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UFC Strategy for July 19: Smart or Downright Dirty?

We are just one week away from one of the most significant MMA cards in recent history, when Affliction makes their first foray in Mixed Martial Arts action. From top to bottom, their list of fighters includes some of the worlds top talent, and the most anticipated Heavyweight flair in one night of fights – by a landslide. The UFC has decided to counter program this card with their own Ultimate Fight Night, free on Spike TV the very same night. Is this smart business or will this backfire on MMA’s Royalty?

In the short term, this seems like a sound business decision. It’s simple. Put the world’s current best Pound for Pound fighter on free TV. Try and pull as many fans away from the Affliction PPV as possible. Knowing that even a small percentage change in the PPV buy rate could make or break Afflictions bottom line. Hope that Affliction will eventually fail and just go away. Dana White repeatidly goes on record saying Affliction is not a threat. It’s been a winning strategy for years.

But Affliction VP Tom Antencio sees the UFC scheduling different. “I think it’s flattering,” Atencio said. “He obviously views us as a threat. Do I blame him? No. He’s doing what he feels he needs to do to protect his company. I think people will buy our event and TiVo his. It’s not hurting us.”

However, one should question the long term success of the UFC strategy. As much as White likes to say he does not care about the ‘T-shirt guys’, putting Anderson Silva in your main event on SpikeTV suggests otherwise. Will fans see the UFC as childish bullies acting more a Loss Leader than a confident billionaire dollar enterprise and turn to Affliction? Will fighters be upset that their main sponsor (Affliction) shirts are no longer allowed to be worn during entrances? Which is causing them to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship fees. And what happens if the Affliction card is a success?

Well, Dana White is banking that it won’t be. And that no one will even notice what the UFC is doing.

“Remind Dana that being hungry and running a business is a whole lot different than being hunted and running a business,” Mark Cuban, Founder of HDNET chimed in this week. The self made billionaire understands more than anyone that you have to stay focused, when real competitors such as Affliction comes about. Cuban’s HDNET fights continues to gain momentum and it is people like him and Antencio that have deep enough pockets and a passion for the sport, to finally warrant a serious challenge to the UFC.

When asked about the UFC’s counter programning, Affliction representative and cutthroat businessman Donald Trump even balked that he would do the same,  “I don’t know if it’s a good business strategy. I wouldn’t do it. I don’t think I’d go about it that way.”

Well, the UFC would. And have been doing it for years, with tremendous success.

However, with millions of dollars behind them and an incredible initial fight card, Affliction looks to be the first to knock the UFC down a peg. One has to wonder if the UFC’s strategy for July 19th is smart business or just downright dirty.

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