Last week there were some interesting comments from boxing promoters regarding the UFC being investigated for anti-trust practices. Bob Arum (of “MMA is a skinhead sport” fame) sums the sentiment up:
BOB ARUM: “Well, I don’t know what the laws are, but there seems there’s an anti-trust problem somewhere, but all credit to UFC for buying out Strikeforce, that’s a great way to make your competition disappear.”
Ariel Helwani asked Dana White about it after UFC 131:
Has anyone even approached you with this, someone who can actually investigate this kind of thing? It’s only boxing people who have brought this up in the past. Anyone from the government ever look into it?
I don’t think it’s just boxing people. I think people are out there poking around. Let me tell you what there are a lot of people, because this thing has been so successful, theres a lot of people out there who come after us and are taking shots at us. And the reality is we took something that was absolutely dead and turned it around and turned it into this. And it was done by investing a ton of money and the Fertittas actually having the balls to do it and to stay behind this thing when it didn’t look like it was goinna turn around. And all these people now that are taking shots at us and coming after us and doing what they’re doing were the people who were laughing at us nine, ten years ago. We’re the best at what we do, we’ve changed the fight business forever, we’ve revolutionized it. And all these other guys who weren’t smart enough to do it and didn’t see it wanna cry about it now.
Note that Dana White didn’t simply say ‘No.’ As for whether there’s a case for anti-trust or monopolistic behavior, it’s hard to say. On one hand, Strikeforce proved that a game promotion can go from being a regional show to a serious player in a matter of years. But then the UFC bought then and are probably going to swallow them once their Showtime deal is up.
They’ve also done all sorts of sneaky shit to hinder competition: suing other promoters at every opportunity, messing with deals, keeping promotions out of Vegas, buying the WEC so they could put it on Versus to block other promotions from getting onto the channel, and blackballing sponsors who worked with other organizations. Their version of hardball is actually closer to a hard raping than a hard ball, and I’m sure if the FTC decided to be dicks they could find stuff that wasn’t exactly kosher.
That being said, Dana White is right: if it wasn’t for the UFC there’s a very good chance MMA wouldn’t even exist in North America any more. How you can fault the company that built the sport up from nothing for doing too well is beyond me. Although since this is the American government we’re talking about, you never know.