Just Another Dickhead’s Opinion on the UFC
You go to any MMA related website or forum, you’re guaranteed to find the same talk about the Reebok deal, shit uniforms, even worse fighter pay and how they fucked up. May not be far off the mark, but like most people I’m in no position to judge, yet amongst those that do you don’t see a whole lot of suggestions about what they should do from here. Only what they should have done instead.
Anybody that has tried to do anything, ever, will more than likely comment disdainfully about people who criticise without offering any alternative, and quite rightly so in this dickhead’s opinion. So fuck it, I think I got a way to turn it into a positive that will see the exponential growth of the UFC worldwide. But what the fuck do I know? The answer is most certainly jack shit, that’s why this is just another dickhead’s opinion on the future of the UFC.
As we all know the UFC was invented in Brazil, built in the USA and has always found its bread and butter in fandom on the American continents. As such, on most levels of their business model they have been fighting with the most popular, well-funded and organised sports on the planet. Especially when it comes to sponsorship, marketing and exposure, as big brands have already developed strategies of marketing that are cohesive with the structure of the sports model of the USA.
The majority of these sports have the same general structure, with junior levels organised by communities, adolescent programs part of school life and sources of recruitment for college and professional leagues. Big brands look at marketing through these pre-existing structures, and go all the way down the line to scout their potential recruits before their competition (if you haven’t seen the ESPN 30 for 30 episode called “Sole Man”, then check it out, it’s a really interesting analysis of this model). Professional leagues are operated as an organisation from which tenders for licenses to operate individual teams are offered. Or some shit like that. Anyway, the UFC has often stated that they are nearly as big as, or bigger than, or looking to be bigger than [add arbitrary professional league here].
They have been doing their best to sell the Reebok deal as a means to grow the future of the UFC through endorsements with big companies, and that this is just the start of them competing endorsement wise with the major leagues (usually meaning the NFL). For that strategy, it is definitely the right direction to go. This dickhead personally thinks that even if the Reebok deal was the best deal, it was still way too cheap and it’s hurt both organisations in public opinion. Also, Reebok did nobody any favours with the design of their UFC apparel.
With every marketing ‘evolution’ of the UFC, it has always been a positive, an improvement, and always inline with the core values of their business (I unreasonably fucken hate the term ‘on brand’). When they went to Fox, they had new show intros and music, which were all cool. The Fox robots fighting, the intro which went through memorable scenes such as Royce, Silva’s kick on Belfort etc. Despite the internet’s penchant for hating everything and being a cunt (yes, us included), we had no reason to suspect that Reebok couldn’t do something awesome with these uniforms. These are the guys responsible for Pumps and Shaqnosis shoes after all, and actually made parachute tracksuits cool, even if we all deny it today. The champ’s uniforms have the same shit just in gold. How could you not have a kick ass-custom-famous-artist-designed Ronda Rousey shirt. Would sell out like a mafukka. Pay David Cho to design one. Shit, get Hassy to draw up a custom Mark Hunt one for a Japanese card.
Then we get Giblert Melendez and at this point you almost feel sorry for them. And now, Anderson Aldo, and this dickhead struggles to believe people at Reebok are even casual MMA fans.
This dickhead believes the problem comes with the comparison to organisations such as the NFL. You can adopt the strategies of their success but this dickhead thinks that the UFC is too different, and has far better advantages to entice lucrative sponsorship that the already established leagues don’t have. One of our areas of interest here at Clicking Balls is Formula 1, and this dickhead thinks that the UFC would do way better to look at the structure of F1as a point for comparison. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t know of or give a shit about the structure of F1, so I’ll give a tl;dr version.
In a nutshell, F1 is a sport governed and sanctioned by the FIA, owned and run by majority shareholder CVC, who appoint Bernie Ecclestone (who has shares in both CVC and F1) to run the whole show and make them squillions. Bernie negotiates pretty much all contracts for F1, including licensing for teams to compete, and who supplies tyre for all teams. The FIA is pretty much stacked with former F1 employees and more or less give a stamp of approval to whatever Bernie wants.
So after all this prefacing bullshit, I possibly start to make my point here. Ferrari is the most popular manufacturing brand in motorsport. If you could choose one brand to get involved, it would be them, and this is no secret as they are (fucking enormously, to the tune of 100’s of millions a year) compensated simply for being involved. For the comparisons I’m making, I guess you would call them Nike. The next biggest two in F1 are Mercedes and Red Bull. Mercedes have only been a manufacturer for a few years, but provided engines and technological expertise, with great effect (winning with the incredible one season wonders BrawnGP team, which they bought following their success). Red Bull are not a works team, meaning they build the chassis but not the engine, however before starting Red Bull Racing they were sponsors in F1 all the way back from the late 80’s. Ferrari were the first and original big car manufacturer involved, with the most money, with the rest of the field being labelled ‘garagistes,’ generally meaning ordinary blokes building a car in their garage to race. They weren’t considered as legitimate as a car manufacturer. It should be noted that all of this was before Bernie Ecclestone was at the helm. If you haven’t cottoned on by now, Bernie is going to be compared to Dana White, Ferrari to Reebok, Formula 1 to the UFC and the FIA to Fertittas.
Now, imagine if back then the FIA proposed to Ferrari that they pay the FIA for the right to be the sole engine supplier for the Formula 1 grid, as well as primary sponsor rights. This would also allow for them to create their own factory team). This is a loose comparison to Reebok paying for the right to supply the fight kits (again, a loose correlation to ‘equipment’ theoretically supplied by Ferrari for this analysis. With flaws, I know, but I’m not pretending this postulation is air tight, rather a base to move forward). It would have been an immediate windfall of cash for Formula 1, and at the end of the term of the contract, perhaps they negotiate with, lets say GM (like the UFC would with Nike/Adidas), for a bigger price than Ferrari paid, and this structure of termed sponsorship that increases at every tender continued. They may have increased their quantifiable revenue, but the worth of their brand and the exposure it gets would have missed out on extra sponsorship from other big companies, namely Red Bull and Mercedes. They would only be able to compete while supporting their main commercial rival, which of course they’re not going to do with such obvious disadvantages to ‘winning’ (not just winning fights, but marketing/revenue goals). This dickhead feels this is the approach that the UFC is taking with its model.
So finally, after 1300 words, my point. I think it is best for the UFC to incentivise (is that a legit word?) big brands to start their own MMA fight gyms, and use the octagon as a proving ground for which is the best brand for any athlete to be associated with. Earlier in this piece, when I spoke about the UFC having advantages over the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and whatever three letter sports are in the U.S.A, this is the most pertinent. This dickhead firmly believes that the octagon is the only current stage where big athletic brands can prove undeniably and undoubtedly that they are the best company in that market. They are the ones that are responsible for the wins. In other sports, sure you gave them cash, and they probably put it to good use and won. Or, it was already a talented team and you hitched your wagon to its success by throwing cash their way. But you’re not legitimately allowed to claim responsibility for their success. You claim an affiliation with their success.
The only sport I know that whereby the major brands can commercially benefit from claiming responsibility for success is F1. Surely any marketer (we actually have one amongst us, but I haven’t asked him yet), unless you’re working for Renault, couldn’t ask for more to make their job easier. With the major athletic brands building their own fight teams, they put their money where their mouth is when their fighter enters the octagon. Imagine if, instead of Reebok giving the UFC a reported $70 million, the UFC said give us $20 million and spend $50 million building state of the art facilities and training programs and create your own fight camp. This could include salaries for their contracted fighters and staff. For what the current pay structure is, they would easily be head and shoulders above anyone with regards to fighter talent and facilities. It’s going to be hard to attract the best talent in regards to coaching, as unlike F1, the nature of fighting allows any man with a superior strategy to be successful, as equipment isn’t taken into the octagon. The ‘garagistes,’ if you will. Every man and woman has two arms two legs and a heartbeat. And some shitty Reebok clothes, but that’s a constant.
Again, with the UFC being in its infancy compared to established sports, it’s not an exact science. The indefinite best way to win is not yet discovered, and the jury is out as to if it exists. The variables that person on person combat poses are too great to be neutralised by one individual. In short, there is too much to learn in one person’s lifetime, so at the moment there is always a strategy to beat anyone. This allows the ‘garagistes’ in MMA to still compete and win, whereas in F1, they cannot. The big advantage to be gained is through scientific research into fighting as a sport and discipline, and its main inhibitor, like any scientific research, is money. Obviously for big brands this isn’t an obstacle. That’s where, currently, they could see a clear advantage to winning. Also, they already have the Lions share when it comes to contracting fighters, so their fighter roster is strong as fuck. Its very similar to what we see happening at Elevation fight team, with backing from MusclePharm.
I’ll put in an example to provide food for thought. Let’s look at Anderson Silva versus Chris Weidman. Anderson at the time was sponsored by Nike, while Weidman now is sponsored by Reebok, but let’s say both fighters had both sponsorships at the time of the fight, AND were fighting out of Nike and Reebok fight camps respectively.
Imagine the marketing abilities for both Nike and Reebok to make custom apparel to support this fight. Also, for the UFC, imagine the help gained in promoting this fight, with the tendrils of those brands reaching way further into potential markets for the UFC than they could do themselves. Also, this fighter pay dispute? Reebok can set fighter salaries against a way broader avenue for profit than the UFC, and as such can pay the fighters way better than the UFC can. Just like Ferrari can pay Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikonnen way more than the FIA or Bernie Ecclestone would. Look at Fernando Alonso getting paid $40 million to drive a McLaren. In the UFC world that’s like paying GSP $40 mill to go train with Kimbo Slice.
With Reebok already having signed pretty much all the champions and immediate talent, if they start their own fight camp they can start benefitting financially from the success of their stars. If it is indeed successful, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be (tbh I think it would be more successful than Nike giving Bo Jackson his own marketing campaign), then surely Nike and Adidas, if the avenue for promotion in the octagon was open, would be forced to follow suit? After all, if the goal is to get endorsements from these big companies, it’s going to be in the UFC’s best interest for Reebok to succeed, and let’s be honest favourable allowances will be made as both benefit substantially. This way, more than any other sport on the planet, Nike, Adidas and Reebok can finally settle who is the best? They provided the training, they providing the facilities, they provided everything, they are in some part directly responsible for the success of their fighter. Their brand undeniably made the difference. With that promotion, and that much at stake, it stands to reason that the return value of investment, probably just in market share alone, would be more worthwhile on a global scale directed through the UFC than any USA domestic sport. I’m not saying by a landslide, because even domestically the USA sports compete globally from a marketing aspect, and often win, but I think that the UFC are way more accessible globally. And surely the $70 mill they forked out would have much better returns.
Also, the nature of competition and market forces dictates that if Nike made their fighter kits look way better than Reebok’s, then they sell more, which I would imagine would result in the Reebok board giving their marketing department a right bollocking, and force them to come up with better apparel, which is best for all of us. One thing that F1 suffers from is that their apparel is shit, and that’s because the works teams are rightly focused on selling cars. Honestly, F1 is my favourite sport, and I don’t buy any apparel because it all looks shit. Even Red Bull’s, which is strange because they generally have an awesome line of apparel. Their Felix Baumgartner backpack, designed to replicate the original, looked sweet as fuck. I would buy any teams apparel if it looked good, but it doesn’t. The only cool things that they sell are car parts redesigned into bespoke furniture, which usually sell for around $2k. Don’t get me wrong, if I could afford it, I would buy it, but it’s not exactly a $25 cap now is it?
The UFC isn’t in those expensive markets, and big brands can directly profit, fucking huge, from awesome apparel paired with successful fighters/gyms, as that is what is directly associated with that fighter’s success. Not marketing a $300k car, as is Ferrari’s case. As such, they have more avenues to directly profit from success, and pay their contracted fighters more than the UFC ever could, when you consider they are responsible for paying 500+ fighters. With the salaries of all the top talent taken on by apparel brands, it leaves the UFC in a better position to adequately compensate up and coming fighters, investing in the grass roots which will allow the expansion of their business. Kind of like how AFL teams will pay their players, but the AFL gives out payments to the grass roots clubs of all AFL players, and invest in grass roots projects (Auskick, as they call it) and it works great. From the marketing side, most of your work is done from the big apparel brands promoting their fighters and upcoming fights, concurrently designing specific apparel (NBA champions only sell one championship line of apparel a year, Holly Holm can have 3 specific lines of championship apparel in a year if she defends her belt 3 times in that year) and making huge profits.
So with that competition going, lets look at other markets. Energy drinks. So far Monster is the major sponsor in that market. Imagine a Red Bull fight academy. Holy shit, that would be incredible. Try and tell me Red Bull wouldn’t sponsor the fuck out of Donald Cerrone’s Bad Motherfucker Ranch? Not while Monster has the sole naming rights for the UFC.
Earlier I also spoke about the things that were innate in the UFC that counteract some flaws that F1 currently suffers from, which is what this dickhead will address next.
First is ownership. F1 is owned and invested in by venture capitalists, especially CVC, who rape the money out of the sport with little regard for the future. They are now looking to sell, so you can be damn sure they are going to wring the cloth till all the pennies fall out. They have also taken on $5 billion in debt to do so, and continually overestimate the value of F1 to the point of illegality, as Bernie’s lawyers will attest to. This is also a bit scary when you see that the UFC has taken on debt as a means to pay out dividends. Obviously Dana and the Fertittas brought the UFC back from extinction and turned it into what it is today, and they overwhelmingly have control and a genuine interest in whats going on. In F1, it’s mainly banks, whose primary business isn’t F1, so they look at it from an investment viewpoint where if F1 folds, they’re still all good because it’s not their primary interest. This isn’t the case with the UFC, as despite what sherdog will tell you, they obviously genuinely give a fuck about what is going on in their business, and they do care about where it’s going and the development of their new rehab centre is a testament to that.
For fighters, and potentially sponsors, the octagon is the most primal and purest arena for competition.
So let them fucking compete.