Ask Ant: The Cord Cutting and Fence Grabbing Edition

By Anthony Walker Mar 22, 2019

Fahcough: How soon does the UFC notice they f-ed up by ditching cable box fans?

I seriously doubt that an epiphany like this will reach anyone in charge at Endeavor. As Dana White made very clear in his interview with Megan Olivi, this move is great for the company. The Ultimate Fighting Championship was publicly unhappy with the 50-percent split of pay-per-view revenue that cable and satellite companies took off of the top.

It was recently reported that a dispute with DirecTV almost led to the company not carrying UFC 234. A short-term deal was reached and the event was available but nothing long-term was resolved.

Based on those reports, it’s clear that the UFC must have crunched the numbers and determined that it was in its best financial interest to ditch the traditional pay-per-view partners. There’s no way a move this drastic is made without the promotion looking at its bank account and deciding which option makes that number increase.

As long as ESPN is handing over money for licensing the exclusive rights to pay-per-view content, the UFC is sitting pretty. Not only do they get a guarantee figure that DirecTV or Comcast couldn’t offer them, but it’s highly likely that they are taking more than half of the revenue generated from the sales. Add this to an even bigger synergy between the Worldwide Leader in Sports and the UFC.

This means that while ESPN was already heavily incentivized to promote the UFC in order to grow its streaming service, now that dependency has increased exponentially. SportsCenter, Monday Night Football and First Take are among the flagship programming to get an overall MMA makeover in the form of cross promotion, commercials and live reads. Add this to the entirety of the Disney conglomerate, made bigger by its finalized acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and you have a huge network of television channels, movie production and video games that can support the UFC.

Money upfront, money on the back end, and increased exposure across more mainstream platforms are big positives for the company. For fans? It simply doesn’t matter. Putting a paywall behind a paywall will undoubtedly turn some people off. While streaming services will soon be the only way to watch television, forcing that move right now will turn off other people. But who cares when guaranteed money is flowing in?

Let’s not forget about the fighters in this equation. Much like Reebok and the original incarnation of the ESPN partnership, the men and women on the roster weren’t consulted about this at all. If so, the champions and big names that enjoy pay-per-view points on their paychecks might have something to say about the certain drop in buyrates we can expect for the foreseeable future. Is it too late to fill out those Project Spearhead cards?

Poll Question: With T.J. Dillashaw vacating his belt, who should face Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight title? Henry Cejudo 63%, Pedro Munhoz 28%, Aljamain Sterling 4% and Other 5%.

There is a reason why this question was phrased the way it was. There is no version of a bantamweight title fight that makes sense without Marlon Moraes. Even if Dillashaw were still in play, rematching him against Henry Cejudo at 135 does not do justice for the contenders that have been waiting in line to break the of trifecta of Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt, and Dominick Cruz, the only active fighters competing for the divisional crown since 2016.

With Dillashaw on hiatus for at least a year, the temptation to keep Cejudo isn’t out of bounds. After all, he did do away with the now former champion in less than a minute with his own flyweight belt on the line. Maybe it’s the growing disdain of the champ-champ phase, maybe it’s the looming presence of the Grim Reaper hovering over the 125ers, but keeping Cejudo where he already is seems more appealing than yet another superfight of sorts.

Meanwhile Moraes has been smoking nearly everyone in his path since debuting in the UFC after lording over the bantamweights in World Series of Fighting. Aside from the close win over John Dodson which followed a close loss to Raphael Assuncao, everyone else has been finished. Assuncao himself was mauled by Moraes just weeks ago to right that wrong on his record.

Pedro Munhoz would be my choice to face Moraes. He’s coming off a dramatic knockout win over Garbrandt in his first non-title venture since 2016. That extended his win streak to three with a second straight finish.

Aljamain Sterling would be a good choice too. He also enjoys three consecutive victories with his most recent win against Jimmie Rivera being a one-sided tactical showcase. Before that, he was very close to pulling off the 2018 submission of the year with his superb kneebar to defeat Cody Stamann. However, his 2017 ended with him being added to Moraes’ collection of skulls. While he has drastically improved since then and a rematch may play out differently, it would be nice to see a true build-up before they meet again.

The other names like Cruz, Petr Yan, or John Lineker don’t fit the bill for a variety of reasons. Cruz is sidelined with yet another injury until the end of the year. Yan could benefit from another high-profile victory and Lineker hasn’t been as active, with only two outings since dropping a decision to Dillashaw at UFC 207.

I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Moraes vs. Cejudo next. The aforementioned superfight angle and likely shutting down of flyweight make this seem like a near certainty.

Europe1: Last week, Safarov and Negumereanu broke the rules of the Octagon so many times that I thought I was watching Conor McGregor fight Jon Jones! Is it time to systemize the warning-system in MMA? Say, 1 foul results in a warning, and 2 fouls resulting in a Point Deduction?

Yes, yes, yes. Something has to be done to make this a standard and simple procedure. Fouls are pretty much a part of fight strategy at this point. Last Saturday against Nicolae Negumeraneau, it seemed to be the sole basis of Saparbek Safarov’s game plan. As I ranted about in this past Sunday’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the number of times that Safarov was allowed to get away with fence grabs was out of control and near hilarity.

The way Leon Roberts handled it was the perfect illustration of the need for some sort of protocol to be mandated. Instead of relying on the whims of whoever the third person in the cage is, both fighters make the walk knowing exactly what awaits them. No warning should have to be repeated so many times before any genuine action is taken.

A well-defined system would have prevented the exhibition of rule breaking to continue. Whether that means Safarov would have stopped committing the foul and stayed within the agreed-upon ruleset or he would’ve taken the disqualification loss. If anybody had their head in the sand and didn’t see the constant fouls in MMA as a problem, this fight should’ve been the long overdue wake up call. What good are rules if they aren’t enforced?
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