Widely regarded as the most successful promoter in all of combat sports right now, UFC President Dana White has, over time, built a reputation of being a tough negotiator and always having an ace up his sleeve. He is arguably the most influential figure in the history of mixed martial arts. After all, he almost single-handedly managed to legitimize and establish the sport when he got ESPN to sign a 5-year, multibillion dollar deal for the exclusive rights to UFC events.
And yet, even the man himself is victim to the whims of his own creation every now and then.
A big part of the reason why ESPN became interested in the UFC in the first place had to do with the rise to worldwide stardom by fighters like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor in the mid 2010’s. Rousey became the face of women’s MMA and opened the door for an entirely new demographic as she steamrolled her opponents. McGregor did the same at an even larger scale with his flashy finishes and now world renown trash-talking skills.
The flip side to all this now looks at Dana White right in the face every time he has to hammer out a new deal with those select few fighters that have reached that upper echelon reserved for the greats. With the Pay-Per-View model, these financially well-established superstar fighters hold most of the leverage. You want to do an event that’s guaranteed to break a million PPV buys? Give me a call.
To be clear, the fighters that can afford to take this position when negotiating with the UFC can likely be counted with the fingers in one hand. But those guys now know where they stand. Conor Mcgregor proved as much with his first and only professional boxing fight against none other than the legendary Floyd ”Money” Mayweather. He reportedly made upwards of 100 million dollars in that fight. Rousey got snatched by the WWE.
Well, the chickens have come home to roost yet again. Over the past two months, the UFC’s pound-for-pound #8 ranked fighter, Dustin Poirier, has been going back and forth with the UFC trying to reach a deal for his next fight. Poirier has refused to take a fight unless he is compensated ”fairly”, while the UFC has insisted on holding their ground during the negotiations. Enter Conor Mcgregor.
Mcgregor, who last fought in January in a first round knockout of Donald Cerrone, has been looking for a fight ever since. Or so he claims. In the past few days he seems to have decided to take matters into his own hands. In a Twitter exchange, him and Poirier have agreed to have a charity exhibition fight in Abu Dhabi sometime in December, effectively leaving the UFC out of the picture. Both fighters have good reasons for taking this fight. Poirier lost to McGregor early in his career and has been asking for the rematch ever since. The fact that McGregor is now one of the most recognizable faces on the planet doesn’t hurt either. On McGregor’s side, it is probably first and foremost a PR move given the negative headlines that have come out about him in the recent past. He is no longer a fighter, he is a brand now.
According to USA Today’s MMA Junkie, White officially offered the pair a fight within 48 hours of the news about the agreement coming out. The reason likely being that since neither fighter is looking to profit from the bout, there is nothing that the UFC can legally do to prevent the event from taking place. They will have to pay up, again. But in the grand scheme of things, seeing how the sport is growing right before their eyes and the direction they are trending in, Dana White and the UFC should look at any Conor Mcgregor purse as nothing but a speeding ticket.
ESPN’s confirmation of the official fight offer: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=29971892
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