Major UFC sponsor Anheuser-Bush has expressed their concern to Dana White & his promotion due to some of the unprofessional comments & actions fighters under contract to the promotion have made. Zuffa will have to take action soon if they don’t want to lose major sponsorship dollars.
Anheuser-Bush contacted the UFC about specific incidents caused by some of their fighters and the UFC has told them they intend to address this. For the sake of good business, they need to act quickly. We have seen this in other sports & the organizations tend to act fast to keep sponsors on board.
Last year a major Canadian airline, Air Canada, threatened to halt their sponsorship of the National Hockey League unless major penalties were given to players who caused other players serious injuries. Hits to the head were on the rise & some serious injuries had resulted. From a corporate standpoint they did not want to be associated with an entity that seemed to allow these actions without any punishment.
Anheuser-Bush is having a similar feeling. They do not want to be connected to a promotion that allows its fighters to make sexist or homophobic comments. Advocacy groups have criticized the UFC & its President Dana White over the years for comments made by people tied to the company or under contract to them. Now that someone who has financial ties to them has made this an issue, the UFC finally has to act.
With the UFC trying to go mainstream & securing a network TV deal with FOX & its cable affiliates, they have to begin acting in a respectful & professional manner. When a player in the NFL embarrasses the league, they fine or suspend the player immediately. They have a zero tolerance policy so that sponsors & networks are not perceived in a negative light being associated with them. When ownership or management is perceived as “soft,” sponsors can encounter problems from paying customers or shareholders. In business, the bottom line is everything. If something will affect business negatively, action has to be taken.
The UFC needs to come down hard on unprofessional behavior. With Anheuser-Bush recently signing a new multiyear agreement with the UFC they have a long term investment in place. Bud Light is displayed prominently in the octagon & on the octagon girls outfits so they are closely associated with the MMA juggernaut. MMA fans may not feel some of the comments are that bad but it is the non-fans who hear the negative news who may be affected. They may not continue to spend their dollars with that company if they don’t like the news associated with them. That is when the corporate sponsors step in to make sure their bottom line is not affected.
The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence has brought up several examples of negative actions by UFC fighters that need to be strongly reprimanded. They have raised the time Rampage Jackson urged a Japanese speaking fan to say “I’m a fag”. Also the time a Jerry Sandusky-Penn State joke was made at a UFC press conference not too long after the scandal broke. There were also some rape jokes made via Twitter by two fighters.
Whether you agree or disagree that the comments or actions are harmful or negative it comes down to simple business. As the UFC grows & garners more media attention the spotlight will be on its President & fighters much more. They now have a responsibility to a major television network & sponsors. If the UFC wants to keep those deals in place a strict policy will have to be drawn up. Fighters need to know what they can not say or do in public situations or on social media.
Dana White needs to begin to act much more professional as well. You would never see NFL commission Roger Goodell go on a profanity laced tirade about an athlete. NBA commissioner David Stern would not call a female reporter a derogatory term just because he doesn’t like something she did.
The UFC is not held in small venues or behind closed doors anymore. They are a large sports organization with international notoriety & needs to start acting like it. Some fans may not like this but the UFC knows it to be true & should act quickly in the very near future to keep those all important sponsorship dollars coming in.
Written by Mike McPhee
Follow me on Twitter @ManCaveMMA