don't really see that there's that many fans who are going to be willing to pay ten dollars a month for the kind of content that they're offering. That's a lot of money.
Steph Daniels: What do they need to do to boost the interest?
Snowden: I don't know that they can. There's just a limited number of fans who really care about the things that are great about the service. For someone like me, and you guys, it's probably the most amazing thing ever; it's going to have every UFC event, all of the Strikeforce events, WEC events, potentially EliteXC, Affliction... It's going to be amazing for the hardcore MMA fan, but for your regular fan who maybe catches a couple of events per year, are they really interested in paying ten dollars a month to sit and watch UFC 57? I don't see that as having mainstream appeal, but for the fans that are really into it, it's going to be great; I'm pretty excited about it.
Iain Kidd: Let's jump forward a year to 2015, how many subscribers do you think they're going to have for Fight Pass?
Snowden: I can't say I'm educated enough to really know how these things work. I know there are other sports leagues with similar type offerings, but I'm not really sure what their audience is. I think obviously there's a much smaller fanbase for MMA than for other sports like MLB and NFL, it's much smaller in terms of the number of total fans, so you have to assume that the number of fans that will be interested enough to spend ten dollars a month will also be significantly smaller.
What's interesting is that among the total population of MMA fans, there is a pretty significant number of hardcore fans. I think people that are into MMA are generally all-in, so they may actually have a better conversion rate than the bigger sports do; there may be fewer MMA fans, but more of them will be willing to pay money for this kind of service.
Iain Kidd: I think one thing it has going for it, is they're going global with it, and there are a lot of economies in which a $60 Pay-Per-View is not remotely feasible, but $10 a month might actually work out. I think we might be surprised by it and end up with half a million global subscribers after a couple of years.
Snowden: It would be tremendous, because what they're offering is really the dream. I tweeted out, ‘Thanks a lot for offering for $10 a month something I've spent thousands of dollars on.' A lot of us have spent significant money over the years, especially before there were things like YouTube and Bit Torrent. We had to collect all of these events the hard way, and getting some of these events on tape, especially in the dark ages of the UFC, took a significant amount of time an effort. The fact they're offering it to everyone so easily and cheaply is really kind of cool. It really is a good service, I think.
Steph Daniels: Do you feel like it's an obvious cash grab, and if so do you feel like this indicates that there may be some decline behind the scenes that we're not being made privy to?
Snowden: Wow, that's a tough one. I mean, I think everything is a cash grab ultimately, right? It's a business and no one is doing this for any altruistic reasons, but at the same time, this is really their dream. If you listen to old interviews with Lorenzo Fertitta in particular, they've been talking about offering their product independently online in exactly this manner for years. I don't think this is happening by chance, I think it's by design, and this is kind of a test to see if they can make it work with a smaller audience.
If they can, this could potentially be a way for them to offer Pay-Per-Views and cut out the middle man, because right now they're sharing so much of the revenue with cable providers and satellite providers that they ultimately don't want to do; they don't want to share half with Comcast or Direct TV or whoever. They're the ones offering the product, and I think the ultimate goal is to collect all of the revenue from that. This is just step one, and they'll eventually be their own provider of not just these smaller cards, but also Pay-Per-Views down the line.
Steph Daniels: Let's talk Dana White. Give me your thoughts on him this past year, especially coming off of the way he handled the GSP situation. Do you that we as fans and media kind of blew that out of proportion?
Snowden: I think initially, we probably got his real, gut reaction to adversity. Something happened that he didn't want to see happen, and he responded very negatively. What normally happens with a person, is they get that pushback and they realize, ‘Hey, I might have screwed something up, I need to walk this back, maybe I need to rethink this or at least pretend I have.' Instead, Dana did the opposite and he just kind of doubled down, then tripled down; his message was consistent. I'm not sure that was a surprise for anyone that has covered him for any length of time; he's not a guy that wants to admit when he's wrong.
Part II of this feature will be available tomorrow morning at 10 am EST.
You can follow Jonathan via his Twitter account, @MMAEncyclopedia