5 Oz. Feature: What could Dana White’s huge announcement be?

dana-white.jpg Ever since UFC president Dana White made the following statement in an upcoming interview for ESPN the Magazine, I’ve been racking my brain as to what it could be:

“I’m going to make an announcement next week that is going to blow people’s minds,” he’s quoted as saying in the magazine article. “That deal is done, but my employees don’t even know yet. I’m renting out a place next Thursday and I’m going to tell them. Then we’ll make the announcement later that day. It’s an indicator of where this business is going over the next five years.”

I made several phone calls yesterday to try and see if they had any insight as to what might be coming around the bend. None of them had any idea what was going on. The only thing left for me to do, was to speculate on the possibilities.

Apparently Takanori Gomi is training in Las Vegas right now and that has generated a lot of speculation that he might end up signing with the UFC. While that would be a big announcement, it’s not something that is going to serve as an indicator of where the business is going over the next five years. White’s announcement is something that has to do with a future trend that will affect the business as a whole.

I decided to come up with what I believe are future trends that I feel the MMA business is going to experience:

1) Consolidation - MMA is a growing sport, but there are simply too many promotions. As much as I’d love for them all to succeed, MMA’s fanbase isn’t big enough to support them all. Could White be referring to the acquisition of a mid-major promotion such as Strikeforce or the IFL? Not likely. When the UFC acquired PRIDE, White said they had acquired the only company left worth acquiring. And I just don’t see the UFC doing anything to offer the IFL any sort of bailout. They might like some of their fighters, but chances are they’d either wait for the company to old or simply purchase a few fighter contracts, similar to what they did with the WFA. But the operative phrase here is “next five years.” Consolidation is a trend we will see in the next 12 months and not something we’re going to see over the span of the next five years.

2) Weekly Live Fights - With the way the schedule for MMA events has been lately, we’re already getting live fights on a weekly basis. But I do believe there will come a time when we see the MMA equivalent to the old USA “Tuesday Night Fights” or ESPN II’s current “Friday Night Fights.” In fact, as a part of the UFC’s new contract with Spike, plans are already in place to bring a live weekly fight series to broadcast cable. The thing is, plans are already in motion for “The Ultimate Fighter” season eight, meaning the earliest we’d see such a series in 2009. Such an announcement is hardly worth renting a place out for.

3) The Boxing Model - Maybe Dana White just signed Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko? Sure, Fedor is under contract to Affliction, but it’s a non-exclusive. And I strongly believe we’re going to see a migration in MMA to the boxing model, where fighters sign short-term agreements with fight promotions and we have fighters competing under promotional banners on a fight-by-fight basis. For example, one day you might see Kimbo Slice fighting Brett Rogers under the EliteXC banner, and then three months later he’s fighting Roy Nelson under the IFL banner. I’m not saying those are the exact fighters we’re going to see, but I think you catch my drift. But while I believe the boxing model is the wave of the future, the UFC doesn’t play well with others and such situation is something you’ll see over the UFC’s dead body.

4) Madison Avenue Sponsorship – We’ve already seen the dam burst and higher-end sponsors are throwing their support behind MMA, whether it be Bud Light, Harley Davidson, Buger King, and I believe the UFC may have just landed Edge Shavers as a sponsor as well. The demographics are too strong for Madison Avenue to ignore; their clients want to reach males 18-34 and the major ad firms cannot afford to thumb their noses at MMA. We’re only going to see more and more blue chip companies get behind MMA. But if the UFC didn’t rent out a facility to announce Bud Light, possibly the biggest sponsor for sports that you can land, I doubt he’s renting out a facility to break the news about a new sponsor.

5) Network Television and Corporate Partnerships - I will cut the expense, I believe next Thursday’s announcement will have to do with the UFC forming a partnership with a major network partner such as FOX television. I feel this way because as much as White claims the debut of Saturday Night Fights was a debacle, the ratings success cannot be ignored. Too many people were exposed to the fighters of EliteXC. Not to mention, the event received so much media attention the week after that it practically buried UFC 85 to a point where I think it will affect its buyrate. The UFC cannot afford to allow EliteXC to do a second show on network TV unanswered. If they do another show before the UFC does, EliteXC will be in a prime position to program casual MMA viewers that they are the number one MMA organization out there.

EliteXC’s ratings were just too strong. FOX and ABC are going to feel a greater sense of urgency to do something. ESPN and HBO are going to re-visit the idea of having MMA on their respective networks. But for reasons that I just stated, nobody is probably feeling the pressure more than Dana White. The UFC has to announce a deal with network TV before EliteXC holds a second show on CBS. I mean, it has to! This is a fight and the UFC is taking unanswered shots right now. It’s time to answer back.

One other thing I would not rule out is FOX possibly becoming an equity partner in the UFC. It was no secret that the UFC was looking to sell the company at one point, because according to industry insiders, the feeling at Zuffa is that the sport is hotter than it will ever be. Now could also be the best strategic time to sell, as the UFC is currently the industry leader but with so many competitors crawling out of the woodwork, who knows how long they can maintain their market share? White was quoted recently as saying he doesn’t know how much more he can take. He sounds like a man who is beginning to feel like he’s being out-gunned for the first time since taking ownership of the promotion. The Ferittas are shrewd businessmen and now is the optimum time to sell a portion of the company or possibly even a significant stake.

Right now, they are going up against CBS, Mark Cuban, and now Donald Trump. More people with big-time money could also jump into the fray. The cost of doing business in all likelihood is going to go up. Zuffa was the biggest company in this sport for so long, but they now find themselves in a situation where companies with more resources than they have are jumping on the bandwagon. As such, it wouldn’t surprise me if the UFC took on a major corporate investor to help level the playing field so that they had even more resources to draw from.

Another reason why I believe it’s option number for is because it would be good news. In my experience working in corporate environments, you don’t rent out a facility and gather all of your personal together to tell them something that isn’t major. If you want to share good news with your company’s employees, you have your executive assistant draft a letter and send a bulk e-mail to the company. You rent out a facility when you have an epic announcement and you want to celebrate it with your employees.

White said the announcement has to do with where the business is going over the next five years, and after Saturday’s ratings success, it’s clear to me that MMA is going to become a fixture on all of the major networks.

My prediction for Thursday is this: White will announce next that the UFC has signed a long-term agreement with FOX to televise fights on a quarterly basis on network primetime television along with a option to buy a portion of the company over time. I’m betting that the first show will be this September at UFC 88 in Atlanta and will be headlined by either Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva or Liddell vs. Rashad Evans.

The other possibility is that the deal could be with ABC/ESPN. White has done a lot of press with ESPN’s properties recently and the UFC had a role in getting ESPN’s new “ESPN Live” show on the air by allowing the Worldwide Leader to use its footage. Not to mention, Kenny Florian is a contracted UFC fighter and the show’s other co-host, Franklin McNeil of the Newark Star-Ledger, is someone that has had a good rapport with White. The fact that Dana made it a point to say he was disappointed by the Kimbo coverage on ESPN is also an intriguing statement.

56 COMMENTS
  • Andy says:

    http://rapidshare.com/files/120568497/dana.mp3.html

    Jump to 9:15 of that interview that was recorded in the UK yesterday. Dana says the big announcement is NOT a television deal of any kind and it’s something completely “left field.”

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  • Brent says:

    how about a merger with the WEC and the addition of Floyd Mayweather?

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  • Matt McEwen says:

    I’m very curious about what the announcement could possibly be. When White was conspicously absent from a lot the proceedings at UFC 84 a lot of people figured something big/catastrophic was up, and now it looks like we’ll find out.

    I can’t imagine it is anything other than a network/HBO deal as what else could “effect the future of the sport”?

    One thing about the “boxing model” you mentioned Sam – you think it’s the wave of the future, but do you think it’s a good thing? Personally I dread the day that happens. The model has proved less than optimum in boxing, and I think it would hurt MMA even more.

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  • paddiosf says:

    It has to be a TV deal, he said it’s going to shock the MMA World, and a signing of Gomi or a Fedor isn’t in my opinion..I hope it’s with ESPN they have the most channels to cover MMA…

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  • mike wolfe says:

    One “left field” but significant announcement would be taking Zuffa public. Lots or reasons why this wouldn’t happen, but it would generate a lot of money, especially for the current equity owners if they think it’s the right time to cash in.

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  • bjjdenver says:

    Or maybe it’s all of them?

    Ok, seriously now:

    I would love to see Gomi in the UFC and I think it would be incentive for BJ to stay at lw. on a scale of 1-10…3.

    1)Consolidation–considering the climate of mma, I doubt this is likely. They don’t need to spend the money for guys they can just sign soon enough…1.

    2)Weekly live fights–weekly seems to often right now. monthly maybe, but I doubt of this is near happening now…2.

    3)The only way they get Fedor AND Randy, is if they get to tag team against Dana. Never say never, but I’m sure some info would have leaked on this…2.

    4)Advertising–They have the biggest advertiser in the sports world, so I doubt if any other would be a big announcement for them. I do expect more big companies to get on board, but I think it will be smaller news…3.

    5)Network TV–I think they will go to fox, but I would rather see them on ABC/ESPN as it carries more weight with mainstream sports fans. I agree with you Sam, I think this is the announcement…9.

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  • William W. says:

    I think it will be the announcement of more global shows. After all, he said it is “where this business is going over the next five years.” More global shows and possibly a UFC Global imprint?

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  • Im exited and at the same time worried about the annoucement that Dana White is going to make. For one if it’s a partnership with espn,fox, or abc it’s awesome news because the sport is miss understood by alot of people, and don’t see the talent and hard work that it takes to be a MMA fighter. Me myself got hucked on it the firts time i saw it and have been training, and its helped me change my life by helping me get in the best shape i have ever been.

    Now what worries me about the annoucement is what the first comment says, that maye it’s Floyd Mayweather or just simple some other high flashy big name out there, thats going to get people in there seats and want to watch whats goin to happen, but to me things like that brings the integrety, respect, and honor that most of the fighters and fans have for the sport.

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  • Patrick says:

    Well if its a huge announcement out of left field that will also “blow peoples minds” I really doubt its a tv deal. Its not like rumors have tv deals have been around. That would be a big announcement, but not mind blowing. But then again they thought people would get excited over a Bud Light sponsorship. I also doubt its a fight announcemnet of between anyone currently signed. That would be big, but nothing mind blowing. Buying another organization? Whats bigger than buying Pride? Co-promontions? No. I think the only signing that could shock the world is signing Floyd Mayweather. Or they bought Spike TV and are making it the UFC channel!

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  • mike wolfe says:

    #9 Patrick

    You may be onto something with your final thought–Zuffa acquires Spike, or starts its own network. I have no idea what that would cost, but it would solve the problem of who controls production for network fights and would create the possibility of making even money from advertisement from Bud, etc.

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  • Sam Cupitt says:

    Hey Matt… you aren’t the Australian Matt McEwan that lives in my suburb are you?

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  • MoreThanUFC says:

    When it happens, and you hear it, you will say to yourself “yawn”. Just like all of Dana’a big announcements. Budweiser? Wow, zzz.

    Whatever it is, it wont be TV deals, or major fights. My guess is employee ownership, or something along those lines.

    Or maybe it’s the resigning of Tito!!!! Just kidding.

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  • William W. says:

    Out of left field? Maybe they will start paying people per punch? Or basing salaries on how exciting you are?

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Dana gets a bad rap about his announcements. I remember the one time he brought back Tito, B.J. and Royce all in the same night and announced that Tito and Ken were going to coach TUF 3 and Royce was going to fight Matt Hughes.

    Sometimes Dana’s announcements fall flat. Sometimes they do not. I have a feeling that Thursday’s announcement will deliver. You don’t rent a space and get all of your employees together for something that can be announced through a company-wide e-mail.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    Sam–

    What rumors are you hearing?

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  • JOe K. says:

    He’s pregnant!

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  • Kyle says:

    I agree that the partnership with Fox is most likely, thats what I was thinking as well. Now that CBS has had some success Fox has no more reasons to wait.

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  • ultmma says:

    Fox = BCS title game, NFC football, Baseball World Series, Super Bowl, Nascar, UFC 88 Liddell vs. Silva II……..that sounds awesome

    put Joe Buck Octagon side…..lol j/k ….please no Mike Goldberg on Network TV

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  • Jose Santos says:

    1. BJ vs. Mayweather on New Year’s Eve on Fox at Madison Square Garden (UFC gets NY to legalize)

    2. Tournaments – Their Light Heavyweight and Lightweight divisions are deep enough…bring back the single day 8-man from somewhere that will allow it, or a field of 16 played out over 4 months.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    The SI site is reporting that on Thurs. Trump will announce that he’s acquired a “significant” stake in Affliction. It looks as if their will be dueling press conferences; somebody is trying to “one up” the competition. White better have something good, or Trump will steal his thunder.

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  • Redravi7 says:

    Gomi vs. Mayweather

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Mike, not sure if you’ve been keeping up with the site lately, but Trump made the announced already this past Thursday.

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  • Matt McEwen says:

    Sam…..I’m not the Matt McEwen from Australia who lives in your ‘burb.

    I’m a Canadian Matt McEwen who lives in the Bahamas.

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  • twindstorm says:

    anderson silva vs chuck, gsp vs penn 2 new years eve and in atlanta

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  • egad81 says:

    They re-signed Tito Ortiz to fight Chuck

    That would shock the world since Tito was BANNED so to speak.

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  • Jose Santos says:

    Mayweather-Penn
    Roy Jones / A. Silva
    Larry Holmes / Dan Severn
    George Foreman vs. George “The Animal” Steele
    New Year’s Eve on Nickelodeon

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  • blueifighter says:

    If Dana stays to his word and it is not a major TV deal….maybe they are brining Pride back to life and are starting back up in Japan…if you read any MMA forum, all true MMA fans loved and misses Pride. Dana has said on many occuasions that the Japanese fans were some of the best….With a US UFC and the Japanese ‘Pride’ they can then have a super bowl of MMA….does anyone agree.

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  • el boxeo says:

    ive said it in the past … the boxing model is the wave of the future and the fighters will eventually demand it as more money comes in…

    i never understood why the ufc HAS to have a ppv everymonth like wrestling especially when some of those shows (europe) are money losers… why not have huge shows every two months and have more free stuff on spike to really build up the sport…

    but eventally the ufc will be like a promotional outfit (don king , top rank) which will make the fighters much more money…. cause fighters that are draws like chuck liddel, tito etc should be making 10 of millions not just a couple of mil… in boxing it happens that the top tier make that money AND THE PPV ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME NUMBERS in fact the ufc does even better….

    also why are the ufc in europe when they should be in japan??? are they just going to concede that market

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  • Adam Morgan says:

    I don’t think the UFC is welcome in Japan after the PRIDE debacle.

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  • treple says:

    I think it is the return of Joe Son…

    He will be fighting Anderson Silva…

    We still may see a bona fide Mortal kombat fatality in the octagon!!

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  • bjjdenver says:

    # # 26 Jose Santos Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Mayweather-Penn
    Roy Jones / A. Silva
    Larry Holmes / Dan Severn
    George Foreman vs. George “The Animal” Steele
    New Year’s Eve on Nickelodeon

    Somehow, the Nickelodeon part really cracked me up!

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  • Nick Merra says:

    Morgan, could you all at this website please spell check your articles like the professionals you are? Old should be “OWN”. Gee, thanks…

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  • bjjdenver says:

    #32, spell check wouldn’t change a thing, as the word “old” is not misspelled.

    “old” is a typographical error, which appears to have been intended to be “fold”.

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  • Profplum says:

    UFC women’s division

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  • Evan says:

    “UFC women’s division”

    Gina……..then……..who?

    Not many of the most die hard fans can name the top 3 women aside from without looking it up.

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  • joey says:

    dana white already flat out said hes not making a women’s division. read the info ppl

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  • Evan says:

    “dana white already flat out said hes not making a women’s division. read the info ppl”

    No, he said he has no interest until the division gets deeper.

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  • Kogepan says:

    Dana White’s huge announcements really have nothing to do with the fans.

    Huge Announcement #1 : Bud Light new corp sponsor! Even with all this new funding PPVs will now cost fans 10% more! Awesome!

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  • johnnyrev says:

    I have thought about this for a day or so and came up with this , How about a joint partnership with a couple of networks ala NFL TV deal then have the fights broken down from a “regular season” then to a “playoff” and finally “bowl” matches think about the sponsorship the “the bud light LH championship bowl” or the Harley davidson heavy weight bowl” just a thought

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  • Brad says:

    Maybe it’s insurance or some sort of fighter base pay program like the IFL. Roster cuts and “employee” meetings often point to internal issues.

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  • Ken says:

    Public offering to fund international expansion. Seems like a TV deal (hopefully Fox) has got to be in the mix too. Personally, I’d love to see live fights after NFL football.

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  • ufcfan says:

    tv deal

    liddell vs. a.silva

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  • Ant says:

    I believe it’s either Takanori Gomi or JZ Cavalcante signing with the UFC to fight BJ Penn. Penn said on yesterday’s KGMB news that he already knows who he’s fighting next but can’t announce it yet. It can’t be GSP or Florian/Huerta because those fights don’t happen until August, meaning a follow-up fight won’t happen til Nov/Dec, and there’s no guarantee that GSP wins. It sounds like it’s a set opponent, so I’m guessing Gomi or Cavalcante (when he recovers from him torn ACL). Cavalcante was at UFC 84 and Rogan has mentioned his name on air before, so I’m sure he’s always been on UFC’s radar, plus he can’t be happy at how DREAM handled his Aoki situation. If it wasn’t for his ACL, I would guess Cavalcante is the most likely announcement.

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  • Lethal says:

    We still have 4 days to go until the announcement, can’t wait to see what it’s going to be.

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  • Raker says:

    No offence Sam but we have a bigger change of seeing pigs fly before the UFC sell to anyone that was one of the reasons why the CBS deal fell through. Dana doesn’t want to give power to anyone because he feels they won’t do the UFC justice, so no the UFC won’t be selling anypart of itself to Fox or anyone else anytime soon.

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  • wait for it says:

    It is going to be a gladiator style contract system. Fighters will have to earn their continued contract and pay scale based on consecutive wins and loss ratio. The more consecutive wins the more fights you will be contracted for. 1 win = 1 more contract. 2 consecutive wins = 2 more contracts, etc. Pay scale bonus for consecutive wins.

    Possibly determine fight match ups due to internet polling methods to add more chaos into the mix.

    Also add pay per view internet streams. Depends on what they make now off of the unaired fights and previous cards now.

    Apple TV?

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  • i want free mma on t.v. if dana doesn`t screw that up i would let his f-bombs land him mind blowing statements! we`ll see soon!

    1: the stock market!

    gomi would be nice! elite ratings did him and his f-bombs in and dana does earn his take! the man never stops putting on the mma i love i need and are thankful for but the f##k`s!
    its like i`m 20 years old again with the guy!

    maybe he is coming out of the closet with ken and tito!
    the stock market would be good for his employees if he gives them shares!and if he does want to get out because of all his hard work and thanks he earned from people like me .

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  • crazy lazy says:

    My Guess:
    The WEC is moving to Japan to fill the void left by the fall of PrideFC….that would be very big news. and at the same time UFC will take the LHW and MW fighters into the UFC while adding 125 pounders to the WEC in their new home.

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  • wec moving is hard to believe!
    he… dana got his name down in history so i`m leaning towards mma legal in n.y. and the ufc going public on the stock market!

    b.j versus a.silva!
    chuck versus a.silva!
    msg in n.y. with penn versus gomi!
    ufc going to germany! with randy`s return!

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  • DH says:

    Some copy errors in this very good article.

    old=fold

    Ferritas= Fertittas

    “ESPN Live” = “MMA Live”

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  • DamonO says:

    Whatever the announcement is it’s not something that we have heard the UFC do before. Their “big” announcement is not signing someone or putting together a particular fight unless they bring Kimbo in to get his ass kicked (highly doubtful on that one too).

    It has to be a TV deal or a buyout. I don’t know. I just can’t think of anything that will shock the world besides selling the UFC to Donald Trump and his merger with Affliction.

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  • Sammo says:

    Possibly co-promotion with boxing??? Could explain all of the Mayweather talk. UFC co-promoting with Mayweather Promotions, with boxing and MMA on the same card?

    Seems far fetched but who knows!

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  • [...] Sam Caplan of 5oz. of Pain  runs through several possibilities before settling on these two: [...]

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  • KOuch says:

    I did not enjoy that article at all. Crappy opinion. I think for myself and disagree.

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  • DeeMo says:

    EliteXc Is a bootleg Showtime brand, the big news can only be that the UFC has a deal with a major rival brand like HBO. Or maybe the did buy Spike TV.

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  • hbo's oz says:

    hbo’s oz…

    I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read….

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