Posted 01/17/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 35 Review

I quit drinking caffeinated drinks this week. It happened more on accident than anything else. You see, when I’m at work, I normally grab lunch at Jimmy John’s or a local pizza place. I usually get a Coke or Mr. Pibb with my slice or sandwich. On Monday, though, I brought in salmon and rice. Maybe I’m a weirdo, but Coke and Pibb aren’t my first choices with a nice salmon fillet, so I filled up my big water bottle.

Around 1 or 2 p.m., the withdrawal set in. Irritability, lethargy. I didn’t have a headache as much as that weird cloudy/spacey feeling. I know I’d been drinking too much soda (and the occasional energy drink), and the withdrawal symptoms served as a revelation to cut that shit out.

So when I say Fight Night 35 sucked and I kept wishing it would end so I could do anything else but watch it, remember the state I was in. I mean, the card did suck, but probably not as much as I thought.

* * *

More important than any of the fights: Dana White responded to Georges St-Pierre’s comments. If you missed it, St-Pierre threw around the “monopoly” word, expressed disappointment in the UFC’s handling of the drug testing for his fight with Johny Hendricks, and hinted that there was more he couldn’t say. Lorenzo Fertitta gave a measured response, saying he was disappointed and throwing around the “tested by the government trope.

Dana White, though. Dana White couldn’t help himself. Let’s pick out the choice quotes.

If he wants to talk man to man, he can see us face to face. But everything that he said is ridiculous.”

The first sign that someone doesn’t want to discuss the conversation in good faith: challenging one’s manhood. The second sign: deflecting one’s statements as “ridiculous” or “crazy.”

Let’s keep in mind what St-Pierre actually said. He didn’t trash the sport’s drug testing policies. He didn’t call the UFC evil. He said he believes the drug testing in the sport needs to improve, and that fighters under UFC contract (or would like to be under contract) have such little leverage, they can’t address these things in public. That’s all.

Not only did they test Josh Barnett last time because Josh Barnett was a guy who got tested for performance enhancing drugs before, they also made Travis Browne do it at the same time, and the UFC paid for that. We paid for that drug testing.”

[Antonio Silva] took a shot after he got tested, and his levels were through the roof and he got destroyed. Lost the win money that we gave him, lost the bonus money we gave him, and obviously he’s not getting an extra bonus. And he’s suspended for a year. So if that’s lenient on drugs, I guess we’re lenient then.”

Anyone familiar with me or my work should know that doping in sports bothers me about as much as the legality of foot stomps.

But if we’re talking about the efficacy of drug testing in the sport? C’mon. Most (all?) government agencies lack the resources to make true, random, year-round testing a reality. Alistair Overeem fell victim to what is arguably the most infamous “random” test in the sport’s recent history when he failed a test administered during a press conference for UFC 146. An ingenious move by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but one that should only work, at most, a handful of times.

How many fighters, however, are failing drug tests administered truly at random, with commission officials, or proxies, showing up at places of residence or gyms unannounced? The UFC can hide behind their government credentials all they want, but they will face the same criticisms until the sport’s testing policies match the level of Major League Baseball, etc.

Viacom is our competitor. They have a $40 billion market cap. I’m never going to see $40 billion as long as I live. So we’re not a monopoly either.”

First off, St-Pierre likely meant the UFC is a monopsony*: “a market situation in which there is only one buyer.” The UFC, obviously, is a buyer of the services rendered by the sport’s independent contractor, i.e., the fighters. This is more true for the more successful and higher-earning fighters, as the Bellators and World Series of Fightings of the world lack the capital to even make an offer to fighters like Anderson Silva or Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre. But also ask yourself this, since the Strikeforce purchase, how many fighters has the UFC lost to bidding wars?

* – You can also make the argument that the UFC holds a monopoly over the MMA pay-per-view business.

Now, I can’t say for sure that the UFC is or isn’t a monopsony or a monopoly. But the idea that they aren’t a monopoly because Bellator vis-à-vis Viacom has a $40 BILLION MARKET CAP! is lacking in any sort of logic or understanding. Bellator does not have access to Viacom’s vast resources. Should Viacom allow Bellator even a tenth of $40 billion, they would blow the UFC out of the water and completely change the MMA landscape.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.  

Mike Fagan