Let the hate begin
I know there will be some haters over my views on this one but such is life. The UFC recently announced the coaches for the next season of TUF will be Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and Middleweight Chael Sonnen, with Jones and Sonnen meeting after the TUF winner is crowned.
The MMA world seems to be in a general uproar that this match is simply the biggest mismatch and most undeserved title shot in history. Sonnen is coming off a loss to Anderson Silva and arguably has done nothing in the cage to warrant the fight, but outside the cage has shot his mouth off enough to convince Dana White and the UFC brain trust to give him the TUF coaching job and the Jones fight.
From a promoter’s point of view, I want to say that Dana White, for all of his shortcomings, is again showing why he is one of the smartest men in the fight business.
He understands the first mantra of a business; you always need to be the one people are talking about. The Jones-Sonnen fight won’t happen for over six months but you damn well know that people will be asking White about it until then.
He did what he needed to do given the issues he has had with fights lately. He made a fight that will keep people interested in the UFC for months. More importantly, outside something catastrophic, this will be probably one of the higher purchased PPV UFC broadcasts in a while.
What is wrong with that?
The UFC is a business
Isn’t that White’s first and foremost job – to keep the UFC relevant and to maximize profits? It is a business, after all. He did what he thought would accomplish those goals best. Additionally, he may have revived a TV show that has seen better days and is steadily declining in the ratings.
White knows that even the very casual viewer will tune in at least once to hear Sonnen spew his unique pearls of wisdom, and with a little luck they will tune in week after week at the sight of this massive train wreck.
This is the definition of promoting a fight to perfection. What makes it even better is that it’s a fight that truly isn’t worth the massive amount attention it has already received and will receive in the future.
MMA purists are arguing this fight somehow dilutes Jones’ title by giving him a fight against an undeserving opponent and if he is fighting a fighter who doesn’t deserve the title shot, instead of a more worthy opponent, somehow Jones’ title reign and status as champion is diminished.
If he doesn’t fight whoever the pundits deem most worthy of the title shot, then how dare this debacle go on. This argument is short-sighted and in my opinion, just outright wrong.
Jones’ has been soundly criticized for rejecting Sonnen as an opponent at UFC 151 on very short notice. Many of the very same critics who are now criticizing White for making the fight were criticizing Jones for not taking the fight initially for UFC 151.
We won’t get into the hypocrisy of that, but where is the real problem with this fight? Jones’ is a young and dynamic champion, who by all accounts, has virtually “cleaned out” the light heavyweight division. He has a sponsorship deal with Nike and is arguably the UFC’s most marketable fighter, recent DUI arrest notwithstanding.
What about Dan Henderson?
White could have remade the canceled UFC 151 fight with Dan Henderson but wisely chose not to do so. I agree that Henderson clearly has done everything necessary and has earned that fight, but as history in combative sports has shown, just because you have earned the right to fight the champ, it doesn’t mean you get to fight the champ.
Let’s be realistic, the Jones-Henderson fight was not a fight that would or even did, when it was planned, generate the interest that the Sonnen fight has so far.
Since White didn’t want to make the Henderson fight, what were his other options? Everyone wants to see Jones fight Anderson Silva but Silva has made it clear that he has no interest in that fight.
White could have backed up an armored truck to Silva’s doorstep to try to make it happen, and one day he needs to do that, but now probably isn’t the time to do that. White needs to convince both Silva and Jones to start publicly talking about wanting the fight and at least create the façade that a Silva-Jones fight isn’t all about cash.
What’s left after that? A bunch of rematches against guys who Jones already ran though? As a promoter, those types of fights really don’t excite you. The fans don’t buy tickets in droves to see rematches of fights that weren’t close.
At least there is the illusion that Sonnen can win this fight. And why would he match Jones against one of the younger light heavyweights with potential, just to see them lose miserably? That kind of matchmaking doesn’t help the sport, the fans, or any of the fighters.
White knows that by saving the younger guys for later fights, he can hopefully push Jones into the woeful heavyweight division (which will mean even more profit and attention to the sport) or hope that the extra time to develop will bring a stronger challenger to Jones.
This fight allows both of those options to develop. It is perfect planning and smart long-term thinking.
Should all fighters go to smack-talk school?
Does this mean every fighter should call out fighters and that fight should be booked? Not even close, but shameless marketers and promoters like Sonnen should be valued.
I frequently get emails or calls from managers claiming that another fighter is calling out their fighter and it will make “fight of the night” and “will sell the place out”. They are hoping I will bite and put the fight on the show.
They show me 20 likes on a Facebook posting about the potential fight and say that it proves their point. Check many fighters’ Facebook pages and these postings aren’t hard to find. The difference is, usually the fights sent to me this way are crap fights that won’t sell a ticket.
If I could get a fight like the Jones-Sonnen fight that generated substantial interest and revenue, at my level, I would book it in heartbeat and not look back.
Like I said, promoters are in the business to promote their show and be profitable and you don’t care if people buy tickets to see a guy win or to lose badly, as long as they are buying a ticket. Dana White lives by this motto and he should be commended for it.
When the fight is over, there will be the cries that “we told you so” or “you just saw one of the greatest upsets in fight history” and people will be arguing back and forth about it and who should each guy fight next while Dana White will be sitting back and smiling.
Smiling in the comfort that people are talking about the UFC and that a potentially huge mismatch was a larger financial success than even he predicted. Oh yeah and I will write my “I told you that this was a great idea” blog. Let the hate begin.
The “Pandemonium blog” is a ProMMAnow.com blog series written by Craig Zimmerman, promoter for Southern California’s MEZ Sports Pandemonium Fight Series. Check out the Pandemonium Fight Series website at www.mezsports.com and follow Craig on Twitter (@MEZSports) and on Facebook.