Though Zuffa President Dana White denies that a deal is done, many sources have reported that the UFC has at least reached a handshake arrangement with global network TV giant FOX. While the ink hasn’t dried, if in fact it has even been put on the paper yet, the implications of such a deal would be monumental for the UFC and MMA as a whole. For reference, EliteXC managed to bring in over 6.5 million peak viewers with an average of over four million views to its EliteXC: Kimbo vs. Thompson card (also known as EliteXC: Primetime) that aired on NBC in 2008, the highest rated MMA broadcast ever. The UFC has never managed to bring over one million average viewers to Versus or Spike with a single card. That is the power of a network TV deal. EliteXC, an organization that was barely considered to be at the Bellator level, managed to pull four million more views to “Kimbo Slice” Kevin Ferguson (4-2) than the UFC did on Spike TV with his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter. Imagine what the ratings will be when the Zuffa hype and marketing machine backs Brock Lesnar (5-2) or “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2) to headline a card on everyone’s local FOX station. While one could hardly hope for the 106 million viewers the Superbowl pulls in, the 11.6 million that tuned into the NFC Wildcard game last year is hardly unrealistic for a Pay-Per-View level UFC event. What this means is that MMA isn’t fighting to be mainstream, it is mainstream – and now there may be a direct comparison between the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL, and the UFC.
UFC President Dana White announced today that its parent company Zuffa, LLC. purchased the California-based rival MMA promotion Strikeforce. The reactions of the MMA community were immediately evident as the questions about the implications of the purchase began to pour out of every media outlet and Twitter feed in the MMA world. However, many of the concerns and speculations on everything from potential fight match-ups, to the future of certain Strikeforce fighters, to the continuation of Strikeforce’s Women’s MMA (WMMA) divisions are based largely on the general public’s lack of knowledge into how a business deal of this nature truly works.
The purchase was not a corporate raid or hostile takeover. Zuffa simply purchased a company and while they could change things in the future, it is Scott Coker, not Dana White, who is in charge of the operation of Strikeforce which is still a completely separate company from the UFC. As White said in his MMAFighting.com interview, “It’s business as usual…That’s a separate business that has their own income. They have their own budgets and everything else that they do. They have their own television deals. If they’re that interested in acquiring [a fighter], it’s no different than it was before.”
UFC President Dana White announced today on a national conference call that the UFC and WEC will be merging in 2011. He said, “Everybody’s been talking about it. I think everybody wanted this to happen, from the fans to the media guys writing it should be done.” White continued, “It was a timing thing. As we start opening these other markets, it made sense.”
Tonight, the UFC’s little brother strikes again. This, of course, refers to the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 51 card featuring the featherweight title match-up between the champion “Junior” Jose Aldo (17-1) and “Pitbull” Manny Gamburyan (11-4). This bout is touted as the main event but has all but been forgotten in light of another main card bout, a grudge rematch between “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (15-3) and Jamie Varner (16-3). As has become the norm, the WEC has put together an action packed card full of former TUF competitors, former title holders and contenders, UFC veterans, and all around crowd pleasers. This card promises to be full of fireworks and, more than likely, several exciting finishes. It wouldn’t even be surprising if there’s at least one candidate for Fight of the Year by the end of the night. After putting on a very lackluster card on Saturday with UFC 119, Zuffa may want to pay close attention to their smaller promotion and take notes on how to make on a successful and exciting card out of lesser known talent.
This is arguably one of the best cards a fan could ask for without having to pay. Earlier this year the WEC took its first steps into the world of Pay-Per-View with WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber. Six of the fighters featured on that card will be fighting on tonight’s card, including both participants of the early candidate for Fight of the Year “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (10-2) and Leonard Garcia (18-5-1). However, all of the focus seems to be on the long awaited grudge match between Cerrone and Varner. Those casual fans who turn off the TV following the hate filled battle between the “Cowboy” and his arch-rival will be in for quite a shock when they learn that the main event they had all but written off was the most exciting bout of the night.