UFC Announcement: No Fedor, Franklin vs. Belfort, Tito!

July 31, 2009

The following is a recap and analysis relating to the various pieces of information the UFC released during a 2pm EST press conference this afternoon.

Recap:

– Dana White opens the press conference talking about Fedor Emelianenko: no deal

– Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort at 205lbs. (Dallas, September)

– Henderson in line for a title shot rematch with Silva

– ESPN UK (Launches August 3rd, three-year deal, starts Aug 8th with UFC 101)

– Tito Ortiz is back! Possibly a fight against Mark Coleman in November/December

– Dana White on TV deal: more suitors now than ever before, broadcasting control only an issue with HBO, he’s starting to like what he’s hearing more than ever. He was asked specifically about ESPN in the US; very mum.

Payout Opinion:

I’m skeptical of Fedor potential impact in the UFC for the following reasons/concerns:

– Is he capable of drawing significant PPV interest?
– Can he become a cross-over star?
– What would the UFC have to invest in order to make this happen?
– How committed is he to the organization?
– And how much control does his management team exert over him?

Most importantly, however, what about the risk involved? Fedor may be unready or unwilling to carry the marketing workload that a dominant heavyweight like Brock Lesnar (and his polarizing personality) can manage with ease.

Of course there are many caveats with the above, but the main lesson is: be careful what you wish for. Fedor may have come to the UFC and fulfilled all expectations…but then again he may not have. We all know how tempermental and potentially expensive it can be to mismanage expectations. 

And, really, the truth of the matter is that with or without Fedor, the UFC is on pace for a tremendous year – a record year. They’ve been lighting up the PPV trail, diversifying their revenue streams by adding non-event related items like UFC: Undisputed 2009, and they just completed an epic UFC 100 weekend to round out just half the year.

They’re looking to continue their first half momentum with a host of brilliant cards (UFC 101 has a chance to do big numbers – partly piggy backing off the residual interest in UFC 100) and the hotly anticipated Ultimate Fighter 10 featuring Kimbo. Plus, they’ve just re-signed PPV big gun Tito Ortiz who is likely to help bolster a huge end of the year card. Now that Tito is back in the UFC’s good graces you can bet he’ll receive a significant push, and as a result, the UFC will benefit from that immensely.

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According to the UFC, nearly 25 million people tuned in to watch UFC 100 last month on Groupo Televiso – the UFC’s brand new TV partner in Mexico. Tito Ortiz coming back to the UFC is more good news its push into Mexico.

What kind of impact will Tito have on those numbers this fall? Huge.

Moreover, how quickly will the UFC’s first show in Mexico City sell-out if it features a headlining Tito? Fast.

The combination of Ortiz, Velasquez, and Escudero could be very promising for the UFC in Mexico. I also wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some sort of new endorsement deal between Bud Light and Ortiz (in the mold of the ones Velasquez and Escudero received). Ortiz mentioned a Bud Light deal in jest as Dana was asked about the fallout from Brock’s post-fight at UFC 100, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

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It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Franklin was unwilling to fight Wanderlei at 185lbs, and thus equally unwilling to fight Vitor at 185lbs either. Edit: The fight will take place at a catch weight of 195lbs. and will still have ramifications on both the 185 and 205 divisions.

I don’t want to speculate too much, but I will point out that a win over Franklin would likely pit Belfort against the winner of Marquardt and Maia later this month in a bid to create the next middleweight contender after Dan Henderson. Likewise, a win over Belfort would likely push Franklin even further up the 205 chain into a possible contending match with anyone of the top tens looking for an opponent.

Nonetheless, the addition of Belfort gives the 185 division a breath of fresh air. Between Maia, Marquardt, Cote, Leites, Bisping, and now Belfort, things are very interesting at middleweight.

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In addition to Belfort, Dana mentioned that former Affliction fighters like Dan Lauzon, Paul Daley, Ben Rothwell, Chase Gormley, and Rafaello Oliveira have been added to the UFC roster. The WEC will also pick-up Mark Hominick, Javier Vasquez, and L.C. Davis.

No word on Takanori Gomi or Chris Horodecki.

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