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Midnight Mania! Dana White tells fighters to become stars themselves instead of begging for money fights

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It’s always a good look when the promoter just tells the fighters that promotion is up to them. That’s precisely what Dana White, the UFC president, did on Sunday after the St. Louis fight card. He was asked how relevant rankings are in the era of the money fight. White’s answer wasn’t completely coherent (via MMAJunkie.com).

“The only reason there are ‘money fights’ is because of the rankings,” White said. “A guy gets into the top 10, and then a guy breaks into the top five. When a guy breaks into the top five, that’s when everybody is interested in him. And when guys talk about money fights, it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

“You know what’s a money fight? Any fight with Conor McGregor is a money fight. There are certain people. Ronda Rousey – any fight with Ronda Rousey is a money fight.”

White may be confusing correlation with causation here. Fighters and fans certainly use rankings as a proxy to assess their place in the division, but what drives those rankings is their wins, which also (along with charisma and a compelling story) drives fan interest, and has done so since long before official UFC rankings were implemented. Dana White then pivots the discussion to the two most recent superstars whose combination of talent, charisma, and a compelling story generated tremendous casual interest. Those are interesting examples, because McGregor’s appeal never relied on rankings. McGregor ultimately had to look outside the UFC for his money fight against Floyd Mayweather. Never taking a step backwards, jumping divisions and even sports to seek the biggest matchup possible, Conor is the poster child of looking for the money fight and being the superstar. This becomes important when reading White’s next quote:

“Build yourself into a star, and you won’t be talking about money fights,” White said. “It’s getting to a point where Conor McGregor has exploded and become so huge that this whole money fight thing came about. And even if you’re not fighting Conor McGregor, you want to be on Conor McGregor’s card. Become a star. Don’t worry about Conor McGregor or fighting on Conor McGregor’s card. Become a star yourself.”

White’s comments fall apart on several levels. Firstly because, of course, he, the promoter, is telling fighters if they just promoted themselves they would never lack. It’s both true, and a sad admission of the UFC’s inability to do their core job. UFC viewership is declining across the board and has been for years now, both in terms of pay-per-views (PPVs) and cable TV numbers. McGregor is their only superstar, and his lone boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, along with stringent employee and budget cuts that further atrophied the UFC’s promotional muscle, is the only reason White can claim the UFC had their best year ever.

The Reebok deal both enforces bland uniformity, and works as a disincentive to fighters’ self-branding efforts. That is because, without independent sponsorship money, fighters will only receive about 15% of the gross revenue of whatever self-promotion effort they put forth. With the promotion keeping 85% of the profits, anyone with any level of charisma might as well sell real estate or live off marijuana sponsorships instead.

That’s the really perverse reality under Dana White’s statements: the money is actually there. It’s just being hoarded to undergird the bottom line and, they hope, trigger payouts for the executives and owners. Without a successful lawsuit, legislative action or collective bargaining, that isn’t likely to change anytime soon, either.

It really no coincidence MMA only has a couple stars, much less superstars; fighters really have very little agency, either in terms of matchmaking, or in terms of opportunities to stand out. That’s why only champions really have the opportunity, however obnoxious, to demand money fights. Only holding a belt gives fighters any opportunity, however slim, to try to pick their opponents. Meanwhile, when the promotion does choose to get behind a blond, promising fighter such as Sage Northcutt or Paige VanZant, their efforts can work in terms of building an audience for such athletes- but those lucky few fighters may not actually pan out as championship caliber talent.

Even the ones that have every ingredient for superstardom, such as Francis Ngannou, find themselves criminally underpaid. This is very smart of the UFC and Dana White in the short and medium term, maximizing profit and minimizing cost, but it could be a core reason why their audience is declining long term. Without investment in both properly promoting and paying their fighters, the UFC will most likely continue to see its audience shrink, and the sport it dominates to languish on the sidelines of the mainstream.


Insomnia

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This is SO BAD ASS!!!!

A post shared by Dana White (@danawhite) on

Rose Namajunas tweeted this surprising video:

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Super ninja from the Westside

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I mean Tyron Woodley does try this every time, so this doesn’t feel like a reach from Rafael Dos Anjos.

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Slips, Rips, and KO Clips

The answer: No. No, he does not.

Highlight reels you can enjoy

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Podcasts and Video

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The MMA Hour:

Monday Morning Analyst:


Random Land

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