It’s no secret that Dana White is a vindictive human being. He freely admitted that he understood why, during negotiations with Spike, they counter-programmed his Live On Versus event. He even went as far as to say it’s nothing that he hasn’t done in the past. That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. On countless occasion White has counterprogrammed events in an effort to illustrate that his product is superior to other products. These counter-programming tactics mainly took place against Affliction and Strikeforce events, but White has a whole new outlet available to him and, best of all, he’s got a partner that has some issues with other companies, too.
UFC recently struck a deal with FOX programming for 7 years. As mentioned in my previous article, the deal includes 4 prime-events, per year, on the actual FOX network along with live programming and other UFC related programming to be held on FUEL TV and FX. I have already gone into the specifics of the deal with FOX and won’t be spending too much time on those specifics in this article. Instead, I’m going to talk about the possibilities that White has available to him now that he has partnered with FOX.
FOX was the home of the Bowl Championship Series until it began airing on ESPN last year. ESPN outbid the network by $25m to obtain the rights to the BCS beginning in 2011. FOX put in a bid of $100M and lost out to ESPN when they placed a bid of $125M over 4 years for college football’s premier bowl games. FOX was rather miffed about the parting of ways and felt that ESPN would use their influence to create potential BCS match-ups via their analyst’s voting privileges.
I would like to say that everything in this article is merely speculation and, more importantly, unlikely. I do, however, feel that it’s worth mentioning because it’s a very real possibility and, given the nature of the deals between the BCS and ESPN & UFC and FOX, it stands to reason that it could happen at least once over the next 3 years. More importantly, I actually think that this possibility would be rather amusing to me because it would tell us exactly how far Dana White would go to push his product into the limelight.
I digress. After the UFC signed their deal with FOX, Dana had an immediate falling out with ESPN. ESPN cancelled an interview with the UFC President regarding this weekend’s UFC Rio and that left a very sour taste in White’s mouth. He immediately took away ESPN’s press credentials at his events and took to verbally assaulting them on Twitter. Here are some of the things that White said about ESPN on his personal Twitter:
“ESPN always hated us and now they hate us more now that we are on FOX. They canceled my int next week for UFC Rio F*k ESPN.”
“@jimrome is the only good thing about ESPN”
This is nothing new for Dana. He’s had comments like this for a myriad of people in the past and tends to be a bit hot-headed when he feels slighted by someone. This isn’t the first time he has taken away press credentials, either. White once stripped Sherdog of their credentials after he felt they were attacking him. It’s unclear how long this will last with ESPN and UFC, but White has been known to hold a grudge for a fairly long time. More importantly, now that he’s got the backing of FOX, Dana can promote his own product on a national level without needing the help of ESPN.
With all of that said, ESPN clearly could help the UFC as far as “recaps” go, but there’s not too much more that ESPN can do for the UFC. If anything, losing access to UFC events hurts ESPN because they lose the ability to report those results to their audience. I’m not suggesting that this would cripple ESPN or affect anything majorly, but Dana could make it difficult for them to report on the fastest growing sport in America.
This sort of brings me to the crux of my argument. The UFC already has their first event on FOX slated for November 12th. Unfortunately for prime-time viewers the event will be a limited engagement, featuring only two fights, because of the Pacquiao-Marquez fight later that evening. Bob Arum, who is convinced that people still give a **** about his sport, sees it as an open challenge from the UFC by going head-to-head with the unquestioned king of boxing. In reality, Mr. Arum, the UFC event will be off the air by the time the PPV event begins on HBO. Dana has said on multiple occasions that he won’t go head to head with Pacquiao because of how big of a fan he happens to be of the boxer.
Despite being a part-owner and president of the UFC, Dana has gone on record many times saying that he’s a fan of boxing. As a matter of fact, Dana is an amateur boxer himself. I must say that I’m rather disappointed that the UFC’s first event on FOX will only feature two fights, but I understand the logic and reasoning behind a limited event. More importantly, this will give FOX a chance to figure out how to produce the UFC and if they need to add any delays to avoid violating FCC rules and regulations. We all know fighters LOVE to swear.
Dana does not, however, have any problems going up against the BCS. Yes, ESPN’s once-a-year crown jewel will now be subject to the devious nature of El Jefe. Before people begin to scoff at me saying, “UFC can’t beat college football,” let me remind you that the UFC wouldn’t expect to beat it…only hurt it. College football has too large of a fan base to be outdone by a UFC event, but Dana and FOX would love to stick to ESPN by taking a couple hundred thousand viewers from an event that only airs once a year.
Let posit a scenario for you. Last year Ohio St. played Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. For the sake of this argument you’ll have to assume that FOX had gotten this deal done last year, so stick with me. Let’s just say that Dana and FOX decided that they were going to counter the Sugar Bowl with a free title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard that took place 3 days prior. How many viewers do you think that would have stolen from a bowl already marred with controversy?
The main card featured Maynard vs. Edgar, Leben vs. Stann, Vera vs. Silva, Diaz vs. Kim, and Guida vs. Gomi, Leben, Stann, Edgar, Maynard, and Guida have HUGE fan bases. They could have easily stolen a good number of views from that Ohio St. and Arkansas game. The 2011 Sugar Bowl did an 8.4 overnight, but I can’t help but think that those numbers may have been in the 7’s or high 6’s if they’d had to compete with a free UFC title fight on broadcast television.
FOX is already upset with ESPN for outbidding them on the BCS and I can’t imagine FOX having too many issues with a Dana White led counter-programming campaign against ESPN. It’s even more likely now that Dana feels slighted by ESPN due to their cancelation of his interview. If the tensions between ESPN and the UFC grow larger, it wouldn’t shock me if FOX and the UFC target a specific bowl that is known for low ratings, perhaps the Orange Bowl, and set a date for a major UFC event that will feature a prominent name and/or title fight. The UFC also has Brock Lesnar in their back pocket. Brock is a ratings nightmare for people going against him. The former WWE superstar has set landmarks in his PPV appearances and Brock’s personality lends itself to Dana’s line of thinking. Dana has said on many occasions that Lesnar reminds him of himself and that they think and act in a similar fashion.
Brock going up against a sub-par Orange, Fiesta, or Sugar Bowl could certainly hurt ESPN and send a message from Dana and FOX that they will not bow to the Worldwide Leader in Sports. You can be sure that, even though it wouldn’t kill their BCS ratings, the brass at ESPN would be mightily pissed off if they learned that FOX and the UFC were planning an event featuring Brock Lesnar, Tito Ortiz, and maybe a title fight to counter-program a lop-sided BCS match-up. Personally, I would find it rather amusing.
There’s no telling what sort of tactics that FOX and the UFC are going to use against ESPN now that they have joined forces, but you can be damn sure that it’s going to be interesting. Dana has been known to do some pretty interesting things when he’s upset at someone and he’s certainly upset with ESPN at the moment. In the end, college football and the BCS will always win the ratings war, but that’s never been Dana’s game-plan. He loves to force individual’s hands and make people decide between one event and the other. In the age of DVR this is impossible to do, but you can be sure that there’s going to be a decent number of individuals that will choose MMA over a bowl that doesn’t feature “their” team. Actually, I know a decent number of MMA lovers that will only watch another sport if they can’t find an MMA competition on television. Besides, would you rather listen to Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg call a live event or Craig James’ bitchass?
Posted by prophecy033
If Dana and zuffa can counter program a killer fight that drops the BCS ratings so much that it forces the heads of the BCS to change the format to what would bring in more viewers (playoff anyone), Dana would have 2 people that would sing his praises, me and Dan Patrick