Ask Ant: The 'Where's The Beef?' Edition

By Anthony Walker Apr 20, 2019

Europe 1 asks: In an recent article, sherdog journalist Eric Stinton -- a scholar and wordsmith of great renown -- said that Poirier vs Holloway and Kelvin vs Israel prove that you don't need bad blood to have a badass fight. But that begs the question, ignoring hype and marketing, do you guys think that heated feuds actually produce better fights overall?

Before I dive into this, let’s take a moment to recognize how exceptional Eric Stinton is. Every week I look forward to reading his op-eds, which tend to give a fresh take on the current events that everyone is talking about. With that out of the way, my colleague definitely brought up an interesting idea that might have otherwise flown under the radar. We’re so used to feuds and bad blood selling fights that we never really stopped to think about the quality of those fights once the bell rings.

Last Saturday brought what seems like a rarity nowadays: a major pay-per-view card built on the idea of solid and relevant match making devoid of the trash talk and manufactured beef that we’ve grown accustomed to. Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway and Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum were overall very respectful during the build-ups and maintained a high level of professionalism and good sportsmanship during and after the contests as well. Bravo to those men. As a member of this sport’s media, which means dealing with a tremendous amount of negativity, it’s refreshing to watch athletes who simply came to compete as opposed to yet another score to settle. Fights like the main and co-main events of UFC 236 are exactly why I and many of my contemporaries grew fond of the MMA in the first place.

As far as feuds producing better fights overall, I’d say no. That’s not always the case. Those emotions going into the cage can do terrible things for performance. Look no further than Jose Aldo when he finally had the chance to get his hands on Conor McGregor. The normally measured, methodical, and calculated killer was reduced to reckless lunging that gave “The Notorious” the perfect target.

Derek Brunson and Israel Adesanya had a notably unfriendly relationship with one another leading up to UFC 230. Stylebender’s showcase win was undoubtedly aided by the wrestler seemingly unable to get his emotions in check as he haphazardly put himself in harm's way attempting takedowns.

There’s also the possibility of the build-up being so heated and tensions being so high that the fight itself will almost always disappoint. Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson had years of back-and-forth words, an in-cage face off and an entire season of “The Ultimate Fighter” to prove their hatred for one another. When they finally met at UFC 114, very few watching felt satisfied. Earlier on the same night as the two instant classic title fights last weekend, we had a lower scale bad blood match up with Max Griffin and Zelim Imadaev. Despite the multiple confrontations in the fighter hotel and posturing that took place all fight week, the bout itself was a sloppy and poorly-executed mess on multiple fronts.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, the most noteworthy of which is the rivalry between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. However, let’s be clear that we’re talking about the two greatest light heavyweights of all time and easy “GOAT” candidates. Whether or not they looked at one another as the antichrist, the combination of the two would have produced great entertainment. All of what we’re talking about happens when the fight actually take place. That means the promotion has already made its money from us. From their standpoint, that’s the most important part.

Silax1 asks: If they do fight, where will Whittaker vs Adesanya in “Aussieland” rank among the craziest, most intense in-arena experiences in MMA history?

First off, let’s not say IF they fight. We don’t want to tempt the MMA Gods into playing our emotions any further than they already do. Your bad juju isn’t welcomed here Silax1. But you do ask a very good question. The in arena experience for a potential Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya middleweight title unification bout would be historic.

Let’s start with correcting the verbiage. This wouldn’t be an in-arena experience. It would be an in-stadium experience. The trio of Whittaker, Adesanya, and the UFC have all gone on record saying this fight should be held a large stadium sized venue. This has only been done twice in the promotion’s history. The first was UFC 129 at Toronto’s Rogers Centre which featured Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields and the second was UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia which was main-evented by Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm.

The absurdly large crowds and stars attached made those events seem bigger than life. Expect the same if the Oceanic region gets its closest thing to an in-home superfight. I’m reminded of Stipe Miocic defending his heavyweight belt in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio at UFC 203. The enthusiastic crowd in the NBA sized arena added so much to the event for the spectators at home. By all accounts, the live experience was one to remember. I’d expect that same feel greatly amplified with more fans in attendance and two worthy competitors hailing from the region.

Mmahorse asks: How much money comes in for the UFC in Gates + Sponsorship + PPV? Where does the money go from that, and what percentage are fighters getting?

Some of this information -- typically gate revenue -- is publicly available. Unfortunately, most of it is not. The UFC likes it that way for a reason. Notice how when the ESPN+ expansion into pay-per-view was announced, the financial figures were not? Notice how under the old model, the numbers the media would receive were simply estimates? Don’t expect that to change if the company decided not to comment on the particular dollar figures attached to news big enough that it mandated a long form interview with Dana White.

Reportedly, Endeavor is planning to go public at some point later in the year. There is also a pending anti-trust lawsuit against the UFC. Maybe that all changes with either one of those news items forcing the issue. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath waiting.
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