UFC Needs to Adapt Management Philosophy

November 24, 2008

Dana White has almost single-handedly navigated a tarnished brand and a banished sport from the brink of death to the brink of mainstream acceptance and international popularity.

Along the way, he has used an unparalleled level of cunning skill and unrelenting passion to micro-manage every detail of the UFC in order to carve it a sporting niche. The UFC President is quite literally involved with every aspect of the UFC from matchmaking to fighter relations to public/media relations to marketing to event production to…well, you get the point.

But, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the UFC needs to move away from this micro-management philosophy.

In this day and age of rapid globalization, how many other CEOs of multinational, half-billion dollar firms can you point to that are involved in as much of everything as Dana White is with the UFC?

I’m having a difficult time pointing to any significant precedence for this sort of management philosophy and probably for good reason: the inefficiencies and impracticalities of executive micro-management at the multinational level can severely hinder firm performance.

I see in Dana White a man under enormous pressure and duress due to an overwhelming slate of travel and responsibility. He has proved his competence time and time again, but even the most competent of individuals cannot perform at their peak without the requisites of a healthy life – rest, diet, and free time.

If burn out hasn’t already arrived at White’s doorstep, it will shortly.

The increasing frequency that disputes with fighters, agents, other organizations, TV networks, and retail organizations have gone public is alarming. So, are the questionable negotiating tactics from the sometimes openly frustrated White.

While certainly, there are two sides to every story, one cannot help but wonder if the end-goal of the UFC couldn’t be accomplished without the fist pounding and ultimatums. An individual well-versed in the art of negotiation, especially within the sports industry could be an extremely valuable asset.

The UFC has brought in some extremely talented people over the last few years – Marc Ratner, Craig Borsari, and most recently, Lorenzo Fertitta – and not only is it important for this talent acquisition to continue, it’s also important for these individuals to be given larger roles and responsibilities within the organization.

The wisdom, trust, and patience necessary to surround oneself with quality people and then actually allow them to do what they do best are what separate the good leaders from the truly great leaders.

There’s no doubt that White is wise enough to surround himself with great MMA talents – he already has – but does he possess enough trust in and patience with these individuals to hand over some of his decision making responsibility?

Thus, it seems quite apparent that the ability of Dana White and UFC management to adapt their management style to the growing needs and demands of their increasingly international business will largely determine their success moving forward.

TUF Episode 10 Rating

November 21, 2008

TUF 8 episode 10 earned a 1.1 household rating. The show did a 1.19 in Men 18-49, a .88 in People 18-49, a 1.32 in Men 18-34, and an average audience of 1.4 million viewers

The Quarter hour breakdown:

1.07
1.14
.99
1.11

Dana White's Ill Communication

November 21, 2008

Ivan Trembow makes an excellent point about the growing incompatibility Dana White seems to have with any role that involves a bargaining position with other entities:

It wasn’t the first time that Fertitta has been forced to play “Good Cop” after one of White’s outbursts directed at fighters or their managers. Who had to handle Randy Couture’s recent contract negotiations? Who had to handle Tito Ortiz’ last few UFC contracts? Who had to handle the negotiations to buy Pride FC? Who would have to handle any potential future negotiations with Fedor Emelianenko after all of White’s public insults towards Fedor and his camp? Lorenzo Fertitta.

Fitch also said to MMA Rated on Thursday, “Communication kind of broke down with Dana [White], so we talked with Lorenzo [Fertitta]. I just got off the phone with him, and we came to an agreement. We’re going to move ahead, and I’ll be back in the UFC… we felt Dana was being a little bit hot-headed and was threatening us right off the bat. It didn’t seem like a professional way of doing things.”

Such a heavy hand at the bargaining table can have some effectiveness with fighters, but White’s communication skills haven’t curried him any favors in other aspects of the business. White’s mantra of “They need us we don’t need them” is full of bluster but somewhat effective when used against fighters, but Dana has used this same line of logic when speaking about sponsors like Coca Cola and others. A network TV deal is another area where White’s people skills may be a hindrance, with NBC rumored to have no interest in working with the UFC.

Billboard Rec Sports DVD Chart – 11/29/08

November 21, 2008

The Billboard Recreational Sports DVD Chart for the week of November 29nd:

1 WWE: Hell In A Cell
2 WWE: No Mercy 2008
3 2001 FedEx Orange Bowl National Championship
4 NFL History of the Cleveland Browns
5 NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers 5 Greatest Games
6 Bejing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony
7 NHL: Sidney Crosby: On The Ice And Beyond
8 NFL: Washington Redskins: Super Bowl Champions
9 WWE: The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment
10 Pride Fighting Championships: Total Elimination 2006

HDNet Fights and FEG USA, Inc. Announce Extended Partnership

November 21, 2008

DALLAS, Nov 20, 2008 — HDNet Fights announced that it has extended its existing partnership with FEG USA, Inc. to present the DREAM Mixed Martial Arts events in 2009 and beyond. This announcement makes HDNet the exclusive North American television destination for the DREAM MMA events.

“We’re very happy to expand and continue this successful partnership with FEG USA, Inc.,” said Andrew Simon, CEO of HDNet Fights. “DREAM is known for having the best MMA tournaments and superfights in the world and clearly has the greatest production and fighter entrances in the sport. This partnership solidifies our commitment to being THE Home of MMA.”

“It has been a good year for DREAM,” said Mike Kogan of FEG USA, Inc. “We are glad that FEG is able to continue its partnership with HDNet and bring more DREAM action to North American Fans.”
Airdates and times for the upcoming DREAM events will be announced at a later date.

Report: Fitch Back With UFC

November 20, 2008

MMARated is reporting that Top 5 welterweight Jon Fitch is back in with the UFC. Ariel Helwani is in the San Jose area to cover the Strikeforce card as was able to get in contact with the embattled fighter:

After speaking with UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta via phone, Fitch said the two had managed to clear the air, that the fighter would sign the company’s much-maligned video game licensing agreement and was cleared to fight Akihiro Gono at UFC 94, as previously planned.

In speaking with MMARated, Fitch put the onus of the impasse on the negotiating tactics of UFC President Dana White, who he felt was heavy handed and hot headed in his dealings with AKA from the beginning. A cynic might suggest this is a text book case of good cop bad cop, regardless the end effect has been accomplished by the UFC, with Fitch signing away his video game rights, seemingly in perpetuity.

UFC 91 Gear Sponsorship Breakdown

November 20, 2008

Jay Tillery of GymTops.com takes a look at the sponsor breakdown for UFC 91 when it comes to hats, shirts, and shorts. Interesting numbers, in that TapouT has a bigger percentage of the Hats and shorts market than they do their anchor area of shirts.

Bellator Fighting Championships Signs Exclusive TV Agreement with ESPN Deportes

November 20, 2008

Los Angeles, Calif. – November 19, 2008 – Bellator Fighting Championships, a first of its kind Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion, officially launched operations today from offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. Three years in development, Bellator has an exclusive television agreement with ESPN Deportes. Bellator season #1 premieres on ESPN Deportes in April, 2009.

Bellator (Latin for warrior), marks a step forward in the evolution of professional Mixed Martial Arts with a business model unique in the fight industry, yet followed in every other major sport. At Bellator, a fighter’s wins or losses control his future. Bjorn Rebney, Bellator founder & CEO states, “We are implementing a tournament structure to determine champions and #1 challengers so that world-class fighters can control their destiny based on their performance.” Bellator events will showcase highly competitive fights between top competitors with each tournament bout winner earning substantially larger purses and moving closer to a championship fight. “Simply put, at Bellator, fighters fight their way to the title,” Rebney adds.

With a tagline that refers to its fighters as warriors that are on their way to becoming legends, Bellator differentiates itself by making its fighters the focus of the organization. “The fans’ connection to Bellator will be created through our fighters. That understanding will drive the promotion, publicity, marketing and advertising of Bellator’s fighters, making them the centerpiece of what we do,” says Rebney. On each telecast, leading up to tournament bouts, Bellator Fighting Championships will air back-stories on each fighter. “We will use the simple yet powerful sports programming philosophy of combining elite competition with compelling feature pieces that tell the story of who these fighters are, where they’re from and why they compete,” says Bellator founder & COO Brad Epstein. “MMA fighters have incredibly rich stories to tell, and we will bring these to MMA fans, allowing our audience to identify with who these warriors really are.”

Bellator’s nationally televised events will be highly competitive sports programming in its purest form and will have no connection to “reality television.” These events are structured as tournament competitions, crowning champions and top challengers at the end of each season. Bellator’s premiere season consists of 12 two-hour events to be broadcast weekly in primetime on Saturday nights. The nationally televised events will feature a combination of tournament and non-tournament special feature bouts. There will be four simultaneous tournaments taking place in season #1 over a three month period: one in each of the Featherweight (145 lb.), Lightweight (155 lb.), Welterweight (170 lb.) and Middleweight (185 lb.) divisions. Eight fighters from around the world will be represented in each division. To win the Bellator Championship, a fighter must win a total of three fights, each consisting of three five-minute rounds over a three month period. At the end of the initial three month, 12-event season, Bellator will have crowned four Bellator Champions and will have awarded each Champion $175,000. Opening round winners receive $25,000, semi-final round winners receive $50,000 and final winners receive $100,000.

“Mixed Martial Arts is becoming increasingly popular among Hispanics and we are thrilled to work with Bellator Fighting Championships to showcase these world-class athletes on a national platform,” says Lino Garcia, general manager, ESPN Deportes. “The structure of this championship will give fans a unique opportunity to follow their athletes as the tournament progresses.”

Bellator’s interactive Web site, www.bellator.com, featuring event and fighter information, behind the scenes video footage, fight clips and live interaction with Bellator fighters will go live in late December, 2008.

Trembow on Fitch's Release

November 20, 2008

Ivan Trembow has a nice post up that echoes a lot of my sentiments on the whole Jon Fitch situation:

“If there was ever any doubt that fighters need a union, this kind of bullying and threatening behavior by the UFC’s management reinforces the need for a union. Through their own hubris, the UFC has actually made the case for a fighters’ union in a stronger way than anyone ever has in the past.

The UFC is going to continue with this kind of despotic behavior for as long as they can get away with it. Until there is a union, the fighters have no leverage with which to challenge the UFC’s behavior.”

In the article, I also take umbrage with Dana White’s ridiculous and insulting assertion in the article that he “has sacrificed more than anyone to build the UFC into the powerhouse it has become.”

The whole passage is worth a read. Go Check it out.

TapouT Announces First Apparel Licensing Partnership

November 20, 2008

GRAND TERRACE, Calif., Nov 19, 2008 — TapouT, the premier mixed martial arts apparel, gear and lifestyle brand, announced today that for the first time, they signed a licensing agreement with Kids Headquarters to expand the current offering of children’s apparel and provide new and exciting products to TapouT customers nationwide.

Under this relationship, Kids Headquarters will distribute children’s activewear, sportswear, sleepwear, swimwear, outerwear and underwear. Available in sizes 0-20 for boys and girls, there will be extensive offerings of t-shirts, hoodies, shorts and even onesies, to create a noticeable increase in the offering throughout the youth category at all TapouT dealers worldwide.

“As the leading MMA lifestyle and apparel brand, TapouT is excited to extend our product with Kids Headquarters,” said Mask, TapouT Founder. “As we travel the country, our fans beg us to expand our kids line. It’s exciting to team up with Kids Headquarters, who dominate this market, to help celebrate and spread the attitude, strength and style that fans of TapouT have grown to love.”

Cory Silverstein, Kids Headquarters’ executive vice president, said: “TapouT is the most recognized and powerful Mixed-Martial Arts lifestyle brand out there today. We’re excited to combine TapouT’s passion for excellence and success with our knowledge and understanding of the children’s market.”

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