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
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.
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.