There were some questionable decisions made in 2016 by every major fight promotion, but which stand out the most? Join MMANewsline.com as we relive all the craziness that 2016 brought the world of mixed martial arts in our three part series. These events are not in chronological order.
Ronda Rousey’s Media Blackout
When it’s all said and done, UFC 207 will be remembered as what could have been. That’s not to say it won’t be historic, because it will be no matter how it unfolds, but there is no question that the lack of media and hype surrounding the UFC 207 PPV featuring the return of Ronda Rousey as she battles the UFC bantamweight Queen, Amanda Nunes, could have been so much more.
Rousey’s loss of the Women’s Bantamweight Championship to Holly Holm at UFC 193 sent the former champion into a downward spiral — Ronda even told Ellen DeGeneres that she contemplated suicide for a time. The Olympic Bronze Medalist recovered both physically and emotionally while behind the veil of a porous media blackout, during which the WMMA superstar would host Saturday Night Live
The UFC tried their best to emulate Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA, but Ronda’s “I’m Back!” announcement won’t be enough to draw interest on an off-day Pay-Per-View (Friday), a day before New Years (Dec. 30), after a major financial burden on the entire fan base (Christmas).
There is precedent for an off-day PPV to fail, like the UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem that only had 550,000 buys because it was held on a Friday. At first glance that seems like a success — seeing as how last month’s UFC 206 PPV only reportedly had 150K buys — but a Brock Lesnar headlined event that does anything south of a million Pay-Per-View buys is a complete failure.
Not only will the UFC 207 buy rate suffer, but so too will the star power of Amanda Nunes. Some of the UFC promotional banners for 207 don’t even feature the new UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) December 18, 2016
We’ll discuss Conor McGregor in a moment, but it should be noted that Ronda Rousey could learn a lot from the way he handled his loss to Nate Diaz this year — he became an even bigger star as a result.
Bellator Books Kimbo Slice for a Fight after Anabolic Steroid Suspension
In May it was announced by Brett Okamoto that Bellator fighter Kimbo Slice was set to face James Thompson the next month’s Bellator 158 at the O2 Arena, in London. The only problem was Kimbo had failed a drug test for anabolic steroids less than five months earlier in Houston, Texas, and the The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) had announced that they intended to revoke Slice’s fight license and fine him $2,500 for the failure.
The TDLR decision meant that Slice wasn’t eligible to fight in the United States. What did Bellator do though? They booked Slice in a fight across the pond.
Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson died from heart failure before the rematch with James Thompson could take place, so their horrible decision couldn’t come to fruition and therefore Bellator and Scott Coker ignored media backlash. No longer — as they should be held accountable for the horrible decision to undermine the State Athletic Commissions that oversee all domestic events.
— MMA Newsline (@MMA_Newsline) December 24, 2016
Bellator didn’t kill Kimbo Slice, but they weren’t looking out for his best interests either by letting him fight after failing for nandrolone — an anabolic steroid.
Conor McGregor Gets Pulled from UFC 200
A double standard regarding media obligations is bad enough, but the UFC went as far as to pull Conor McGregor from the main event of UFC 200 this Summer when he refused to attend a press conference and subsequent commercial shoots.
The result was a loss of money from all angles — as McGregor being pulled from the card meant that there were less Pay-Per-Views sold and that meant each fighter who was paid based on PPV buys would make less. This move affected the paychecks of Daniel Cormier, Miesha Tate, Jose Aldo, Cain Velazquez, Frankie Edgar, and Amanda Nunes — and that’s just on the main card.
McGregor would go on to have his welterweight rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202 — a PPV that reportedly set company records with 1,650,000 buys.
UFC 200 drew 1,009,000 buys, which has to be considered a failure because the payout for the event was nearly $7 million (most of all time) and it was billed by the UFC as the most loaded fight card in history.
Conor McGregor Feigns Retirement
With that tweet, Conor McGregor set the world on fire — but only for a few days. It seemed like a disgruntled McGregor would leave the sport of MMA for good and rumors swirled that he would compete in a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather and then ride off into the sunset a wealthy man.
That didn’t happen.
As bad as the UFC decision to remove McGregor from UFC 200 was, McGregor’s tweet may have been worse. A few months prior, there was this mystique around Conor McGregor that made everyone believe he was the boss of ZUFFA and that any order he gave the owners would happily agree with. After fans discovered he was talking out of his ass — that mystique was gone.
Conor ended up taking back his retirement comments days later and revealed to the whole world that the UFC owners were indeed his boss, and their word was final. It turns out that McGregor couldn’t follow through on retirement, because he strongly desired the money associated with headlining PPV events. He needed the UFC’s boat to stay afloat financially, regardless of what the narrative was.
Now it seems trivial, as we all know what happened at UFC 205, but at the time Conor McGregor’s future was in question. Had he lost to in the Nate Diaz rematch, his only career path would have been a return to featherweight — and he probably couldn’t have made that weight cut again.
After a few straight wins McGregor would regain most of his bargaining power in November as he became the first man to simultaneously hold two belts in the UFC. Conor held both the Featherweight and Lightweight crown by the end of UFC 205 and the UFC even bent to his will when he demanded a second UFC championship belt in his victory celebration. (More on that in Part 2)
The King of the UFC had returned.
Jon Jones Takes a Boner Pill, Gets Pulled From UFC 200 Days Before Event
You have to hear this in Bones’ own words. Luckily, Jon Jones was on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast earlier this month to give his detailed account of the events that occurred prior to his removal from the scheduled UFC 200 bout against Daniel Cormier.
Judge the character of Jon Jones for yourself, but remember that he’s since been suspended and stripped of the Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Championship as a result of his actions.
Let’s all hope that Jon Jones can rebound from a rough 2016.
WSOF 34 in New York City on New Years Eve
How bad of an idea is it to run an even in NYC on New Years Eve?
If the World Series of Fighting’s efforts to sell tickets at a reduced price are any indication — a very bad idea.
In fact, World Series of Fighting 34: Gaethje vs. Zeferino is the most stacked event that the organization has ever put on in their five-year history because it features four world championship bouts ( all four listed below).
- Middleweight David Branch (c) vs. Louis Taylor
- Lightweight Justin Gaethje (c) vs. João Zeferino
- Welterweight Jon Fitch (c) vs. Jake Shields
- Bantamweight Marlon Moraes (c) vs. Josenaldo Silva
Despite their best efforts, nothing will be able to save the New Years Eve show that should have never been put together in the first place — as even with four title fights the event still sold less than 400 tickets just 3 weeks away from the event.
Hearing WSOF ticket sales for NYE are less than 400 sold. They dropped the prices 50% the first week of sale. Someone is taking a big hit.
— Mike Russell (@MIKERUSSELLMMA) December 8, 2016
Paul Gift (@MMAanalytics) described the no-win situation WSOF put themselves in today on Bloodyelbow.com. Gift said:
If all the champs win out and we cautiously use their old salaries, WSOF’s looking at $515,000 in fighter expenses from its top five fighters of the night. Throw in all the other event and television production expenses. Throw in New York City. Throw in New Year’s Eve. Think about just the hotel expenses alone. And don’t forget New York’s mandatory $1 million traumatic brain injury insurance policy, which at $1,675 per fighter on a 20-fighter card adds an additional $33,500 in expenses that wouldn’t be there in any other state.
While NBC Sports used to pay $0 for WSOF content, it’s believed they now pay a modest rights fee, leaving things like ticket sales, merchandising, and sponsorships as the other revenue drivers.
The goal with WSOF 34 can’t be profitability; it seems highly implausible. So is selling more than 800 tickets a win? Is beating 200,000 in viewership a win?
Part 2 will be released tomorrow, December 27 at MMANewsline.com