Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko: Who Cares?

There's been much written about UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture's abrupt resignation from the UFC, which stemmed at least partly over the UFC's inability to sign consensus top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. And there's plenty to talk about since the formation of M-1 Global and the announcement of their newest acquisition, the aforementioned Fedor Emelianenko.

  • Could Couture and Emelianenko finally meet at an M-1 PPV event?
  • Who would win the matchup between UFC's former champ vs. Pride's former champ?
  • Can Captain America stop the Russian Cyborg?

The real question is: will anyone care?

Here's the deal: M-1 Global is going to fail. They'll probably go out of business before Fedor's two-year contract is up.

Here's a quote direct from Mitchell Maxwell, CEO of M-1 Global's parent company:

"A big part of the success of M-1 Global is that we've signed the No. 1 fighter in the world in Fedor. Our goal is to make him a household name (in the U.S.)."

Red Flag Alert: If you're building a new MMA company, do not bank your success on one fighter. In fact, don't bank your success on ANY fighters. All kinds of things can go wrong with this business plan.

Imagine if you started an MMA company in 2004 and you were lucky enough to sign rising superstar Frank Mir to a multi-year deal. Think about that for a minute...

Part of UFC critic's and fighter's gripes (including Couture) is that the UFC cares more about the UFC than the individual fighters. Well, guess what? They have to. If the UFC built its organization around fighters, it likely wouldn't still be around. Fighters get hurt. Fighters leave. Fighters come and go. You have to build a brand and keep the brand strong.

Having said that, you do need stars. There's no question that Couture was a star, drawing card, and ambassador for the UFC. But he won't draw anywhere else. Did you pay to see Randy's match against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza during his retirement from the UFC? I didn't think so.

So what if Couture vs Emelianenko took place at an M-1 event? Who cares? What are they fighting for?

And even if the event did take place, UFC would offer a free UFC Marathon on Spike to counter the PPV. Bank on it. And bank on this: UFC could offer an event headlined by Matt Serra (or Pete Sell, or Rashad Evans, or anyone) for free on Spike, and more people would watch it than the Couture vs Emelianenko M-1 PPV.

Those are the facts.

MMA's popularity is built on "casual" fans, not hardcore fans. The casual fan has no idea that Couture left UFC. They don't even care. They watch UFC because it is cool, popular, and because it is something fun to do with their friends. And here's another thing - the casual fan has never heard of Fedor Emelianenko.

So congratulations, M-1. You've got the #1 ranked fighter in the World. Good luck with that.


Larry Weaver said...

"And even if [Couture vs. Emelianenko in M-1] did take place, UFC would offer a free UFC Marathon on Spike to counter the PPV. Bank on it."

It has already started. Couture plans a press conference on rumored M-1 investor Mark Cuban's HDNet, and the
UFC schedules a press
conference that starts 30 minutes earlier.

The future is already laid out. See WWF vs. Jim Crockett Promotions circa 1988.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Unknown said...

I for one would watch... But I am more than just a casual fan.

If the promoters were truly interested in the welfare of the sport they would put the ego aside and work together.

Great article Larry!