UFC 112: Payout Perspective

April 11, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This week we take a look at UFC 112: Invincible, which was held at The Concert Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Saturday, April 10th.

The event marked both the UFC’s debut in Abu Dhabi and its first-ever outdoor show. UFC 112 was headlined by two title fights: Anderson Silva took on Demian Maia at 185 lbs. while BJ Penn fought Frankie Edgar for the lightweight strap.

Silva decisions Maia, disappoints again

There’s no sugarcoating this performance: Anderson Silva made a mockery of the sport at UFC 112. Silva’s playful toying with Maia quickly turned into crass and disrespectful taunting; his unwillingness to engage in the latter rounds also displayed an utter disregard for the sport, the fans, and the promotion that have so fiercely supported him in the past.

I don’t have any interest in hypothesizing why Silva fought like he did, but I am keen on exploring what are likely to be the consequences of his actions.

I’ll first say that it’s not the end of the world. Fights like Silva’s are simply part of the growing pains that this sport is going to have to endure in order to progress. It’s all one big learning curve where the promotions and fighters struggle to figure out what the fans want and how they can deliver a product that meets those requirements on a consistent basis.

Every sport has gone through similar embarrassing moments of unsportsmanlike conduct or utterly incomprehensible performance – no one is immune. There’s no need to panic.

There seems to be a tendency amongst many MMA fans (hardcores in particular) to watch and critique every event as if the future of the sport depended on the outcome. Yet, despite the sports precarious position within the sports landscape – especially on the regulatory side – there’s simply no need to view the sport from this perspective.

Certainly, the fans have a right to be mad after UFC 112 – they paid good money to watch Silva dick around for five rounds and disrespect the sport they love and support – but MMA isn’t going to fall off a cliff just because of this one event or any single event.

Is there a cause for concern? Sure, there’s no denying that Silva’s performance will reflect poorly upon his own stock, that of the UFC’s, and MMA in general. It’s not going to crush the sport, though.

The UFC has gained a reputation for putting on great fights on a consistent basis and Silva’s fight will challenge that notion; a notion, I might add, that’s already been put to the test in recent months with events like UFC 103, 106, 109, and 110. Not unlike UFC 111, the last fight of the night overshadowed the rest of what was a pretty decent card.

Luckily, the non-domestic nature of the event likely ensured that the event was purchased by only the more devout of MMA fans – and they already know the story with Silva. He’s hit-or-miss.

The most significant consequence of the fight is probably the affect it will have on the entire UFC middleweight division and the way the UFC is able to schedule its fight cards in the future. Title fights push sales and because there’s going to be very little interest in Silva fighting at 185lbs again, the UFC is effectively down to four titles. That makes it much more difficult to spread the wealth and ensure that events are headlined properly (which is where things got rough for the UFC last fall).

So, what do you do if you’re the UFC? Silva’s not going to draw very well at 185lbs, but there are still some fights left for him at the weight class with Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. He would, however, still draw very well against a George St-Pierre or contender at 205lbs, and that’s because the fans understand it would be the type of challenge he’s most likely to respond to.

The ironic thing is that had Silva simply dispatched of Maia in the first round like he demonstrated was possible, the UFC would have brought GSP into the Octagon and announced a title fight at 170lbs on the sport. They didn’t fly Georges all the way to Abu Dhabi just to sit cage side.

Edgar earns controversial decision victory, unseats Penn

The Penn-Edgar fight ended in such controversy that it might not be such a bad thing that the Silva fight managed to overshadow everything else that happened on the entire card. The flipside, of course, is that the more press the controversial decision receives, the better sales opportunity the UFC will have in any potential future rematch.

From a matchmaking standpoint, the controversy has given the UFC’s lightweight division a needed shot in the arm. Not only will the division retain BJ Penn – its most popular fighter – for the foreseeable future, but the gap between the best and the next has just been narrowed considerably. The number of interesting match-ups between the likes of Frankie Edgar, BJ Penn, Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, and Kenny Florian are enormous.

Dana White loses his Twitter cool

Dana White, like most, was a fan before he became involved in the business. He’s also the emotional type that wears his heart on his sleeve and always says what he feels. While that’s admirable and the source of much of his popularity with UFC fans, it can also be a detriment when he loses his cool and over-reacts to certain situations.

Leadership is about many things, but one in particular is setting an example. White is the sport’s foremost representative and there’s a certain responsibility that comes with that in the sense that sometimes he can’t just say what he’s thinking. Especially if he wants to be the guy that takes this sport to the next level, because where he and the Fertitta brothers want this sport to go, there’s very little tolerance for the sort of profanity-laced tirades against the media or the fans that White has exhibited in the past 24 months.

Moreover, when White is visibly shaking during a post-fight press conference and ranting in post-fight interviews about Anderson Silva, it helps to induce the sort of panic amongst fans that really isn’t necessary. Yes, the Silva fight sucked and the fans are disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world – the message coming from the UFC needs to be one of reassurance, not panic.

The situation is quite analogous to customer service in any sort of goods or services industry. The customer that has a complaint handled by a calm, confident, and thorough representative will come away reassured about the value of their purchase. The customer that deals with an angry, depressed, ranting lunatic is likely to take their business elsewhere.

UFC’s first outdoor event goes off without a hitch

The Silva controversy also overshadowed the fact that UFC 112 was the UFC’s first-ever outdoor event and everything more or less went according to plan from an operational perspective. The concerns surrounding heat, humidity, and/or wind really never materialized.

There are a few kinks that the organization needs to work out on the press side – e.g., finding adequate bandwidth to supply their digital channels with more fight week content – but those are small in nature and should be rectified by the time the UFC returns.

UFC 112 shown for free in Germany on UFCLive.com
(Credit MMAJunkie)

The UFC may have been banned from television in Bavaria, but the UFC made sure its fans in Germany were able to watch the event for on UFCLive.com. Users logging on with a German IP address were able watch the event for free.

It’s definitely interesting to see the UFC continuing to ramp up its use of online distribution mediums – not unexpected.

Sponsorship Watch

UFC 112 was devoid of any sponsorship from the alcohol category – namely Bud Light and Tequilla Casadores. I’m inclined to believe that this is likely because of the strict alcohol consumption laws in the UAE. However, it could also simply be a function of the anticipated buyrate for the event.

Lumber Liquidators made its debut on the UFC canvas, which is perhaps further support that there was less demand from the UFC’s traditional sponsors than for a domestic event. Edge Shave Gel was also given a canvas placement and that usually doesn’t happen for a bigger event (even though Edge has invested a good amount of time and money on the activation side of its partnership; check out the UFC Vault contest they’re running).

There weren’t a ton of new fighter sponsors for the event, but the fact that we’re seeing Mom and Pop type sponsorships for some of these guys is further indication that the rumours about the$100,000 sponsorship tax aren’t 100% accurate.

18 Responses to “UFC 112: Payout Perspective”

  1. mmaguru on April 11th, 2010 7:40 PM

    Amazing they got the event off without a hitch in a new stadium in a foreign country.

    I’m not sure why Anderson and GSP couldn’t fight at a catch weight. Anderson going down to 170 would be a major disadvantage. I know he fought a few years ago at 168, but that was then and this is now. I say put the fight on at 177 to make it fair for both.

    Penn won that fight last night in my humble opinion. Here’s to a rematch.

    Didn’t notice the lack of alcohol adverts, but not surprised.

  2. Brain Smasher on April 12th, 2010 2:43 AM

    “Moreover, when White is visibly shaking during a post-fight press conference and ranting in post-fight interviews about Anderson Silva, it helps to induce the sort of panic amongst fans that really isn’t necessary. Yes, the Silva fight sucked and the fans are disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world – the message coming from the UFC needs to be one of reassurance, not panic.”

    I think its best for Dana to act the way he does. Its important that new fans for which im sure there were many since this was in a new country dont think the Silva incident isnt an everyday thing. Dana can take the “Oh well” attitude because it will seem like he is used to it because its all to common. Danas reaction lets everyone know this is a rare situation and he will do his best to make sure it doesnt happen again.

    I think Silva just shortened his career IMO. Fact is every can be beat. There is always someone out there to beat you. Sometimes those people might not be credible to get to fight you. But think we are going to see the UFC start bring in many people who style wise pose a problem for Silva. I believe that Vitor was brough in and handled with kit gloves soley due to the Silva/Thales fight. Why bring him in? How does he get the #1 contender right off the bat? Everyone knew outside a mental colapse that Vitor would beat Franklin. Hes to fast and technical and Franklin isnt known for a chin. The UFC has been setting up the Vitor vs Silva fight since the beginning. Vitor has speed that is in Silva ball park. HE has straight and powerful strikes. He has a chin to make it a long fight. This isnt to say Vitor is going to beat him. But it is very good possibility and the best chance of anyone in the top contenders of the UFC. Its not hard to get Vitor beat but the UFC has avoided all the people who pose a problem for him. If Vitor isnt successful i believe the UFC will be bring in many more fast strikers and wrestling based fighters. Silva has become a liability to the UFC and almost to the point they cant even put him on a card.

  3. Joe on April 12th, 2010 5:26 AM

    Would be interesting to see UFC bring in some of the more high caliber strikers that are about, Manheoff/Lawler for example. Anderson wouldn’t be able to clown around with either them, even if he’d still be favourite.

  4. JoshD on April 12th, 2010 7:37 AM

    Have to agree with Brain Smasher on Dana’s reaction. Fans need to know that this is not the norm and it’s not acceptable. He was visibly disappointed, but not overly irate by his standards. I didn’t see panic. I will have to disagree with previous comments that high caliber strikers are the answer for A. Silva. I don’t see Belfort as the strongest threat to the belt either. Chael Sonnen should be next in line and I believe he has the skillset that can nullify Silva’s advantages. Sonnen will press the action and force Silva to engage. Sonnen will likely make for another “boring” Silva fight for those who bemoan “lay n pray”, but the chance to see Anderson on the receiving end of some brutal GNP along with Chael’s considerable abilty to hype a fight, could result in a solid ppv buyrate. Maybe a 5 round decision would be the result, but Sonnen could control the action. Another option would be for Silva to vacate the title and move to 205. Silva’s punishment….give him Jon Jones.

  5. mmaguru on April 12th, 2010 7:51 AM

    My feeling is that Anderson would make Manheoff/Lawler look like amateurs. Vitor is a different story, if Vitor can keep the fight standing he would have a good chance. The guy that would have had the best odds at beating Anderson is gone to Strikeforce. Even though Dan lost the first fight it really felt like he could easily dominate Anderson in a second fight if he was in better condition. I haven’t re-watched the fight between him and Anderson, but if I recall Dan gassed a bit in the end? Could be wrong but that’s how i remember it.

  6. Jose Mendoza on April 12th, 2010 8:39 AM

    Probably doesn’t help that your media partners, Yahoo, have had this on the front page of their website since Sunday:

    Yahoo Front Page: “UFC Fight a “Disgrace”” … “Star fighter disses sport, embarrasses boss”

    http://i40.tinypic.com/29ft8nq.jpg

  7. Diego on April 12th, 2010 9:12 AM

    I agree that the one good thing about Silva’s performance is that it was probably only watched by hard core fans. Saturday April 10th was a horrible day for potential new fans to decide to give this whole “cage fighting” thing a look to see what all the fuss is about.

  8. mmaguru on April 12th, 2010 9:18 AM

    Jose, that’s a good point. I’ve stopped going to yahoo.com for MMA news ever since the modified their menu selection from “MMA” to “UFC”. That will tell you all you need to know about objectiveness in journalism at that sight when it comes to MMA news and UFC especially.

  9. mmaguru on April 12th, 2010 9:20 AM

    Hmm, I have to eat my words. They changed it back to “MMA” LOL.

  10. JohnM on April 12th, 2010 10:23 AM

    @JoshD – I’m sorry Chael Sonnen has no shot against Anderson. Though it’s been shown that he could be taken down in the past, I doubt that Chael could do it again. If Chael chooses to push the action it will be a quick and decisive KO.

  11. Brain Smasher on April 12th, 2010 11:37 AM

    josh

    I dont think Sonnen will be a threat at all. HE is to slow and sloppy on the feet. There is a good chance he gets creamed before getting a takedown. On the ground Sonnen has the IQ of a rock. He fights like a zombie and is clueless as to whats going on and almost gets submited in every fight. Verses a thick bulky guy like MArdquardt who dont have the body type to be great from the bottom he dont have much to worry about. But Silva has a proven guard and bottom sub game. If he dont get beat on the feet he will get submited.

    The best chance to beat Silva right now is Vitor in the UFC. I dont think Hendo in Strikeforce is the same fighter he was. HE is more right hand happy than ever and less effective against top fighters. Style wise Jon Jones would be dangerous for him. Not sure if 185 is possible for him or not. But that may be where the answer comes from in the form of a fighter changing weight class’. Not refering to GSP as i dont think he cant bet Silva at 185.

  12. JJ on April 12th, 2010 12:54 PM

    I like that Dana said what the fans were thinking…”F Anderson and his antics”

  13. HarmlessNinja on April 13th, 2010 11:11 AM

    Advertising alcohol in the UAE is prohibited, that’s why Bud Light didn’t have their sticker in the Octagon.

  14. Diego on April 14th, 2010 1:21 AM

    Funny thing, during Ramadan all bars in the UAE are closed except…a bar owned by a relative of the Sheikh in Dubai. Nice racket if you can get in on it.

  15. mmaguru on April 14th, 2010 6:32 AM

    Diego, hypocrisy is everywhere – even in Dubai LOL.

  16. Stan Kosek on April 15th, 2010 12:52 PM

    early Meltzer report has a 525k buy rate which beats any tape delayed overseas event…

    Sure the UFC isn’t thrilled that Anderson’s antics were seen by that many, but on the other hand, I bet a lot of people will want to see the Edgar/Penn rematch, that just became another money making match for the last half of the year for the UFC

  17. Stan Kosek on April 15th, 2010 1:05 PM

    Also, I am looking forward to the hype of Anderson/Chael… Chael and Dana will be all over the place trashing Anderson, they’ll spin his antics into a positive

  18. MMA Houston on February 22nd, 2011 2:10 PM

    GSP is already smaller than most of the top WW contenders, why must he fight a guy who’s walking around as a HW and should be fighting at LHW. Silva’s reigned twice as long over a division with fifty percent the talent of GSPs but nobody’s busting his balls because of not moving up to fight the champ at 205. I don’t understand why everybody keeps demanding this Silva/GSP mismatch rather than dmanding that Silva stop fighting small cans and move up and fight guys his own size. Okami???Seriously? GSP has half a dozen competitors ahead of him that are much more exciting than Okami/Silva!

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