Monday, November 23, 2009

By MMA analyst Joseph Lupoli

MMA is the best sport I have ever come across. Not the UFC, not Dana White—just MMA.

It seems to me, however, that Dana White is becoming a big problem to this great sport. Or shall I say a bigger problem than before. For instance, when a few months ago, he went on an out of control public rampage against the popular and well respected MMA journalist, Loretta Hunt, it was simply inexcusable and unbecoming of an MMA organization’s president and front man.

I believe that some UFC fans are unaware, or wishing they were unaware that the Fertitta brothers and Dana White neither created the UFC, nor have they enhanced it for the better by their attempts to self-police and revise their new purchase.

The fact is: in 1993, Art Davie and Rorion Gracie created the UFC—from its octagon design on up. The Fertitta's merely bought the UFC from Davies. From my vantage point, the new owners had little to do with "improving" the sport.

If anything, they slowly watered it down to draw in the white-collar and 14 to 28-year old consumer market to make a ton of money. And all this happened after the States Athletic Commissions had already diluted the sport nearly to the point of homogenization.

Now, don't get me wrong. Making changes to a business for financial gain is hardly the worst thing in the world—businesses are built and bought to make money, as well they should.

It was the Nevada State Athletic Commission who forced its ill-conceived 31-rules and numerous regulations onto the UFC "for the sake of the fighters’ safety"—most of which do not improve safety at all, and some of which actually increase the risk of injury.

Also, many of the rules don't work because although the Commission may be well versed on boxing, MMA with all of its subtleties is obviously not their forte.

Otherwise, why is the ludicrous 10-point-must boxing scoring system in effect? And why are there boxing judges—like Cecil Peoples in MMA, for heaven sake?

I believe that if anything, Dana made a bad situation worse. He and his marketing team turned the UFC into what I feel is a negative image. What with all that loud, false bravado nonsense, and not just by Dana—many of his fighters are talking post fight trash as well.

Additionally, the UFC marketing team quickly implemented a very hostile and overly serious tone (bordering on hate themed), visual and audio design of the entire UFC package.

These 'in-your-face, chump!' marketing tactics which once conned the 14-to-28-year-old consumer base into buying is beginning to overstay its welcome. Dana wanted the UFC age-bracket to broaden. And it did.

What Dana didn't anticipate is: fans are slowly but surely defecting over to other once fledgling, MMA venues, particularly events in Japan, Brazil, and Europe. And some of the disenfranchised UFC fans are keeping many those venues alive and growing.

Let’s face it: MMA fans are getting savvy. Big names are great, but many fans would just as well supplement or pass up a UFC event (they can always YouTube it down the road) in favor of spending nine or ten-bucks—or simply NetFlix a relaxing MMA show with few current stars, but with compelling match-ups and exciting fights.

Dana White reminds me of a weaponless Kim Jong IL. Dana is the under qualified UFC President and ten percent owner solely because he is Lorenzo Fertitta's boyhood chum. Dana is and has been unraveling at the seams into a serious public relations liability for some time now.

And an increasingly unstable President of a corporation is not exactly ideal, especially in these financially recessed times.

Soon fewer and fewer MMA fans will want to shell out 50-bucks to watch UFC shows, what with its shameless and constant product-plugging, and knowledgeable but screechy and grating announcers, its booing fans, and that heavy metal theme that goes with the whole package.

Given Dana's latest tirade, along with his lengthy "rap-sheet" of other outbursts, including his embarrassing bridge-burning of a perfectly good fighter, Jon Fitch, causing Dana a wrist-slapping by the Fertitta's, I believe it's time the two brothers wake up and make an executive decision.



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