Jake Rossen at Sherdog.com published an article chronicling Zuffa’s 10 best accomplishments of 2007 on Monday. While I agree with some of the points in the article, I believe Zuffa did a lot of things wrong this year. Fightlinker has a few points that I completely agree with, but there are a few others that we should mention. Let’s take a look at the list. 10. Promoting a TUF alumni main event
While the idea may have seemed like a good idea when you were sitting in your office mulling over all the injuries to the title pictures of each division, Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping was not a card that interested anyone. Although many fans accepted it in all of its mediocrity, nobody was buying it. We may not know that actual buy rate for that card, but I can almost assure the readership that it wasn’t anywhere close to what a non-title superfight may have garnered.
9. Rallying for Liddell? Rampage should have been given time.
I understand Rossen’s point that Liddell is one of its most popular stars and that he was the guy who propelled the UFC to where it is today along side other stars like Couture or Ortiz. Inevitably, one-dimensional fighting only gets you so far. When Liddell dropped and Rampage was crowned king, I thought to myself “The UFC is going to love Rampage’s personality and so will everyone else.”. Did the UFC take advantage? No, they sat him on the shelf for the rest of the year, and the only real piece of evidence on his whereabouts was on TMZ.com. Keeping Liddell in the picture is fine, he is, after all, a face of the sport, but Rampage should have been propelled immediately.
8. Marketing at the UFC is mediocre
While the Rampage/Griffin coaching situation is a genius way to market both Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson, their marketing and promotion of what many fans and Dana White himself have considered to be one of the greatest MMA matchups of all time in Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell is stagnant. We get All Access with Wanderlei Silva on MTV Nobody Watches 2 and a UFC Countdown show. We also get horribly bland interviews from Chuck Liddell on Unscripted with Dennis Miller, and pokes at Chuck on Pardon the Interruption. Enough is enough. Chuck isn’t good at interviews, and nobody watches the shows. Note to the UFC: Watch 24/7 Mayweather-Hatton and take notes.
7. Tying up divisional title pictures with a reality show
Are you serious? That was the phrase was said more times than I could count when looking at the Welterweight title picture. Instead of getting a Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes battle early, we have to wade through an entire season of the Ultimate Fighter to end up finding out Serra can’t fight due to an injury. Now, while St. Pierre vs. Matt Hughes is a great substitute, Serra’s recovery is still stopping the real belt from being claimed.
After locking up the Welterweight title picture for what seemed like an eternity, did the UFC learn? No… they ended up making another brilliant move. The UFC will now lock up their most prestigious division, the Light Heavyweight Division, for what is looking like at least half a year, maybe even longer. Although a good marketing strategy, it’d work better if the season was shorter or the production time was faster for the show.
6. Stifling fighter’s careers because they won’t accept a crappy contract
Sure, there are fighters out there that don’t prove enough in the cage for the amount of money that they request during contract negotiations. The letdown is that Zuffa actually stifles your career when you have one fight left on your contract until you get so antsy to fight, you accept the crappy contract. It’s either that or you have to sit out for an unbelievable amount of time until you get near your contract expiration. Suddenly, the UFC has a fight for you. I understand the argument that the fighter signed a contract, but that is rather unfair to keep a fighter in limbo for so long.
5. Broken Promises
You promised us Fedor, and it didn’t happen. It was a major letdown to the fans and Randy Couture. Everyone was convinced he was heading to the UFC while many of the us in the blogosphere remained neutral. In the end, it didn’t happen and people grew upset. Stop making promises. Cliche statements may be lame, but they work. “We are trying our hardest to make the matchup work.” Something along those lines will suffice.
4. Dana White shouldn’t speak in public
One of the biggest letdowns of the year was Dana White’s mouth. Instead of creating a professional look to his attitude during press conferences, conference calls, and interviews, White rants and raves by spitting profanity even when in context to significant developments in the UFC. The conference calls were always entertaining to hear White’s profanity on display. In the past, I have criticized this behavior to stopping some major networks from wheeling and dealing with the UFC. Fact is, other sports don’t have this demeanor, and his attitude seems to be synonymous with what many people feel MMA is, a street brawl.
3. Putting down MMA websites
Along the lines of #4 on our list, Dana White seemed to turn on the very websites that helped produce a bigger audience for MMA, and also helped market and promote events for the UFC back in the days of the UFC DVD. Fact is, White claims that websites were a reason why Couture was obtaining incorrect figures. White stated that internet websites were printing inflated salary numbers when in fact the numbers were straight from the commission. Way to put your foot in your mouth, Dana, and insulting the websites that helped create the beginnings of the fanbase we see today.
2. Handling of the CSAC’s decision
As critical as I was of the CSAC’s procedures regarding the Sean Sherk case, Dana White was far worse. Instead of keeping his mouth stapled shut for the remainder of the case, he gave the MMA community plenty to talk about. He told us that Sherk wouldn’t be stripped regardless of the CSAC’s decision. When Sherk was finally set to have his final hearing, White stuck to his guns. As the CSAC announced a reduction in his sentence to 6 months, it was still the claim by the CSAC that Sherk did use steroids. White changed his mind and stripped Sherk of his title.
1. Promising PRIDE would live, then killing it!
At the press conference announcing the acquisition of PRIDE, Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White both stated that PRIDE would never die and they would continue to keep the promotion around. Say what you will about the strategy here, but it was one of the worst business decisions to date. Not only did the UFC not buyout all the contracts, but fighters are now apparently just waiting for the contracts to expire and then doing what they want. Specifically, the lower weight Japanese fighters are sticking to Japanese promotions to get the bigger money in Japanese sponsors. The PRIDE library rights almost seem worthless as we haven’t seen a creative use for it yet. It’s more likely that they don’t have the rights by some kind of mishap by the Zuffa lawyers when looking at how they can utilize the acquisition of PRIDE.
The biggest letdown was letting such a great part of MMA history die out after telling the PRIDE faithful, the fans of PRIDE, that it was going to stick around for years to come, only to bury it in the ground for good. Zuffa should have simply obtained the facts first. It probably would have led to some different circumstances.
Let’s hear some of the things you have to say. This isn’t an article to rebut Rossen’s stance on the accomplishments of Zuffa, but I do feel that some of the items he listed are triumphing events that really were less than impressive. Specifically, rallying behind Liddell is honorable for a corporation like the UFC to do, but it certainly wasn’t an excellent promotional tool for the simple fact that Liddell just isn’t that interesting and has a tendency to go monotone during interviews. That’s just one example.
Zuffa and the UFC didn’t have a bad year. There were some great fights, some great cards, and some unbelievable events over the course of the entire year. Like all organizations at the top of the food chain, the spotlight is always on them. The list above mentions a few of the things that I felt were letdowns from the UFC this year. Many of them easily repairable by keeping your mouth shut or hiring better staff. Business practices can account for some of them though, and you can’t really blame a company for keeping their money making interests in their own best interests.
Agree or disagree with my list? Want to shout out other suggestions? Comment the article and I’ll weigh in.