Business has never been better for the UFC and it comes from the most unlikely of sources.
The UFC is at the height of its popularity and power. Around since 1993, the business burst into the mainstream during the 2000’s with names such as Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Georges St-Pierre, among others, becoming the faces of an industry that began rivalling the boxing establishments.
Today, it’s the likes of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey that are the recognisable faces of what has become a multi-billion dollar business.
Rousey became the poster child of the UFC when the women’s divisions were added to the roster. Dominant and marketable, she provided the brand the means to expand into markets that had previously been out of the question.
The explosion of Conor McGregor onto the scene in 2013 took pretty much everyone by surprise. His fighting abilities coupled with his ability to coin a memorable one liner quickly saw the UFC business machine get behind the Irishman and promote him at every possible opportunity. The result has seen the business grow and expand exponentially, with new sponsorship deals with Reebok and massive pay per view numbers helping to bolster the coffers.
It’s no wonder there are rumours of a sale of the business on the cards.
Now with the UFC brand on an upward trajectory it seems that business has gotten a massive boost from the most unlikely of sources – both Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor losing their unbeaten records in the UFC.
In losing to Holly Holm at UFC 193, Rousey’s own profile has grown. Her return is going to mark a truly massive pay per view event for the UFC. Holly Holm herself has benefitted also. She became a household name overnight within the MMA world able to command and carry event headlines. It is no longer a one horse race for women’s mixed martial arts.
When Holm lost to Miesha Tate at UFC 196, another star was born. Twelve months ago there was only one female superstar in the business, now there are three, each capable of headlining and drawing the numbers.
As for McGregor, his star rose quickly through the featherweight ranks, the hype and publicity rising with him. UFC 194 saw McGregor repay the UFC’s investment in him with an astonishing victory over long time champion, but difficult to market, Jose Aldo Jr.
The brand now had a bona fide golden goose. Lightweight champion and marketing gold, the UFC had a winning lottery ticket.
How could things get better than this? For McGregor to lose, of course.
And lose he did, at UFC 196 against Nate Diaz.
Once again it was a marketing dream. The champion verses champion bout between McGregor and Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos was called off due to a foot injury to the Brazilian.
In steps Diaz and up steps McGregor, jumping two weight divisions to make the fight happen. This fight was going to promote itself. Win or lose for McGregor, the UFC was always going to win.
In losing, McGregor has made a star of Diaz, a man who is as out spoken as McGregor but less marketable, until now. The Irish man’s loss has now also set the scene for something absolutely huge.
UFC 200 is scheduled for July. It’s a landmark event for the business, event number 200. The ticket was always going to be big. Now however with the possible return of Ronda Rousey, a Holly Holm out looking for redemption and with Conor McGregor looking to bounce back from a first UFC defeat, the marquee event is going to break all kinds of records.
The UFC is in a good place these days. It’s become a global brand. It’s accepted and marketable in mainstream business, no longer the underground industry of its early days. UFC 200 will be as much a celebration of the business itself as a fighting spectacle. It was always going to be a big one. Now with fallen champions seeking to reclaim their glory and reputations, ‘big’ no longer describes the event.
While the world waits for confirmation of the event card, one thing is for certain – this one is going to be huge, a record breaker and you might imagine, Dana White, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta (majority owners) can scarcely believe their luck.
UFC 200 is scheduled for July 9th at the Las Vegas Arena, Las Vegas.