UFC: Helping Local Economies or Raping Them Dry?
In the big push that has seen Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) legalized in Ontario and throughout the remainder of North America (New York still pending), we as fight fans keep hearing about the economic benefits of having a key promotion such as the UFC putting on live events in major cities.
For starters, I can certainly see the positive impact of legalizing MMA in general, as it would provide unlimited opportunities for gyms, gym owners/employees, and venue operators, as they further promote their brands and the sport of mixed martial arts into their local communities.
At the very least, it helps to create jobs and to keep people (fighters, trainers, local organizers) employed and sustaining a modest income, while they attempt to support their families and make it through these difficult economic times.
The legalization of MMA is definitely a good thing. However, for the sole purposes of this article, I would like to specifically address my ongoing concerns with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
I just finished reading an article on Bloody Elbow, which talked about how UFC 130 in Las Vegas is “struggling” at the Box Office, having sold a mere 4,500 tickets, for a total revenue of $1.5 million.
In contrast, UFC 129 in Toronto recently sold over 55,000 tickets ($12 million gate, plus an additional 800,000 to 900,000 pay-per-view buys at a minimum of $50 each). Even Vancouver has already sold over 10,000 tickets for their upcoming UFC 131 event, which would certainly indicate that this weekend’s event in Las Vegas is going to be a massive failure by any UFC standard.
In total, the Toronto show pulled in over...well...it’s a guess, but I would say at the very least, the UFC made over $60 million, and that’s without any additional revenues from the two-day Fan Expo, advertisers, sponsors, etc.
Tickets in Las Vegas are currently ranging in price from $75-$800 per ticket (so far the average price is listed at approximately $333).
Pay-per-views are approximately $50 per household, but I suspect that business licenses are considerably more than that, in fact, I know they are. It all adds up.
Now consider this...
The population of the United States is just over 308 million (2010). The unemployment rate currently sits at 9%. That’s almost 28 million unemployed people in America. Take out the kids and seniors from that equation, and you’re left with 13.7 million unemployed people (25% of that, or 3.4 million are categorized as “teenagers”—a key demographic for UFC fans).
The situation is almost identical in Canada, however, the total population is only about a tenth of the size in the United States (34 million) and the unemployment rate is slightly lower at 7.6%.
And something else to seriously consider is that currently, the vast majority of “new jobs” being created are only part-time. Good luck supporting your family (or even yourself) on that.
But hey, at least it looks good on a Government flow chart, right?
So as we sit here helpless, witnessing the extinction of the middle class, here are a few of my questions:
How does it help our economy to be spending ‘X’ amount of dollars on a non-essential, entertainment-based entity, such as the UFC?
As consumers, why should we really care if the UFC makes tens (or hundreds) of millions of dollars each and every month, when they underpay their fighters, impose massive restrictions on other industry-related companies, and use their power to influence and control everything from the media to the sponsors who try to support their fighters?
The hospitality industry already profits significantly from all other forms of live entertainment such as sporting, musical and theatrical events. So, what is so special about the UFC?
A Pearl Jam concert for example, would have the same economic impact on a local community as a UFC show. So would a hockey game. Or a baseball game.
In fact, the only difference is that with a baseball game, you could probably score a couple of tickets for no more than $20 each and still have enough money left over to take the whole family out for dinner afterwards, or better yet, pay your rent on time.
And it doesn’t have to necessarily be baseball. It could be anything. The point is, the UFC doesn’t bring in any more money than anything else.
But they sure like to take it.
This weekend, my suggestion is that you keep your money in your wallet and put it towards something more important—like your education, or your credit card debt (you know you have it), or food or diapers. Whatever you spend it on, it will serve a much more useful purpose in your life than feeding your insatiable need to be “distracted” or “entertained.”
Something else to consider...
People today have become very addicted to social media. It’s a fact. Facebook alone has over 500 million active users worldwide (I recently deleted 1300 people off of my account and it felt AWESOME! Sorry if you were, or weren’t, one of them).
So is it any coincidence that nearly every fighter (celebrity) has a Facebook fan page or an account on either Facebook or Twitter (or both)?
Of course not.
Not to mention that the UFC now gives their fighters bonuses for “Tweeting,” and the undercard fights are almost always now available through Facebook. One addiction feeds the other.
It’s great marketing by the UFC, but I fail to see how their business model is designed to do anything but take your money. Money that you probably either don’t have or should be spending more intelligently (responsibly) elsewhere.
Enjoy the fights this weekend.
I know I won't be.
These are my opinions. If you don’t like them...I have others. Check them out at www.mrjamesryan.com