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December 11, 2015

UFC 194 as Good as it Gets for Fight Fans

By EconMatters

The Big Fight Weekend

This Saturday December 12th the UFC will have their closest thing to a Super fight in the stellar matchup between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This fight should set all kinds of UFC pay per view records as fight fans have awaited this matchup for a long time. And frankly now that college football has winded down, there isn`t a lot of sports competing for these sports dollars over the weekend.

This better be a great fight, and not a total dud because the UFC is running a little thin on credibility after their foray into women`s mixed martial arts with the hype machine that was Ronda Rousey. As she became just the latest example of the UFC Promotion machine getting a little ahead of its fighter`s capabilities and experience level.


The Talent Gap

This is part of the problem that the UFC faces is that in order to truly have a high level of mixed martial arts fighting skills it takes at least 10 years of training, even for a talented athlete to reach the mastery level. There just aren`t that many people who will be able to subsidize their living standard for at least ten years that it takes to gain this type of advanced fighting skillset.

For example, professional football has junior high, high school, and college training programs doing all the prep work training, and then they weed out the best, and have plenty of qualified candidates to choose from to run their business model. The same for basketball, baseball and even soccer. Because these sports are supported and developed in the education curriculum as part of a well-rounded educational program, there are lots of potential employees being developed by the professional sports leagues at no cost.

Developmental Programs

The UFC has had to rely on college wrestling programs, private Jiu Jitsu gyms, and some Karate clubs for their ‘subsidized’ athlete pool. And hope like heck they can get enough of these individuals to master some boxing, and the other disciples of the mixed martial arts game. But the UFC runs into a sheer numbers issue, as most of the other sports developmental programs not only take athletes away from these much smaller niche hobby sports endeavors for the youth. But also the UFC has such a small athlete pool to begin with, that once in any athletic sport where the majority are weeded out who just aren`t athletic enough, or have the mental makeup, persistence level and dedication to develop high level skills required to reach an elite level of performance. The UFC is basically left with a very limited number of fighters who are worth spending money on, and make for compelling “must-see” entertainment. And usually the capable interesting fighters are not in the same weight class because there are just so few to begin with here with this supply chain model.


Some Progress Made

The UFC has known about this problem, and they anticipated with the ‘mainstreaming’ of the sport in getting a national television contract with Fox, and getting more sponsorship from corporate advertisers that the fighters would come up through the ranks. But this is where the miscalculation came in by the UFC. It takes at least 10 years to actually master multiple martial arts disciplines, and there just aren`t that many candidates who will sacrifice 10 years of making no money for a sport where they routinely get hit in the face or have some malodourous person lay on them on top of a dirty mat for 2 hours a day. In high School you at least get a nice letter jacket that impresses the ladies for your ineffectual efforts at playing football, baseball and basketball.

The UFC is left with the occasional college wrestler who can learn how to box at a novice level, an Olympic Judo competitor who can learn some basic wrestling and kick-boxing moves, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students who can learn some boxing and wrestling skills. But even these fighters are not complete mixed martial arts fighters but rather have one good skill set, and the other skill sets necessary for legitimate mixed martial art`s fighting are at the novice to intermediate level at best.

5 Fighters at Master`s Skill Level

As a result the UFC has basically had about 5 guys who could actually fight as a true mixed martial artist and were talented athletes at a commensurate professional advanced level on their fighting roster at any given time. This makes it hard to put actual high level watchable shows on pay per view multiple times a year, let alone several times a month like the UFC tries to do without completely alienating your fans with subpar shows of overhyped events that are basically watered down fighting club events.

Whenever you have fighters with less than 3 fights fighting on main events like Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey, and over the hill boxers like James Toney you know there is a talent issue in the sport. Can you imagine putting in a quarterback to read modern NFL defensive coverages with such little preparation and years of experience? The UFC has basically devolved into the modern day equivalent of the Ringling Brother`s circus show promoting the latest freak show in the ring. We will see if Conor McGregor can actually fight this Saturday, and the Aldo – McGregor fight ends up meeting considerable expectations by fans.

Reinvest Profits in the Business – Like Amazon

However, until the UFC finds a way to reinvest their profits in developing fighters for the future, in some sort of amateur training program they are going to continue to tread water as an organization competing for the sports entertainment dollar. Maybe work with high school sports programs to have basic mixed martial arts clubs as alternatives for youths in lieu of football, basketball, baseball, track, golf, swimming, gymnastics, tennis and soccer. Or alternatively provide yearly stipends to have fighters on the roster in a developmental program like the minor leagues in baseball.

Legitimate Sport or Professional Wrestling?

Alternatively, they can hope that the fight fans will continue to purchase expensive pay per view events for overhyped fighters who lack the requisite training and skillset of the other sports leagues. Can you imagine if Tom Brady had only 10 starts in his entire football training life before playing in the Super bowl? The UFC is basically a flawed product right now, which relies upon hype, and an incompetent uncritical sports media accomplice in promoting underqualified participants as professionally qualified athletes with advanced mixed martial arts skillsets. In the glory days of boxing, which is the most common comparison sport, fighters had 5-10 years of amateur boxing training, at least 20 professional fights gradually building up there skillset, and then they worked their way into title fight contention.

Overhyping is not Good Branding

The UFC for the most part is one giant hype machine, promoting overhyped fights with fighters who are inadequately prepared, often not even meeting the 10,000 hours threshold of mixed martial arts training, let alone actually being gifted to any high degree in the sport. In the past, athletes tried to compensate for lack of skill by taking performance enhancing drugs (steroids, Hgh, etc.), dropping 20 plus pounds of water weight right before the fight (weight-cutting cans), and any other means available like laying on an opponent for 15 minutes due to only being able to wrestle or having a limited mixed martial arts toolkit.

Develop a Roster of 100 High Level Fighters: Business/Fighter Developmental Plan Required

We have written in the past about the progress of the sport, but in going after the almighty dollar in the short term, the UFC has failed to build a solid foundation going forward for its future. As of right now, despite the best fight this Saturday in years, the product is reaching a stagnation standpoint. It hasn`t evolved or taken near advantage of its opportunity as we would have anticipated given the uptick of a national television contract with Fox Sports, and the multitude of corporate sponsorships that have come the UFC`s way the last 3 years.

In short, if the UFC was a stock we would be shorting it right into the Aldo-McGregor spike this weekend. The UFC is going to have to make some changes if they are going to take their sport to the next level; promoting women fighters in bikinis can only fool the sports buying public for so long. Unless they want to remain a freak show niche ‘sport’ like professional wrestling with its declining pay per views, they better formulate a plan to develop a roster of 100 fighters who are truly compelling to watch from an overall athletic and advanced skill standpoint – a roster of fighters who are actually competent well rounded Mixed Martial Artists.

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Item Reviewed: UFC 194 as Good as it Gets for Fight Fans Rating: 5 Reviewed By: EconMatters