Why The UFC Needs Conor McGregor More Than Ever

When WME-IMG paid over $4 Billion dollars for the UFC in 2016, Conor McGregor was undoubtedly a huge factor in that price

The UFC lightweight champion has effectively dominated the pay-per-view record charts for UFC events over the past few years, which has, in turn, propelled the sport of MMA to never before seen heights.

When it was announced that Zuffa, the company headed by the Fertitta Brothers and Dana White, had sold the UFC in 2016 for an eye watering $4 Billion dollars, any had criticized the amount which was paid for the promotion.

The colossal entertainment conglomerate had clearly seen an opportunity in the Las Vegas-based promotion, which was popularized to wider audiences off the back of the success and mass appeal of Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. Just over one year later, Rousey is effectively retired and Conor McGregor is embarking on a lucrative boxing bout with ring legend Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Although the promotion is boosted by the return of the mercurial Jon Jones, stars are hardly in abundance. Fan favourites, Nate and Nick Diaz, are notable absentees, with the former holding out for a trilogy bout with McGregor and the older brother, Nick, unlikely to return. With a number of UFC champions failing to find anything even remotely close to the same level of appeal of the aforementioned Rousey and McGregor, there is a curiosity in just what WME-IMG have in terms of a plan to make the UFC into a successful business model.

The first quarter of 2017 saw WME-IMG enforcing some pretty comprehensive cost-cutting measures which are not unsurprising for a firm which acquires a new business. The company wasted no time in laying off 15 percent of the UFC’s staff in 2016 with the intention of minimizing a $55 million payroll to approximately $27 million, which was released via investor documents by MMAjunkie’s Ben Fowlkes and Steven Marrocco.

Head of public relations Dave Sholler, Garry Cook and progressive thinking and business-savvy Fight Pass guru Eric Winter were the most high profile of the major executive cut backs in a hard-hatted slashing of expenditure.

In addition to cut backs on salary, there were also some further cost cutting measures implemented upon the insistence of WME-IMG executives. One of the strangest measures was the company’s refusal to provide fighters with tapes of their opponents – going forward, athletes were told that they would have to purchase UFC subscription service Fight Pass in order to prepare for bouts. Additionally, fighters who had made weight and were prepared to fight at the time of losing an opponent would also receive half of their expected show money.

WME-IMG’s presence in the UFC has also corresponded with some questionable matchmaking practices. An instant title shot upon the return of former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, for example, has led to mass confusion inside the promotion. A seemingly ever-growing trend of interim titles as well as a gravitation towards exclusive “money fights” smacks of a company attempting to capitalize on quick-fix and sensational methods in order to recoup the money spent on acquiring the business rather than implementing a respectful meritocracy on the roster. Put short, rankings and a traditional approach to hard work paying off with title shots are unfavored in comparison to big names and big fights.

A seemingly ever-growing trend of interim titles as well as a gravitation towards exclusive “money fights” smacks of a company attempting to capitalize on quick-fix and sensational methods in order to recoup the money spent on acquiring the business rather than implementing a respectful meritocracy on the roster. Put short, rankings and a traditional approach to hard work paying off with title shots are unfavored in comparison to big names and big fights.

The necessity for quick bucks and pay-per-view spectaculars in order to justify the mammoth sum paid for the promotion are a given, but where are they coming from? With the UFC’s golden child Conor McGregor set to make upwards of $75 million in his much criticized boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., it is looking unlikely that the Irishman would be willing to return to $10-$15 million paydays with the UFC. There is no doubt that the promotion needs McGregor more than ever, but the question is: will we see “The Notorious” back inside the octagon? If WME-IMG are remotely smart, they would have added some form of contractual stipulation in a deal with McGregor when allowing him to pursue the bout with Mayweather

There is no doubt that the promotion needs McGregor more than ever, but the question is: will we see “The Notorious” back inside the octagon? If WME-IMG are remotely smart, they would have added some form of contractual stipulation in a deal with McGregor when allowing him to pursue the bout with Mayweather. In short, we may see the return of the 29-year-old as soon as December this year. The UFC will be hoping, at least, that is the case.

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