No Need To Panic: A Realistc Future for MMA
What do the failures of so many organizations mean for MMA?
It means that promoters and their investors need to be smarter with their money.
And it’s not like there isn’t precedence within the business world for this sort of gross mismanagement either. I’m sure everyone remembers the dot-com bubble of the late 90s that burst in 2001. Investors had dollar signs in their eyes then, just as they do now, because of the gross potential of the internet and technology to be utterly ubiquitous in the everyday lives of people the globe over. Yet, these investors failed to do their due diligence in order to find appropriate business models to take advantage of that potential.
Thus, the same can be said for today’s investors blindly throwing money into fight promotions with poor business models that do not suit the current economic environment of the industry. The investors that jumped on the IFL and pushed it to $18 are a testament to this.
For as much flack as Dana White gets from the MMA community, I can’t think of any other man in the industry that can say “I told you so!” as often as he can. Granted, the NASCAR analogy is a little played out - and I, too, am tired of hearing it - that doesn’t make it any less relevant.
The business-end of things really isn’t that different from any other industry. The most crucial mistakes I see fight promotions make are the same crucial mistakes that misguided billion dollar enterprises make:
1.) They have no vision, no mission, and as a result no direction and no identity.
These promotions need to figure out who they are, what they do, and whom they cater to.
2.) Poor cost management that generally translates into bankruptcy.
No Need To Panic: An Analysis of the MMA Industry
In recent days we’ve seen a flurry of MMA business activity that has forced everyone within the community to re-evaluate the health of the industry. Individuals like Dana White will be the first to tell you that MMA is going to be more popular than soccer or the Superbowl, worldwide, by 2016. Yet, others are far less optimistic and hailing 2008 as the beginning of the end of MMA. However, the truth of the matter is that neither side is accurate in their assessment of the industry.
Looking beyond the exaggerations and severe panic attacks, the truth can be found somewhere in between both extreme points of view.
Where does the market for MMA really stand?
If the UFC’s 2008 results are any indication, the market for MMA is quite healthy.
The latest S&P credit rating reports for the UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, indicate that PPV buy rates are largely flat, yet revenue is growing due to the increased number of PPVs in a year and also an increase in the prices of those PPVs.
Couture and Lesnar on ESPN television shows Mike and Mike in the Morning and ESPN First Take Today
This just goes to show how far the sport of MMA has come. To have two of it's stars on ESPN (the biggest name in sports) is just incredible. Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar were actually just on Mike and Mike in the Morning (which actually airs on ESPN 2) around 9:30 A.M. EST, discussing their upcoming bout at UFC 91and just MMA in general. The pair of UFC stars will also be joining the cast of ESPN First Take, which starts at 10:00 AM EST. What wonderful news for the UFC and MMA in general as a sport, this will only help to turn more people on to MMA and help the sport to grow even more.
JAKKS to Release WEC and PRIDE Action Figures
Back in June, the UFC inked a four-year licensing agreement with toy manufacturer JAKKS Pacific. While the first wave of action figures from that deal - which is said to include Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar and Anderson Silva, among others - has yet to hit shelves, JAKKS has today issued a press release announcing the addition of two more Zuffa-owned brands to its fold:
JAKKS today announced the signing of two exclusive, four year, worldwide Master Toy license agreements with MMA organizations World Extreme Cage Fighting(R) (WEC(TM)) and PRIDE(R). JAKKS is expected to launch the line of collectible action figures, play sets and accessories based on WEC and PRIDE in Spring 2010.
WEC focuses on lighter weight classes including the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. WEC was founded in 2001 and purchased by the owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship(R) brand in 2006. PRIDE, one of the most popular MMA organizations in Asia, was founded in 1997 in Japan and purchased last year by the owners of UFC.
"We are thrilled to extend our relationship with UFC by adding WEC and PRIDE to our action figure roster," said Stephen Berman, President and COO, JAKKS Pacific. "As the world leader in fighting action figure toys, we plan on dominating the Mixed Martial Arts collector action figure arena. The addition of WEC and PRIDE gives JAKKS a substantial base of fighters with which to work and develop into a broad and exciting line of collectable products for fans."
"This agreement with JAKKS gives fight fans a premier line of authentic collector action figures," said Dana White, UFC President. "This is a great partnership that benefits the sport, our athletes and our fans."
Five promotions could be gone in 18 months
What a depressing headline for an article this is. Sadly, the headline reflects the current situation that the MMA business is in right now.
Think about the climate of the industry at the start of the year and what the climate looks right now, nine months after the first of the year. There are five — count them — five promotions that could go belly-up in the timespan of 18 months. Elite XC, DREAM, Pancrase, Sengoku, and Affliction. The IFL is already finished, and more layoffs in the MMA industry amongst various promotions are expected to take place shortly. These trends indicate that the bottom is about to fall out of the business and that we will be stuck in 2009 with a top-heavy industry, much in a similar vein to professional wrestling.
There has been talk, since his release from jail, that convicted felon Kazuyoshi Ishii is trying to either consolidate or buy out the two smaller players in MMA (Sengoku and Pancrase). Ed Fishman was once approached about investing money into Pancrase, but the company reportedly had 7-figures in debt. The rumors at this time claim that World Victory Road, the parent company of Sengoku, has bought a stake or a controlling interest in Pancrase. If so, Pancrase will basically become a feeding system for Sengoku. However, Sengoku looks to be a money-losing proposition itself and it may get swallowed whole by K-1 if Ishii perceives that there is some value to consolidation in the business. All of this could be taking place while DREAM is on its last legs. I’ve long predicted that once Ishii got out of jail that DREAM would be finished and that K-1’s Godfather would create a new MMA project in 2009.
ON THE RISE: MARLON SANDRO
Name: Marlon Sandro
Professional Record: 11-0
Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai
Notable Wins: Daiki Hata, Miki Shida
Brazil’s team Nova Uniao has produced some of the best fighters in the world including former Shooto Champion Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, UFC fighter Thales Leites and IFL Champion Wagnney Fabiano Santos. Another name that may find its way onto the list is undefeated featherweight standout Marlon Sandro.
The Rio de Janeiro athlete started fighting at a young age of seventeen. Sandro practiced Capoeira early on and then transitioned into Jiu-Jitsu under the tutelage of Andre Pederneiras and Rafael Carino.
Is Hermes Franca Calling Out American Top Team?
The news that Marcus Aurelio is replacing an injured Gleison Tibau against Hermes Franca at UFC 90 is being reported, but not analyzed.
It strikes me as curious that first one, then a second American Top Team Fighter has signed to fight Franca, a former ATT fighter himself.
Is there a feud brewing? This rumor was out there a couple years ago, from a source I don't trust much. Is there anything to it?
Here's the story, according to a source of mine... Kurt Pellegrino trained at Franca's ATT Jupiter school for his fight against Kazuki Okubo, which took place on the Euphoria: 'USA vs. Japan' card on November 5th, 2005. Pellegrino won the fight by KO, and when he got back to Florida, Franca then awarded Pellegrino his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Ricardo Liborio, the leader of ATT, told Franca that all ATT black belts are only given by Liborio to qualified BJJ brown belts. He supposedly went on to say that Pellegrino was not qualified to be an ATT black belt and that he should demote Pellegrino back to brown belt. This supposedly did not sit well with Franca.
Franca and three other members of ATT then took a photo in front of the main ATT building in Coconut Creek, Florida, with an ATT flag held upside down and a middle finger salute. They sent the picture to Liborio, who was supposedly furious and then took away the ATT name from Franca's school.
Bas Rutten Talks IFL in the UFC, Wedding Crashing, and Hollywood
Danny Acosta: What will be the impact the IFL had on the sport looking back?
Bas Rutten: Oh, [laughs] another company that tried and didn’t work. That’s it right there. I have no clue why it happened. I thought the company was a great company. They produced great fighters and got really good really fast. It shows now in the UFC, they’re everywhere. They’re all good…it was a great experience…[The IFL] blew a lot of money, but it’s too late. It’s always easy to talk afterwards. They produced some good fighters. The good part is they released the fighters, so everybody’s fighting.
DA: Out of all the guys that signed with the UFC (Reese Andy, Rory Markham, Jim Miller etc.), who will have the most success?
2008 OLYMPIAN BEN ASKREN CONSIDERING MMA
Ben Askren, a 2008 Olympic wrestler, who just returned from the Beijing Olympics will soon decide if he will continue to work toward the 2012 games in London or make a move into the sport of mixed martial arts.
The University of Missouri wrestler, who won the 2006 and 2007 NCAA National Championship in wrestling in the 174-pound weight class, is a long time fan of the sport and sees the level of competition he could face as a whole new challenge.
“I see it as the ultimate competition, one man against another man, very limited rules, and the toughest guy wins. So that’s definitely what I like about it,” said Askren during an appearance on MMAWeekly Radio.
He competed at 174 pounds while in college and at 163 pounds while in the Olympics, but he said if fighting is his ultimate choice, he would compete in the 170-pound welterweight division.
Shinya Aoki Responds to Jake Shields
"Ah yea, I heard that the American, Jake Shields, is saying 'Aoki ran.' What the hell are you? A feudal lord? If you were some kinda genius like Michael Jackson, maybe I'd pay you some mind. But you? You can't say that."
-- Shinya Aoki, responding to claims by Jake Shields that Aoki had "no budo." More on budo (likely he means "bushido") here.
Exclusive: Fedor Extends Deal With Affliction, Not Set For New Years
Forced out of a WAMMA Heavyweight title fight with Andrei Arlovski that was set for Affliction: Day Of Reckoning on Octocter 11th due to a hand injury, Champion Fedor Emelianenko has had his sights set on a New Year’s Eve fight in Japan against an unnamed opponent followed up by a date with the winner of the WAMMA heavyweight elimination bout on the October 11th card between Arlovski and Josh Barnett.
Tom Atencio, Vice President of Affliction, told MMANews.com this week that the company has just extended their current contract with Fedor and will look to have the WAMMA Heavyweight Championship fight in January or February when they intend on holding their 3rd show.
EDDIE ALVAREZ, "I'M GOING TO GET MY DAY"
Eddie Alvarez entered the Dream 2008 Lightweight Grand Prix as a dark horse to win the star-studded tournament. After defeating Andre Amade, Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri, he earned his spot in the finals, but had to withdraw due to cut suffered in the semi-final bout.
The spectators that filled the Osaka Castle Hall in Osaka, Japan on July 21 witnessed a “Fight of the Year” candidate when Alvarez and Kawajiri slugged it out for seven and a half minutes to determine who would advance to the finals to take on favorite Shinya Aoki, who had defeated Caol Uno in the previous fight on the card.
"Once we felt each other’s power, and we hit each other, it just became mayhem," the Philadelphia fighter told MMAWeekly.com about the match with Kawajiri.
Alvarez received a cut under his right eye early in the fight, and the action was stopped to check the laceration at a time when Alvarez seemingly had Kawajiri hurt and fatigued. Asked about the decision to check the cut at that time, he replied, "The only thing I thought was they were trying to give Kawajiri time to get his breath back.
"It was part of my gameplan going in. He's 30 years old. I'm 24. My conditioning compared to most of the fighters out there, that's where I win fights," stated the Top 5 ranked lightweight. "I'm able to attack and keep coming. That's a big advantage of mine and they were taking that away from me by giving him his breath back.
"I kept arguing with the referee while I was in the corner, saying, 'I'm okay. I'm okay.' Let me back out," he added. "I don't know if that was more about them checking a cut or giving him some air."
Fifty seconds later, the fight resumed. And almost immediately Kawajiri stunned Alvarez with a punch that sent him to the canvas, swaying the momentum of the fight. Alvarez soon found himself mounted, but was able to scramble to his feet where he'd eventually knock his opponent down and finish him on the ground with strikes.
In a tournament format where you compete more than once in the same night, victory celebrations are short lived and the focus quickly shifts to resting, re-hydrating and preparing for the next fight. Alvarez did just that.
"I went to the back, I iced up, everything that we had practiced for the last six weeks before that night. I went through these trials plenty of times, so I did it just like I did it in practice," explained Alvarez. "I went to the back. I started icing up, massaging. I took my reload that I had. It's like carbohydrates and protein. I felt great. Within like 15 or 20 minutes, I felt fully recovered. I was icing up and all we had to do was keep that eye open.
"The doctors were checking it and everything seemed positive. Every time they came back to check it they seemed pretty positive, so I was pretty excited to be able to finish this up. Finally they sent in like seven different doctors. They all checked me. I passed all of their tests. They asked me how many fingers do I have up and whatnot. I passed everything as far as I was concerned."
"Then, they all got in a big huddle. I was like, 'what the hell is going on here? Can someone interpret, or let me know what's going on?'" continued the lightweight contender. "Finally the matchmaker came to me and was like, they think if you go back out and get hit you're going to go blind. They may even be concerned about you going blind right now, like before you even go out there. On the side of the white part of my eye, there was a blood bubble coming off of my eye, like protruding off of my eyeball. They were concerned about that busting and me having vision problems."
"I understand keeping my safety in mind, but I asked the guy, 'is it anything 100,000 dollars can't fix?' I wanted that money, man. He looked at me and said, 'seriously, I can't let you go back out there.' I just started crying like a girl. I couldn't deal with it. I worked so hard," added the disappointed fighter.
Alvarez tries to stay positive when looking back at the situation and was satisfied with his performance. "I'm not disappointed in anything that I did that night," stated the former Bodog welterweight titleholder. "The only thing I'm mad about and upset about is that I didn't get the big check that I wanted... I could have used that money. I seriously could have used that money. Other than that, I'm not disappointed about anything I did. Everything that was in my control I worked hard for, I controlled.
"The situation sucked because everything that I could control that night, like my performance and getting the knockout and everything, I was happy with. I controlled everything that I was able to, but it was just something that was beyond my control that I'm not used to."
Joachim Hansen replaced Alvarez in the finals and defeated Aoki to win the Grand Prix. With the disappointment behind him, Alvarez looks to the future. "I could have used the money, yes. But I'm still the only undefeated fighter in that tournament and I'm happy with that," he reflected. "My money will come. I'm going to get my day."
The Psychology of Fighting
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson’s recent hit-and-run encounter with the law reminded fans that training and competing are only two-thirds of the mixed martial arts equation. Jackson was arrested just 10 days after he relinquished his 205-pound title in a unanimous decision defeat to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. The 30-year-old has since been charged with two felonies and could spend up to three years in jail.
“He was kind of bummed about the [Griffin fight],” said friend and one-time World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight titleholder “Razor” Rob McCullough. “He hadn’t slept. That alone will make someone act a little weird.”
Disappointment often leads to self blame, as fighters become overwhelmed by the feeling they have let down trainers, training partners, family, friends and fans. It anchors their perceived professional and personal failures.
“You can’t be embarrassed to be a warrior,” McCullough said, reflecting on his own high-profile loss to Jamie Varner earlier this year. “Win or lose.”
All celebrities walk a tightrope in the public eye, and professional athletes are no different. MMA fighters are slowly entering mainstream circles and some, like Jackson, have even started earning their Hollywood stripes. With greater fame comes the risk of greater falls.
MMA Fighters...The Hardest I've ever been hit
When I fought Jorge Oliveira in WEC. It Sucked!
-- "Mr. International" Shonie Carter
"My most painful was probably David Loiseau's elbows... Felt like getting hit in the head with a bamboo pole....
-Mike "Quick" Swick
"It was my dad in 8th grade...I wiped boogers(i know i was old but immature and still am)on a girl and teacher got pissed and told my dad. It was a private school so my dad was really embarrassed so he beat the shit out of me on the drive home in the car it felt like sledgehammers hittin' me at 20 punches per second! Either that or training at TUF2 with Keith Jardine he kicked me in the head and I was out for a few seconds...that sucked!.
---Seth "The Silverback" Petruzelli
In preparation for Forrest Griffin's fight with Rampage (Jackson) we were doing a lot of hard sparring at Extreme Couture. There was a particular day when Forrest hit me clean with a solid left hook to the liver followed by a left Thai kick straight to the liver as well. Needless to say either shot would have dropped me but both in succession of one another sort of felt like I was having my colon removed while I was awake. I still finished the round but it did almost kill me.
"I would have to say taking a clean and clear right cross to the forehead just above my left eye. The guy who punched me was Falaniko Vitale. We were sparring last year around this time and we were coming to the end of the round. I felt pretty confident with my left hook so I was in the process of throwing one when "POW"!! I dropped to a knee and put my right fist on the ground, "3 points of contact" to try and get my bearings back:) It is still the hardest I have ever been hit. My head felt like it did when you were a kid and you would fall off your skate board and smack the back of your head on the concrete. A vibrating cold feeling and then you're snapped back to normal:)".
--"The SGT" Steve Byrnes
"Most painful hit I've ever been hit with was probably a liver shot from (Jens) Pulver. It happened more than once, and every time I wished I got KO'd cause it's hard to explain the amount of pain I was in..
--Bart "Bartimus" Paleszewski
Dan Henderson almost knocks me out every day at practice, Thierry (Sokodjou) kicks the shit outta my legs, Mayhem (Jason Miller) has given me the hardest liver kick fortunately all my training partners though.".
--Jesse "JT Money" Taylor
"Well I don't need any more herpes rumors getting out... I would say most hits aren't painful, especially during the fight. You're either conscious or not. Probably the worst are body shots, a good hit in the liver is pretty debilitating. I've been dropped in practice a few times with those."
amn-that-Hurt.htm" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Link
Mickey's signs Tito Ortiz, set to release limited-edition cans
Despite being a free agent with no MMA home of which to speak, former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz remains a popular pick with sponsors.
In fact, Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor has signed Ortiz to a sponsorship deal, and this week, the company will roll out commemorative Mickey's cans that feature Ortiz's likeness.
Mickey's has provided MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) an exclusive first look at the cans.
"Tito is one of the most talented and popular athletes in the world of mixed martial arts, and Mickey's is thrilled to bring the partnership to life for our fans with this limited-edition can," Mickey's Brand Manager Mike Davitt stated. "Many people have wanted to get their hands on Tito over the years. Well, this is their chance."
Financial terms of the sponsorship deal were not revealed.
"Can" jokes aside, Ortiz (15-6-1) remains one of the sport's most recognizable stars and one of the very top pay-per-view draws in MMA history. However, he's winless in his past three fights, and despite announcing he agreed to a "record-breaking" contract with Affliction earlier this month, Ortiz currently remains a free agent.
The Ortiz cans hit stores this week and will be available through the end of the year.
Upper Deck has an MMA trading card set on the way in October
Upper Deck has a mixed martial arts, MMA, trading card set on the way in October. The Art of Fighting would be the first standalone MMA trading card product, including 100 basic cards in the basic set and two autographed cards per 24-pack box.
While there's no doubting MMA's growing popularity, its mainstreaming reminds me a bit of the professional poker wave from a few years ago. Upper Deck had planned to produce a professional poker set, but those plans were scrapped. (Same for a professional fishing set around that time.)
I'm sure the MMA set will do well -- Donruss' Ring Kings insert cards have been pretty popular from the Americana set -- but I think I might rather have the poker/fishing boxes.
I'll decide for sure, though, when I rip into a box in October.