mma / Columns

411 Fact or Fiction MMA: Should Ronda Rousey Fight Justino After Nunes?

October 26, 2016 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is my pleasure to bring in another round of the fact and the fiction swirling around in this sport we call mixed martial arts. By the way, thank you for your votes and comments last week. It is appreciated and I encourage you to do the same this week. Before moving on to this week’s edition let’s quickly recap last week’s shenanigans between Jeffrey Harris and Scott Kuczkowski. Both competitors showed up ready to throw heavy leather and they delivered! Jeffrey quickly grabbed the lead by the tail, but Scott was able to close the distance, and eventually squeeze out the victory. These guys went back and forth over subjects like Conor McGregor’s NSAC fine, Julianna Pena making a big stink over Ronda Rousey’s title shot, and the UFC possibly signing Grey Hardy in addition to more. Congratulations, Kuch, on your 16-to-13 victory. And, thank you both for the effort and contribution. We appreciate it.

This week, two of the best heavy hitters, Mark Radulich and Jon Butterfield, were to lock horns in what was sure to be another classic matchup. These two would have no problem tearing into each other. Unfortunately, we had a last minute change and I’ll have to step in for Jon. I will try my luck at besting one of the best, as we discuss subjects like the latest string of UFC executive/employee layoffs, WME-IMG reducing the number of UFC events per year, Georges St-Pierre vs. the UFC, and much more! Let’s knock on wood and hope I can pull an upset over Mark.. Grab some grub, get your seat ready, and get comfortable because it’s time for another round of, 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! Shall we proceed…

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Mark “Headshrinker” Radulich
Supreme Overlord,
Radulich in Broadcasting Network

3-1-0

VS

BLUE CORNER
Lorenzo “Corpse Grinder” Vasquez III
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
2-2-0


With the string of UFC executive/employee layoffs mainly affecting international departments within the promotion, it’s reasonable to believe the new regime has laid to rest the idea of, “World F—king Domination.”

Mark Radulich: FICTION Generally speaking in business if there are layoffs it’s because of redundancy in the job positions or because the company is in need of trimming fat (in order to increase quarterly profits). I believe the new owners of the UFC are looking to sub-contract out their international marketing to regional companies that have expertise in a given area. In other words, what they are probably looking to do is contract a number of different regional companies around the world (S. America, Africa/Middle East, Europe, Asia) and for a flat fee, those companies will be responsible for marketing international fights going forward. They’ll probably be in a better, more knowledgeable position to negotiate television rights this way plus any number of foreign sponsorship deals. It’s small world these days but most people across the globe watch TV, whether on a traditional medium or their mobile devices. I would bet money that the UFC is not shying away from “World FUCKING Domination,” but rather simply changing their strategy for getting there.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FICTION Hey, you don’t spend upwards of $4 billion on purchasing the biggest stage in MMA and decide to scale down its promotional reach. WME-IMG has an idea of how they will run things for better optimization and revenue/profit generation. I am no businessman, but I assume it’s common sense that when you spend so much money on purchasing a business, you streamline everything by trimming and cutting the unnecessary and combining departments, resources, etc. The idea, I assume, would be to lower overhead spending while keeping a viable product widely available and capable of generating profit. I’m sure they came up with a strategy they believe will work on how they can optimize the product and its reach while generating revenue other than the format which was in play up until now.

Now, forgive me, I didn’t dive too deep into research on the topic, but if I am correct, the UFC had fewer international shows this year. Maybe their format wasn’t working or maybe the previous brass decided it was in their best interest to scale back in the international scene somewhat or maybe they were in the process of reformulating their international business strategy. If this is the case, it is possible WME-IMG is just taking over the helm more and more while continuing in the same general direction. Either way, I don’t believe this is the end of “world fucking domination.” This is just the beginning of a new era with new owners at the helm. It’s a fresh set of minds with fresh ideas. And, with a company as big as WME-IMG, we should expect the promotion’s reach to extend further than its current boundary.


With all the fighter discontent and the new owners apparently wanting to stick with big-money-fights over rankings and legitimate title contenders, the UFC will have to increase fighter pay, incentives, and benefits if they want to avoid an exodus of top-tier contenders.

Mark Radulich: FICTION By the end of 2016, Bellator would have run roughly 23 events. WSOF will have had 10 events by 2017. By comparison, the UFC has had 30 events with several more before the calendar changes over. They’ve had at least 3 PPV’s break a million buys this year alone and several events this year have posted a gate between 1 million and 2 million dollars. Now, guys like Chael Sonnen, Rory MacDonald, and Benson Henderson have every reason to try their luck in Bellator. They have name recognition and their individual brands have value added just because they used to work for the UFC.

However, some dude currently working regional fights across the globe has no brand recognition and little value other than he’s a novel body. Sure, some will have local cache for being the best in their region but overall, with the long tail being what it is, it’s not likely the vast majority of paying MMA fans will have heard of most people outside of the UFC (frankly, the common cause fans has no idea who half the guys even are on the current UFC roster). So with fighter pay and health insurance being what it is in the UFC and a steady supply of young individuals entering into MMA for a living, they really don’t have to change a thing. The up-side to “sticking with big money fights over rankings” is that it should spur the most industrious and creative fighters out there to work on their own brands and promote themselves. Twitter wars aren’t going to cut it. You have to have something of a gimmick to differentiate yourself from the pack or you have to have an appealing look. Sage Northcutt and Paige Van Zant don’t have to do much to increase their brand awareness, they are attractive.

People are already drawn to them because they are hot. But someone like Mickey Gall, who looks like an average Joe, has to do something for people to notice him (which he did by fighting CM Punk, and winning). In short, the UFC is the best paying gig in town for fighters looking to become big money draws. Bellator and WSOF are for fighters that have already maxed out in the UFC and can trade on their name or for fighters looking to get into the UFC who don’t yet cut the mustard. As for the top-tier contenders, they will come and go as opportunities present themselves or disappear into the ether. When top-tier talents leave, there’s always first an adjustment period but then a few diamonds emerge from the rough. People said the UFC was going to tank when the first set of stars like Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin stopped actively fighting. And after a bit, we got Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, and Conor McGregor. When those three depart for greener pastures, new commodities will come along, either naturally or artificially read: the UFC marketing machine will create new stars out of necessity.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FICTION While, it would be nice, I don’t see it happening, at least not soon. Obviously, pay may increase to a degree, but only for those on super cards or in big fights. It’s unfortunate but it is the name of the game these days. The fact is, the UFC is the top dog and no other promotion is on the same level. Megastars will come and go and new ones will eventually step in and fill in the vacuum. The UFC doesn’t have to do a single thing more to keep fighters motivated or wanting to stay with the promotion because they are the biggest and best promotion at the moment. Right or wrong, it is the fact of the matter. Rankings and the relevancy of it may be headed out the door more now than it ever has. Fighters will have to adjust. By that, I mean, they will have to create a brand that sells and has fans wanting to see more, and in turn, they will be reward by the UFC. Of course, the landscape could change in the coming years. Maybe, Bellator finally picks it up, or maybe a fighter’s union finally takes shape and redefines fighter pay, incentives, and benefits. Lots can happen within the coming years. But, for now, in this current landscape, this statement is an easy fiction.


The best change WME-IMG can introduce to their new era of the UFC is to reduce the number events per year.

Mark Radulich: FICTION This comes up every once in awhile and I laugh every time it does. Americans are not the only people who watch TV. Entertainment TV, specifically sports entertainment (not WWE, actual sporting events people watch for entertainment like football, baseball, etc) are watched by billions of people across the globe. We have this tendency to think that if Americans didn’t watch then nobody did. However, look at the movie industry. Warcraft bombed in America but was a hit in China and therefore was nominally a hit overall and will probably be granted a sequel.

Soccer doesn’t have much of an audience in the US (outside of the World Cup I’ve learned this year) but it’s the number one most watched sport in the world. We’re exporting the NFL to England just to build a global audience that has traditionally been distinctly American. The answer isn’t fewer events, it’s more events and spread out across the world. On any given night you might find at least 3 different cable channels broadcasting boxing matches at the same time. HBO and Showtime consistently counter-program each other, whether they have an event on PPV or not.

Plus, consider that while some of the smaller shows may not garner a tremendously big TV audience, they still (in theory) make a profit on the live attendance, especially in places where the UFC doesn’t normally run. Here in FL, they ran Orlando twice and Tampa once recently and all three events had gates greater than 10,000 seats with earnings around over a million a piece. That’s just FL in the last 2-3 years. When they run the rest of the certain cities and venues (stadiums) across the world like in Brazil, Australia, Canada, and Mexico, they tend to do even bigger gates and attendance. Now the smaller shows may not seem as sexy and some of them may have even been losses, but you have to start somewhere. Market penetration doesn’t happen overnight. In a lot of cases, MMA may even be somewhat new to the locals.

Regardless, the UFC is a global brand and it needs to project itself in every corner of the world. At a minimum with Fight Pass they have the ability to broadcast a limitless amount of shows at one time and they’ve only played to a fraction of the world. Plus you also have to consider two very important factors. They have contract stipulations demanding they provide events and/or content. FOX has contracted them for X amount of shows per year and some venues in Vegas have also contracted them for Y amount of events to be held in said specific venues. Again, with all these masters to serve there’s no way they can cut events. Expect more to come, just not more you personally will be interested in, and that’s OK.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FICTION But it depends from what angle you look at it. A great argument exists for the idea the UFC is spread far too thin. Over the past years, cards have fallen apart and taken huge hits stemming from fighter injuries, bout cancellations, fighter withdrawals, or not having the star power to bring in the ratings or pay-per-view buys. It’s arguable that if the number of events were considerably smaller this wouldn’t be a problem and the damage from fighter injuries, fight cancellations, and fighter withdrawals would be significantly less. In fact, this opens up the possibility there could be more super cards or better than average shows. UFC 206 is a great example. The event seriously lacks star power and an injury and withdrawal from a fighter in the main event would slit the event’s throat and shut its lights.

However, you can’t reach the bottom-line and have growth without spreading the word and increasing the promotion’s reach, and to do this the product must be available to multiple markets. This means having less than stellar cards for Fight Pass, FOX Sports, UFC on FOX, and even pay-per-views. The crew behind the curtains has to know not every show will have huge rating and not very pay-per-view will reach the 500K let alone the million mark. And, they must know there exist the risk that some cards may have to be scrapped. Nonetheless, they have to reach different audiences and make the sport available as well as fulfill obligations. At the end of the day, while all this increases overhead and other expenses, in the long term it increases the promotions reach, marketability, and profits. Overloading the schedule is a natural at this time.


SWITCH!

Like it or not, Jon Jones is correct, he is more relevant than his peers in the light heavyweight division.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: Fact Like it or not, Jon Jones is the man in the light heavyweight division right now. People hate him and people love him. Pound-for-pound, he has cleaned out the division, with exception of Anthony Johnson, and is above in talent and skill when compared with anyone in the division. To get an idea think about this for a second: Daniel Cormier was once a heavyweight who ragged doll Josh Barnett on occasion during their fight in Strikeforce and could hardly do the same to Jones at UFC 182. Jones, may in fact, be the best light heavyweight of all time and his persona and his allure to trouble along with his in-ring dominance make him an attraction—the biggest attraction in the division even with his absence.

Mark Radulich: FACT For the purposes of this question I’ll equate relevancy with talent and brand value. Jon Jones is a beast at 205. He’s never lost a fight (barring the bit with the elbows at The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale). He’s the most talented and the most well-known of all the UFC Light Heavyweights. He’s also beaten just about everybody in the division, including the champ, Dan Cormier. Anthony Johnson has some brand value since his return but he’s also lost to Cormier already and will probably lose again come Dec 10. Then you have Alexander Gustafsson. He’s lost to Jones, Cormier, and Johnson. After that, the 205ers aren’t even worth mentioning in the same breath as Jon Jones. He’s the star. He’s the MVP in that division. Nobody else comes close. HIs biggest problem is he seems to keep getting into unnecessary trouble and that detracts from his overall legacy. But watch him unify the belts at LHW and then win the HW title. When he does that, once more all will be forgiven and all else in his shadow will be summarily forgotten.


Should Ronda Rousey dominate and defeat Amanda Nunes and recapture the women’s bantamweight title, her next fight should be 140-pound catchweight bout against Cris “Cyborg” Santos.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FACT If Rousey beats Nunes there are only three options. Holly Holm and Julianna Pena are two. The other is Cyborg. Holm is on a terrible 2-fight losing stretch. And, unless Rousey loses, she’ll need to get back into the grove before a rematch can be made. Pena has done a great job of talking things up. She’d sell the fight and get in Rousey’s face leading up to the fight. In addition, she has the athleticism and skill to make a fight with Rousey an actual fight unlike Rousey’s previous opponents with exception to Holm. But, the time to strike is when the iron is hot and the iron is hot. It’s time for this fight to happen. Everyone wants to see it and at this point the only one who needs to get on board is Rousey. Let’s see this happen at 140-pounds. Two of the most dominate women in combat sporting history; it would sell and rank among the most selling pay-per-views. There is no sense in waiting but my gut says we’ll wait once again. I don’t think Rousey wants to give Cyborg the satisfaction of accepting the challenge. It’s woman thing. Sorry, ladies. Rousey is not afraid, she just doesn’t want to give Cyborg an ounce of satisfaction. If Rousey wins she will call out Holm or Pena or keep it at along the lines of, “let’s see what happens blah, blah, blah.”

Mark Radulich: FACT As much as I’d like to see her rematch and beat Holly Holm, that poor girl has already lost too much cache to make a fight with Rousey interesting. At this point, with everything that has happened to Holm, one could argue (not saying I believe this but) that Holm’s win was more Rousey’s shitty preparation and her head not being in the game rather than Holm being a superior fighter (think Rocky’s first fight against Clubber Lang). Even if you consider that specious reasoning, there’s enough doubt (earned or otherwise) out there that making Holm vs Rousey II at this point isn’t really a hot seller. And if enough people already don’t want to see Rousey – Holm II, the situation is even worse with Tate.

She’s had 2 shots already and I doubt she’s bringing anything new to the table in a 3rd fight. I think the window of interest has already closed on that fight. Now, what’s left then is the fight that these two women have been sniffing around for years, Cyborg vs Rousey at either 140 or 145. Frankly, as much of a Rousey fan as I am, the girl started in Strikeforce at 145 before she mangled Julia Budd’s arm, challenged Miesha Tate and dropped to 135, in that order. So, while she can say that Cyborg should meet the champ at the champs weight, we’re beyond that now.

For Rousey and her sunsetting career (you better believe she’s got like 3 at best money fights in her before she retires to Hollywood permanently, it’s no longer about being champion or being in a certain weight class. This is about making the best fight for both women. There’s nobody on Earth for Cyborg to fight that holds interest (unless she goes back to Lion Fights, where she already lost a match) and Rousey is kind of in the same boat. She’s pretty much cleaned out her division. Rousey needs to just give the title back (assuming she wins it) and take a main event fight, in a stadium somewhere, against Cyborg at 145. If she’s going to be difficult about this, fine, go with 140, but just make the fight already. After Nunes, there’s nowhere else to go but fighting Cyborg.


The UFC should compromise with Georges St-Pierre, it is not in the best interest of the UFC and GSP to head to court over whether or not GSP is out of his contract because the UFC needs big stars and at 35, father time is closing in on GSP.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FACT I don’t think the UFC cares too much about GSP fighting again. They just care about under “whom” he fights for if he fights again. It’s been three years since GSP left and the company has done well and will do well without him. But it wouldn’t hurt for GSP to headline one-more big pay-per-view. The revenue that would generate would be well worth keeping GSP under contract; especially, if he wins and wants another fight. If GSP wants to fight again, he may have to consider how long he wants to battle it out with the UFC. He is no spring chicken and as the months and years go by he will diminish as a fighter. It’s a natural course and unfortunately, GSP is far into that course. UFC has the ability to let this battle get drawn out in the courts. Randy Couture was victim to this and it would be wise for GSP and his legal team to consider this. While, the UFC can commit to a battle for the long haul, GSP likely can’t and shouldn’t. If GSP really wants to return, a compromise is what is best. It would work for everyone—the UFC, GSP, and fans.

Mark Radulich: FACT This is more about GSP than it is about the UFC. GSP moves the needle and sells PPV buys, I’ll grant him that but fighting anywhere outside of the UFC for him is a waste of time. Maybe he gets big time money from say, Bellator and maybe based on the strength of his name alone they can get a decent PPV butyrate or play a bigger venue other than some Indian casino in the South. That’s a lot of maybe’s. All the dominoes would have to line up perfectly because anything less than a 50,000 plus attendance and greater than million dollar buyrate on PPV is a gigantic leap backward for the former champion.

The UFC can probably live without GSP as I’m sure someone else will come along and produce the same if not greater dividends. However, he and his brand might not be able to recover from anything less than a monumental return. When I look at his options, I just don’t see where the grass could be greener for him. I would like to believe that he doesn’t need the paycheck so this is more about legacy. The perception out there is that at least 9/10 best fighters in any given weight class fight in the UFC.

The UFC has the greatest capacity for creating an event that warrants GSP at the top of the card. I mean, say these two phrases out loud and you tell me what sounds better, “GSP returns to the UFC at MetLife Stadium (capacity 82,500) to take on Pig Hostage Tyron Woodley or say, Conor McGregor.” Now say, “GSP comes to Bellator and will fight in the prestigious Mohegan Sun Arena against top welterweight Andrey Koreshkov!” Maybe that appeals to some of you but it doesn’t scream box office to me. The UFC should do what it takes to bring GSP back into the fold for GSP’s own sake and so they can make another couple of million dollars off of his brand. This is the only logical resolution.


So who won? Was Mark able to outpace the Corpse Grinder? Or, did I topple the Supreme Overlord? You’ve got until midnight eastern on Saturday to vote, so make sure you make your voice heard!


And that’s it for today but, as always, we’ll be back next week with another contest! And please, be sure to vote!

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