Postal Connections: From the UFC Sale to the Donald Trump-Dana White Alliance

By Greg Savage Jul 16, 2016
Slow news week here, with only Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar getting busted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the completion of International Fight Week and the tiny little story about the Ultimate Fighting Championship being sold for $4 billion to keep us busy. I kid.

Honestly, this was one of the craziest weeks in my 17-plus years covering mixed martial arts. Obviously, the sale of the UFC was the biggest story of all, but all these angles are important as we embark on a new chapter in this sport we all love. To the Postal Connections mailbag we go:

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What are your thoughts on the UFC’s sale? Will it be good or bad for the sport? Are fighters going to see more pay in the long run, or do you think the new owners will be as greedy as the last owners? -- Jack, Calgary

Jack, this is the second sale of the UFC since I’ve been covering the sport. I remember back in 2001 when the sale to Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta was announced, and there was widespread optimism from the fans that had watched the sport languish under the direction of the cash-strapped Semaphore Entertainment Group. Perhaps it was more of a “Well, it can’t get any worse” type attitude, but at least there was some hope.

Flash forward a year or two into the Zuffa era and there were strong rumors circulating, which were later confirmed, that the brothers were trying to unload the floundering fight promotion. People, myself included, were questioning Dana White’s ability to lead the organization that was far from profitable and up to its ears in debt. We all know how that turned out after the last-ditch effort that was “The Ultimate Fighter.”

My warning here is this: Understand that this is a great opportunity for the sport and everyone involved in it. It isn’t a slam dunk -- there are no guarantees -- but this new ownership group has a pretty good track record for creating revenue for its clients and I’m sure it will do everything it can to increase revenues for the brand on which it just dropped $4 billion.

As for the fighters, that’s the $64,000 question. I’m sure you’ll hear someone from management talk about how a rising tide will lift all boats or some other clichéd bulls---, but rest assured, any real gains in actual fighter pay will have to be won by each and every individual fighter. The superstars will continue to see their pay rise commensurate with their ability to engage and draw fans. Where it gets tricky is for the other fighters. Will there be this middle class we’ve seen created over the last decade or so? That’s a big question mark, as well.

All in all, this is an exciting time for MMA, but beware of anyone telling you how great or how bad this deal is right now. If history tells us anything, it’s that it will probably take a few years before we really know what direction this sale will take the sport. I’m as optimistic as I was back in 2001 and hopeful it’s as successful as the last sale.

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Who will we see back in the cage first, Jones or Ronda Rousey? -- Zombie Rob from NC‬

I’m really not sure on this one. I’m not even sure if we’ll ever see either of them back in the cage ever. Rousey has obviously had some issues after losing her title to Holly Holm in November. Her rumored return has been pushed back again and again, and now we’re looking at sometime in 2017.

That will put her on the shelf for at least 14-15 months. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt after such a remarkable run, but it’s hard to look at everything that has gone on since her defeat and not worry about her ability to rebound. I know she’s one tough woman, but the way she handled her loss is not too promising.

Jones, on the other hand, is a calamitous story of self-sabotage of the highest order. This guy can’t get out of his own way, and I really wonder how he’s going to handle having to sit out for two years -- the likely penalty he’ll get for his doping indiscretions prior to UFC 200. Remember, this guy was stripped of his belt just over a year ago after his felony hit-and-run collision, and his manager was telling anyone who would listen that Jones might never fight again. What will his mental state be now that he’s staring down the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency ban hammer? Probably not a place he or any fighter for that matter wants to be.

If I had to handicap it, I’ll take Rousey. I assume she’ll probably make it back sometime in the next two years. Unless Jones pulls a miracle out of thin air, he’s going to be on the sidelines for the next 23 months.

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With all the buzz over Madison Square Garden, what would it take to do an ATT Stadium show? -- @SAMMANTX

You’ve probably all heard my radio partner Jordan Breen and I make jokes about the UFC heading to Dallas for years now. I know with the sale of the company to Ari Emanuel’s WME- IMG outfit may fuel speculation about new opportunities for the promotion, but I’m not so sure we’re going to see Jerry Jones shell out the kind of site fee the Las Vegas casinos are willing to pony up to get the big UFC pay-per-view shows. It has and likely still will be a wedge the UFC uses to drive up the bidding in its hometown market.

With that said, I think it would be awesome to see a show with 80,000 fans jammed into that unbelievable building. Perhaps that’s the kind of vanity show the new owners might want to pursue to make a statement. I wouldn’t count it out, but like I’ve been saying for years, this isn’t a place that makes dollars and sense.

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Do you think it’s better to have a logjam of top contenders in a division or one clear No. 1 contender?‬ -- @jaypettry

This is an interesting question and I think there is room for both within the current weight class structure. We saw Anderson Silva rule the middleweight division for over six years with nary a bobble. It was not the most talent-laden division, but it created excitement and a buzz every time he fought. He was anointed by some as the greatest fighter of all-time and people tuned in to watch no matter who was on the other side of the Octagon. It has worked well when there are thinner divisions, but it isn’t always a lock. Look at Demetrious Johnson in the flyweight division. The guy might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, but people just don’t tune in when he’s atop a card.

Then you have a division like 155 pounds. The lightweight title has changed hands three times in the last year and a half, and I don’t think anyone is going to argue the division has suffered. It might not be ideal for the guys queuing up to get their shot at the belt, but the fans sure seem to enjoy having their title challengers have to run a gauntlet to prove their worthiness.

There are 10 divisions in the UFC, so there is plenty of room to have both dominant champions and stacked weight classes. With the popularity of the sport at an all-time high, I’d say neither really matters that much in the grand scheme of things. Having transcendent stars is the biggest factor in the success of any combat sport entity.

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Whether folks in MMA are for or against Donald Trump, what do you make of White speaking at the Republican National Convention next week? -- @AMMenEspanol

This is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Politics doesn’t mix well with sports for many fans -- and for good reason. Sports can unite while politics will invariably divide people along any number of lines. We’ve run a couple Trump-related op-eds over the last few months, and the vitriolic responses we’ve received bear witness to the volatile nature of our political discourse at this moment in time.

Love him or hate him, White is going to speak his mind. It has been a calling card of his for as long as I’ve known him, and I can’t imagine him backing down from anything someone tells him he can’t or shouldn’t do. He has been a Trump ally since the early days of the Zuffa-era UFC when the promotion couldn’t find anywhere remotely desirable to hold its shows. Trump offered up his Atlantic City properties, and an alliance was born that will culminate in White speaking on Tuesday in Cleveland.

Truthfully, Trump might be the only candidate who would even consider White as a potential convention speaker. Let’s face it: When people watching the convention hit Google to learn about this fight promoter, they’re going to find a treasure trove of expletive-laced videos, most notably one of him dropping a “C U Next Tuesday” on former Sherdog News Editor Loretta Hunt.

Though White would be too toxic for any mainstream candidacy, he seems perfect for Trump’s bombastic, fact-phobic and demagogic approach to politics. It has been apparent for quite some time that these friends are cut from the same cloth. The only thing that remains to be seen is if Trump can bridge the gap between the UFC president and former client Tito Ortiz. If so, he might really be the best dealmaker of all-time.

Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or Twitter @TheSavageTruth. If you would like to have your question or comment answered in the weekly Postal Connections mailbag, please submit them by Wednesday evening each week.
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