WHEN DOES BIG GET TOO BIG -The Dangers of the UFC

Before we go any further on this blog I feel I have to make this point. It’s sad that I have to make it but such is life huhumm (clears throat)… The UFC IS NOT MMA!!! The UFC IS AN ORGANISATION THAT SHOWCASES THE SPORT OF MMA. Simple!

Unless you’re trying to explain what Mma is to the uninitiated then those of you that call Mma ‘Ultimate Fighting’ or ‘Cage fighting’ or anything else that you think makes you sounds cool, edgy or extreme, need to please follow these instructions.

1. Please place your ineffective, useless head at the mouth of a doorway

2. Make sure the door is either heavy wood or thick steel.

3. Finally place your head in said doorway and continue to open and shut it with all the ferocity you can muster in a Vinnie Jones, Lock Stock & two smoking barrels sort of way.

If you’re having trouble with this then ask around and I’m willing to bet that there will be an army of people you’ve offended with your nonsensical & dim-witted ways that will be more than happy to smash what little contents there is contained in your head over the floor provided.

I can hear you saying to yourselves ‘what difference does it make if I call it Ultimate fighting/Cage fighting and not Mma, it’s only a term describing the same thing, what’s does it matter what words you use as long as people know what you’re on about?’. To you I would respond ‘calm yourselves down… the door will shortly be free for your use’!

Many of you might think my Point, on what nickname you give Mma, is a small and somewhat insignificant point to make, but if you look closer I think it reflects the bigger picture and is one of the most worrying things about the UFC. Perhaps I’m wrong by saying this but, I can’t ever recall hearing Dana White call Mma…MMA. I’ve only ever heard him refer to Mma as ‘Ultimate Fighting’.
Now, I understand why he’s using the phrase ‘Ultimate Fighting’, he’s branding Mma, and hats off to Dana and the rest of the powers that be as they have done this VERY, VERY well. Branding and getting the UFC out there is their job so they don’t need to ignore the fact that the sport is MMA… but, like I said, hats off to them for doing an amazing job of it as they’ve almost made MMA into UFC, just as tissues are to Kleenex & Vacuums are to Hoovers etc. etc.

It all makes perfect sense because Dana White & Co are businessmen and, as good businessmen, it cleverly put’s their brand out there constantly. It’s free advertising for them as a huge amount of Mma fans use the term ‘UFC’ when taking about Mma in general. Mma fans out there need to remember that they are businessmen with a brand and, out of that brand, they make a lot of money from big named sponsors and you ( ‘the fan’) whilst you advertise their product for free.. It’s brilliant brand marketing!

Now this isn’t an anti UFC blog. I love the UFC. How can you not? They’re entwined with Mma so massively and to such a degree that for some people it has to be painfully pointed out that they are not one and the same thing. Credit where it’s due, the UFC has also done a lot of things that are great for the sport, but it’s only fair to say ‘what’s good for the UFC doesn’t automatically translate that it’s good for mma’.

Mma is more popular than ever! The standard of Mma is rising and we are getting to see some great fighters, most of which are fighting under one organisation- the UFC. You could argue Mma fans have never had it so good and to a point I agree, BUT To a point should be underlined heavily.
The thing that worries me more than anything is that MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, yet the only people making any real money out of the sport is the UFC. A sport so massively popular that five out of the top ten 2011 pay per views were UFC’s. Mma is unquestionably dominated, and to a large extent controlled, by ONE company! How can this be? Well, I think the answer lies in the fact the UFC spread their net wide and have introduced MMA to most parts to the world where they have no other means to access Mma shows. That, along with the clever branding they use, means the UFC have maintained the top spot- when it comes to Mma shows- for the longest time.

Now, we have to be careful not to fall in to the trap of vilifying the UFC for their success. I mean, “what are they meant to do, not be successful?”… no, of course not and it should be noted that the UFC has more than paid it’s dues for its current success as it was there at the start of the Mma revolution. In fact I’d go as far as to say it was pretty much the start of ‘mainstream Mma’.

In the early days the company lost a hell of a lot of money…somewhere around $30 million until they eventually stuck gold with the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ reality TV show, which got Mma out to the masses, and thus garnering the rewards. It should be remembered that no one gave them anything at the start and it was a hard road to walk. Even with that said and remembering all their early hardships, it has to be a concern. At the time of writing this the UFC are pretty much the only game in town and any time you’re the only game in town it means you get to set your own rules. Where is fighter X going to go if he thinks the rules aren’t fair? What are the alternatives?

To quote John Dalberg- Acton “power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the UFC has no plans to give up any of that power.

I’ve seen a UFC contract and once you sign it Dana White & Co have your SOUL (it’s rumoured Dana White uses them as paper weights in his office). It’s a tricky thing for fighters signed to them as the way the UFC are reported to go after people who disagree with them, on any number of issues, is with actions that are hard to describe in any other way…other than plain old bullying. At this moment in time Mma fighters have to just ride it out. It means they take their lumps inside, as well as outside, the cage and just hope they’re in agreement with the UFC’s view on things.

The UFC buying out Strikeforce, which was one off its last real competitors, has meant the UFC’s grasp on Mma just got that bit tighter. Since Pride went under and was bought out by the UFC it seemed it kick-started Japanese Mma into disarray and apart from the thousands of smaller shows out there, the only real competitor for the UFC at the moment is Bellator. Whilst they have achieved a lot in a short amount of time by getting shows out there and producing a promising alternative to the UFC… Dana White isn’t losing any sleep over them.

Other than Bellator you have to look to Asia to see signs of green shoots appearing.

We’ve got One FC that is putting together good quality shows with great production. They’re also holding some kind of summit, where they’re trying to bring together Mma companies across Asia, in the hope to band together to produce great quality Mma. I don’t know many details of this, if it will work or fall flat, but it is encouraging to see One FC trying to put something together and build some momentum. The people of One FC should be applauded for this.

We’ve then got the SFL (Super Fight League) who are based in India. I’ve fought for them twice now and while they’re not inviting me to meetings and showing me their blue prints for success, I do see behind the scenes of this organisation and I’m impressed with what a decent, committed, passionate team they have running the show.

In Europe the only big Mma shows I can think of are Showtime, which is a massive show that cross promotes Kick Boxing and Mma. These events sell out football stadiums in Holland but outside of Holland not many people know they exist, yet alone sell out massive football arenas. Then there’s KSW, a Polish Mma org that has a few promising Polish stars & great production quality. Like Showtime, KSW again doesn’t hold any weight anywhere in the world other than Poland. So as you can see there isn’t an abundance of choice for fighters outside the UFC realm.

I think that this monopoly the UFC holds over the Mma world will take time to change. Mma was brought to the world by the UFC and because of this it will take a long time for the casual fan to realise that the UFC is an organisation that showcases Mma fights and that the UFC is not actually the whole sport of MMA.

As Mma continues to grow then it stands to reason that in time other org’s (perhaps one I’ve mentioned earlier) will come along to rival the UFC and while the UFC will all ways be at the forefront of Mma, it will no longer be the only game in town. This is so much healthier for the fighters and Mma in general, not to mention -ironically enough- the UFC, as competition forces the best out of companies. It breeds the best out of people and companies simply because it has to… You have to be on your game to be able to survive. If you’re the only game in town, like the UFC are, then eventually somewhere down the line you get fat and lazy and everyone then suffers. There are so many examples of this through out history.

I believe we had better fight cards when Pride was around…Why? Well firstly, even though the fighters weren’t all under one organisation and Pride weren’t competing in the UFC’s backyard (apart from 1 pride show they did in Vegas) there were more ‘main event’ worthy match up’s on Pride shows to excite the fans. Pride kept the UFC on their toes as, at one point in time, Pride was genuine, healthy competition for the UFC. I don’t believe the UFC would have ever considered going down the road it seems to have now taken, in terms of aggressively adopting a boxing model for its fights i.e. one big fight per card, if pride were still around.

While on one hand it’s great for the fans to have most of the major Mma competitors under one roof, on the other I feel the fans ultimately suffer because these fights are now spread out over so many different pay per view events.

I’m not exactly sure what the pay per view costs are for a UFC card, I think it’s somewhere between $50 and $75 in the States. When there are three… sometimes four UFC PPV’s a month then not only is the talent being spread thinly, but all the PPV’s are saturating the market. This is why the PPV sales for the UFC have dropped significantly, that’s not to say that they’re not still turning over a massive profit.

The main reason that the UFC 151 was cancelled was the fact they couldn’t find a replacement fighter for the main event, which meant the card simply wasn’t strong enough to sell without their one major, monster fight.

Nowadays the UFC has to have so many events because it has so many fighters under contract that all want and need to fight. So, even if the UFC agreed that they were saturating the market it would make no difference as they would still need to keep putting on shows to keep the many fighters under contract with them busy. This is another reason why the fans and fighters need more competition and choice when it comes to Org’s.

So, what am I hoping for? I, as a Mma fighter AND fan want a viable alternative option to the UFC. Dana White would say that the reason that there isn’t another big Mma org out there right now is because it’s not an easy thing to achieve. I think he’d be a 100% right for saying that, it isn’t easy but never the less it needs to happen otherwise we’ll be paying more money… for less fights.

I, for one, want healthy competition inside the cage as well as outside of it.

As always, thanks for reading and taking time out to comment, my new weekly PODCAST is out and the link is here for anyone that wants to check it out

http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/colossal-concerns-podcast/id558622595