The UFC announced on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Jon Jones will fight Daniel Cormier in the main event at UFC 200.
Jon Jones is coming off a win over Ovince St. Preux and is now the interim champion in the light heavyweight division.
UFC 200 is scheduled for July 9th at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UFC 200 has been incredibly difficult for the UFC to schedule with Holly Holm losing to Miesha Tate and Conor McGregor retiring. Having Jones-Cormier as the main event saves the promotion from an above average card to a must-buy PPV for any fan and a solid entertainment choice for many casual sports fans on a Saturday night.
With the announcement coming on “Good Morning America” and this being the 200th PPV the UFC has offered I expect the amount of promotional dollars put behind this event will surpass any other event the UFC has done.
The UFC was the center of attention from 7 am to 9 am on ABC’s morning show “Good Morning America.” On the program the UFC announced that Jon Jones will fight Daniel Cormier at UFC 200.
From the UFC press release:
The biggest stars of the UFC from yesterday and today will appear on ABC’s popular morning show from 7-9 a.m.
UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Jon Jones, bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, strawweight and current Dancing With the Stars participant Paige VanZant, UFC President Dana White and more will join “GMA” throughout the morning.
The true test of the UFC turning mainstream was not being on ESPN regularly. The test was the UFC making morning shows and weekend network shows that were not centered on sports. Michael Strahan taking over for Regis Philbin on the now named show “LIVE with Kelly and Michael” was a testament to how strong the NFL is the American population’s mind.
Fighters such as Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey had previously made appearances on prominent morning shows.
Last week Conor McGregor announced his retirement in a power play against the UFC who was asking, in Conor McGregor’s mind, unreasonable marketing responsibilities. In response, the UFC pulled McGregor from UFC 200 and, according to McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh, are keeping McGregor off the debut card in New York scheduled to take place in November.
John Kavanagh said:
“That was hard to hear. I really think that’s going too far. [McGregor] was bold, but it wasn’t anything that bad. If we get the slap on the wrist for 200, we definitely can’t be put on the naughty [list] for New York.”
From the article on MMA Fighting:
Fighting in New York is very important to McGregor and his team. New York has been a hub for Irish immigrants since the 1800s. To this day, 12.9 percent of New York State residents claim Irish ancestry, the most of any state, according to the Wall Street Journal. And Irish Americans make up about 5.3 percent of New York City’s population, with large Irish communities in both Queens and Brooklyn.
The discussions and content of the talks between McGregor and the UFC that brought McGregor out of retirement are unknown. McGregor has said on Twitter that he is back on UFC 200 although the UFC says that is not true.
One could see the move to keep McGregor out of UFC 200 as punishment for McGregor failing to fulfill his perceived duties as a participant in the main event. Dana White has a history of being critical of people and their actions when they go against the plans that the UFC has in place. While we don’t know for sure it could be a reasonable assumption to make that the UFC is sending a message not only to McGregor but other fighters that the UFC is ultimately the one calling the shots in negotiations and income for fighters.
Once MacDonald’s contract ends at the conclusion of his next fight he will join Bellator. He is the most notable fighter to switch promotions in a young career.
MacDonald was the most prominent fighter to endorse McGregor’s decision to retire and then come out of retirement in order to gain leverage over the UFC.
Rory MacDonald is implying that promoters need fighters more than fighters need promoters. Today, and specifically the UFC, promoters pay the overhead for promotion throughout the year, assume more financial risk, and do a lot of other management for things to run smoothly. Fighters also make a small amount of money to start off with before becoming a PPV attraction. It’s a thin line between making even a modest amount of money and making at least $100,000 for a fight.
With today’s media technology distribution is free. Social media allows athletes to control and curate their brand value and they can connect directly with fans. The part where a promoter actually markets a fighter has diminished as expectations have shifted towards the fighter promoting himself. In the long term, an athlete needs to create his/her own following to begin with in order to diversify revenue streams. That being said, I do believe that in a vacuum the athlete is needed more by the sports entity than the athlete needs said sports entity.
Manny Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley for the second time in their third fight on April 9th at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Arum, the event appears to have generated 400,000-500,000 PPV buys, which would mean the promotion lost money.
Pacquiao was paid a guaranteed $20 million and Bradley was guaranteed $4 million.
From the ESPN article Arum said:
“It will be somewhere between those numbers, 400,000 and 500,000. It’s all being added up, but it will be closer to 400,000 than 500,000. Terrible.”
“Certainly the pushback from Manny’s gay remarks killed us. It hurt us a lot. But I think it was also less a reaction to the match than a reaction to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. It was a reaction like Mayweather got. Mayweather also got punished [by consumers].”
The fight against Bradley is supposedly Pacquiao’s last fight in the sport.
Arum believes that the main factor in the financial troubles was the homophobic and ignorant comments Manny Pacquiao made. The comments did lose Pacquiao multiple sponsors, including Nike. It also appeared that HBO slowed down all of the promotional efforts as a result of the comments.
However, Arum is underestimating how stale this fight was to fight fans. Any fight fan who had watched the first two fights saw Manny Pacquiao being the clear winner, despite the judges giving Bradley the decision win in their first match. That means that core fight fans were not very enthusiastic about this fight and in this fight the core fan base had to carry the fight to financial success. Casual sports fans were going to be out on this fight given Pacquiao’s poor performance against Mayweather, his post-fight comment on his shoulder that was largely considered an excuse from a sore loser, and the homophobic comments.
Arum also points out that Mayweather only received 400,000-500,000 PPV buys. I would argue that result was somewhat expected given the opponent and the post-super fight climate. Lastly, many in the industry believe that Arum is intentionally overstating the actual PPV purchases.
Last week Conor McGregor temporarily retired in order for the UFC to be give him time away from the promotional circuit. Many of the top fighters in the UFC mocked McGregor and tossed their hat into the ring to take on Diaz in the main event for UFC 200. Rory MacDonald was the most notable fighter to support McGregor’s decision to retire and then come out of retirement. MacDonald also defected from the UFC. His contract with the UFC expires after his next fight and then MacDonald will join Bellator.
The behavior by the other fighters shows that a union is very unlikely for fighters. Any discussion for a fighter’s union can be put on hold even though it would be more beneficial in the long run for fighters.
Rory MacDonald is acutely aware of the larger picture when look at fighter-promoter dynamic.
The last episode in the Pacquiao-Bradley trilogy saw Pacquiao earning a decision victory over “Desert Swarm” Bradley.
Pacquiao’s last fight was against Mayweather and had over 4M PPV buys. In Pacquiao’s fight against Algieri the program garnered over 400k PPV buys. When he had his first fight after being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao took on Brandon Rios in Macau, China and earned nearly 500k PPV buys.
The PPV buys mirror that of Mayweather-Berto, which was Mayweather’s worst PPV buy fight in over a decade.
I’m impressed by the PPV buy number. Going into the weekend I felt that hardcore boxing fans wouldn’t be very compelled to buy the fight but this number proves me wrong.
With Pacquiao having clearly won the first two fights, even if the judges gave the first fight to Bradley, I didn’t think that a third match against Bradley would be that compelling.
Last time Pacquiao was in the limelight he had a less than great showing against Mayweather and then after the fight claimed to have a shoulder injury that hampered his performance, which looked to the public like he was being a sore loser.
There was also minimal promotion for the event and that includes HBO who put out a statement strongly disagreeing with Pacquiao on his comments about the LGBTQ community. Many corporations, such as Nike, also cut ties with the former global super star.
When putting all the factors together: lackluster matchup, unfulfilling performance that left a sour taste in a lot of viewer’s mouths after the Mayweather fight, and lack of promotion because Pacquiao was generally unlikeable at that point, the numbers did pretty well.
McGregor put out a lengthy statement that can be summed up as: HE spent too much time promoting for the last fight and got away from training and wasn’t prepared. Since he made $400 million in the last 8 months for the UFC he should have the time to spend more time on training and skip the unimportant interviews.
Now that McGregor has retired and come out of retirement in a 24-hour period it is clear that the original retirement was a power play to force the UFC’s hand into letting McGregor do limited media appearances. The original dispute arose because McGregor didn’t want to take 16 hours of travel time to make what he considered a small press conference, which would severely disrupt McGregor’s training and preparation.
To compare this situation to a different sport situation it’s reminiscent of a player strike and lockout of the NFL a couple years back. At the time the league had more leverage over the players because of the financial landscape and could get the better end of the CBA agreement on that round of negotiations. When the league is making record amounts of money the players have more leverage because the owners have more to lose by not bringing in the billions of dollars the players can generate.
Ultimately, in the lockouts and strikes, when there is enough money on the table an agreement is always made but one side is going to get the better of the other. The opportunity cost of not playing is much too high.
I don’t know what the fight contracts look like but based on the language used in McGregor’s statement there isn’t an explicit requirement to do certain promotional appearances. Many television and film contracts will require for actors and actresses to do media appearances as part of the promotion. However, it could be that Conor McGregor ultimately decides he gets paid to fight, bottomline.
On Tuesday Conor McGregor, UFC featherweight champion, retired. He made the announcement on social media with the tweet:
I have decided to retire young.
Thanks for the cheese.
Catch ya’s later.
McGregor’s tweet is currently the most retweeted tweet by an athlete in 2016.
I want to point out how paramount this is:
The retirement announcement of an UFC world champion who was last seen being submitted by an opponent on 11-days notice has just been retweeted more times than the poem left by one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time.
This could be one of those moments that people look back on and see it as a turning point for the sport in terms of breaking into the casual sports fan sphere.
However, it has yet to be determined if this is simply a case of Conor McGregor being an icon in the casual sports fan’s world or whether the UFC is actually on the fringes.