There’s a great scene in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas where wiseguy Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, explains how the mob does business after a struggling restaurant owner becomes partners with Paulie Cicero.
Business bad? Fuck you, pay me.
Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me.
Your place got hit by lightning, huh? Fuck you, pay me.
That’s kind of what it’s like for ESPN, the self-described “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” after getting into bed with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Oh, the last pay-per-view (PPV) had one of the lowest buy rates in the last 15 years? Fuck you, pay me.
UFC gets paid regardless of what sells, so there’s no reason to jump through any more hoops when it comes to talent. That’s according to former heavyweight contender Brendan Schaub, who believes the fighters got “fucked” by the deal.
A deal that requires a paid ESPN+ subscription to order PPV events.
“We heard Brock Lesnar turned down the deal,” Schaub said on his Below the Belt podcast (transcribed by BJPenn.com). “Conor… we haven’t heard anything from him. The UFC is content just being in cruise control because they have this reliable nut from ESPN. They’re set there, so they’re not willing to be bend over backwards to get a guy like Brock Lesnar anymore. They don’t need it. They don’t have to give Conor McGregor half the company to come back.”
Lesnar was expected to come out of retirement to fight Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight strap … right up until UFC transferred its entire PPV business to ESPN+ (full details here), which means the sky is no longer the limit when it comes to PPV points.
“Everyone wins, but the fighters are so fucked because it’s such a limited viewership now,” Schaub added. “So your sponsors are less — if you even had any. Your notoriety, your fame, your social media following, your YouTube channel to sell merch… The day and age of a superstar in the UFC is gone, gone. It’s so gone.”
It wasn’t that easy to get Conor McGregor to make his mixed martial arts (MMA) return before the ESPN+ deal and now his demands for a stake in the company don’t sound so outlandish. “Notorious” is the biggest star in MMA and should be paid accordingly.
Well, he was the biggest star in MMA.
“Notice the direction of the marketing now on ESPN. Who do you see now? Dana White,” Schaub said. “It’s very Vince McMahon… This is the face that you recognize. Because you won’t recognize the fighters, but you recognize Dana White. So his ego and his popularity goes up. That’s the face [of the company] now. That’s not good. All the promos are Dana. It’s all him. That’s insane, man.”
Hey, you know what they say about the goose and the gander…