In the almost two years that Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG) has owned the UFC, there have been mixed reactions whether or not their more Hollywood-focused plans are the best course of action for the MMA pioneer.
Indeed, pay-per-view sales have largely struggled during Endeavor’s tenure, and while that could simply be a byproduct of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey largely being inactive, it could also serve as a cloudy forecast on the new owners’ ability to promote the stars they have – which is the exact business they are in.
With ratings sagging but a lucrative new streaming deal with sports giant ESPN in place, it seems the UFC is at a fork in the road where it currently stands. On one hand, demand for live airings of their FOX shows continues to decline with record lows being hit, but the signing of the deal shows there is still – at least supposedly – big demand for the UFC product.
We’ll see what happens during a telling next year for Endeavor, but no matter what transpires the comparisons between this era of the UFC and the one it took over for will always be there.
A prominent figure from a nostalgic UFC era gone by recently revealed a main difference, as longtime MMA referee ‘Big John’ McCarthy told Joe Rogan on the JRE MMA Show (via Bloody Elbow) that while UFC President Dana White was no doubt a driving force, the biggest thing Endeavor lacks is the drive of former owner Lorenzo Fertitta:
“The greatest thing that the UFC had was Lorenzo Fertitta,” McCarthy said. “I’m just being honest. Dana White was fantastic for the UFC as far as his work effort and the amount of work he put into it and non-stop just going after deals, trying to make things happen.”
Indeed the UFC has been lacking Fertitta’s perhaps underrated expertise in the MMA game, a sort of intangible air of maneuvering that Endeavor has clearly lacked since buying the UFC from Fertitta and his brother Frank for a then-record-setting $4.2 billion in July 2016.
McCarthy has since left refereeing to give commentary during UFC competitor Bellator’s live events. While he’s obviously on the other side in a sense, McCarthy acknowledged that a certain strategy that many have cited the past few years is indeed hurting them, and that’s their insistence on running so many events:
“(Having too many events) is part of the problem,” McCarthy said. “For a while there, they were almost competing against themselves with pay-per-views. You had two pay-per-views in a month, and you went and said ‘I’ll buy that one, I’m not gonna buy that one.’
“You can’t be in business against yourself.”
Perhaps a good point from ‘Big John,’ but the latter one was a more obvious one to point out as opposed to his view that Fertitta was the best thing the old UFC had going for them.
What is your view on the subject? Is the UFC’s lacking a presence like Fertitta truly causing the promotion’s sagging ratings, or is it a lack of true top-level stars Fertitta enjoyed during his last two years running the world MMA leader?