Say what you want about the WWE‘s athletes and their performances, but give the organization some credit. They have successfully navigated and survived the pressures of an explosive growth period in the 80’s, a steroid scandal in the 90’s, the transition and transparency of becoming a public company and international expansion.
The final point is interesting and one that the UFC is starting to recognize as critical and strategic to their growth strategy and positioning as the premier establishment for mixed martial arts. The WWE‘s public company status gives us a unique glimpse into an organization that has enough similarities to the UFC’s target market that its business model and strategy is not being ignored by the top dogs at the UFC.
WWE‘s most recent reported quarter had a strong statement about their international success – over 40% of their profits came from outside the United States. You think this went unnoticed by the UFC?
The UFC is well on their way and their UK endeavor has by all accounts been highly successful. The GSP-festival (UFC 83) in Montreal showed that Canada is also fertile ground for the UFC. Rumored next are Italy, Sweden, Australia, Germany and the Philippines.
The biggest challenge for the UFC will be to ensure they develop and keep under contract top talent to support their expansion plans. As the number one organization, they are the target which means they will have fighters leave and get more money elsewhere and upstart organizations like Affliction and to a lesser extent EliteXC watering down the combined pool of big name draws. Today the UFC does not have enough stars available to support twice the number of events in a year and that limits their ability to expand. The WWE could manufacture talent through the nature of their staged fights; the UFC has the challenge of being real.
A suggestion I have made previously and that will come up again and again as they expand is to bring in the 145’s. The talent pool is rich, it came with the WEC acquisition and a top fight in the 145’s has the potential to headline more than five UFC‘s in a year.
Following in the footsteps of the WWE’s strategic business successes makes good business sense for the UFC and as a result, mixed martial arts progress in the mainstream world.
Let’s just hope it stops short of anyone resembling the Iron Sheik or Doink the Clown.