In the five years since the UFC left FOX and announced a landmark $1.5 billion broadcast deal with ESPN through 2025, there has never been a time when UFC president Dana White couldn’t stop smiling.
White, a 53-year-old feisty maverick who has been the face of combat sports’ most successful promotion since 2001, usually reminds MMA media members how lucrative the ESPN deal was, It usually concludes each year by announcing the best years of the UFC. Financially to date in the history of the company.
But the start of 2023 felt a little different.
The UFC now finds itself at a disturbing confluence of stories, events, and unresolved issues (usually those surrounding the treatment of athletes), calling it a “perfect storm” of challenges that could threaten its future success. is producing
of course, The eternal topic of Fighter Pay It has dominated the headlines for two years, fueling a rift between White and the MMA media, whom he regularly calls “scumbags” by questioning his decision-making. next, Recent gambling scandals centered on Former fighter and respected coach James Krause has announced that two UFC fighters will be banned after the promotion banned all participants from betting on their fights legally, amid legitimate concerns about the integrity of the product. This led to cutting the
To make matters worse, White publicly apologized after the video surfaced this week. Physical argument with wife from New Year’s Eve It was filmed in a nightclub in Mexico. No lawsuit has been filed, but everyone from ESPN to the UFC to parent company Endeavor has been strangely silent.
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The only comment ESPN made regarding the incident was to direct The media went back to the UFC sayingFrom the ill-timed files, news of White’s domestic altercation came the same day former UFC fighter Phil Baroni was arrested in Mexico. came. Suspected of beating his girlfriend to death.
All of this brings us to Thursday morning. From left field, when Jake Paul, one of White’s most ardent critics and YouTube star-turned-professional boxer, announced he was signing a two-fight MMA deal under the PFL banner and starting pay-per is.・See the “Super Fight” category. The PFL also announced that Paul would receive a stake in the company and that his arrival would mean the PPV fighter would receive “at least” 50% of the profits. 20% of total income.
While Paul’s news may seem irrelevant on the surface, the biggest surprise factor in the announcement is that ESPN, which has a smaller output deal with the PFL, has announced that Paul will be white in the cottage industry boxing retirement. was essentially hiring one of the biggest PPV adversaries of . UFC fighters compete directly with him under the same network banner.
Nakisa Badarian, former UFC CFO whom White previously fired as a “sneaky account”, was also hired and given a stake in the PFL. Support league operations and strategies for PPV expansion.
PFL co-founder Don Davis used Paul’s announcement to declare exactly what his intentions were in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday.
“You’re no longer a UFC prisoner,” Davis said. “You can now choose UFC or PFL, but what makes PFL different is that it is a true financial partnership for fighters.”
None of the issues facing the UFC right now are likely to lead to fatal short-term problems, except for the deafening silence of ESPN, UFC, and their parent company Endeavor regarding White. If so, the long-term threat of each problem cannot be ignored.
Both Paul and Davis’ interest in fighter therapy goes beyond mere rewards and is directly correlated to their ongoing gambling scandals, where they signed a five-year, $350 million deal with DraftKings. Given that it affects the UFC in more ways than credibility.2021.
One of Klaus’ former fighters, featherweight Darik Minor, entered the infamous Nov. 5 fight against Shaylian Nuerdanbieke with what appeared to be a pre-existing leg injury. Minor used his injured leg to kick him twice in the first round before succumbing to pain and being stopped with an elbow.
With the pre-fight odds fluctuating dramatically and Minnaar’s huge prize money paid when he lost by TKO in the first round, the match was removed from various sportsbooks and played in various venues, including Ontario, Canada. UFC betting has been temporarily banned in your jurisdiction. until the investigation that led to Klaus and Miner’s expulsion was conducted.
But aside from the very real fear that Minnaar’s fight hinted at possible misconduct behind the scenes and speculation escalated into a fix for the fight, his fortunes were set for a loss to the reigning champion in October. It may not be all that different from what happened to former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling.
Dillashaw severely injured his shoulder during training camp and later admitted it was dislodged from the socket Participate in 20 or more battlesDillashaw lost by second-round TKO after he was almost unable to compete due to a dislocated shoulder in the first minute. Minor’s relationship with Dillashaw is linked to pre-existing injuries and the UFC’s policy of only paying the promotion for surgery after sustaining an injury within the Octagon.
On the surface, the lucrative ESPN deal and the constant stream of new sponsors being added suggest that the UFC has evolved to a level of success and crossover viability only dreamed of 15 years ago. increase. Way back in 2008, the UFC was becoming his emerging PPV medium to rival boxing, but enough to break the cage fight stigma to elicit consistent coverage from major outlets like ESPN. I was having a hard time.
At each stage of the company’s rise, White has made predictions about the brand’s global potential and that UFC will one day be seen as a “Big 4 Sports” entity on par with the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and elite college sports. I predicted it would be To White’s credit, the signing of a deal with ESPN and his promotion of the deliberate crossover of sports by his platforms like “SportsCenter” and “First Take” on the network made that a reality. I was. Country club level respect.
White’s already solid reputation for consistently meeting and/or exceeding fan expectations for big fights He kept his product alive during the coronavirus pandemicIn the spring and summer of 2020, ESPN+ has suddenly become the only place to go for live sports. At the time, the UFC was incredibly meeting the minimum dates required by his ESPN contract, but White’s competitors were doing nothing.
Both the UFC and White have become darlings of just about everyone, from fans to the same ESPN executives who partnered with them. But White’s smooth ride wasn’t without its bumps, as he was reportedly told to “stop” by ESPN’s parent Disney in April 2020. he first tried to fight in california on Native American grounds before the state board gave its approval.
But this cluster of potentially compromised issues seems to call the UFC into question because White and his trusted fight promotion view the liability that comes with being presented as such a mainstream entity. From, are you really ready for prime time? A deal with ESPN provided selected dates for the UFC on terrestrial television with ABC.
ESPN’s silence in the aftermath of White’s domestic scandal seems to cast doubt on whether the network actually views the UFC on the same level as other major leagues with which it’s affiliated, including the NFL and NBA. Can the commissioners and front-face executives of major sports survive this kind of bad press with impunity? And what is ESPN’s responsibility to cover manners as aggressively as it does other sports? ?
White has built much of his reputation on the politically incorrect choices he makes on a regular basis. Back in the days before MMA was seen as little more than cage-fighting to the outside world, such pants-seat leadership might work better when the UFC aired on Spike TV or Fuel TV. But it can’t be sustained at this level where previously trivial and forgotten things become front page news.
What happened to White and his wife is no small feat and has ripple effects throughout the martial arts community, which already has a terrible track record when it comes to treating domestic violence and victims. , fans and even media members’ rallying cries suggest that there are still big changes that need to be made.
The UFC may have fulfilled all or most of White’s lofty dreams of getting to where she is today. It signals a tumultuous wave ahead for a company whose response remains very immature for its platform.