UFC/ZuffaJust What Is The “Next Level” For The UFC? Jay Anderson July 12, 2016 News, Promotions, Spotlight, UFC UFC 200 has come and gone. Brock Lesnar returned, successfully. Miesha Tate was unable to defend her bantamweight crown, falling to Amanda Nunes. Cain Velasquez announced he was back by wrecking Travis Browne. Overall, it was a successful night. Monday (late Sunday, really) came the news many in the know had been waiting for, however. The UFC, following the biggest event in its history to date, had been sold. Rumors of the sale had first come to light when Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden got wind of the deal, listing a few tidbits on his Twitter. Multiple stories from news outlets around the world followed. Everyone had a take on the potential sale of the world’s largest MMA promotion. Especially when the price tag was revealed: Four billion dollars. Try saying that without a Dr. Evil pinky-smile. The sale will be deconstructed for weeks if not months to come. The biggest news: Dana White will stay on as President. Lorenzo Fertitta will step down as CEO. That could get interesting, as Fertitta has often been the yin to White’s yang — or better yet, the level head to White’s fiery personality. In a tiff with Conor McGregor? Lorenzo will talk to Conor, and everything will get smoothed over. You get how it works. Without Fertitta as a go-to, what will happen with the UFC? Well, Dana White claims this sale will take it to the “next level.” What does that next level look like however? Let’s make a few predictions. International Expansion For years, the UFC has been trying to break through on the international scene. Outside strongholds like Canada, the U.S., and Brazil, they’ve had mixed success. The U.K., Australia, and now Ireland (thanks to the Mystic Mac effect) have all come on board and been very successful territories for the promotion, and they’ve made some inroads into mainland Europe, but there are an awful lot of nations yet to host a UFC event, or where the UFC is simply being outworked by smaller promotions. ONE FC is busy dominating Asia, despite the UFC’s efforts in China, which can only be labeled a failure at this point. They’ve renewed their push into Japan (and it’s nearly unthinkable that they couldn’t work magic there, having purchased Pride), but that seems on shaky footing, with Rizin FF getting more coverage there than anything else lately. India? Once upon a time that was a dream, but it never happened. Russia? Not close, at least not yet. Mexico? After Cain Velasquez lost his title in Mexico City, it gets nary a mention. TUF: Latin America didn’t seem to generate the interest that was anticipated. Yet all these markets remain huge potential areas of growth for the UFC — they just need the right people making the deals. That’s where WME-IMG can shine. With luck, some of these territories will see UFC events in the next year or two, and become key destinations for the promotion. Crossover Stars WME-IMG is already known for representing stars like Ronda Rousey. They were key in securing promotional deals for the likes of Jon Jones. Now, you have the owner of the promotion able to directly push its stars into other entertainment endeavors. Its finger can be on the pulse of who’s hot, and it can facilitate all sorts of crossover appearances. You think Paige VanZant was a big deal on Dancing with the Stars? Wait til she gets an appearance on a TV show, or Sage Northcutt gets booked in something. With this new ownership group, you’ll never hear the end of it. Not in the MMA world, or via sports journalism, but through the mainstream press. Between FOX and WME-IMG, several UFC stars could wind up media darlings, not just Ronda and Paige. Fighter Pay Improving. . . Slowly A lot of commentators seem to think the WME-IMG purchase of the UFC (or a majority of it, anyway) will be a good thing for the fighter’s bottom line. Yet no one can seem to put their finger on why. The honest answer is, because as new owners, they’ll want as few headaches as possible. Let’s not forget that the company is still facing an anti-trust case from former fighters regarding issues of pay and competition. While the Reebok deal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the bottom line for fighters is something the new owners can address. Rest assured, fighter pay isn’t about to increase exponentially overnight, but if they can nip some of the controversy in the bud with a slight bump in base fighter pay, they may just go ahead and do it. Why? Because this is a company that has experience on the other side of the table, making deals for stars. And we may just find they’re much better at securing alternate revenue streams than Zuffa was. Should they manage to break through into a few of those aforementioned foreign markets, that’s a little more money to go around. At the end of the day, the UFC is the fighters. Otherwise, you’ve got an empty cage.