It’s time for fewer UFC events, too bad they can’t…
The UFC is everywhere. In your face almost every weekend with the latest contender fighting in a fight night with a pay per view each month that is packed. But if you take a deeper look at the cards, you’ll see a drop in quality of contenders that will actually pan out, and it’s quite obvious. We could have some better quality cards with less events during the year and fewer fighters on the roster. But with the ESPN deal, that currently isn’t possible.
ESPN: The Official Slave Master of the UFC
After the COVID-19 pandemic, we applauded (or ridiculed) the UFC for getting back to fighting while the whole world was shut down. This was a huge accomplishment and brought to us the “bubble” wherein athletes would spend 2 weeks alone before the fight to stay safe from COVID infection. But this brought some tough tasks for the UFC: finding fighters to fill the cards and step in on short notice.
ESPN signed a major contract with the UFC and made them quite wealthy. In this contract there was a stipulation for a certain amount of events a year for the platform’s ESPN+ app. That number isn’t known publicly, but it’s in the realm of 48. This is almost every weekend of fights. The problem with this is the show must go on. Need to fill those cards (another likely addendum to the ESPN contract)? Sign Contender Series fighters. All of them.
Dana White and company has stated they want to put on the best fights possible. They haven’t been doing that. As we talked about earlier, the UFC is getting out maneuvered by ONE Championship and PFL. Now the UFC has to keep their obligations to ESPN and the shareholders from the Endeavor IPO. This means that we have to cut costs because of the fixed amount coming in from the ESPN contract. We’re not fully separate from the APEX yet so ticket sales won’t help. This means cut fighters that cost a lot: Junior Dos Santos, Anderson Silva, and Alistair Overeem, and sign these $10k/$10k fighters.
These young athletes deserve a chance a lot of the times. But throwing them into the fire sees them with their customary three strikes and they’re out of the UFC.
Cutting down on events during the year could quell this. Fewer cards means you can sign less fighters and put better fights on the same card. This would be fantastic if it wasn’t for that pesky ESPN contract, which ends this year. So now, the UFC is in between a rock and a hard place. Keep this lucrative ESPN deal which is better for shareholders and the UFC will see ONE or PFL start to creep up on them in terms of product quality. Or they can cut ties with ESPN by either renegotiating a contract or leaving all together. That would be bad for shareholders.
So what’s the company to do? They can’t go buy Bellator like PFL and ONE are trying to do. They can’t crush them in pay either, they have to cut costs for shareholders. The only thing they can do is endure until the contract is up and renewed to something they can manage a little better.
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.