Bleacher Report’s CEO opines UFC has tapped out from audience standpoint

June 23, 2017

Believe it or not, eSports and MMA are similar. They both are emerging sports compared to traditional sports, they have niche audiences, cater to younger male audiences and have issues with the burgeoning infrastructure.  At a sports tech conference held in Seattle on Thursday, Bleacher Report’s CEO Dave Finocchio saw parallels with the growth of eSports and MMA.  The comparison was not positive.

When posed with the question of the future of eSports, Finocchio stated that he had concerns with the mainstream breakthrough of eSports because of the lack of a star that is known to the mainstream.  “The shelf life of an average player is short and players burnout,” he noted.  He stated that a big part of the model for sports leagues is building the brand of the players and leveraging their celebrity.

He looked to the UFC in comparison citing the absence of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey leaving the company without any other known starts to build around. “[i]f you look at the UFC…it did kind of ‘tap out’ from an audience standpoint…they really built their brand on the backs of a few fighters.”  Although he recognized that the UFC is a successful business and one of the reasons it sold for so much is due to the celebrity of a few fighters.  His concern was that while the business can be monetized, it will be segmented to a small audience.

(You can see the comments around the 24:00 minute mark in the embedded video story on Geekwire)

Right now, eSports reporting on BR is limited to aggregation rather than original reporting.  Finocchio did indicate that BR is looking into doing more in that space.

The lack of mainstream stars is a concern since without these highlighted people, the casual fan does not have someone to look to in the sport.

Notably, Finocchio also stated that Fantasy Football peaked and is now out of date.  He noted that Fantasy is not catching on with the BR audience.  Daily Fantasy Sports is now the future.  He did note that “[i]deally, betting becomes legal.”

Payout Perspective:

There are many parallels between the sport of MMA and eSports that will look at in the future.  But, the statement from Finocchio is true.  This has happened in other sports.  The NBA had a problem with the lack of marketing of stars in the 1980s and the early 2000s pre-LeBron and Kevin Durant.  But, eSports and MMA are niche sports.  One might argue that it might take more of an effort to market and feature its players/fighters.  Demetrious Johnson complained of his lack of marketing to feature him and realistically only eSports followers know the names of the sport’s most popular gamers.  It will be interesting to see what/how each sport handles this issue and which sport will break through quicker.

29 Responses to “Bleacher Report’s CEO opines UFC has tapped out from audience standpoint”

  1. Speakman on June 23rd, 2017 11:25 AM

    The hits keep coming.

  2. Fight Fan on June 23rd, 2017 1:21 PM

    No doubt on that, even my local buffalo wild wings stopped ordering their ppvs

  3. d on June 23rd, 2017 2:39 PM

    “they really built their brand on the backs of a few fighters.”

    Ken Shamrock
    Randy Couture
    Chuck Liddell
    Tito Ortiz
    Brock Lesnar
    BJ Penn
    Quinton Jackson
    Forrest Griffin
    Anderson Silva
    Conor McGregor
    Ronda Rousey

    When two go down, there are always more to replace them quickly. This isn’t boxing which takes 6-7 years to develop a ppv fighter.

  4. d on June 23rd, 2017 2:42 PM

    Here goes FF again with his BWW’s fetish. Haha.

    He’s been saying that for years.

    Meanwhile, they are still on the bar list for ppvs. They have a contract with the UFC still in place.

  5. Wil on June 23rd, 2017 3:50 PM

    I have been saying that for a while now….when the UFC went monopoly and built around a couple of stars at a time they doomed themselves….the sport will survive but the promotion isin decline, especially without McGregor

  6. d on June 23rd, 2017 4:23 PM

    The promotion was in decline when GSP/Silva retired/semi-retired. What happened afterwards?

  7. TopsE on June 23rd, 2017 4:54 PM


  8. Fight Fan on June 24th, 2017 5:30 AM

    What happened afterwords is they built around 2 overhyped stars that lost fights lol. Haven’t had one big ppv this year. Begging boxing for a payday lmao.

  9. d on June 24th, 2017 7:13 AM

    That were their two biggest ppv stars ever, yeah, so that debunks the theory here.

    More like boxing’s desperate to sell a major ppv, so much so that Mayweather had to start a rumor about boxing McGregor in order to sell a fight. Boxing’s biggest star is a mma fighter. Haha.

  10. Wil on June 24th, 2017 12:54 PM

    TRIGGERED! D is in more of a meltdown in this one than when a post about big boxing ratings/ppv/pay etc? Cruz really hurt your feelings with this one I see. But go ahead and argue with facts, attempt to throw up a smoke screen Hanson….we can all read, and that article is simply saying whats been going on for a while…..enjoy the Bellator fights tonight, I will!

  11. Wil on June 24th, 2017 12:58 PM

    And by the way, glad Mighty Mouse was mentioned…why the UFC hasn’t tried to build up one of the most dominant mma fighters of all time is beyond me. You have that level of talent, you have guys like Cormier, Jones, Woodley, Gabrandt who could be faces in commercials, who could be on morning talk shows, etc and they just arnt….still holding out out for Sage Northcutt and Paige Van Zant to become the next stars…..let us know how that works out for you Dana White…

  12. Wil on June 24th, 2017 1:01 PM

    If the UFC loses its fan base to teenage video game playing “sports” then that promotion is doomed.

  13. d on June 24th, 2017 3:45 PM

    I’d say the one melting down is the one using all caps to use his dorky catch phrase. Haha.

    I was commenting on Bleacher Reports claims, not Jason Cruz’s, you dorky fanboy. There was nothing factual about it. It is a long pattern of naysayers every time the UFC doesn’t have a big ppv for a few months, or even a full year like what happened in 2014. It is the same rhetoric from anti-mma, boxing fanboys like yourself who say they are done, declining, etc and then a couple months later they’ll have the biggest fight in the history of the company and produce a pair of new ppv stars. A perfect example is at the end of 2014 when GSP/Silva appeare to be done- all the boxing t.rolls on here were talking about how mma was done and then came Rousey and McGregor, their two biggest stars ever. It is a foolish argument that has been proven wrong time and time again.

    I will check out the Bellator fights tonight. I love Bellator. You don’t. You just ramble about them because it is a way to take a shot at the UFC, you weasel.

    Yeah, the UFC has never attempted to build around Johnson, that’s why he’s headlined a total of about 10 cards, 4 of which were ppvs. He’s the lowest drawing fighter in company history. That isn’t the UFC’s fault.

    Cormier and Jones have been given a huge push, you are just not informed as usual. They stopped attempting to market Jones as a good guy because he is a nut job who can’t behave himself. Garbrandt just won a title, give it some time. Woodley has been also marketed well. He just doesn’t draw big ppv buys.

    This fixation dummies like Wil have with PVZ and Northcutt is ridiculous. As if the UFC’s put loads of money into those two. Neither one has headlined a ppv. Northcutt has never headlined even a tv card.

    Yeah, the promotion is doomed. That’s why they are about to sign a tv contract worth around 300m. Haha. Schmuck.

  14. Marco Contreras on June 24th, 2017 5:02 PM

    With Conor gone hopefully the UFC can build a new mainstream star , I am not going say sinking ship just yet

  15. Wil on June 24th, 2017 5:56 PM

    TRIGGERED!!!! lol long posts= emotionally triggered

  16. Wil on June 24th, 2017 5:59 PM

    by the way Estrogen, what did you think about that beating Heather Hardy dished out tonight? Alice Yauger couldn’t handle those boxer hands baby!

  17. d on June 24th, 2017 6:31 PM

    DORK!!! 25 posts = sensitive tirade. Haha.

    Hahaha. I was more impressed with Lucas Browne, former mma fighter turned boxer winning the WBA hw title in boxing. How about those mma hands baby? Haha.

  18. Wil on June 24th, 2017 9:44 PM

    Decent fighter I think, good thing he did t try to get too deep into mma so it took over from his boxing, he knew where he would make the most money at heavyweight…nowmif he can stay off the drugs he might make some noise…shame he got hisntitle stripped for ped usage

  19. Wil on June 24th, 2017 9:45 PM

    How do you think he does against wilder, Joshua, Ortiz there estrogen?

  20. d on June 24th, 2017 10:07 PM

    Decent fighters don’t win WBA titles. Very good boxers do. Yeah, he lost to DC and then some can and figured it was easier to box. He would have made more money in mma. He got his start in mma though. He didn’t learn how to box until he was 30 and he turned pro in boxing. He had been training in mma a few years prior.

    Yeah, all of the money is in boxing, that’s why your girl Hardy said point blank she made more money in her Bellator debut against a can, than she had in any bout throughout her entire 20 fight pro boxing career.

    Now you are marginalizing ped users in boxing? Okay, so the same can be said about the following boxers who failed ped tests:

    Holyfield, Mosley, Toney, Povetkin, Tyson Fury, V. Klitschko, Mayorga, Vargas, Roy Jones, JCC Jr., Morales, Berto, Tarver, plus many others. I guess that invalidates everything they’ve accomplished then, right?

    How’s that for ya, tampon?

  21. Marco Contreras on June 25th, 2017 6:54 AM

    It’s more impressive that Brock won UFC workd titile the pinnacle of mma in 2 years

  22. Marco Contreras on June 25th, 2017 6:57 AM

    Lucas just won a belt not the belt unlike Lester who won the belt .

    Most of the money for fighters if they can reach elite status is in boxing . Those are just facts .

    Mma is getting better but not even close yet

  23. d on June 25th, 2017 2:30 PM

    Where are you getting 2 years from with Lesnar? He put in 3 years, trained at a very big gym- Greg Nelson’s in MN and also had a decorated amateur wrestling background. This was also nearly a decade ago. The game has changed a lot.

    Lesnar is not a boxer. What is your point?

    If those were the facts about boxing, why did McGregor make more money than any boxer last year?

  24. Marco Contreras on June 25th, 2017 4:31 PM

    Pro debut June 2, 2007
    Won November 15, 2008 UFC Heavyweight Championship undisputed champ
    Let’s do the math he took to win

    That’s 1 yr 5 months and 13 days . (Facts )

  25. Marco Contreras on June 25th, 2017 4:33 PM

    This year which is what we are talking about Canelo , Joshua , Klitchko , Ward ,

    All made more money than Conor this year in prize fighting so far facts

  26. d on June 25th, 2017 5:55 PM

    Haha. You do realize that these guys begin training prior to their pro debut, right?

    Lesnar began training in late 2005 and didn’t debut until June of 2007 as you pointed out. It was nearly 3 years and he was fast tracked because of a combination of things: his grappling background, his notoriety, arguably the weakest era ever for hws in mma and his freak athleticism. FYI, if we are solely going on pro debut to title winning, Mike Tyson made his pro boxing debut on March 6, 1985 and he won the WBC on Nov. 22 1986. 1 year 9 months. Not really much longer. Facts.

    “All made more money than Conor this year in prize fighting so far facts”

    He’s going to make more than all of them combined 10x over by the end of the year. HAHAHAHA!!!

  27. d on June 25th, 2017 6:00 PM

    How about De La Hoya:

    Pro Debut- Nov. 23, 1992
    Wins WBO title- Mar. 5 1994

    Roughly 1 year 3 months.

    This isn’t uncommon for boxing at all. Many highly touted boxers win major titles within 2 years.

  28. Marco Contreras on June 26th, 2017 7:35 AM

    So you are comparing boxers who go through the ammys who actually competed in thier sport since he they could walk

    To an older athlete who actually competed in mma for 1yr and 5 months with 13 days ?


  29. d on June 26th, 2017 7:59 AM

    Again, you are attempting to compare a D1 National champion wrestler, who trained for a year and a half prior to even starting a pro mma career who was wrestling since he was a child and won the UFC HW title 9 years ago, to what some boxer off the street would do in mma now? That’s ridiculous.

    Lucas Browne didn’t even start training until he was 30 in boxing.

    Another good example was Anthony Joshua, who a year after he made his pro debut, won the WBC. He also wasn’t boxing in his diapers. He didn’t even start boxing until he was 18. Sergio Martinez is another major title holder in boxing who didn’t start boxing until he was an adult.

    Nice try.

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.