Yesterday it became clear that the UFC had failed in their efforts to lobby for the legalisation of MMA in New York. I would argue that all this fuss about getting MMA into New York is a bit irrelevant with the rest of world still to persuade.
Dana White is very vocal that the difficulty in getting the go ahead in New York comes as a result of pressure from the Culinary Workers’ Union. The union is unhappy that a casino chain owned by the Fertitta brothers, who own the UFC, are not unionised. For years, the UFC has been attempting to persuade the state to overturn legislation that forbids mixed martial arts matches, this year using stars like Ronda Rousey to aid their lobbying.
If this really is a case of a disgruntled union putting pressure on decision makers then that does not reflect particularly well on New York’s legislature. It also does not reflect particularly well on the Fertitta brothers if they really are anti unions either (Lorenzo Fertitta has previously stated that he is not against unions, but that his workers do not want one). But all this focus on New York seems like a massive distraction.
The UFC is now expanding into plenty of new markets. Dana White has talked about Ultimate Fighter running series in Australia, the UK and India, one is already running in Brazil and more are expected. The UFC promises to do more and more events in every new country it visits and fans in Australia, Sweden, England, Ireland and pretty much anywhere else the UFC has gone, fans are clamouring for a return.
At the same time, fans in some of these countries are having a hard time catching shows in person or on television as the UFC centers its business model squarely on the US. In the UK, the UFC has still not secured a decent TV deal which will ensure that all programming is accessible to viewers at a convenient time. Similar problems exist for fans in other countries. The whole structure of the UFC’s programming in the US is designed to draw new fans, from TUF to Fight Nights to pay per view events. With many overseas fans unable to access this material, a lot of the UFC’s ability to gain fans is lost.
Added to that is the fact that MMA in a cage is still not legal in countries where fans would welcome the UFC with open arms. While fans of the UFC who live in New York can access all the UFC’s programming on television and travel to one of the many events in surrounding states, French fans are still waiting for their country to legalise fighting in anything other than a ring.
While fans in some of these largely untapped markets are just waiting for the UFC to offer some of their product, it seems strange that Zuffa are so set on legalising the sport in New York. It seems to me that it is far more beneficial to concentrate efforts on developing the sports in markets that are desperate for it. In years to come, when MMA is bigger globally than it is even now, New York will be only to happy to accept it too.