If you pay $4 billion for something – as WME-IMG did for UFC this week – you don’t just stand pat and do nothing. You change it, you tweak it, you make it your own.
So, how will UFC change in the coming months and years?
“I think there’s going to be two things,” Yahoo! Sports combat sports columnist Kevin Iole told Paul Nanos, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “No. 1, as hard as this is for some hardcore people to believe, I think there’s going to be more fights. You’re going to see them put fights in in multiple places, there’s going to be more shows around the world, and I think there’s going to be a really big move into Asia. I think those two things you can slam-dunk count on. There may be some other things that they do to tweak it to try to make it more attractive, but I think those two for sure are going to happen. I think you’re going to see a lot more fight cards held every year – and they have a lot now – and they’re going to go into Asia big time. That was part of the reason they were looking for a partner to begin with. They wanted to just have somebody to grease the skids for them in Asia, and they ended up getting a lot of Asian money and people with know-how in that part of the world.”
Nanos, however, wonders if more events would actually hurt the UFC. Part of its luster is the fact that marquee events happen only a few times a year. If you deliver a product too often, doesn’t over-saturation became an issue?
“Well, at some point, yes,” Iole said. “I don’t think we’re there right now, but I think certainly at some point, you get worried if you put it out there too much. But they’re going to try to bring MMA to places we haven’t been before and we’re not worried about the U.S. audience. We’re worried about whatever country it happens to be we’re in. We’re going to put the show in prime time for them. We’re going to build the card for them with some people from that country and try to build the sport into that country. What they have found – and this is legit – is when they go into a new country, training in MMA among young people picks up and they ultimately develop athletes that are better than they had before, so it raises the level of fighting everywhere overall. You’re just getting more fighters coming from more places. At some point, you’re going to get too much and people are going to get sick of it and it’s going to be hard to keep track and the whole nine yards. I don’t think they’re there at that point yet, but it’s certainly a danger that they have to take a look at and be (mindful of).”