Robinson: The UFC, Walking a Fine Line between Business and Sport

July 4, 2009

by Zac Robinson, for MMAPayout.com

It would seem that Zuffa, owner of the UFC, is in the middle of operation clampdown. I’m referring to the banning of numerous apparel companies (or charging them a fee of $100,000) and now the alleged threat regarding the Electronic Arts (EA) MMA game.

In most cases I’m a supporter of the UFC when it comes to business decisions. Even if I think they are harsh or delivered in a not so couth manner, they still seem to work and whether we like it or not, the running of a promotion is a business. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the UFC has done a great deal for the sport and continues to do so.

Every now and then however, an issue arises that I just can’t comprehend. The threat of banning fighters from the UFC for life if they sign on with EA’s MMA game (a game that would compete against THQ’s UFC Undisputed), even if they don’t currently fight for the promotion, is simply outrageous and bordering on tyrannical. This is why I’m not completely convinced that we’ve heard both sides of the story, but just in case we have, here are my thoughts on how such a ban could actually damage the integrity of the sport, that is as long as the UFC continues with one of its other policies.

By following through with this alleged threat regarding EA, the UFC in effect decreases its talent pool. We all know there are so many fighters training hard each and every day, so many getting better and better with each fight. Some may not be stars now, but will be in the future. If EA comes knocking on their door, who could blame them for welcoming them with open arms? They sign with EA, dominate fight after fight until they are a star, and yet they can never fight the UFC’s best! There is something wrong with this picture.

The UFC walks a fine line between business and sport. It has to. With the relative newness of MMA and its huge and growing popularity, the promotion must protect what it has. It also has to ensure that the fights feature the best fighters they can get and often the best in the world.

Of course this wouldn’t be such a big issue if the UFC allowed for cross-promotion. Many fans champion this idea, but it makes no sense for the UFC. Why give other promotions the opportunity to piggy back on what you have built? So this isn’t an option and it probably won’t be for a long time.

We are left with a situation where some of the soon to be best fighters in the world may have to decide: a deal with EA, or screw it because they might one day fight in the UFC. This is unfair and if the best fighters can’t square off in the Octagon because of a deal with a competing video game, then it does absolutely damage the integrity of the sport.

Let’s hope this is nothing more than something to get us worked up about that never comes to fruition. Because if it does EA Sports, and the fans, is gonna be pissed!

Zac Robinson is author of the upcoming MMA IQ Trivia book, Sports By The Numbers MMA book and blog, as well as the author of the upcoming cutman Stitch Duran book. He can be reached at zacrr6@yahoo.com

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