In an era of combat sports where terms like “super fight” and “money fight” are such popular buzzwords, the UFC has been catching some flack for its matchmaking strategy. The widespread worry is that the promotion is focused on booking the most lucrative fights, rather than fights between the best competitors available. In the opinion of UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein, however, these worries are a little unfounded.
Epstein defended the UFC’s matchmaking strategy in a recent chat with ESPN, assuring that it’s still based on competition, not profit.
“Competitive matchmaking is one of the hallmarks of the UFC,” Epstein said. “Yeah, you might do a Mayweather-McGregor fight here or there, or something the fans are dying to see, but at the end of the day, competitive matchmaking is what we do. I think it’s a bit of a misnomer to say we’ve gotten away from that.
“In boxing, you’ve got to be 20-0 before you become somebody, and yet you haven’t fought anybody. That’s not our model.”
In the same ESPN interview, UFC President Dana White also defended the promotion’s ability to build stars, pointing to surging heavyweight Francis Ngannou and rising bantamweight Sean O’Malley as a counterargument to anyone with these kinds of doubts.
“I hear that all the time, but who the f*ck builds more stars than we do in combat sports?” White said. “Nobody.”
White also assured that, despite rumors of a bad year of business, the UFC is still going strong. New UFC owners WME-IMG, he believes, are likely quite happy with their 2016 purchase of the promotion.
“F**k yeah, we delivered [on their investment],” he said. “We deliver every single year. And still, every year, if you listen to the media, we’re f**ked.”
What do you think of these comments from Dana White and Lawrence Epstein?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/9/2018.