Chuck Mindenhall misses the familial feeling the Fertitta brothers brought to the UFC in a pre-Endeavor era.
There is no denying the success of UFC in the Endeavor era, highlighted by a lucrative deal with ESPN. One thing that is missing from the modern product, however, is the sense of togetherness that Frank Fertitta, Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White brought to the business.
“If Endeavor officials, Ari Emanuel or any of the big names, had come forward and just made statements, just talked to the public and the media a little bit. Put some kind of face to what was going on. Maybe there would have been a different vibe from the beginning. It became faceless immediately. You have Dana operating as a middle man between what the owners are thinking and what the reality is. It made it very impersonal,” Mindenhall said on episode three of The Insiders (video above). “One brilliant thing that the Fertitta brothers did was make it very familial... There was a feeling that we’re all in this together. You’re all building the sport into something that will be sustainable and, not just that, but maybe at some point mainstream.”
“I feel like that held together all throughout the Fertittas’ ownership reign. Because that structure was in place it felt like a family. It was like having a family in place. It felt very intimate,” The Athletic writer added. “I felt like there was an outcry if the fans generally just really wanted to see some kind of fight or some kind of resolution to something, the Fertittas stepped in. They knew about it. They were in tune with the general attitude. The general feeling of where things were. And they would make it happen. I was always felt like there was a gratitude, even if it wasn’t expressed, about that.”
Mindenhall said that sense of fan contribution was lost in the transition.
“You knew the fans had some sort of say, at some juncture, about what was happening. I feel like that went away with this transaction. The things that don’t make sense, it’s just Dana kind of digging his heels in and saying, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is.’ It’s almost like the UFC has turned a blind eye to what used to matter in that sense,” Mindenhall expressed. “Some of that is feeling disenfranchised or orphaned after the Fertittas left. A lot of fans feel like they’re listless or not rooted to the UFC like they were before. Like the family broke up a bit. It sounds a little extreme but I really think the Fertittas added that layer to it that made it very intimate even as it grew to a $4 billion thing.”
Speaking of family, Mindenhall also dished on what his former MMA Beat brother Jeff Wagenheim is likely up to in quarantine.
“I can foresee a scenario where he is visiting a lot of art museums. Well, maybe he’s not but he’s thinking about the art museums. He’s thinking about it from a very elevated space right now. Let’s just put it that way,” Mindenhall chuckled. “He’s probably listening to a lot of obscure folksy music, if I know Jeff. I’m sure he is wearing his Hawaiian shirt.”
Timestamps are below for the video above.
0:45 - Jeff Wagenheim’s recreational activities
1:56 - Fashion Watch with Chucky M.
3:21 - ESPN & The Athletic in MMA
10:59 - Departure from MMA Fighting
13:41 - Is MMA Alive and Well?
17:10 - Media vs. Managers
30:29 - Is UFC Missing the Fertittas?
34:14 - MMA Beat to Man & The MITH
37:43 - Hat Trick