Conor McGregor has retired and un-retired before, so it is possible he will return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
But if McGregor, who loves to talk as much as he loves to fight and loves to win, has indeed left the sport for good after months of career and legal troubles, U.F.C. will be without its most popular and recognizable fighter just as it is trying to expand its footprint in a crowded sports landscape.
“In the short run, they’ll miss the attention that Conor gives them, no doubt,” said Marshall Zelaznik, who spent 10 years as a U.F.C. executive before leaving in 2016. “For the longevity of a promotion, you need these kinds of stars.”
[Read: McGregor is under investigation in Ireland after an accusation of sexual assault.]
U.F.C. has churned out other athletes with crossover appeal. Jon Jones, the first mixed martial artist with a Nike signature shoe, recently returned from a 15-month doping suspension. Ronda Rousey, who has become a professional wrestler, regularly drew huge pay-per-view audiences as recently as 2016.
Now the sport is confronting a fallow period, with unfortunate timing. ESPN, the new U.F.C. broadcast partner, has taken over the sport’s pay-per-view distribution and will air the main events exclusively on its streaming network, ESPN+.
“It’s at a crossroads,” David Carter, the director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, said of U.F.C.
The company’s alignment with ESPN ushers a once renegade sport deeper into the mainstream. On top of a reported five-year, .5 billion deal struck last May that wrested the complete media rights package from Fox, ESPN paid an undisclosed fee to extend that deal through 2025 and become the only purveyor of pay-per-view fights in the United States. They will be shown exclusively on ESPN+, which costs .99 monthly. Main cards will cost an extra .99.
ESPN has not released any viewership data from ESPN+ beyond acknowledging in its quarterly earnings call in February that two million subscribers had signed up and that it attracted 568,000 new subscribers in January, when the initial deal with U.F.C. kicked in. It is unknown, for instance, whether people signed up for ESPN+ and then left — and if so, how many.
Even before McGregor retired on Tuesday, Carter said he believed this was a critical time for U.F.C., which is owned by Endeavor, a sports, entertainment and fashion content marketing company.
“Our metrics show that our fan base has significantly scaled,” said Mark Shapiro, the president of Endeavor, “and that M.M.A. viewers are buying the fights as much for the slate of fights as they are any one individual fighter.”
According to Nielsen data, through five live telecasts on ESPN’s main channels, U.F.C. is averaging 1,462,000 viewers, or more than twice as many as its fights averaged (707,000) on FS1 last year.
Still, U.F.C. appears to have reached a critical juncture in the same manner as other leagues, like the N.B.A., that struggled with sustainable star power during transition seasons.
The challenge for U.F.C., Carter said, is to develop the new fighters to supplant the old guard when, to some extent, fans will have to pay for an ESPN+ subscription to get to know them.
And lately casual sports fans have been hearing about U.F.C. largely in connection with fight cancellations or suspensions. Or in McGregor’s case, a suspension for his role in a brawl after he lost a fight in Las Vegas and criminal charges after he was caught on video last spring outside Barclays Center throwing a metal dolly into the window of a bus carrying U.F.C. athletes and employees. He pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn court to one count of disorderly conduct.
“That’s not limited to U.F.C. at all,” Carter said. “But at some point, I think at some point casual fans get fatigued by the circus element of it.”
By selling the rights to ESPN, U.F.C. no longer has to worry about some of the uncontrollable elements that affect pay-per-view purchases — injuries, suspensions, retirements. The venture is somewhat risky for ESPN as it tries to determine whether a substantial audience will quickly adapt to a new network and subscribe to ESPN+, but the deal represents a long-term investment.
ESPN did not make anyone available for comment, but a partnership with the network improves U.F.C.’s chances of becoming a topic of conversation on ESPN programs like SportsCenter and First Take.
“I do think they need to do a better job of building stars, making people stand out,” Chuck Liddell, one of the early U.F.C. stars, said in a telephone interview. “There’s so many fights now. Back in the day, there used to be six U.F.C. events. Now there’s what, 40?”
Under ESPN’s deal, there will be 42 nights of live events, including 12 on pay-per-view, which will increase the need for appealing fights. Zelaznik joined U.F.C. in 2006, in the middle of Liddell’s career. He said he could not recall feeling anxious about unearthing new talent, or there being a lull.
“The biggest difference right now is that when I came on, U.F.C. was the only game in town — it was the entire cola category,” said Zelaznik, who oversaw U.F.C.’s pay-per-view and digital business and is now the chief executive officer at Glory Sports International. “Now U.F.C. is clearly the Coke and Pepsi, and then there’s a lot of RC Cola and Shasta. The uniqueness has sort of worn off. The novelty isn’t what it was. People are familiar with it, so how do you make people care?”
That question is central to the growth of U.F.C., which wants to protect itself for the future while providing a return on ESPN’s investment. Michael Berman, executive vice president of programming and general counsel for In Demand, which until recently distributed U.F.C. fights to cable systems, said that interest had declined over the past few years, except for a few megaevents.
Across its 25 cards in 2017 and 2018, U.F.C. attracted 400,000 pay-per-view purchases — a threshold for what Berman considers substantial — only four times. U.F.C. events topped a million once, when Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor in October, according to MMAPayout.com, a website that tracks the business of mixed martial arts. In its 26 cards from 2015 to 2016, when Rousey and McGregor were fighting regularly, 13 pay-per-view bouts surpassed 400,000 purchases, and seven exceeded a million.
“There’s so much content available that it becomes very difficult to differentiate between a lower-level pay-per-view and a fight that had been appearing on Fox or FS1,” Berman said. “If you’ve got three weeks of U.F.C. programming and two are available for free and one is , the one that’s really has to stand out to pay that money. Without the big stars, it’s difficult to convince people to spend.”
That’s especially true, Berman added, now that people are spending on other streaming services like Hulu, Netflix or DAZN and will have to determine whether they want to pay for another.
“ESPN has that brand name and can build off that, but they’re not the only game in town,” Carter said.
The best way, Zelaznik said, to distinguish U.F.C. — to make people care — is to identify fighters as personalities.
Liddell knocked out people. Georges St-Pierre kept fans interested by defending his title nine consecutive times. Michael Bisping won a season of the reality television series “The Ultimate Fighter” — then won the middleweight title. If you don’t have a great fighter, Zelaznik said, you can’t make him a star.
“That’s when you need the Conors of the world — the Brock Lesnars, even the Jon Joneses,” Zelaznik said. “Otherwise you’re just fishing in the same pond, repurposing all of your fans. You’ve got to grow in this space or you die.”B:
苹果版安装彩库宝典【黑】【老】【怪】【站】【在】【玉】【石】【铺】【成】【的】【地】【面】【来】【回】【走】【动】，【好】【似】【有】【什】【么】【事】【情】【令】【他】【思】【来】【想】【去】【想】【不】【明】【白】【一】【样】。 【幽】【偌】【见】【门】【敞】【开】【着】，【直】【接】【走】【了】【进】【来】，【见】【黑】【老】【怪】【脸】【色】【难】【看】【问】【道】：“【老】【头】，【你】【这】【是】【怎】【么】【了】？” “【丫】【头】，【你】【醒】【了】。”【黑】【老】【怪】【带】【着】【些】【欣】【喜】【上】【前】，【但】【双】【眸】【深】【处】【却】【又】【布】【满】【担】【忧】。 “【师】【姐】，【你】【怎】【么】【样】【了】？”【傻】【福】【正】【坐】【在】【床】【上】【养】【伤】，【听】【见】【声】
【小】【区】【基】【本】【信】【息】pk【温】【泉】【谷】 【海】【南】【恒】【大】【御】【景】【湾】 【区】【县】【商】【圈】 【金】【江】 【老】【城】 【小】【区】【地】【址】 【澄】【迈】【县】【金】【马】【大】【道】【西】【侧】 【老】【城】【经】【济】【开】【发】【区】【南】【海】【大】【道】【西】【延】【长】【线】【九】【龙】【温】【泉】【酒】【店】【对】【面】 【建】【筑】【年】【代】 2015-08-01 2016-06-01 【总】【户】【数】 3908 6750 【容】【积】【率】 1.70 2.50 【物】【业】【公】【司】 【海】【南】【恒】【禾】【物】【业】【有】【限】【公】【司】 【金】【碧】【物】【业】【有】【限】【公】【司】【海】【南】【分】【公】【司】 【物】【业】【费】 1.3【元】/【平】【米】·【月】 1.8【元】/㎡·【月】
【林】【蓉】【有】【些】【愣】【住】【了】，【儿】【子】【在】【她】【印】【象】【里】【虽】【然】【话】【不】【多】，【有】【主】【意】【倔】【强】，【但】【是】【还】【不】【曾】【这】【样】【冷】【淡】【的】【和】【自】【己】【说】【过】【话】。 “【你】【这】【是】【决】【定】【为】【了】【女】【朋】【友】【和】【妈】【妈】【吵】【架】【了】？【我】【作】【为】【你】【的】【母】【亲】，【难】【道】【还】【不】【能】【在】【未】【来】【的】【儿】【媳】【人】【选】【的】【事】【情】【上】【发】【表】【意】【见】【吗】？” “【妈】【妈】，【我】【一】【直】【很】【尊】【重】【你】，【也】【没】【有】【提】【过】【什】【么】【过】【分】【的】【要】【求】。”【说】【到】【这】【里】【时】【与】【之】【短】【暂】【的】【暂】【停】【了】苹果版安装彩库宝典【来】【到】【由】【城】【主】【出】【资】【建】【成】【的】【展】【会】【门】【前】，【驻】【守】【在】【展】【会】【门】【前】【的】【守】【卫】【远】【要】【比】【衙】【门】【口】【多】【的】【多】。 【东】【西】【两】【侧】，【各】【排】【列】【着】【十】【五】【名】【守】【卫】，【每】【一】【个】【人】【脸】【上】【的】【神】【情】【都】【显】【得】【十】【分】【严】【肃】，【好】【给】【人】【的】【感】【觉】，【这】【里】【才】【是】【真】【正】【的】【衙】【门】【一】【般】。 【在】【鲍】【罗】【身】【后】，【有】【不】【少】【城】【里】【的】【居】【民】【进】【出】【其】【中】，【并】【没】【有】【所】【谓】【的】【收】【费】【标】【准】，【展】【会】【是】【免】【费】【对】【外】【开】【放】【的】。 【有】【人】【说】，
【就】【拿】【天】【子】【大】【婚】【之】【时】，【曹】【昂】【蔡】【琰】【入】【长】【安】，【蔡】【琰】【不】【是】【住】【在】【曹】【静】【这】【边】【吗】，【他】【估】【计】【都】【没】【回】【过】【蔡】【家】。【在】【家】【从】【夫】【啊】！ “【夫】【君】【尽】【管】【放】【心】，【意】【儿】【本】【来】【就】【聪】【慧】，【只】【是】【夫】【君】，【你】【要】【不】【要】【再】【带】【点】【人】。” 【董】【杭】【摆】【摆】【手】，【说】【道】：“【不】【用】，【有】【宋】【宪】【领】【着】【亲】【卫】【军】【就】【可】【以】【了】，【况】【且】【有】【校】【事】【府】【那】【四】【位】【女】【侠】【跟】【着】【我】【呢】，【她】【们】【和】【吴】【忧】【一】【样】，【都】【是】【江】【湖】【上】【一】【等】
【别】【看】【这】【客】【栈】【里】【客】【人】【多】，【上】【菜】【速】【度】【倒】【还】【不】【慢】，【很】【快】【热】【腾】【腾】【的】【菜】【便】【上】【了】【桌】。 “【终】【于】【有】【得】【吃】【了】！” 【枯】【明】【两】【眼】【放】【光】，【像】【是】【饿】【久】【了】【的】【猛】【兽】【瞧】【见】【猎】【物】，【毫】【不】【犹】【豫】【便】【拿】【起】【了】【筷】【子】。 【上】【水】【也】【紧】【随】【其】【后】。 【至】【于】【枯】【墨】【与】【上】【邪】，【还】【没】【来】【得】【及】【闻】【清】【味】【道】，【第】【一】【道】【菜】【就】【已】【经】【不】【剩】【多】【少】【了】。 【对】【于】【枯】【明】【与】【上】【水】【来】【说】，【这】【只】【是】【开】【胃】【而】【已】
【什】【么】？ 【清】【酒】【听】【到】【这】【一】【指】【令】，【在】【心】【里】【高】【呼】“【下】【属】【做】【不】【到】”【啊】。 【他】【也】【是】【要】【脸】【的】【人】，【好】【伐】。 【清】【酒】【打】【死】【也】【不】【愿】【意】【那】【样】【做】。 【可】【白】【景】【延】【还】【在】【他】【耳】【边】【拼】【命】【的】【催】【促】：“【赶】【紧】【去】。” 【清】【酒】【心】【一】【横】，【冒】【死】【的】【摘】【掉】【了】【那】【耳】【机】。 【这】【是】【他】【第】【一】【回】【反】【抗】【主】【子】【的】【命】【令】。 【生】【怕】【白】【景】【延】【又】【要】【他】【去】【做】【那】【些】【可】【怕】【的】【事】【情】，【清】【酒】【不】【敢】【再】
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