Jonathan Snowden over at Five Ounces has written a new article titled “Worrying About Dollars Makes No Sense.” The gist of the piece is basically that all this talk from the MMA blogosphere (or MMA journalists, if you feel like sounding important) about Affliction’s profitability and finances heading into “Day of Reckoning” is entirely pointless. Not only is it pointless, but he claims it’s not the job of fans or those covering the sport to talk of such things as money. Yeah, the long term viability of a major company trying desperately to break into a market long dominated by Zuffa is an irrelevant topic. That was sarcasm, in case you have an extra chromosome.
It’s not my job as a fan (or as a journalist) to make these shows profitable. That’s the promoter’s job. It is the job of the journalists to cover it, not promote the show for the “good of the sport.” And if you look back at the history of combat sports, much stranger ducks than Tom Atencio and Affliction have dropped millions of dollars to put on vanity shows for a number of reasons. In 1974, Mobuto Sese Seko paid Don King millions to bring Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to Zaire for the now famous “Rumble in the Jungle.” How was he going to make a profit herding his people into the Mai 20 Stadium to watch the fight for free? How will a bad turnout affect Seko’s future shows? Who cares? Who remembers?
I don’t even know where to start. Of course it’s the promoter’s job to make it profitable; they’re running the show and we’re not. At the same time, when covering a sporting event, you cover every aspect of it. This is the very idea that ushered in the modern era of sports popularity in this country. The reason ESPN has become a staple in the sports industry is because the journalists over there cover every aspect of the industry, from the player’s contracts to the lives of the different personalities involved and, of course, the action on the field or in the ring. And as a fan who would like to see some decent alternative to the Zuffa machine every now and then, that makes me a stakeholder in the Affliction brand — meaning I have every right to be curious about whether the promotion is going to last.
Next, the metaphor is atrocious. First of all, he had to go back 35 years to find an example. Needless to say, the sports industry (and the combat sports industry specifically) has changed drastically over three and a half decades. Second, a one off event put on by a dictator in Zaire is just that — a one off event. Affliction is attempting to build a brand, not just put on a one off show.
Ali and Foreman were so huge that promotions or leagues didn’t matter — the names of those two men was more than enough to create a giant spectacle. Very few men in the MMA world are able to attract the type of attention that Ali and Foreman were able to do — and especially not Fedor and Arlovski (At this point, at least. This sport is still in it’s infant stages compared to where boxing was in 1974).
And let’s not forget one major point that needs to be made: hating on morons is the most fun you can have with a keyboard. Atencio and company have been coming out for months talking about their long term success in this industry. Then, you go and look at their fighter payroll and those comments become funnier than watching War Machine try to figure out the directions on a Hungry Man TV dinner.