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Bloggers agree: Lorenzo with the UFC means big things to come

Okay, so people have had some time to digest the news that Lorenzo Fertitta is becoming a co-head of the UFC. I dunno if everyone is appreciating the importance of having a second man running ship, but it seems like most bloggers are in agreement: this can only mean good things for the sport:

From MMA Payout:

Under Dana White’s leadership the company has reached heights that could have scarcely been imagined by most when the Fertittas bought the company. However, it has became increasingly clear that the job of taking the company to the next level was simply overwhelming White.

Whether it was too much work, too little ability, or a combination of the two, it was clear that something would have to change if the company was going to reach the next level. Simply put: White could not, and perhaps no mere mortal could, transform the UFC into a mainstream, international sports and entertainment brand on his own.

From Bloody Elbow

For months there were rumors that the Zuffa would sell the UFC.   They were doing great numbers, but their top draws were leaving or retiring, and the future was uncertain.   Today’s announcement signals that they are in it for the long haul, and that is a great thing for fight fans.   Nothing scared me more than the possibility of a media company running the UFC.   This is a unique business, it takes intricate knowledge of the fight business to make it work, and the people at Zuffa are among the few that can actually do it.

From Five Ounces:

White’s genuine business style was a refreshing change from boxing promoters and it helped attract new fans to the sport. However, what you see with White is often what you really get. There are times when his business acumen might rub people the wrong way (i.e. HBO) and when it comes to business development, you often need a soft touch when trying to woo potential partners. It just so happens that the phrase “soft touch” isn’t in White’s vocabulary.

  • Jackie Chiles

    Great move by the UFC. The organization had hit its plateau with Dana White in charge. Now with a “legitimate” or seemingly legitimate business man in charge will hopefully allow Dana White to take a back seat for awhile and allow some changes to be made because lets be honest, the UFC has been kind of stagnant lately: the production never changes, the hype for fights never changes, the reality show is stale, some of the starts are either gone or at the end of their careers, etc…

  • Euthyphro

    @Jackie Chiles — I don’t see the stagnation you’re talking about.

    “The production never changes”: HD came in over the last year, and Sam Caplan recently noted that it seems as though the quality has gone up markedly over the past few broadcasts
    “The hype for fights never changes”: The UFC just transitioned to a style more reminiscent of HBO’s 24/7 series, and has de-prioritized Dana White and Joe Rogan interviews in those puff pieces
    “The reality show is stale”: You may not like the current changes, but the show has changed significantly this year, starting with 32 fighters, and far more focus on the actual in-cage action, with substantially less focus on in-house drama. Furthermore, they’ve already announced plans in the long-term to revamp their reality show/weekly presence on Spike with more live fight content on the network.
    “Some of the [stars] are either gone or at the end of their careers”: That’s true, but not indicative of the UFC being stagnant. On the contrary — things have changed quite a bit in terms of who is at the top of the company (names like Anderson Silva, Rampage, BJ Penn, and Noguiera instead of Tito, Rich Franklin, Tim Sylvia, etc) and who is in a position to break into the next level (Huerta, Machida, etc).

    For all the complaints we hear about the job the UFC is doing in running their business, they’ve shown a willingness to address things that clearly need fixing. If anything, a reasonable complaint is that things have tended to happen slowly — which in many cases may not even have been a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s ridiculous that it has taken until now to monetize the brand to a greater extent — the merchandising agreements [action figures, etc] and arrangements with fighters to offer other co-branded fighter/UFC merchandise are a long time coming.

    Nevertheless, with Lorenzo on board full time, there is less of a bottleneck at the top of the company when big decisions need to be made. You can expect more of these types of agreements, which are essentially free money for the UFC and its fighters with no effort required on their part. Furthermore, this signals an understanding of the fact that the UFC needs to expand internally before they can expand the brand. They only have ~100 people on staff right now (even that is a doubling of the staff from 2 years ago), and are attempting to run a global operation with a strong presence in multiple international markets. They saw what happened when they tried to half-ass that effort in Japan — going into an unfamiliar territory with very different business practices when anyone with a good understanding of the Japanese business environment could (and did — Zach Arnold) have told them what the problems were — and likely won’t make the same mistake again.

  • Jackie Chiles

    Difference of opinion I suppose, but what we do obviously agree on is the change up. Don’t get me wrong because I think the UFC does a good job and enjoy their product, but I dont think there is any denying that things could be better and often these “things” stem from the stuborness and lack of business acumen from the man at the top:

    Production never changes: Same heavy metal gladiator intro since UFC’s inception; same predictable commentary, same camera angles, etc..Big deal; they got HD just like every other broadcast worth a damn, plus you pay $10 bucks for it.

    Fight hypes: Even though they have made an attempt, saying watching Franklin workout once, interview him and then show him shadowboxing in a mist does not hold a fucking candle to the in depth personal interviews that HBO does with boxers, their families, friends, and trainers in the week leading up to the fight. THe “Countdown” shows are pretty much garbage in comparison. Its also worth noting that the UFC could have had the same caliber of broadcasts if it weren’t for the stuborness of…you guessed it…Dana White.

    Reality Show: You seriously think you can make an argument for it not being stale? So they have 32 fighters instead of 16, so that makes it different for the first 2 episodes of the season and thats it. Plus, the show is not gaining any new viewers or fans. Anyone that watches TUF in its 7th season is pretty much guaranteed to also be buying the PPVs.

    Stars: I agree with you here, its not necessarily stagnation but it is no secret that a lot of the big guns have left SPECIFICALLY because of Dana White. Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Arlovski come to mind, all former champions and some of the biggest draws in UFC history.

  • Jackie Chiles

    Also in regards to TUF, “less in house drama”? Are you serious? I’m pretty sure I saw a guy drink a handle of tequilla last week and piss himself on national television. I also saw the marketing for “tune in for the biggest twist in TUF history” for the last week. And the list goes on…

    If they were “moving away from drama” like you said, then why don’t they give those guys a TV or some books to read. That’s right…because they want these guys to piss themselves, shit in each others toilets, and fight in the backyard. That argument holds ZERO weight.

  • Euthyphro

    “That argument holds ZERO weight”
    Well, you responded to a different argument. Mine was that the UFC has reduced the focus on in-house drama, not eliminated it. If you compare this season to previous seasons, the ratio of time spent focusing on fight preparation and the fights themselves is significantly higher than time spent focusing on activities in the house. That’s a fact, and one that represents a move away from in-house drama and towards in-cage drama. Is there still some in-house drama? Yes. Is there as much as previously? No. What does that equal:

    A move away from in-house drama.

    Plus, you ignored the second half of my argument: the fact that the UFC has already stated that they will be revamping their weekly show format in the years to come to focus more on live fights. Any response there

    Production: What would you expect? A rotating army of new play-by-play and color men? An overhead blimp? How much can you change the commentary and camera angles?

    Fight hype: That’s a function of the fact that HBO is a direct partner in the revenue of their pay-per-views. If Spike got a cut of UFC ppv revenue, you can bet that they’d be willing to air more in-depth focuses. Fact is, UFC gets an hour countdown special for free on Spike, and they’ve taken significant steps to make it more impressive over the past year. Despite the fact that you personally have issues with it, the show’s format has not been stagnant.

  • Jackie Chiles

    No offense, but I’m glad you aren’t in charge of the UFC. You seem pretty pleased by the slightest of changes that have almost zero impact on the product overall.

    You cite a “focus more on live fights”. What does that even mean? For TUF or for the “Fight Nights” that they already utilize on a regular basis?

    And I guess they are “moving away from in house drama” but what impact does that really have in the scheme of things? People still tune in knowing that they are going to see a bunch of drunk guys arguing, slamming their heads through walls, and then a 15 minute fight at the end. Nothing has changed and I GUARANTEE you the normal viewer has not noticed any change, but you obviously seem pleased with it enough to cite it as an example for why the show is not stagnant. For me, however, showing 5 more minutes of the fighters in the locker room instead of 5 more minutes of Rampage being shot with a conveniently placed net gun does not spruce up the show enough for me to consider it “revived” or “not stale”. In all honesty, I think this season has been more about drama than a lot of the others culminating in a huge drama marketing ploy to end the show.

  • Jackie Chiles

    Also, whatever you may mean by a “focus on live fights” is essentially irrelevant. Why? Because it hasn’t been done yet: just like an HBO deal, just like a network deal, just like a “major shakeup” in TUF format which changed nothing.

    As far as production goes, just give me anything different. If you don’t get sick of watching the same outdated intro, same mist intros, etc…then you are obviously much more patient than me. This isn’t a make or break thing, but there are countless things that could be done to liven and sprucen the product up. Top notch companies adapt and the UFC has not done much lately.

    I guarantee you though that the beginning of Affliction and the perceived threat of Elite XC not only encouraged this Ferritta move but also will bring about more changes which will be way more relevant than the ones you point out which essentially require a microscope to even figure out.

    A lot of the stagnation was a direct product of Dana White thinking he had things locked up (which he may be correct) but now I think outside circumstances are calling for different changes and if the UFC was smart, they would act accordingly to maintain control.