This week's journo to journo segment is probably my favorite one yet. My boss, Kid Nate, discusses the politics of legalizing MMA and why it's taking so long. His perspective is a unique one, as I have yet to see anyone really lay it out like this. Several other topics were discussed, and are included in the transcript that has been generously put together by my awesome co-host, Iain Kidd. If you'd like to hear the audio, as there were a few things we didn't transcribe, you can catch it on MMA Sentinel. Here's what Nate had to say:
Thoughts on UFC 163
If I can rip off the great Dave Chapelle, ‘I wish I had four hands, so I could give it more thumbs down.' It was the worst pay-per-view of the year for the UFC. I hated everything. Hated. Everything.
Just when the zombie was starting to turn it on, starting to land some punches, and it looked like we had an interesting fight, he dislocates his shoulder and that's it. We found out later, of course, that Aldo was running on a broken wing too, with his broken foot. It was a hugely anti-climactic main event, following a terrible decision in the Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida fight.
Machida vs Davis & Judging
[The scoring was due to] the Nevada judges. The UFC imports the usual judges from Nevada when they do an event in Brazil. The Nevada judges have just always shown a huge preference for a takedown; they prefer a takedown to a knockdown in terms of point scoring. So really, it's no surprise. The first round takedown was Machida's own fault. He was actually being too aggressive in this fight, and pressuring Phil Davis. That let Davis get the takedown in the first round.
In the third round, I partially blame Machida's corner for telling him that he was up two rounds to nothing. That's always terrible advice. Never tell your fighter that they're up two rounds to nothing. I don't care how blatant and obvious it seems to you, the judges are coming from an entirely different place.
Brian Stann's Commentary & Bias Accusations
I thought Stann was great. I think it's pretty hard not to be a little bit biased when you're doing commentary, just because you tend to be watching one fighter or the other, and seeing their offensive moves.
It's like when Machida fought Shogun for the first time. If you watch that fight and you pay attention to one fighter or the other, whichever fighter you're paying attention to is the winner. If you were watching Shogun, you saw the leg kicks and the body kicks, but you missed Machida's punches to the face. If you were watching Machida you saw the punches to the face, but missed the kicks. I just think it's too much for the human brain to truly, comprehensively watch everything that's going on in a fight at one time.
I think it's unavoidable to have a certain degree of bias in your announcing, and I don't think Stann was egregious in that respect. I think he was better than Joe Rogan usually is. In fact, I'd love to see Stann become the third man in the booth with Goldberg and Rogan. I think that would be the best UFC announcing team since it was Goldberg, Rogan and Couture back in the day.
Spike put out a release today saying they averaged 700,000 viewers, and they peaked with 981,000 viewers, so it's a little better than their early numbers made it sound. So, it's not quite as bad as we thought. It's also summertime, which is a terrible time for TV.
I'm much less concerned with the numbers for their latest show than I am with their plans for pay-per-view with Rampage and Tito, which I just think is a really ill-advised attempt to go for a quick buck. It makes me worry that Spike isn't invested in Bellator for the long term.
I think they're going to do between 30,000 and 70,000 buys, tops. Look at how little the UFC is doing these days. It also depends on the price point. The price point is the big variable. I think if they sell it for $20, hell they could break 100,000, maybe even 200,000, but if they're going to try to insist on $45 for the standard definition and $55 for the high-def like the UFC, then I think they're going to be well below 100,000 buys.
If I was Fox, would I be happy? Yeah, I would be happy, because not only have they made Fuel TV an actual, viable channel, which is now going to be Fox Sports 2, but they've also got anchor programming for Fox Sports 1. They haven't succeeded in getting Time Warner, and a number of other carriers to pick it up yet, but I'm confident they well, and I think they've something like quadrupled the carriage rates for that channel, which used to be the speed channel. That's huge money, and the UFC is a big part of that.
The UFC might not be setting the world on fire in terms of ratings, but it's delivering solid ratings, and it's a fairly economical product to produce. The rights fees for UFC fights compared to football or baseball are a huge bargain, and it gives them a lot of content for their sports channel. So yeah, I think they should be happy with it. I think the shows on Fox have done fairly well.
I don't know what their expectations were. If they had unrealistic expectations, then yeah, they're going to be unhappy, but I think they're pretty shrewd people. They're definitely not ready to cut ties with the UFC. They're in the middle of a very long term deal, and I think it's going well.
I think the drop in ratings for the last event was a combination of things. I don't think it was the strongest card, but ‘Mighty Mouse' did well the last time he headlined a card. He had stronger support on that undercard but ... I think overwhelmingly, it's just the lack of football. Fox doesn't have a big sports audience in the summer that they can advertise the UFC to, and so that limits it. It's also the shittiest time of year. I mean, they won the night, and they dramatically upped their numbers in the key demographic, which is what advertisers want to see, so that's mission accomplished.
It's not 2007 anymore. We're not in the middle of an MMA boom. It's not a novelty program like it was when CBS first aired MMA on broadcast television, and people hadn't seen it before. People have seen MMA. They've seen a lot of MMA. It's like every time you turn on your cable television there's two guys in a cage with little gloves on, hitting each other. I think they're cognizant of all of that, and I doubt Fox are upset or freaked out at this point.
Last year, you had numbers that were relentlessly declining from Fox 1 to Fox 2 to Fox 3 to Fox 4. Every one was dramatically down, but they turned that around, and they realized that it's seasonal now, and it's not just an inexorable decline. I also think that they are in a position where they can twist the UFC's arm a little bit, and get some better cards, if they're really that worried about it.
It will matter hugely when MMA is legislated in New York, just because of the media that's in New York state, that's not in California. Right now, the UFC is seen as a west-coast sport, and I think that really hurts them with the sports media.
I think if they were doing one or two big shows a year in Madison Square Garden, it would create a lot of media buzz, and it would help them penetrate new demographics. I think that African Americans and Hispanics would be exposed to a lot more MMA if it was happening in New York, and it was happening in an Eastern time zone. I think it's a huge deal, and it will happen eventually.
Sheldon Silver's position is eroding a little bit. His reasons for keeping the UFC out of New York are pretty petty, really. It's got to do with the culinary union, and with some left over discomfort with MMA on the part of some of the legislators.
Another factor in New York, and I said this when the UFC started lobbying, is that it's one of the most corrupt state legislatures in the country, and that's saying something. It's right up there with Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana and New Jersey.
When you come in there as the new kid in town and start throwing money around, these savvy sharks are just going to bleed you, and that's what they're doing to the UFC. They're just draining them for money year after year. It's not like the UFC are the utility company, and they're going to be back next year. If they get what they want, they're going to go away, and that money is going to leave the legislature.
If you're the head of the legislature, like Sheldon Silver is, you've got mouths to feed. You've got legislators that need fundraising. You've got lobbyists that have to get paid. You've got PR firms that need to get paid. If you keep getting those people paid, you keep people happy and you keep your job. That's a factor I think the UFC has been a little oblivious and naïve about.
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