Don’t call it a comeback…

… because I have been here. Just not actually blogging, obviously. Anyway, I’ve finished my exams, so hopefully I’ll be managing updates on something approaching a regular basis.

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Business as usual…

Well fuck me. Didn’t I pick a good time to start a blog about the UFC and market dominance?

There’s a lot of good commentary on this elsewhere, so just a few quick thoughts about the interview:

“We’re not reducing competition.”

Because a bunch of shows whose names Dana can’t remember took place in Canada? I don’t think we’re meant to take this seriously.

“Go talk to Bellator!”

Managers and sponsors have to be feeling pretty sick at the moment. If you don’t like the terms you’re getting from the UFC, your room for negotiation is now effectively non-existent. At least top-level fighters used to be able to make semi-credible threats about taking their wares elsewhere.

“Business as usual”

If Dana White had repeated this phrase any more during the interview, we’d all have forgotten the buy-out story in favour of specualtion about the UFC CEO’s possible brain injury. It was Dana’s magic answer for everything: “Any onsequences for fighters you don’t like?” – “Business as usual.” “For Strikeforce staff?” – “Business as usual.” “Women in MMA?” – “Business as usual.” You start to wonder why the hell Zuffa bought the thing in the first place.

Obviously it’d be best not to take him too seriously on this. If there was a masterplan to start turning the heat up on fighters, fans and sponsors now that none of them have anywhere else to go, that’s probably not the sort of thing you’d come out with in a friendly chat with Ariel Helwani.

“We need more fights” 

I can’t believe that this was the line that they decided to take. Zuffa just reduced the number of fights it was holding, but to hear Dana tell it you’d think that everyone with a UFC contract was getting more work than they could handle.

Slightly off-topic

 Gareth A. Davies really is a nasty little sycophant, isn’t he?

It is not bad in any real sense for MMA globally. Better for the fans, certainly. 

That’s a pretty bold statement this early in the game isn’t it?

The UFC will still need smaller organisations like Bellator and BAMMA for prospects to come through, just as Formula 1 needs Formula 2 and Formula 3. The winner of F1, is the ultimate racing driving champion.

This would be more convincing if Davis wasn’t just repeating what Dana White said. And if he could use commas properly.

Hate the game

Cage Potato make some good points about the whole Bisping knee-to-the-head kerfuffle. The long and short of it is that cheating works more often than not in MMA fights. That seems about right to me, but I think the obvious conclusion of that is that you can’t blame Mike Bisping for making what was pretty obviously the smart move.

It also puts a pretty good point on my last post, because the thing that Mike did that was really obviously sensible was immediately apologise to Dana White after the fight. Contrast that with Paul Daley, who did something similarly hot-headed (although rather less strategic), but then took it a step further by refusing to take his telling off meekly.

What if Dana White doesn’t like you?

The UFC has a near-monopoly on top level MMA fights. As I said in my last post, there are a lot of people who think that this is no bad thing. Specifically, I considered the idea that sports need monopolies in order to run smoothly, and if you look at the governing bodies you have for most large sports, this seems to make sense.

But the UFC clearly isn’t a governing body in the sense we mean when we talk about the NFL or FIFA. This week, Rashad Evans spells out what’s wrong with that argument, so I don’t have to:

The problem is, there’s no governing body to the UFC to decide who gets the title shot. There’s no ranking, so how do I know when I’ll get a title shot again? What, when Dana White likes me enough? It’s basically on when he likes me, and you know as well as I know, that’s not that often. If I get the opportunity to fight for a title because he says so, then I’m going to take it. If I have to wait to take it, I’ll wait to take it.

This pretty much nails it. Governing bodies are expected to abide by a reasonably consistent set of rules. Obviously “expected to” is a long way away from “do in reality”, but it’s very hard to think of a governing body for a sport that has as much discretion as Dana White does in picking who gets to fight who, and when.

To be fair, Evans’s problems actually stem as much from bad luck as from anything else. But the wider point is sound. In place of rules, top level MMA has “What Dana White thinks would be a good idea.”

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Doctor Stoppage”

I like that John Fitch gets a column in MMAfighting. Among other things, it gives him a chance to engage in the sort of Mixed Metaphor Artistry that would put Tom Friedman to shame:

It may not look as pretty as a surgeon who goes out there and cuts an opponent’s head off, but it’s no less effective.

I s’pose “effective” is one word for a surgeon who cuts someone’s head off…

Ultimate Monopoly Championship

There’s a lot to like about the UFC/WEC merger. From my point of view, it’s that the smaller fighters are going to get to perform on the world stage.

All those folks who’ve yet to see a Jose Aldo fight, to take the most obvious example, are in for a real treat:

I think we can all appreciate that the greater good is served putting that man on as many TV screens as possible.

On the other hand, this mmafighting post about the UFC/WEC merger makes a really sharp point:

With the Jan. 1 addition of the bantamweight and featherweight divisions in the UFC – bringing the total of weight classes to seven – the number of fighters looking for jobs will rise, but the total number of slots available to fighters is expected to hold steady.

Now, this is not an entirely bad thing. To the extent that we’re replacing heavyweights with lighter fighters, I’d regard it as a much-needed victory for the good folks who want to watch skilled MMA over the evil forces of pro-wrestling wank.

There is, however, a dark side to this. Since Pride went belly-up back in 2007, the UFC has had no really serious competition. With a few partial exceptions, it’s had a monopoly on top-level MMA fights, and whilst there are certainly arguments that say this is a good thing, I think it’s a cause for serious concern. The general effect of monopoly, as a smarter man than I once said, is to make things scarce, to make them dear and to make them bad. The fact that the UFC can just unilaterally reduce the number of high level MMA fights would be a good example of that first problem.

However, since I’m likely to spend most of my time on this blog ragging on about what a bad thing the UFC monopoly is, it’d probably be as well to spend a bit of time looking at the argument that this is actually a good thing. In the rest of this post I’ll set this argument out, and in subsequent ones I’ll go into a bit more detail about it, as well as explaining why it’s transparent bollocks.

So, the case for the defence is that sports need monopolies in order to ensure competition between players. This argument sounds like a paradox, but makes immediate sense as soon as you think about it. A controlling organisation can force any one of its fighter to fight any other.

As a quick example, apparently Freddie Roach thinks that ” Silva v Saint Pierre is the Mayweather v Pacquiao of MMA.” The difference is, obviously, that one of those bouts is significantly more likely to happen than the other. Having Dana White tell a fighter that he has to fight such-and-such if he wants to keep his contract is a much, much simpler process than trying to convince an egomaniac publicity hound to risk his unbeaten record against the Pacman.

Similarly, back in the days of Pride, when there were two serious MMA promotions, we fans spent most of our time wondering who was actually the best fighter. There were a whole load of fights that we would have liked to have seen, but never could. Even if you could get the fights to happen, there was always the question of which rules they’d happen under. Apart from depriving us of what could have been some of the most interesting fights ever, this meant that the whole business of MMA ranking was much more art than science. Having all the fighters on the same show, under the same rules, gets rid of that problem.

Indeed, monopolies are the exception rather than the rule in most sports. One of the arguments I hear a lot of when I start complaining about the UFC’s monopoly to people is that it’s no different to football. What sort of football they mean depends on whether I’m talking to an American or someone who understands that football implies extensive use of the feet,[1] but the argument is the same: FIFA, the FA, the NFL etc. all have a monopoly on top-level competition in their various spheres, and we generally see this as a good thing. The best competitors are made to take each other on according to a consistent system. This results in the best playing the best with clear winners at the end of it.

[1] Yes, I’ve actually bored enough people about market power in MMA that it makes sense to do a break-down of the numbers by nationality. You can see why I started a blog.

Update: Edited to disguise the fact that I’m an illiterate who’s incapable of proof-reading