What MMA Promotions are Most Thankful For

By: Patrick Auger
Nov 29, 2019
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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As is tradition during Thanksgiving, people across the United States have gathered with their families to consume a smorgasbord of home-cooked delights, enjoy a day off from their job (hopefully) and reflect on what they’re thankful for this holiday season. While the NFL will provide football for most households to watch as they slip into their food comas, none of the major players in mixed martial arts will be throwing leather this Turkey day as promotions, athletes and fans take a rare break from the year-long fight season. Given the respite from violence and festivities, I figured now would be a good time to give thought to what some of the biggest MMA promotions in the industry right now are most thankful for in 2019.

Combate Americas: Their Television Ratings

Campbell McLaren’s second foray into combat sports (third if you count The Iron Ring) seems to be going well so far. The co-creator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship launched Combate Americas back in 2011, and since then the promotion has successfully captured the underserved Hispanic market for combat. Ratings for Combate Americas have risen 33 percent year-over-year for some events, with multiple cards in 2019 beating out UFC prelims and Bellator MMA cards shown the same weekend. After inking a new broadcast deal with AXS TV earlier this month, Combate Americas has to be most thankful for the viewership that has continued to spur their growth.

One Championship: Their Current Roster

One Championship has made several moves this past year to break into the North American market, including signing a three-year partnership with Turner Sports that broadcasts One events on B/R Live and TNT. In preparation for the deal, One acquired several notable names in the sport, including former UFC champions Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez and Miesha Tate in an executive role. It was their homegrown talent that has shined in 2019, however, with Aung La N Sang winning the World MMA Awards International Fighter of the Year award and brother and sister duo Christian Lee and Angela Lee emerging as stars for the promotion. The combination of signing established stars as well as developing talent puts One in a good position to grow their brand moving into 2020 and beyond.

PFL: An Intact 2019 Championship Card

The Professional Fighters League’s second season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. The organization has been plagued with weight-cutting issues that saw multiple fights canceled during the regular season, with some fighters being kicked out of the organization for missing the mark more than once. To make matters worse, four fighters failed drug tests during the PFL Playoffs, including featherweight finalist Daniel Pineda who was scheduled to face Lance Palmer for the $1 million 145-pound prize on New Year’s Eve. Despite the issues the PFL was able to find a replacement for Pineda (even though Palmer has already beaten him twice this season) and the promotion has to be thankful that their last event of the year is, for the most part, intact, though we’ll have to wait and see how the weigh-ins go before we can say that for sure.

Bellator: Dazn deal/CBS-Viacom merger

Bellator has had a busy year that has produced some solid events, including the finals of the heavyweight grand prix in January and the welterweight GP in October. There were plenty of upsets and exciting events throughout the year, but ratings for and general enthusiasm for the promotion seemed to be middling in 2019. That being said, Bellator is on pace to generate $80 million in revenue for this year and projected to grow that to $100 million in 2020, largely in part to their lucrative deal with Dazn. On top of that, CBS and Bellator’s parent company, Viacom, have once again decided to merge, opening up the possibility of Bellator being shown on the long-standing broadcast network in 2020. Bellator has to be thankful for these deals as they strive to maintain their spot as the No. 2 MMA promotion in an ever-crowded industry.

UFC: The ESPN+ deal

There is no doubt that the UFC has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. Signing several new lucrative deals in emerging markets, the rise of new champions with crossover star potential such as Weili Zhang and Israel Adesanya and the return of Nate Diaz to the organization are just a few things the world’s largest MMA promotion should be grateful for this holiday season. Those things pale in comparison, however, to the UFC’s extension of their broadcast media rights deal with ESPN the company signed this past March. The guaranteed revenue the UFC receives from making ESPN+ the exclusive pay-per-view provider of the organization gives the promotion stability never seen before, ending the era of superstar dependency and leverage of fighters like Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar and Conor McGregor. While parent company Endeavor seems to be struggling, the UFC knows that they’re in great financial shape for the next several years no matter what happens, and Dana White and company have to be thankful for that. Advertisement

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