Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White is a savvy promoter, his success through the years making that obvious. But the manner in which he goes about his business is nothing short of brilliant.
With UFC on Fox 4: "Shogun vs. Vera" just around the corner this coming Sat., Aug. 4, 2012, from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, White needed a way to help build some hype for the event. After all, it's not exactly getting a heavy promotional push at present time and any extra bit of motivation for consumers to tune in helps.
So he announced that the next top light heavyweight contender would come from the show, whether that be Mauricio Rua, who takes on Brandon Vera, Lyoto Machida, or Ryan Bader, who are fighting each other.
The catch? Winning isn't enough. Whoever looks the best in the process gets the shot.
That serves two purposes: First, it gives potential viewers extra incentive to tune in to watch the event. If you, the fan, knows the next challenger to the 205-pound title will come from this show, which is completely free to watch, why wouldn't you want to check it out?
Secondly, it gives the fighters added motivation to let it all hang out on fight night. By telling his employees winning isn't enough, as it would be in other sports, White forces their hand. Sure, you can argue against how legitimate that is and I wouldn't even necessarily disagree with you but speaking strictly from a business perspective, it's brilliant.
You might say it seems obvious and at first glance, it may be. But there is an even greater allure than the title with all the prestige -- not to mention the money -- that comes with it.
UFC on FOX 4 is unofficially known as "Jon Jones' resume" thanks to the fact that the top four fighters on the card are all victims of his devastating attack. And, assuming he defeats Dan Henderson at UFC 151 on Sept. 1 in Las Vegas, he's the man who will be awaiting them with the light heavyweight title wrapped firmly around his waist.
It started with Brandon Vera, a man who had his face broken by a lethal elbow. For the purposes of this discussion, though, he's irrelevant.
Bader got his at UFC 126 in Feb. 2011 when Jones was on his way up and still climbing the ladder. He didn't know it at the time, though there were rumblings, but a strong victory -- which he got -- earned him a title shot.
That shot came just six weeks later at UFC 128 in March against "Shogun," and calling it a fight is just short of being disingenuous. "Bones" beat the tar out of the Brazilian, from pillar to post. It started with a flying knee and ended a few rounds later with Rua tapping to strikes.
Finally, Machida represented Jones' second title defense at UFC 140 in December of the same year. And, just like every opponent previous, he was finished spectacularly, succumbing to a standing submission in the second round.
That's three decidedly humiliating defeats to three extremely competitive and driven mixed martial artists. The notion that any one of them is one impressive win away from potentially avenging those embarrassing losses, or even being given the chance to, is a salivating thought.
The Octagon is their canvas. White has charged them all with creating a masterpiece and promised them everything they want in return.
It's a brilliant bit of promotional savvy that serves the best purposes of the fighters and the fans, at least for now. No one is exactly calling for any of these men to actually get their rematch but options are limited and, though bitter, it's a pill fans are willing to swallow.
After all, White and company would likely come up with another strong marketing angle and sell us on it once again.
He always does.