Take the hit, keep the money. MMA vs Boxing – who wins? We have the answer… for this one night at least.
One week after the bizarre DAZN boxing-UFC 244 time-delay saga, the dust settles into the formation of an economics lesson: short-term abuse beats long-term poverty.
That’s the pragmatic interpretation Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN streaming service applied in delaying the Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev boxing blockbuster for more than an hour last Saturday in Las Vegas.
FOOLS GOLD-en Boy Promotions
When it comes to Oscar DeLa Hoya, we all know the relationship he has with Dana White and the UFC. It’s the ultimate MMA vs Boxing showdown.
If we don’t here’s a recent quote by Dana White when asked about the former boxer:
“The new Oscar De La Hoya is a scumbag, a liar and a complete moron. So that’s where Oscar De La Hoya and I are.”
So, during the UFC’s 244 co-feature, White received an unexpected call. In an unprecedented move, DAZN delayed the main event, with fans already assembled, and showed the Nate Diaz-Jorge Masvidal UFC 244 main event from New York, right in the boxing venue.
“So we were sitting there, and MGM called and said that, ‘you guys are halfway through your co-main event right now, people are losing their minds here,’ or whatever. ‘Can we show the Diaz fight at the MGM?,’” White explained.
Well, White did warn De La Hoya
White warned De La Hoya about staging the boxing PPV on the same day as UFC244
“You guys know how I am, I f—-ing hate Oscar De La Hoya, he’s a scumbag, a snake. I told him not to go on this night. He did what he wanted to do and here we are. I respect Canelo and all the other fighters and guys who participate in the sport of boxing, and we got it worked out yesterday to where fans could see the other fights.”
Boxing fans howled at the holdup, which prompted the Canelo bout to start about 1:20 a.m. on the East Coast, where fans could barely stay up to watch it. Those in attendance had to endure an interminable intermission unless they already liked mixed martial arts.
This practice was not good for the fighters, who had to reset themselves physically and emotionally for combat. They prepared for a world championship bout amid discussion over whether the UFC fight should have been stopped. Had that fight gone all the way, Canelo-Kovalev would have BEGUN after 1:30 a.m. EST.
The late main event provided classic material for anyone in the boxing community to complain and most did. This was lost prestige, the old guard caving to the upstart sport, an insult.
Boxing had bowed to the UFC
In reality, it was economic acceptance of a Masvidal-like knee to the head. Boxing officials knew they’d be hit hard by their fans for delaying the main event but decided to take the backlash. Making a live audience angry was the price DAZN paid to retain the Canelo money train.
In the process, boxing officials acknowledged the mistake of its original scheduling clash with UFC 244.
Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya and DAZN may have been late taking Dana White’s advice against staging two major events simultaneously, but they did take it.
By delaying its own fight, DAZN allowed UFC fans to subscribe to the company’s streaming service at the conclusion of Masvidal-Diaz. DAZN reported a strong number of signups after UFC 244 and before its main event… but those number could be skewed.
Like most corporate decisions, this did not involve pride, prestige or convenience for customers. It concerned money. DAZN will believe it was worth the fallout.
Forgive & forget with UFC still on top
One week later, with attention already drawn to UFC 245 in December, with Nate Diaz possibly walking from the sport, and with DAZN facing its own priorities, customer complaints will be reduced to grumbling. And, most likely, forgiveness.
When forced into tough positions, companies often take the money and absorb the criticism, keeping their eyes on a larger priority. For DAZN, leveraging big-name fighters is the entire picture.
There was a time when an outfit like DAZN would never start its main event so late because newspapers (remember them?) would not make deadlines and thus refuse to dispatch reporters for valued pre-fight coverage the next time.
That ship, of course, has sailed.
Canelo: Mucho Dinero
DAZN spent a staggering $365 million last year to lock up Canelo, its major cash king, for 11 fights in five years. It also tossed seven figures at Gennady Golovkin for a smaller package and it retains a major stake in Anthony Joshua, the now-former heavyweight champion dethroned in one of boxing’s all-time upsets in June at the hands of Andy Ruiz.
DAZN essentially purchased the sport of boxing, spending outrageous sums to knock HBO out of the business and minimize Showtime. It plans to succeed with a new-age model of subscription service for a monthly fee, once $9.99 and now $19.99.
A one-year fight pass is $99, less than $10 a month and it’s a steal, but the leap to $19.99 per month echoed concerns that the company is too highly-leveraged. It has trimmed production budgets in some areas, trying to retain cash while stalking subscriptions.
Pressure to Produce
DAZN uses boxing’s biggest names to lure subscribers, banking that younger audiences would abandon television sets for mobile apps, tablets, game consoles, and computers.
The company provides its audience a seemingly-infinite array of boxing and MMA events, merging two potent demographics.
DAZN represents paradise to hard-core boxing supporters, who obtain a plethora of cards, many of them six hours long, plus blockbuster attractions, for their monthly fee.
But to provide the content, DAZN must score big when Canelo, Golovkin and Joshua fight. Canelo is the ultimate cash cow, gaining more than $30 million per fight. Which is insane when you think about how many more people are buying UFC PPV’s.
Raking in subscribers when he fights is mandatory for DAZN.
November and December are huge recruitment periods for the service. It can parade Canelo in November and Joshua in his rematch against Ruiz in December. Signing on for one year in November would give a subscriber perhaps $150 of pay-per-view value for $10. And that’s just two fights.
Given that backdrop, DAZN may have felt compelled to use Canelo and Joshua back-to-back, conflicts be damned.
It made a conscious attempt to recruit more people than it would anger.
When people pay the cost to be the boss, they take privileges too.
Shakers and Movers
It’s everywhere that supply meets demand. Pick the business. Resorts jack parking rates in peak season, airlines demand change fees, concerts contain absurd and considerable, ticket-handling charges. NJ online sports betting spreading like wildfire.
Sports have their version too, with high ticket and concession prices. But it’s a free market. People are free not to attend.
There is occasional criticism for this agenda. But it fades.
There are times when companies simply need to absorb a short-term image hit to keep their money. Struggling Monmouth Park faced a terrible situation surrounding the Haskell Invitational, a cornerstone of its meet, in July.
Given the backdrop of horses having died at Santa Anita, ungodly hot weather and lobbying from special interest groups, the track was pressured heavily to cancel the card.
It could not afford to. Losing that race card may have forced the track to shut down.
The decision Monmouth made later in the afternoon, to cancel the rest of its regular card and run the lucrative in the cooler evening weather, did salvage the event.
But the decision wasn’t reached until after the races had begun and when network television was set to show the Haskell. Fans were angry because the card was altered after a couple of races. Many had to leave. The network wasn’t happy either.
Yes, making this decision two days earlier and starting the card later to connect to it would have been smart. But it wasn’t thought of. Monmouth thus took the heat later and made its money.
Joined at the
The Canelo fight shuffle illuminates a boxing-MMA symmetry, contrasting public opinion of their in-fighting. It’s conventional to believe one sport outshines the other and the arguments reflect age-group views.
Younger patrons, driven by mobile-app convenience and “social IM media CY,” love the fast-paced violent cards packed with a long lineup and shorter fights. The main events are five, five-minute rounds.
Mixed martial artists also score points for cooperating with commissions, respecting their trainers and engaging like warriors.
Boxing purists love its heritage, connecting Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson to George Foreman, Tyson and Mayweather. They love 12, three-minute rounds, suspense, endurance, and the unexpected finish.
While boxers can appreciate MMA fans showing up for an event, almost regardless of who’s fighting, mixed martial artists envy the pay level of boxers. Fighters are promoted as individuals.
Mixed martial artists are not. The UFC brand comes before their names in promotion, which dramatically affects purses.
Both forms of combat can, and should be, appreciated. Boxing and mixed martial arts fare best when they view themselves as contact-sport components of the entertainment world.
Its both of them fighting for entertainment dollars against baseball, football and other traditional sports, not boxing versus MMA.
The Ties that Bind
Consider the extensive mutual connections. Stephen Espinoza, who negotiated a then-outlandish but now “paltry” $200 million six-fight deal for Showtime and Floyd Mayweather, once managed Gina Carano.
Holly Holm, who delivered the kick felt around the world against Ronda Rousey, was a boxing world champion.
UFC executive Marc Ratner spent years overseeing boxing as the Nevada State Athletic Commissioner. Another Nevada boxing official purchased the entire UFC (and Station Casinos) His name: Lorenzo Fertitta.
President Donald Trump, who attended UFC 244 with his buddy Dana White, once spent a record $11 million casino site fee to host one of the biggest boxing events of all time, Mike Tyson-versus-Michael Spinks.
And the planets aligned for all two years ago with the mega-blockbuster between Mayweather and Conor McGregor. What drove the event was young MMA fans wanting to see McGregor box. They drove the train, creating an electrically-charged mega event. Everybody won because McGregor fought well before being stopped.
Even Masvidal sees that light. This week he called out Canelo, who scored a terrific knockout victory over Kovalev, to fight him.
It’s remote but if you’re Masvidal, you saw Canelo wait an hour on behalf of your fight. Maybe he’d take the invitation.
Much has been made of the boxing step-aside from last week. This was DAZN saying “we need the money now”.
That’s never a comfortable scene to witness, but it’s not the first time a business frustrated part of its customer base to lure new patrons.