Editor’s Note: Introducing Danny Coughlin, who will be our resident MMA guy covering everything from the UFC to the upcoming mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
So, a year in it doesn’t take a genius to see things in the largest, and yes, most talent laden MMA organization are just different. It’s a straight up Wizard of Oz situation in terms of exactly why or who is causing it to be this way. Maybe it was like this during the Zuffa era (The Fertittas as owners, Dana White ostensibly had more direct power/say) but I feel like we got to know that regime enough to kind of be able to deduce why they made certain decisions. Not the case with the new owners.
At a high level, or maybe more accurately at a fundamentally business level, there are two separate strategies that are most likely to be causing these changes. One would be if WME-IMG were looking at their new property as a straight up M&A situation. Here they would cut costs by making such moves as reducing non-essential staff (they have) while trying to jack up revenue, which nets out a ballooned profit, which would allow them to flip the company for a higher price than they bought it for. This would also explain letting some non-headliner/PPV buy-driving but subjectively expensive fighters walk to places like Bellator without a fight while putting on more, but (probably, I aint into research) cheaper (or “watered down” as some bitter fans like to call them) shows. Again, less costs, more revenue.
The other business strategy is just to put together a long term earner of a business, which I think would seemingly be (see below) the more plausible scenario here. Let’s face it – it would take God-fucking-knows-what to make the UFC that much more valuable than $4 billion dollars in order to flip it for a profit when you take into consideration things like interest. On the flip side, putting on a larger amount of cheap, entertaining-enough-to-make-a-solid-nut shows to keep the cash flowing in? Throwing a few top-heavy/pomp-heavy Conor/Jon Jones/Diaz ragers every year to churn some serious cheddah? Could work….
RECORD SCRATCH. What throws a wrench into strategy/idea two is the fact that if WME-IMG just wanted a profitable ATM of a business then why the fuck would they change what they inherited – A business and entertainment model/example that grew in value from $2 million to $4 BILLION in a fairly short amount of time – in the first place?
The answer to that question is most likely the answer to the overall question of “what the fuck in general is going on?” And the answer is our old friend ego. The same ego that made Bernie Madoff think he could endlessly swindle people out of 31231 kajillion dollars. The same ego that made good ol’ Eldrick Woods think he could piss on every hooker whose named ended in “i” within a 100 mile radius of Jupiter, FL. The same ego that made Det. The Rock and Samuel L think they could survive a quick 20 story leap off a building to expedite chasing down a perp. WME-IMG brass might not have the public swagger of Dana and Lorenzo, (and Frank, Joe Silva, etc.) but remember figurehead Ari Emanuel is the guy they based ARI FUCKING GOLD on. This is more than dollars and sense to him too, just like the Zuffa boys. But different men mean different egos. And WME-IMG want to succeed in their own way.
The best, and most entertaining IMNSHO, way to explain it would be to compare the egos of Moe Green and Michael Corleone. Moe Green wanted to prove to everyone he had the biggest dick and the most cash. He was flamboyant (Mayweather-McGregor), he was stubborn (Letting multiple top-10 guys walk). He cared less about his reputation (fighterpayfighterpayfighterpay) among his peers and the public than he did his bottom line. He rubbed the list of those bottom line accomplishments in everyone’s faces. WME-IMG and Ari might be plotting to do just that.
Michael Corleone was serious, surly even. He was a bit petty, sure (Dana), but in the end he not only wanted to be rich, which he sure as fuck did, but he wanted to be seen as legit (Zuffa) and build the biggest and baddest organization of it’s kind the world had seen. Kind of like how Zuffa stared across the pacific at Pride, tugged on it’s balls and put the UFC on it’s back. Pride fell. Strikeforce fell a few years later. The UFC were the undisputed kings of the realm.
In the end, only time will tell what WME-IMG’s end game really is. This is all just blogger speculation. It’s worth noting that should it happen, it wouldn’t be the first time the Fertitta’s had sold a business only to buy it back once the buyer realized they couldn’t run it as well. The question is by the time WME-IMG sets its strategy in place, will the UFC, or Bellator, or someone new, be the family in charge?