When the UFC first started getting the attention of mainstream audiences, people were somewhat surprised at how little fanfare there was compared to other sports like boxing. It was a rather serious affair. Even if there were rivalries and the usual staredowns during weigh-ins, it didn’t feel like a pro wrestling promo where the fighters had to hype up the crowds. That seems to be changing, though.
Recently, Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor decided to have a showdown on who was the tougher of the two. While this is something that does happen quite often, Mayweather and McGregor actually went on a full on tour to promote the fight, with threats of physical confrontation almost breaking out several times. Predictably, however, after the fight, they were acting like old chums.
This suggests that a lot of the conflict was manufactured in order to build interest in the event. Given that there’s talk of a round 2 (but MMA rather than boxing this time around), and the rumors that both athletes made almost as much money from the tour as they did from the fight, it really looks like there’s a shift from the pure martial arts focus of before to a profit-based entertainment aspect.
This brings a disturbing thought to mind: will the MMA scene put more emphasis into the entertainment element rather than the fighting element? Does this mean that controversial fighters like McGregor will get more shots at their division titles than talented fighters who don’t generate as much buzz? Given that the skill based meritocracy of the UFC is what set it apart from pro wrestling, this can be bad for business.
Considering that element, however, one glaring truth does remain. The MMA organizations are, in the end, businesses and businesses only exist if they make money. A sports business usually earns money based on sponsors and event sales. How else are they going to attract sponsors and viewers without building up hype for their events? Where should the line be drawn, however?
Should a company stay true to its roots and focus on improving what they bring to the table, or should they adapt to whatever brings in the most revenue? It’s easy to say that it should be the former, but with fighters becoming celebrities in their own right and starting to demand higher pay, the companies need to find ways to bring in more revenue in order to keep them happy. It’s quite the conundrum isn’t it?
How does a company stay true to its roots while managing to keep up with the demands of their primary draws? Let’s not forget that McGregor isn’t an isolated case. Even Brock Lesnar is drawing attention by going back and forth between the WWE and UFC. With Lesnar’s recent signing of a contract with the WWE that offers ridiculous amounts of money, will the UFC be forced to follow suit to keep him as well?
What is your take on the situation? Should the UFC and Belator focus on the fighters, or should they consider focusing more on entertainment, pushing for bigger crowds and higher revenue?