For the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the return on their massive investment in New York State is finally about to take place. Years and years of lobbying, spending boatloads of money to have MMA regulated in the state earned them what they paid for: legalized mixed martial arts with the opportunity to make back their money; eventually, probably tenfold.
Eight years ago, circa late 2008, I was privy to reviewing an economic impact study the promotion put together, that was going to be used to educate the masses about the sport of MMA. The goal was to begin the process of turning the naysayers into supporters, or at the very least, eliminate the myths and misconceptions that MMA was barbaric and a bloodsport.
The same study was used as part of lobbying efforts in another big market for the organization: Toronto, Ontario. With the pieces in place, the province was convinced that the sport should be sanctioned, and the UFC came in and blew the doors off the Rogers Centre, changing their seating plans three times for UFC 129, eventually breaking the attendance record, and setting a new one of 55,724. It stood for over four and a half years, eventually eclipsed by UFC 193: Rousey vs. Holm, raising the bar to 56,214.
But Friday’s UFC 205 is not about setting attendance records. This is a card they promised the NY State politicians, constituents and fans would be one of the best of all time. In fact, one can argue it is by far, the greatest ensemble of talent to ever be put together on a UFC card. This is not just an event that is stacked from top to bottom, it is one that commands a higher than average ticket price.
The time has come for the UFC’s revenue stream from this show at Madison Square Garden to start balancing out the investment scale, with an important corporate agenda to tip the scales to the profit side. That’s the name of the game and the dominoes continue to fall one by one, in perfect order.
With the sport’s biggest draw, Conor McGregor headlining the card, supported by a who’s who on the UFC roster, one can just imagine the amount of money that will be generated. UFC President Dana White has already stated the event sold out (21,284 seats), breaking the Madison Square Garden record and setting a new one of $13.5 million.
Next up will be the merchandising dollars that will be generated, followed by new UFC Fight Pass Subscriptions and oh yes, a projected new record for pay per view buys for the company. We all know that PPV is the cash cow for the UFC, so rest assured, whatever dent trying to get MMA sanctioned and regulated in NY State caused for the company’s bottom line, it has already started to get repaired … quite handsomely.
And it won’t be stopping anytime soon.
While UFC 7 in Buffalo was technically their first show in New York State, UFC 205 is technically their first legal event and will be a launching pad for many more in the future. Next month on December 9th, the Times Union Centre will host a UFC Fight Night. Talks of events in Buffalo and Rochester are already on the docket with a return to MSG a tent pole event, at minimum, at least once a year.
Say what you will about the promotion, which has a variety of pitfalls, downfalls and fair amount of deserved criticism, from a business perspective, I commend them for all their hard work in getting what they worked hard (and paid) for. It’s already begun coming back in spades.
Here’s hoping the fighters will also be fairly compensated for their efforts as well. It would be nice to see more bonuses or financial compensation be given to the athletes for their blood, sweat and tears, competing on these NY State events. It’s a pipe dream, but while I’m happy that the promotion is making their money back, it would also be wonderful if they spread a bit of that wealth upon the backs, hands and bank accounts of the ladies and gentlemen who will be putting it on the line as well. While the UFC did so financially, it’s the fighters who deserve it for doing so physically.
UFC 205 is upon us, and it should be celebrated for a variety of reasons: for the UFC, the fighters, the fans and also for us lucky guys and gals in the media, who are lucky enough to call covering this massive event, our jobs.