UFC 76: Business Review & Outlook

September 23, 2007

The UFC paid the price last night for booking LiddellJardine, a fight that was a no win situation for Liddell and the UFC, as Jardine ground out a split decision victory over the Iceman. Perhaps even worse Liddell looked downright human, old and past his prime, against the virtually unmarketable Dean of Mean. Thankfully, Forrest Griffin may have saved short term business with his upset of Shogun Rua. Griffin, behind a strong push on Countdown and All Access, dominated a consensus top 3 light heavyweight for three rounds before finishing him just before the bell. Griffin is on the verge of super stardom.

Conservatively, Keith Jardine’s split decision victory over Chuck Liddell probably cost the company $6-8 million dollars by derailing Liddell v. Silva for December, maybe more depending on whether or not Hughes v. Serra plus whatever else they put together is good enough for 600,000-700,000 buys. On the bright side, Forrest Griffin’s win should setup a title fight with Quinton Jackson next year that would be expected to top a million buys. Jon Fitch and Tyson Griffin also turned in impressive undercard wins.

Where Liddell, the company’s biggest draw, goes from here is an open question. At the post fight press conference Chuck indicated that he would need to sit down and see whether he wants to get back in the octagon. If he continues, it would make some sense to go ahead with Liddell-Silva in December despite the loss, but at this point they probably can’t risk losing Silva who they need as a challenger at 205 next year. Liddell’s retirement would be a major blow to the company.

Logically, Jardine should move into Chuck’s spot v. Silva in December. There aren’t a lot of other options since I still think they are still too scared of Machida to put him in a high profile spot. If Silva-Liddell had happened, the winner of that match would probably have got the first shot at Rampage in ’08, while Forrest would have gotten another win against a contender. From here, I think not only does Forrest deserve the next shot, he’s really the only option unless they want to rush Silva, which given how the Pride guys are fairing thus far might not be the worst idea.

The winner of Ortiz-Evans II factors into this picture somewhere. You can make an argument that Evans should be ahead of Forrest with a win, and Tito could get the spot just because it would do big business (provided he and Rampage would fight). What do to with Rua next is another unanswered question.

No major changes in the landscape of the other weight classes coming out of the show. Diego is now damaged goods and will need to be rebuilt. Putting him back in with some of the other TUF alums seems like a likely direction. Jon Fitch has established himself as the # 2 contender at 170 pounds in my eyes. I think Fitch v. Karo Parisyan makes a lot of sense moving forward.

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