If you’ve visited MMA Chronicle over the past few months, you’ll notice that the site has recently undergone an overhaul. I sat down at the computer tonight to attempt to write a heartfelt article explaining why I had decided to change formats for MMA Chronicle, converting it from a news site to a blog, especially so soon after it relaunched at Christmas. I realized that the format change is really about me personally and what my goals are in writing about mixed martial arts.

I write about MMA because I enjoy it. I enjoy watching it, but I might even enjoy analyzing it, dissecting it, writing about it even more. I had stopped writing about this stuff for a few years because it stopped being fun. Up until mid 2006 I was writing for MaxFighting.com (which I guess is long dead now). That site was originally owned by Bruce Buffer, but he sold it to mma.tv. I left after they changed the site in ways that I thought sucked.

At that point I decided to quit writing MMA altogether. It stopped being fun. I was actually making money at it at that point and my book was moderately successful for what it was. I definitely had no problem getting paid to watch UFC or Pride or whatever, because I would have done it for free anyway. Well, up to a point. When it started to feel like work, I didn’t want anything to do with it and I quit in 2006, when the sport was probably at the height of its popularity. Probably not the best idea for my so-called MMA writing career, but at least I can never be accused of being a bandwagon jumper since I jumped off when everybody else was jumping on.

And then I jumped back on a few months ago. I’m not sure why I started writing again. I always intended to at some point even if I was insisting I didn’t. It just had been so many years. I had thought about returning off and on for ages, although I had considered writing about pro wrestling exclusively, or doing a mix of wrestling and MMA. To me, pro wrestling and mixed martial arts are the same thing. Yes, one is staged and the other is (mostly) real. But these guys wrestle for a living. They get paid to wrestle. They are pro wrestlers. To paraphrase the late, great George Carlin, let’s all use the language we’ve agreed upon here.

But I decided to write MMA again. Best to stick to what you know, see. It’s weird, too, because I feel that after years of covering it, writing about it, studying it, developing a network of contacts in the sport and its industry, I had a lot to offer, even though I hadn’t bothered to offer anything in a long time. I know its history better than all but a handful of people, mainly because I’ve been so close to the sport during many of its crucial moments. And writing a book about the history of UFC fighters certainly helps with the history stuff. I know the business, because I was always interested in its industry. I know the sport because, well, I’m a fan.

And I’m a student, too. I enjoy studying it. When I used to write for Maxfighting, I would get hate email from people accusing me of just being some guy behind a computer and that I have no clue what I’m talking about and thus no one should pay attention to me. You know what the difference is, the real difference? A fan is someone who watches a few pay per views, if that, or scopes out UFC or Bellator fights on TV. They know the stars. They know the names of some of the submission holds. But they’re just fans. These fans would become fans of something else if UFC fell off the face of the Earth tomorrow. After all, what were all these people fans of back when no one was watching UFC before The Ultimate Fighter debuted?

I’m a fan. And no shit, I am just a guy behind a computer. But I’m also a student, and that’s the difference. I’m interested in the business and feel that someone cannot possibly understand the decisions that promoters make without understanding how the business operates. And I study fight history. I believe that it is impossible to understand why something is happening if you don’t know what happened before. If you understand the history of a topic, you can make up your own mind about what is happening now. If you know the history of the sport and its industry, you can make up your own mind about what is going on now, be it TRT, or international expansion of UFC, or digital distribution, or whatever. Orwell was right when he said who controls the past controls the future. But you can’t control the past if you don’t understand. And I’m not even interested in control; just knowledge.

I’m not an expert. I’m a student. There have been times where I’ve written something I thought was excellent and I knew for a fact that practically no one read it. It didn’t matter. I don’t write about this for you. I write about this for me. If I cared about money, or popularity, or ego, I would have sent my resume to all the millions of different MMA news web sites that suddenly popped up back in 2006. That’s almost nothing to me.

What I care about is my personal joy. I care about the satisfaction I get from studying something I like. Satisfying the reader doesn’t do a lot for me if it doesn’t satisfy me first, that is, unless, you want to paypal me some cash.

So, the site’s format change: I hate writing news. There’s that awful veneer of journalism when it comes to news writing where I’m not quite saying what I want to say while I’m reporting on whatever topic. I’m even not quite saying what I want to say now, just hoping you’ll fill in the blanks and catch my meaning. But when it comes to simply reporting on the news, I rarely get a chance to break through the veneer and say what I’m truly thinking. Plus, there are like a hundred million MMA news sites; only about two or three of them are any good. I don’t need to throw another corpse into that pile of rubbish.

A blog is perfect. It’s a mouthpiece, a platform, a soapbox. I get to enjoy what I write and write what I enjoy. That is it. I hated writing a news site, but I love to write about MMA. My preference is, and always will be, to write in print, because I think my style of writing is easier to read on the printed page than on a computer screen. Maybe our culture is rapidly coming to the point where no one will read on paper at all. The trees will thank us, but there’s a certain quality of writing in print that doesn’t exist online. I don’t know if Orwell would have figured out who controls the past controls the future if he had published 1984 as an ebook. And could you imagine reading Tolstoy on a laptop? Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I hope you’re filling in the blanks and catching my meaning.

Anyway, this blog certainly isn’t Orwell or Tolstoy. It isn’t a news site or a print publication. It’s a blog. My blog. I’ve written about MMA for many, many years. Not as long as some, but longer than most. My goal is to write about its industry and history, and whatever else I fancy. I have a firm grasp on what MMA is and what it ought to be. If you’re interested in what that is, you’re interested in reading my site. And if not, exit through the gift shop.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) announced on Feb 27 that it had unanimously approved a motion to ban therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in Nevada, effective immediately. The ban includes the sports of boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts and covers all future and past applicants of TRT exemptions in these sports.

The ban was passed after ESPN’s Outside the Lines featured an article on Feb 25 comparing the high rate of TRT exemptions in mixed martial arts relative to other sports. Also, the Association for Ringside Physicians released a consensus statement on TRT exemptions on Jan 27 supporting the general elimination of these exemptions in combat sports.

Hours after the ban, Vitor Belfort withdrew from his title fight against UFC Middleweight champion Chris Weidman. The bout was scheduled to take place at UFC 173 in Las Vegas on May 24. Belfort’s likely application for a TRT exemption for the fight had become a controversial issue, as there were many in mixed martial arts who felt he should not be granted approval considering his past failure for 4-Hydroxytestosterone, a PED (performance enhancing drug), in Nevada after a Pride fight in Las Vegas on Oct 21, 2006. Belfort has been undergoing TRT since 2011.

The bout was announced a few weeks after Keith Kizer stepped down as NSAC Executive Director. Kizer was an outspoken opponent of TRT exemptions.

Belfort has been replaced by Lyoto Machida, who is coming off a win over Gegard Mousasi at Fight Night 36 on Feb 15. UFC announced the new fight on the Feb 27 edition of Fox Sports Live.

“I’m really excited for this opportunity to fight UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman,” Machida said in a statement. “I’m going to train hard and be well prepared for this fight.”

On Feb 28, however, Belfort released a statement on his Facebook page claiming that he did not withdraw from the fight, but that UFC forced him out.

“I never gave up on UFC 173 fight and never said that. Any information about it in the media is not true,” Belfort wrote on Facebook. “What I said was that I’ll ‘quit on TRT’, and not ‘quit on the fight’, to continue my dream to fight.”

Belfort said that he needed more time to prepare for the fight with Weidman, and that he expects to face the winner of Weidman-Machida. “The UFC has decided to put another opponent in my place because of the fact that I won’t have time to suit NSAC’s new rules,” Belfort said. “According to the UFC, I will fight the winner of Weidman vs. Lyoto under the athletic commission new rules.”

Belfort’s attorney Neal Tabachnick reiterated Belfort’s story with MMAWeekly.com. “The reason for Zuffa replacing Vitor with Lyoto for the May 2014 middleweight championship bout was because of the Commission’s change in direction on TRT/TUE yesterday,” Tabachnick said. “Zuffa felt that with this change at the Commission, there is no time for Vitor to drop his TRT program, secure a license for a May 2014 bout, and leave Zuffa with time to properly promote the bout.”

UFC released an official statement concerning the status of the Weidman title fight, and Belfort’s future in the UFC. “Belfort, who has previously been granted therapeutic use exemptions, recognizes that he needs an extended period of time to become licensed in the state of Nevada,” UFC wrote. “With [UFC 173] scheduled to go on sale shortly, Belfort agreed to withdraw from the fight in order to allow the UFC’s promotional efforts to move forward on time.”

The NSAC administered a voluntary, out-of-competition drug test on Belfort while he was at an MMA awards show in Las Vegas on Feb 7. The NSAC has the results of the test, but are disallowed from revealing them to the public. Belfort is not currently licensed to fight in Nevada and has not provided the NSAC with permission to release the test results. And he doesn’t have to. The test was administered to “facilitate its due diligence since the commission was aware that Belfort would soon be applying for a license to fight Chris Weidman in Las Vegas in May,” according to NSAC Chairman Francisco Aguilar while speaking to MMA Weekly.

“The test is not relevant as Vitor is not applying for a license to fight in Nevada at this time,” said Tabachnick.

The ban on TRT exemptions includes both new applicants for TUEs and fighters who have received TUEs from the NSAC in the past. NSAC Commissioner Skip Avansino proposed the motion after a discussion among the NSAC’s Commissioners about the possibility of a statewide ban occurring. Avansino’s motion was seconded by Commissioner Pat Ludvall. Avansino argued that the NSAC did not have the resources to effectively monitor exemptions. Avansino and Lundvall also stated that the NSAC has no obligation to honour exemptions issued by other states.

“I’m comfortable with the information we have before us, and I would welcome and encourage the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) to look at this issue for all commissions in all states across the country,” said Francisco Aguilar, Chairman of the Commission. “I think it’s important that there be a standard set, and I think we’re not afraid of making that standard known, and then following the discussion after this point in time.”

“I do believe that this is something that gives people an unfair advantage for these actual benefits,” continued Aguilar. “And I think that it’s unfair for those fighters who are lucky enough to not have to go through the process. It’s not fair to them when they have to meet a competitor who is, somehow, could be [using] an advantage.”

“Over the last six months, we have been able to learn and understand more about this issue and we were able to ask questions and gain insights into what this is. With a full grasp of the issue and that knowledge we gained, we were able to make the decision to end [handing out TUEs] effective immediately.”

“I know in granting TUEs for TRT in the past, it caused me a great burden because there is always a person there fighting on the other side who isn’t asking for anything, who is going to be tested, who is going to be tested randomly, and is clean,” said NSAC Chairman Bill Brady. “So I think we have an obligation to the fighter who doesn’t want an exemption and is clean; an obligation to them to make sure they’re getting an honest and fair fight. So if this takes away that judgment that I have never liked, that I’ve been uncomfortable when I’ve been involved in it, then I think this is an appropriate motion and one that I support.”

“In my medical opinion, and this is my opinion, I would assume that if someone has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, or is known to have used performance enhancing drugs, I would assume that’s the cause of their low testosterone,” argued Dr. Timothy Trainor, a consulting physician for the NSAC.

Trainor estimates that less than 1% of the general population is affected by primary hypogonadism, the most common reason why fighters apply for TRT exemptions. Past steroid abuse can replicate primary hypogonadism.

Marquee fighters that have received TUEs for TRT by athletic commission in the US include Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, Quinton Jackson, and Antonio Silva, among others. Henderson, Mir, Griffin, Sonnen, as well as Shane Roller and Todd Duffee are six fighters that have received exemptions for TRT in Nevada specifically.

The UFC subsequently released a statement supporting the NSAC’s decision and announced that it would also ban TRT exemptions:

“The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT),” said UFC President Dana White. “We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling.”

White told MMAFighting.com after the ban was issued that UFC will disallow TRT exemptions on international shows where the UFC acts as its own regulatory body and conducts its own testing.

“We follow Nevada,” White said.

White had also appeared on BT Sport a few days prior to Nevada’s ban, where he discussed the issue of TRT exemptions. “When you really break it down and look at it. It’s science. As you get older, your testosterone starts to get older and science has figured out a way to get it back up to even,” said White. “But, like in all things, when money is involved, people will find ways to cheat. Even though this thing is legal, people have figured out how to cheat on it, so it has to go away.”

White continued, “What it is, it ruins good fighters. Once you get on this stuff, or any type of steroid, you can’t get off it. You have to continue to use it because once you start using it, your body stops producing it like it did before, so, it’s definitely not good for you. It’s made for 45, 60-year old men. That’s what it’s meant for. It’s not meant for young well conditioned athletes.”

White, as well as the UFC itself, has had an inconsistent position on the usage of TRT exemptions in the sport. Belfort claims that it was a UFC doctor that started his TRT therapy in 2011. Quinton Jackson made a similar claim in 2012, according to ESPN.

Other athletic commission’s may follow Nevada’s lead. The UFC is obligated to follow suit when it comes to the decisions made by other athletic commissions. Should another athletic commission allow (or continue to allow) TRT exemptions, UFC would have to follow the commission’s guidelines.

On Feb 28 the CABMMA, Brazil’s national athletic commission, announced they would no longer issue TUEs for TRTs.

“We discussed this subject for a long time here at CABMMA,” CABMMA’s medical director Dr. Marcio Tannure told SporTV News. “As we use Nevada’s athletic commission as a model, we decided to make the same decision here in Brazil and no longer grant TRT exemptions for any fighter.”

Dan Henderson, who is scheduled to fight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Natal on Mar 23, has applied and received approval for a TUE for TRTs in Brazil. He is exempt from the CABMMA’s ban because he submitted his application before the ruling take place. He will be the last fighter granted a TRT exemption in Brazil.

“Dan Henderson already requested the exemption, but I don’t know yet if he’ll be granted. I believe that Dan Henderson will get an exemption for this fight.,” Dr. Tannure said.

Dr. Tannure was originally hesitant about CABMMA’s position on banning TRT exceptions when the NSAC’s band was announced. “We already debate this subject for a long time here in Brazil. Is a controversial subject, but it’s on the rule,” Tannure said just a day before CABMMA announced their own ban. “We may change our dealing or not. We haven’t made a decision about it yet.”

The Association for Boxing Commissions (ABC) will be asking their medical and legal committees for opinions on the NSAC’s ban, but is recommending that member commissions follow current protocols for TRT exemptions.

“I will ask the medical committee to consider and review Nevada’s new position on the matter which is a strong deviation from their past practice,” ABC President Tim Lueckenhoff said in a statement to MMAJunkie.com. “I will also ask our legal committee to counsel us about the legal ramifications, if any, from an outright ban without exception for any reason.”

Andy Foster, the Executive Director of the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), said that California would maintain its current policies regarding TRT exemptions. New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) Director Nick Lembo told MMA Fighting that New Jersey would review the NSAC’s decision, but won’t make any immediate changes to their policies on TRT exemptions.

In June 2013, the CSAC put TRT exemptions for new applicants on hold until they could update their bylaws making exemptions more difficult to acquire. The CSAC, however, did not plan on rejecting an application for a TUE for TRTs for fighters who have been previously granted an exemption in California.

New Jersey released a media statement following the NSAC’s ban:

“Since January 1, 2008, NJ has had 4,930 MMA contestants compete in agency regulated bouts.

The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board has only granted one initial TRT therapeutic use exemption of those 4,930 MMA contestants. That one exemption was subsequently revoked when that individual failed an agency required random monitoring test several months subsequent to his NJ bout contest date.

The NJSACB has also honored exemptions to two of the 4,930 MMA contestants based on exemptions originally granted in multiple other jurisdictions and after additional testing and board certified endocrinologist documentation was supplied.

The NJSACB has refused TRT exemptions to over a dozen applicant contestants.

In addition, the NJSACB has never granted a TUE for TRT to any of the multitude of professional boxers, Thai fighters or kick boxers subject to its purview.

At this juncture, the NJSACB will continue to adhere to the very strict International Olympic Committee therapeutic use exemption standards.”

Coherency in policy among the various state athletic commissions on the issue of TRT exemptions is important because the UFC is obligated to follow the laws of any state it holds events in. That means, while UFC’s official company policy may now be against TRT exemptions and they will not grant TRT exemptions for international UFC shows where they act as their own regulatory body, the UFC must honour the laws concerning TRT exemptions in states like New Jersey, California, and elsewhere. So, if New Jersey says they are permitting TRT exemptions, then UFC fighters can possibly receive TRT exemptions if fighting in New Jersey. Likewise with California, or any other state that choose to allow or to continue to allow TRT exemptions.

If the UFC is truly serious about the end of TRT exemptions for UFC fighters, they can get around states that permit TRT exemptions by simply not booking fighters likely to ask for TRT exemptions in these states. That isn’t foolproof, as the company couldn’t know who may or may not ask for a TRT exemption in the future, but fighters such as Belfort, Sonnen, and Dan Henderson, among others, can simply not be booked in states where the athletic commission would grant them a TUE for TRTs.

UFC hasn’t pulled Henderson from his Mar 23 fight against Mauricio Rua in Brazil, even though Henderson has applied for and will (or already has) likely be granted a TUE for TRT use. At this point, days removed from the ban by both the NSAC and the CABMMA, it would seem unlikely that UFC would pull Henderson from the fight. There has been no indication the promotion has even considered pulling Henderson, even though allowing him to fight would be inconsistent with the company’s stance against TRT exemptions.

The problem with allowing Henderson to fight while receive a TUE for TRTs is that if the UFC truly believes it is a form of cheating, then they are allowing a fighter to cheat after company policy has been set against the use of TRT exemptions. Many people have always seen TRT exemptions as a legalized form of cheating, but it is particularly egregious to allow someone to fight while receiving a TRT exemption after company policy has come out against exemptions.

That Henderson is booked on a show governed by an outside athletic commission allows the UFC to save face because they can simply say that they must acknowledge the decision of the governing athletic commission (which is true). But an interesting question to ask is what would the UFC do about Henderson if he was instead booked to fight on an international show where the UFC was its own regulatory body? Would they announce support for the NSAC’s ban of TRT exemptions, and then announce that, due to short notice, they will permit Henderson a TRT exemption for one more fight? UFC effectively pulled Belfort from his fight with Weidman in Nevada. A consistent company policy would have UFC do the same with Henderson in Brazil.

Reactions to the ban ran from supportive, to recalcitrant, to plain bizarre.

Chris Weidman was supportive of the NSAC’s decision. “This is an amazing day for the sport,” Weidman told MMA Fighting. “This is something that I’ve wanted to see happen for quite some time. TRT was and has always been cheating, and I’m glad Nevada finally recognized that, especially since I’m about to fight there against a known TRT user. Hopefully, every other athletic commission follows because this was long overdue. If you need TRT to fight, you shouldn’t fight. Period.”

“Very happy to see TRT banned, absolutely a ridiculous idea to start with and a major factor of my personal retirement from fighting,” wrote former UFC fighter and current colour commentator Brian Stann on Twitter.

Others that issues support on Twitter for the NSAC’s ruling included long-time UFC referee John McCarthy, colour commentator Kenny Florian, and fighters Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Stefan Struve, Josh Barnett, Tim Kennedy, Cody Gibson, Ulysses Gomez, and Jimi Manuwa, among others. Georges St-Pierre told media in Montreal that he supported the NSAC’s decision, but that there should be drug testing by an organization that does not make any money from mixed martial arts events (the NSAC collects a tax, which is what St-Pierre might have been referring to).

Michael Bisping told MMA Junkie that Vitor Belfort specifically will find another way of cheating, but was supportive of the NSAC’s ban.

“It’s nice to know they’re being branded the cheats they have always been,” Bisping said. “They’ve been chemically enhancing their bodies for quite some time, and I always took a hard stance against it. Fortunately, the UFC and the Nevada athletic commission are branding it for what it is; it’s an unfair advantage and whole thing is just a mockery to the whole concept of sport and fair competition.”

Some were not so supportive of the NSAC’s decision. Alex Davis, manager of Antonio Silva among many other fighters, told MMA Fighting that he was against the decision.

“I think it’s wrong because many people need it for medical reasons,” said Davis. “If you have low testosterone, you need it. They shouldn’t ban it. Some people abuse testosterone in many cases, but I don’t think that banning TRT will change it because there are other ways to cheat the drug tests.

“That’s not the solution. We need better testing. There are a lot of PEDs that we don’t even know yet, but people are using it.

“The only athlete I manage that is on TRT is ‘Bigfoot,’ and it’s proven clinically that he needs it,” continued Davis. “He’s not cheating or anything like that. If you have low testosterone, you should have the right to use it to get your testosterone to normal levels.” Silva tested positive for elevated testosterone by the UFC after his fight with Mark Hunt in Australia in December, his second positive test for PEDs.

And in the bizarre category, former UFC fighter Matt Riddle made a few headlines when he claimed that Dana White is bald, insecure, and taking TRT himself.

“Honestly, [White] just can’t help himself,” said Riddle. “Unfortunately, we have a very insecure, bald man who uses TRT as the President of the UFC. When he sees a dude like me, who is 28 and all I do is rip tubes and kick ass, maybe some part of him doesn’t like me. I don’t know why, I’ve never been mean to him.”

The average thirty-year-old man has a total testosterone level between 300ng/dL and 1100ng/dL. In New Jersey, for instance, a fighter with a TRT exemption cannot test above 700ng/dL, or it is considered a failure.

If a man supplements his own hormone levels with an external source of testosterone, it prevents his own natural ability to produce testosterone. Depending on dosage, duration, and preparation type, the usage of an external source of testosterone can cause a man to become dependent on testosterone replacement therapy in order to be healthy. Thus, if a fighter uses enough PEDs for a long enough time, they become dependent on them not to raise their testosterone above healthy levels, but simply to keep testosterone at healthy levels.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines found that the average age when an MMA fighter is granted a TRT exemption is 32. The youngest was 24.

PEDs increase musculature, strength, and aggressiveness. Post-workout recovery is also faster. Cardio may decline, because PEDs cause the musculature to become so massive that more blood is required to be pumped by the heart, putting a strain on the heart and other vital organs. High blood pressure and increased tendon tears are also complications caused by PED usage.

Psychological addiction is also common, meaning fighters believe they need PEDs to compete and can’t be competitive without them, as are mood swings. Any doctor can prescribe PEDs, but board certified endocrinologists are the most common types of doctors sought out by fighters looking for TRT exemptions.

The PED tests conducted by the NSAC only look at the testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio. They are easy to beat if a fighter uses PEDs throughout training and knows when to taper off.

Nevada’s ban on TRT exemptions was passed only a few days after ESPN’s web site published a stunning report on the number of TRT users in mixed martial arts. The ESPN report, by journalist Mike Fish, found that regulatory bodies for other sports rarely, if ever, gave out exemptions for TRT.

For example, the International Olympic Committee did not issue a single TRT exemption at the 2012 Olympics, despite featuring 5,892 male athletes. The US Anti-Doping Agency issued only one TRT exemption in 2013 among its thousands of athletes. MLB has issued only six over the past six seasons, despite an average of 1,200 players being on MLB rosters each season. The NFL claims TRT exemptions are rare. And no boxer has ever been issued a TRT exemption by a state athletic commission. The NSAC has never even received an application for a TRT exemption from a boxer, which is astounding when one considers boxing a cousin sport of mixed martial arts, with similar physical and psychological demands.

In the past five years, at least fifteen mixed martial artists have been issued TRT exemptions.

According to ESPN, many states don’t test for PEDs. For states that do they are confined to post-fight testing, with Nevada believed to be the only state that attempts out-of-competition testing. Little is known about UFC’s testing for their own international events. In comparison, the NFL and the MLB conduct year-round, random testing.

Hypogonadism is believed to be common in less than 0.1% of the male population of thirty-year-olds. And many anti-doping agencies do not believe that low-normal levels of a hormone such as testosterone is enough to warrant a TRT exemption anyway.

The ESPN piece also set about to debunk the theory that hypogonadism among mixed martial artists is more common than in the general population because of head trauma caused by participating in the sport, as opposed to the abuse of PEDs.

“Quite frankly, [Belfort] has hypogonadism,” said Dr. John Pierce, medical director of the Ageless Forever clinic in Las Vegas, who has treated Belfort. “Now why is that caused? I don’t know. More than likely it is secondary to repetitive head trauma over the years.”  Dr. Pierce also makes the same claim about head trauma being the cause of low testosterone in former UFC Heavyweight champion Frank Mir.

The argument is that repeated head trauma causes damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland in the brain, which harms the release of natural testosterone in the body. Most instances where this is the case have been caused by extreme injury, including cerebral hemorrhage. It would also cause multiple hormones to be affected, not just testosterone.

ESPN interviewed four endocrinologists and neuropathologists who said that they were “unaware of any controlled studies in which it had been shown head trauma in an athlete had shut down hormone production.”

Even if one were to be generous to Dr. Pierce’s arguments about head trauma being the cause of hypgonadism among mixed martial arts and assume that he is correct, then that in itself is a good argument as to way a fighter who required TRT due to hypogonadism caused by head trauma should be disallowed from fighting. If someone has taken so many blows to the head that their brain cannot produce enough testosterone to live a healthy life, then that fighter should not be licensed to fight.

Alternatively, if Dr. Pierce is incorrect and hypogonadism among mixed martial artists is caused by prior abuse of PEDs, then those fighters that require TRT should still be disallowed from fighting because it is giving them a permission slip to make-up for past instances of cheating. Fighters who require TRT because of PED abuse are using it simply as an escape plan for physical damage they have incurred from cheating in the first place. This ought to be disallowed in mixed martial arts. Thus, whether caused by the specific circumstances of head trauma or by PED abuse, TRT exemptions for hypogonadism should be disallowed for mixed martial artists.

“What people have to understand is a [testosterone exemption] is granted for a disease, not for a [low] lab value,”  Dr. Richard Auchus, a consultant to USADA and leading endocrinologist at the University of Michigan, told ESPN. “If you say idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, meaning ‘I don’t know why you have it, but you have low testosterone production and there is nothing wrong with your testes’ — well, that can happen because you are taking exogenous androgen [steroids]. That doesn’t cut it.”

“Most notably, we must bear in mind that the blanket elimination of TUEs alone will not mean that PED usage and abuse will be reduced in these combat sports,” Dr. Sherry Wulkan, lead ringside physician for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and the Association of Boxing Commissions, said in response to the Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) call for a ban on TRT exemptions, released in January.

Shortly after the ARP’s statement was released, Dr. Wulkan released a statement:

“In my opinion, the determination as to whether athletes requiring replacement therapy should be allowed to compete is an administrative decision for the athletic Commissioners and Executive Directors,”  Wulkan said.

“The determination as to whether or not a patient currently requires a given therapeutic intervention is a medical decision. It is incumbent upon physicians to treat patients, (provided the appropriate work-up and documentation has been done), to help assure their best quality of life. The ABC medical committee, which I serve as Co-Chair with Dr. Wayne Lee, in 2011, published strict requirements to determine whether, in fact, a TUE for TRT should be granted. We had already established guidelines which fully addressed the concerns now raised in the ARP’s press release. ‘Steroid use’ and ‘unmerited testosterone’ have never been supported or encouraged by any combat sports physician or athletic commission of which I am aware. However, some athletic commissions have been lax in their drug testing for PEDs for all athletes.”

Wulkan went on to describe the procedure for a fighter to receive a TRT exemption in New Jersey:

“In New Jersey, it is a very onerous procedure to be considered for the grant of a TUE for TRT.

“The procedures in New Jersey, are as follows:

A letter from a Board Certified Endocrinologist stating that the athlete stopped all hormone replacement therapy for a minimum of 8 weeks prior to repeat testing. The letter should include copies of medical records that address the following issues:

If the athlete has been on testosterone (T) therapy already, then the combatant should cease using testosterone therapy for at least two months, preferably three, before measuring baseline T

Measurements must be made using an accurate method such as calculated free testosterone by equilibrium dialysis

Results should demonstrate T levels consistently below the low normal value for the reference laboratory

The obtained values must be interpreted by a Board Certified Endocrinologist in this case.

Provide LH and FSH values measured at the same time as T above. In this case, the obtained values must be interpreted by an endocrinologist.

Provide results from stimulation of the gonadal axis by hCG as applicable

Provide confirmation that the athlete does not have any short term illness or other condition that would influence testosterone production at the time of evaluation, and that the athlete is NOT on any medication that may affect T levels such as narcotics or corticosteroids, or androgen replacement therapy.

Provide a detailed treatment plan including how systemic T levels will be monitored to ensure maintenance of therapeutic levels. The dosage must be decided by an endocrinologist in this case.

The intervals between assessments of therapeutic maintenance levels must be so stated and the results of at least two therapeutic levels submitted by an endocrinologist in this case.

The athlete is subject to at least three separate drug tests

Wulkan continued: “The athlete is subject to at least three separate drug tests prior and immediately thereafter the fight date, the timing and type of which is to be determined by this agency. Samples of blood, urine and/or hair may be taken one month, two weeks, and immediately post competition in an attempt to ensure competitive equity.”

Wulkan was also critical of the position adopted by the ARP. “Without a Commission’s adherence to the above ABC medical committee and NJSACB adopted procedures and requirements, the ARP’s position may seem the easier and more rudimentary solution for all involved,” wrote Wulkan.

Dr. Wulkan continued by saying, “The glaring and overlooked concern regardless of the ABC medical committee TUE requirements or the ARP’s recommended ban, is the fact that the large majority of athletes using performance enhancing drugs are not, in fact, subject to ANY testing because measurements of PED are minimal or non-existent in many jurisdictions.

“It might have been more prudent for the ARP to endorse the concept of regular and stringent drug testing for PED’s via hair, blood and urine by all athletic commissions.

“The ARP may have placed the cart before the horse by cracking down on TUE applicants who freely and voluntarily come forward seeking medical clearance at a time when commissions are still granting TUEs, while ignoring the fact that those who are not forthcoming are either not tested or are tested in a fashion that is not designed to catch PED usage, or testing that it fraught with obvious and glaring weaknesses.

Random testing and blood testing ought to be widely  implemented next. Dr. Wulkan is correct in saying a more prudent course than the banning of TRTs is the endorsement of regular and stringent hair, blood, and urine tests, and more thorough testing using carbon isotope ratio tests, the latter of which examines the atomic make-up of testosterone in the urine to determine if it is natural or synthetic. Although the PED issue will never disappear, it can be contained if all athletic commissions adopt such regular and stringent testing.

One problem is budget. Nevada does not have the money to implement costly testing. The NSAC’s annual budget falls somewhere below $400,000, which is miniscule. As an example of how much testing costs, the cost to randomly test Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradly for their Apr 12 fight in Las Vegas is about $35,000. Top Rank Promotions has agreed to pay for that testing. And many other state commissions do not even have the budget afford to the NSAC.

One entity that does have the budget to conduct expensive, stringent testing is the UFC. The UFC claims to be against PED usage. If that’s the case, the UFC should implement the stringent testing described by Dr. Wulkan. The UFC can conduct its own hair, blood, and urine tests using the best medical technology available. They can do so for all of their fighters at all of their events, and they can do so randomly during training camps and after fights. They won’t catch everyone, but they can put a lid on PED usage in the UFC. They still have to adhere to commission bylaws, but they can supplement those bylaws with their own in-house rules.

There are other problems. Belfort’s position on TRT usage after the NSAC itself is strange. He desires to continue to fight in the UFC, and plans to stop taking TRT in order to get a license to fight in states that now disallow it, including his home country of Brazil where Belfort is a substantial drawing card. But if he can continue to compete without TRT, why was he granted an exception in the first place? It would seem to indicate that Belfort’s TUE for TRT was superfluous.

The most logical explanation for Belfort’s continued desire to fight is that he will simply cheat in order to maintain his testosterone levels. If Belfort, as well as other TRT users, chooses that route, then the NSAC’s ban on TRT will simply have made it so that fighters who were undergoing additional testing are now undergoing less testing (or no testing at all), and being tested in a way that makes it easy for them to beat the test, yet continue to use PEDs.

Nevada’s ban of TRT exemptions is a step in the right direction for mixed martial arts, though. It is clear that TRT exemptions were being handed out to fighters by some states with impunity and it is clear that many of these fighters probably should not have received these exemptions. It is a positive that ease of access to TRT exemptions for those who have tested positive for illegal PEDs has been curbed. But the UFC, ARP, and Nevada’s policies on PEDs appear to be tougher than what they actually are.

A total ban on TRT exemptions also excludes fighters who legitimately need TRT, as few and as far between as those instances are. However, considering how so few athletes in other sports, including none in boxing, request TRT exemptions, the benefit of a blanket policy banning TRT exemptions outweighs the negatives to fighters who require TRT for reasons other than past abuse of PEDs. There are so few circumstances where a fighter legitimately needs TRT, and in the circumstances where a fighter requires TRT, it’s questionable whether this person should be competing in mixed martial arts in the first place. A person who has a testosterone disorder so severe that they require TRT probably shouldn’t be competing in a sport so physically demanding as mixed martial arts.

Many will argue that athletes in other physically demanding sports have received TRT for legitimate reasons and compete at a high level in this sports. That’s true. But no other sport has developed the problems with TRT exemptions that mixed martial arts has, making the sport of MMA a unique case when it comes to TRT exemptions.

Yet, the best policy for any athletic commission would not be to ban all TRT exemptions regardless of the reason why a fighter submits an application for an exemption, but to develop more stringent bylaws about who receives TRT exemptions and who does not. A cynical view of Nevada’s ban would posit that it was done so simply because Nevada was having a difficult time controlling the issue, and that the most inexpensive way of handling it would be to ban TRT exemptions altogether, so that the state saves the money it spends on thoroughly testing fighters who receive TRT exemptions. There is some degree of truth here, but the full picture is more complex.

Nevada’s stance does present a false dichotomy, though. It seems that the choice is between allowing no TRT exemptions, even for those who need them for legitimate medical reasons, and allowing TRT exemptions even for fighters who are abusing the rule to legally cheat to give themselves a competitive edge. Between those two options, the better choice is to ban TRT exemptions for everyone. But that isn’t the choice at all. Even if state athletic commissions cannot afford more stringent PED testing, the UFC certainly can. By feigning support for the NSAC’s decision to ban TRT exemptions, UFC avoids the obvious question as to why they don’t implement more stringent in-house rules themselves.

There are cases such as Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, who receives TRT for acromegaly, a legitimate medical reason to apply for an exemption. The problem is that Silva has failed two PED tests. He tested positive for Boldenone after defeating Justin Eilers on an EliteXC show in California on Jul 26, 2008. He was fined $2,500 and suspended one year by the state. According to Davis, Silva’s manager, the positive test was caused by Novedex, a testosterone-booster used to help raise Silva’s naturally low testosterone levels.

Silva subsequently failed a second PED test in December 2013, after fighting to a vicious draw with Mark Hunt on Dec 7 in Australia. Silva tested positive for elevated testosterone and was suspended nine months. UFC conducted the test. Silva also forfeited his win money and his Fight of the Night $50,000 bonus cheque.

Silva presents a unique case because he is a man who requires TRT due to a disease that causes him not to be able to produce enough testosterone naturally. His claims that his two failures were somehow related to his acromegaly did not sway either the state of California or the UFC, though, and both of these groups suspended and fined him anyway. If Silva has a legitimate medical need for TRT, but choose to use that need as a means to try and cheat, then he probably should not be granted a TRT exemption even in a state that allows TRT exemptions for those who medically need them. If Silva had never been caught cheating and required a TRT exemption for his acromegaly, then he probably should be granted one and a blanket policy banning all TRT exemptions would be unfair.

Nevertheless, the banning of TRT exemptions by Nevada and Brazil are the beginning of the battle, not the end. If pro wrestling’s history with steroids is any indication, the end may not be a pleasant place.

The UFC announced Feb 10 that it had taken down and seized the records of cagewatcher.eu, which had illegally streamed two UFC pay per view events over the past few months.

“UFC has obtained details of the streaming site’s userbase, including email addresses, IP addresses, user names and information pertaining to individuals who watched pirated UFC events including UFC 169,” stated a release by the UFC. “Also recovered were chat transcripts from the website. Using this data, UFC will work with Lonstein Law Office to prosecute identified infringers.”

Lonstein Law Office has represented the UFC in anti-piracy matters since 2007, including a number of lawsuits against web sites, as well as a single successful suit against an individual who watched a pirated stream of a UFC pay per view broadcast.

Since the UFC became a profitable entity sometime after its explosion of popularity in 2005 with the debut of The Ultimate Fighter, the company has created a long history of pursuing people who attempt to pirate UFC pay per view broadcasts. In 2008, for example, according to lobbying reports, UFC spent $280,000 lobbying the US government on anti-piracy issues. In 2009, it was $320,000.

In December 2009, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta testified at a hearing of the US House Judiciary Committee, where he claimed that the UFC was losing millions of dollars due to piracy. The argument that the UFC is losing millions due to piracy has been repeated by company officials before and after Fertitta’s testimony.

Early in 2010, UFC shut down Rage-Streams.net, and subsequently claimed it would go after consumers of pirated streams, too.

In July 2010, Zuffa announced that it had reached settlements with 500 business and individuals regarding online piracy of its events over the previous two years.

The same month, UFC announced that they had issued subpoenas to Justin.tv and Ustream.tv to force the two sites to reveal the identity of a user who uploaded two UFC events earlier in the year.

In August 2010, UFC took down the site Wrestle-Zone.net. In September of that year, UFC sought an injunction to stop Livevss.tv and Livess.net from streaming UFC 120. In the latter case, the UFC claimed that by featuring ads on his site, owner Daniel Wallace was earning income from the pirated streams. UFC demanded $150,000 per infringement from Wallace and from the owners of Wrestle-Zone.

Zuffa filed a lawsuit against Justin.tv in January 2011. The suit related to the UFC 121 broadcast from October 2010 which was rebroadcast by Justin.tv users on that web site. Justin.tv was able to successfully dismiss most of the trademark claims all of the Communications Act claims made by Zuffa in the suit.

UFC has also been tough on bar owners who show UFC events without an appropriate license. A bar license to show UFC events costs between $500 and $1,500 depending on the size of the bar. Damages asked for by the UFC in lawsuits filed against bars who do not purchase the appropriate license are many times the cost of an individual license.

The UFC claimed in 2010 that on January 2, 2010, more than 360,000 people watched a pirated stream of UFC 108 and on February 21, 2010, more than 78,000 watched a pirated stream of UFC 110. UFC 116 was allegedly viewed by 250,000 on a single bit torrent stream.

UFC has successfully obtained a judgment against at least one individual in regards to pirated streams of UFC pay per views on greenfeedz.com. The individual, who was located via his IP address with his service provider, Time Warner, failed to respond to the UFC’s complaint and a default judgment was issued, including damages of $6,000 and $5,948 in attorney fees.

Greenfeedz streamed UFCs 130 through 142. Zuffa LLC, parent company of the UFC, obtained IP addresses of everyone who watched one of these shows via an illegal stream on Greenfeedz.

The judgment was entered against the Time Warner customer based on his failing to defend, rather than the merits of UFC’s suit.

“We believe that we’ve got an obligation to go out there and try to protect the intellectual property and protect both our rights and the rights of our fighter-partners,” UFC chief legal counsel Lawrence Epstein told MMAJunkie.com after the UFC was able to shut Greenfeedz down.

“When people start going to jail,” UFC President Dana White has said regarding past suits, “people will stop doing it.”

“I have a very hard time finding a theory of liability for someone who merely watched an illegal broadcast. That’s like saying if a bar was illegally publicly presenting a movie or an NFL game, that everyone in the bar would be liable,” First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza told TorrentFreak, a bit torrent news web site, in March 2012.

Suing consumers is a bad idea, even if the UFC doesn’t consider these people to be genuine fans.

Zuffa’s stance on pirated streams recalls DirecTV’s pursuit of consumers who purchase smart cards to watch pirated streams of DirectTV broadcasts. Through 2003 and 2004 DirecTV was targeting web sites who disseminated software that allowed people to program smart cards to watch pirated signals of DirecTV broadcasts. DirecTV also went after individuals who purchased these cards and used this software, as well as hardware used to program the cards.

DirecTV had no way of determining who was receiving their broadcast signal. So, in order to develop a list of individuals who were using smart cards, the company raided people who were reselling equipment used to program smart cards. In turn, they sent threatening letters demanding $3,500 in remuneration to everyone on the resellers’s customer list. DirecTV threatened to sue if individuals didn’t pay. The company mailed tens of thousands of letters and claims to have filed suit against over 25,000 individuals who the company suspected of receiving pirated streams (including OJ Simpson, of all people).

Of course, this ended in a number of lawsuits, mainly because, according to ex-employees of DirecTV, between 5-10% of those targeted by the company did not use smart card equipment to receive pirated DirecTV broadcasts.

A number of RICO suits were filed against DirecTV in Colorado and California alleging that DirecTV’s actions were extortion and part of an organized crime racket. At least one ex-employee sued DirecTV, the result of which many of the company’s aggressive tactics at pursuing individuals they claim to be pirates came to light.

Most of these lawsuits were dismissed. But the damage to DirecTV wasn’t done in the courtroom, it was done in the media. Numerous media outlets picked up the story, including the Chicago Tribune among other major newspapers, alleging that many of DirecTV’s suits against individuals were dismissed.

Another industry where legal measures pertaining to piracy is common is the video games industry. These sorts of legal measures have engendered a great deal with resentment between consumers and the companies that engage in such measures.

An example in the video games industry would be Electronic Arts (EA), a major video game development and publishing company that has been aggressive in using digital rights management (DRM) software to protect its games, often damaging the company’s public perception and subsequently its sales.

Sales of EA’s SimCity in March 2013 were probably affected by the company’s desire to protect the product from piracy by way of forcing users to be connected to the internet in order to play the game, even if the player utilized no features in the game that required an online connection. The constant internet connection would block people from being able to run a pirated version of the game.

The problem for EA is that the massive amount of users who played the game at release crashed their online servers, making the game unplayable for a length of time. Problems with the release of an online platform, be it video games or video, are not uncommon, a recent example being WWE’s problems in its first few days of the WWE Network at the end of February. But in this circumstance it was considered especially frustrating for SimCity players since the only reason they needed an online connection was to prevent piracy, as an internet connection was otherwise unnecessary to play the game. Commentators and journos in the video games media referred to the game as a “disaster”.

That SimCity sold enough units to cause their servers to crash would, at first blush, seem to indicate that the negative publicity surrounding the game’s release had little effect on sales. In July 2014, the game reached 2 million units sold, the majority of them video digital download. But that figure doesn’t include the massive amount of refunds and coupons that EA had to hand out to frustrated consumers. SimCity’s DRM features were removed in January 2014.

A similar situation that has probably cost a massive corporation a ton of sales would be Microsoft’s release of the Xbox One this past November. Early in 2013, Microsoft announced a series of DRM measures, including an “always-online” feature for the new Xbox that worked in a similar manner to SimCity’s anti-piracy measures, plus other features that made it difficult for consumers to share games, or to purchase used games.

Suffice to say, Microsoft’s anti-piracy measures did not sit well with its consumers. After Sony released a television commercial mocking Microsoft’s anti-piracy measures, public perception began to focus on Sony reclaiming the top spot in the so-called console wars after the PlayStation 3 was outsold by the Xbox 360 over the past decade. The Xbox 360 outsold the PlayStation 3 in North America 46.36 million to 28.32 million (although sales worldwide were nearly identical, largely due to Xbox’s lack of penetration into the Japanese market). However, sales of the PlayStation 4 currently outpace sales of the Xbox One in North America by 2.75 million to 2.43 million, and worlwide by 5.85 million to 3.54 million. The reasons for PlayStation 4’s success relative to the Xbox One are varied, but one of those reasons is the resentment of Microsoft’s consumer base towards the company’s draconian anti-piracy measures.

SimCity’s 2 million sales and the Xbox One’s 3.54 million sales doesn’t include the externalization of sales damage. What that means is that even if SimCity or the Xbox One itself may have sold reasonably well despite their negative publicity and poor reviews, consumers will still be weary of subsequent releases by EA and Microsoft should those releases feature DRM measures. If EA releases another game featuring similar DRM measures, for instance, one would expect consumers to pass on purchasing the game, or at least wait to see if the game’s DRM measures negatively affect game play. The Xbox One’s sales, on the other hand, are probably already affected by Microsoft’s anti-piracy policies, causing the product release of the Xbox One to stumble out of the gate relative to the successful launch of the PlayStation 4.

So what does DirecTV, Xbox One, and Electronic Arts have to do with the UFC? The point is that individuals who watch pirated UFC broadcasts are also likely buying other UFC products, be it other pay per views, Fight Pass, or merchandise, or are watching free UFC broadcasts on Fox Sports 1, and other stations internationally.

The problem is that not every consumer of UFC’s product is going to purchase every pay per view. People will frequently skip pay per views they feel are not worth their money, which is why buy rates fluctuate greatly from show to show based on who is fighting in the main event, as well as who is fighting on the undercard. Some of these people who choose to skip a few pay per views are going to watch pirated streams for free in order to keep up with the product. It is likely that the people who go out of their way to watch pirated streams are probably the UFC’s biggest fans, despite Zuffa’s assertion that these people are not fans at all.

The bottom line is sales. If the UFC was able to prevent all of their shows from being pirated in a way so that it was impossible to broadcast or view a pirated stream of a UFC pay per view, buy rates probably wouldn’t increase, or would only increase marginally. That’s because the people who are watching pirated streams are doing so probably because they believe the particular show they are pirating isn’t worth paying money to see. If they unable to see it for free, that doesn’t mean they are going to be willing to see it for $60.

The next problem with suing individuals is that it isn’t going to scare anyone from watching pirated streams. It is virtually impossible to shut down piracy on the internet, so resorting to suing individuals in a manner similar to what DirecTV has done in the past is desperate. Even if Zuffa is willing to lose quite a bit of money in legal fees to try and frighten consumers from pirating UFC broadcasts, the amount they lose in public relations greatly outweighs whatever benefits Zuffa attains from this losing battle. They aren’t going to shutdown piracy, and suing parts of their consumer base is just going to engender resentment towards their product, and possibly damage sales in the future.

Kirk Hendrick, UFC’s chief legal officer, has also claimed that the UFC is losing “millions and millions” of dollars annually due to piracy. Frankly, no, they aren’t. Hendrick’s opinion is based on the faulty assumption that people who watch pirated streams would purchase pay per views if pirated streams were otherwise unavailable. As discussed above, that is unlikely. These sorts of comments by Zuffa officials puts them in opposition with their own consumer base, which is the last place a company wants to be when that company is marketing a product to this consumer base.

Zuffa’s argument that people who watch pirated broadcasts of UFC shows aren’t their customers is a way of escaping the illogical position of suing your own customers. Suing customers who watch pirated UFC streams, but spend money on other UFC products, would likely engender resentment among these customers towards the UFC. Thus, it is easier for Zuffa to claim these people aren’t their customers and that they are justly pursuing thieves, putting a more justifiable public spin on pursing legal action against the public itself.

Dong Hyun Kim knocked John Hathaway out at 1:02 of the third round with a spinning back elbow in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter China Finale on Mar 1. Kim received a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus and became the first fight to win a UFC match with a spinning back elbow. The event took place at Cotai Arena in Macau, China.

Kim, from South Korea, may have star potential in certain parts of the Asian market. “I cannot tell you how happy I am. I think I draw from the energy of all the fans that come from Korea to watch this and from all the Asian fans,” Kim said at the post-fight presser. “There’s no stopping. I’m going to continue to go forward, forward, forward.” Kim was ranked at 11th in the welterweight division before the event.

The exciting main event capped off an equally exciting show, probably the most entertaining show that the UFC has promoted thus far in 2014. It was the company’s second major event held in China, and the first Fight Pass exclusive show to be broadcast on that web site after Fight Pass became a paid service, also on Mar 1.

The event drew a 6,000 sellout, announced by Mark Fischer, UFC’s managing director for Asia, at the post-fight presser. “We had attendance tonight, it was a sellout. Another sellout. We had six thousand fans in attendance tonight just packing the arena,” said Fischer. No live gate was announced.

The UFC’s previous visit to Cotai Arena was UFC on Fuel TV 6 on Nov 10, 2012 drew 8,415 paying $1.3 million. With UFC claiming a sell out with 6,000 people in attendance, the 2,400 difference might possibly be due to the live event configuration.

That the show was considered the most exciting of the year is no coincidence. Although it’s impossible control the pace of fights, and it is true that anything can happen in a live sporting event (including a series of dull fights), the UFC has recently been promoting long shows featuring as main as a dozen fights. This event, however, featured only eight fights, the first time a UFC event featured only eight since UFC 72 in June 2007. A show with a more reasonable amount of fights makes longer fights late in the card less tiring for the viewer. Sometimes less is more.

Fischer also announced that the UFC will return to Asia at least twice more in 2014, with a Fight Night in Macau planned for August, and another Fight Night in Japan in September, the latter event planned for the 37,000-seat Saitama Super Arena.

“Based on the success of our first event in Macau and tonight, we can confirm we are going to be be back here in August,” said Fischer. “We’re holding the date of August 23rd with an even bigger event. I don’t know if we can top this, but we’re certainly going to try. And we’ll return to Japan on September 20th with a major event.”

MMAJunke.com also interviewed Fischer in the days leading up to the event, where Fischer claimed that the UFC was also negotiating to run an event in Manilla this year. The promotion also plans to return to Singapore in December, and possibly South Korea late in the year.

The Ultimate Fighter China Finale was the final show in The Ultimate Fighter China series that started airing in China a couple of months ago. It was the first Ultimate Fighter season to air in Asia. Fischer told MMAJunkie that nearly ten million people watched a portion of each episode in the first season, and that the UFC was planning a second season for 2015.

“We’re looking at a Southeast Asia version,” Fischer told MMAJunkie. “We’re also looking at a Korea vs. Japan (version), but Southeast Asia would probably come first.”

Regarding Fight Pass, UFC had been pleased with the service’s performance prior to it becoming a premium service on Mar 1. Fight Pass debuted Dec 28, the same day as UFC 168, and remained a free service until Mar 1 as UFC continually uploaded content to the web site. Fight Pass debuted with 3,000 hours of content and added an additional 2,000 hours during that time. The company has been able to add a significant amount of UFC content, although they’re constrained in adding Strikeforce content as they are unable to rebroadcast Strikeforce shows until three years after each show took place. This is likely due to a contract restraint with Showtime, the original broadcaster of Strikeforce events. UFC has also expected to release pay per views on Fight Pass about a month after they take place.

In the co-main event in Macau, Lipeng Zhang defeated Wang Sei via split-decision to win the welterweight bracket of the TUF China Finale tournament. Zhang used take downs to control the early part of the fight, but tired as the match went on. He was still able to hold on to squeak out the split-decision victory. Scores were 29-28, 29-28, and 27-30.

The finals for the show’s featherweight tournament did not take place. Jianping Yang was set to fight Guangyou Ning, but pulled out due to injury a few days before the show. The fight is being planned for a future event in Asia.

Also on the event, Matt Mitrione knocked Shawn Jordan out with one second remaining in the first round. Mitrione received the second Performance of the Night bonus. Mitrione hurt Jordan with a left hand against the fence during the round and followed up with a series of strikes to earn the stoppage.

Hatsu Hioki defeated Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision. Hioki was able to out grapple Menjivar, although Menjivar came back stronger with a big right hand and a heel hook attempt in the third round. Scores were straight 29-28s for Hioki. Hioki stopped a three fight losing streak with the win. Menjivar has now lost three straight fights. Menjivar was ranked 15th at bantamweight before the show. Hioki was unranked.

In the prelims, Yui Chul Nam defeated Kazuki Tokudome via split-decision. Both fighters earned the Fight of the Night bonuses. Scores were 29-27, 29-27, and 28-27. Nam knocked Tokudome down three times in the first round, and became only the second fighter to score three knock downs in a single UFC fight without finishing his opponent (the first being Gray Maynard, who couldn’t stop Frankie Edgar at UFC 125). He was also the eleventh fighter in UFC history to score three knock downs in a single round.

Vaughan Lee defeated Nam Phan via unanimous decision. Scores were 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26. Phan didn’t fight well, and his left eye was split open by the end of the match. Lee’s 142 significant strikes landed were the third most ever landed by a bantamweight in a single fight, and his significant strikes differential of +118 was tied for the second largest diffential, with Cyrille Diabete vs Steven Cantwell and Jessica Andrade vs Rosie Sexton.

Anying Wang defeated Albert Cheng after Cheng couldn’t make the bell for the beginning of the second round. Doctors stopped the fight after the first round when Cheng’s right eye was swollen shut. It looked like a broken orbital bone, caused by a left high kick by Wang.

In the opening fight, Mark Eddiva defeated Jumabieke Tuerxun via unanimous decision. Scores were straight 30-27s.

On Feb 28, Bellator announced May 17 as the date for their debut on pay per view. The show will be headlined by Eddie Alvarez defending the Lightweight title against Michael Chandler in the third fight between the two. Neither a venue nor a price point for pay per view has been announced. It’s also likely that the light-heavyweight tournament finals with Quinton Jackson vs Mo Lawal will co-main even the show.

So what chance does Bellator have on pay per view, anyway? What is highest possible buy rate the promotion could garner, and what is the floor? What does the promotion have to do to make the first pay per view successful, not to mention subsequent pay per views?

UFC buy rates vary wildly depending on who is fighting in the main event, and to a lesser degree who is fighting overall on the card. For instance, UFC 168 in December drew 1,025,000 buys for Anderson Silva vs Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate. On the other hand, UFC 161 in June drew merely 140,000 buys for Rashad Evans vs Dan Henderson.

In mixed martial arts, the success of a pay per view depends on the marketability of a fight and the two personalities involved. People will purchase pay per views featuring fights that they care about. What gets people to care about a fight is positioning two fighters who as perceived as stars in a situation where people want to see what happens. The buy rate is a multiplier of the bigger the star power times the bigger the fight’s storyline. That is why UFC buy rates vary wildly, because some fighters or fights people will pay through the nose to see, and others people just don’t care about.

The best fighters don’t necessarily draw the best buy rates. For example, Renan Barao is one of the best fighters on the planet today, and most fans can’t even pronounce his name. He doesn’t draw. On the other hand, a badly past his prime Ken Shamrock was able to draw substantial numbers for the UFC when they broke out big as a pay per view darling nearly a decade ago.

For Bellator, they ought to expect numbers on the low end of what UFC draws. It depends on the quality of promotion. Bellator has the requisite free television required to market pay per views. Based on the promo by Quinton Jackson after his win over M’Pumbu at Bellator 110 and the subsequent pull-apart between Jackson and Lawal, Bellator seems to understand what it needs to do to market itself.

The idea is clearly to use stars like Quinton Jackson or Tito Ortiz to get people to purchase early pay per views, and hope that these customers return to see subsequent shows featuring fighters like Alvarez, Chandler, Alexander Shlemenko, and others. It’s not a bad strategy assuming that personalities like Alvarez or Shlemenko or whomever can retain people who purchase pay per views to see Jackson fight.

That’s a big assumption, though. Alvarez is marketable and he has had two great fights with Chandler, but the idea that Bellator can promote pay per views based around having great fighters is faulty. The problem is that fans assume (probably justifiably) that if a fighter is any good he would be fighting in the UFC, since that promotion is the major league. Thus, if someone fights for Bellator, it’s probably because they aren’t good enough to make it to the UFC. So why pay money to see these guys fight?

That Bellator comes across as such a similar product to UFC makes the argument that they are a low-rent version of the superior promotion even stronger. The promotion feels like a similar product to UFC, but with worse fighters. Bellator 110 did a good job of building towards their debut on pay per view, but if enough fans agree with this perception, it might not matter.

Bellator 110 took place Feb 28 at the Mohegan Sun in Bristol, CT. The show was headlined by the semi-finals of a four-man light-heavyweight tournament, featuring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson stopping Christian M’Pumbu at 4:43 of the first round and “King” Mo Lawal defeating Mikhail Zayats via a decision in a dull fight.

The promotion also announced that their debut pay per view would take place on May 17. It will be headlined by the third bout between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez, with Alvarez defending the promotion’s Lightweight title. A location for the show has yet to be announced. It’s expected that Quinton Jackson vs Mo Lawal will be the show’s co-main event.

Jackson, looking a bit paunchy, stopped the undersized M’Pumbu with a series of punches on the ground after M’Pumbu slipped. After the fight Jackson cut an excellent promo to build up his fight with Lawal. Lawal came out to the ring and they did a pull-apart.

“Listen, these guys they think I’m finished. They said they’re gonna retire me. I take that personal,” said Jackson. “Bellator, y’all don’t know what you’re messing with. I’m a monster. I’m taking everybody out. Anybody step in this cage, they’re going to sleep. You, you next! You next! I’m the man of Bellator now.”

The pull-apart was clearly designed to build the fight to sell pay per view buys. There were some allegations it was staged. Mohegan Sun regulator Mike Mazzuli did an interview with Sherdog.com after the event where he stated, “I was told about [the pull-apart], I was told about it yesterday at the weigh-in, and that’s why there would be no cause and effect to it.” Mazzuli retracted his statement slightly when asked about it by Bloodyelbow.com, saying “The case was that the two fighters get very excited, and if something occurs, we’re going to stop it, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that they’re very emotional after each win. There was nothing about a setup or any of that, absolutely not.”

Staged or not, the goal of a pull-apart after a fight like that is to sell pay per views. Jackson’s promo was intense in a way that doesn’t transcribe well to the written page, and the pull-apart did what it was supposed to do to build anticipation for a fight between Jackson and Lawal.

Bellator 110 was an excellent show, save for a few issues. The question is whether the promotion can keep the momentum going as they build to their first pay per view broadcast. The company’s next show is Bellator 111, scheduled for Spike TV on Mar 7 with Eduardo Dantas defending the Bantamweight title against Anthony Leone, plus the opening round of a heavyweight tournament.

Prior to the show, Bellator announced a number of new broadcasting and sponsorship agreements. The show aired in Latin America via Fox Sports, the first Bellator show to air on that network in that particular region. The deal is significant because in North America Fox Sports is, of course, the home of the UFC, Bellator’s primary competition for market share. The partnership in Latin America between Bellator and Fox Sports was originally to begin with Bellator’s canceled pay per view last November.

Regarding the Latin American deal with Fox Sports, Bellator stated in a media release, “The agreement also includes airing 2014 Bellator content in Brazil, with a combined distribution of more than 50 million households in the entire region. The original deal began in October of 2013 with FOX Sports airing Bellator specials and now beginning in 2014, fans of mixed martial arts will have access to more than 25 live Bellator events per year on FOX Sports.”

“We couldn’t have been happier with this new alliance,” said Francisco Pazmiño, SVP Programming and Acquisitions FOX Sports Latin America, “We are extremely excited to start our partnership a year earlier than expected. The response in the region has been fantastic. Live Bellator MMA fights will certainly strengthen our FOX Combat brand positioning, by offering our viewers the most exciting MMA fights combined with other great combat content currently airing on our networks in the region.”

Prior to Bellator 110, the promotion also announced a multi-year deal with OSN, the leading pay-TV network in the Middle East and North Africa. Bellator 110 was the first show the promotion aired on OSN. The network handles five 24-hours sports channels and broadcasts in both English and Arabic.

“OSN is an absolute force in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and as Bellator continues to expand into key regions worldwide, OSN was the penultimate partner for our brand in 2014 and beyond,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “From Algeria to Yemen, Bellator is now on the premier network for MMA across the entire MENA region, and we couldn’t be happier.”

They also announced a sponsorship agreement with Monster Energy Drinks. Quinton Jackson, who came to the ring at Bellator 110 wearing clothes with the Monster logo, is one of the company’s sponsored fighters. The company also sponsors Bellator’s ring girls.

“To complement the live event experience, Monster and Bellator will look to engage in a multi-faceted activation plan intended to build customer loyalty and drive tune-in of the Bellator broadcast on Spike,” said a Bellator press release.

The promotion also secured a sponsorship agreement with Victory Motorcycles. “Victory Motorcycles will be strategically integrated throughout the Bellator broadcast and digital platforms,” said Bellator in a press release. “In addition to premium logo placement on the cage mat canvas, and commercial inventory on Spike, Victory will present a custom in-show feature before the main event. The segment will be named “Keys to Victory” and highlight what fighters must do to win the bout.”

They also announced a partnership with Attack Poker, an online gaming site. “Bellator will now feature “The Attack Of The Night” in every broadcast, which will highlight the most explosive and exciting finish or technique featured throughout the broadcast,” Bellator said in a release. “Attack Poker will also be featured inside the Bellator cage, with logo placement on cross bar and bumper pads.”

Everlast also debuted a new style of MMA glove at the event. “Over the last year Everlast product designers have worked closely with Bellator’s team and its athletes to create the PowerLock MMA Fight glove,” said a Bellator release. “The new glove promotes proper hand form and technique, which can help to reduce the risk of face, hand and wrist injuries.”

In the co-main event, Lawal decisioned Zayats in a slow fight. Lawal had a difficult time taking Zayats down, but was able to score points in stand-up to take home straight scores of 30-27. Lawal, however, looked poor, and if it wasn’t for the pull-apart between him and Jackson at the end of the show, there would be little interest in a fight between the two. Even so, Jackson must be considered a heavy favourite going in, even admitting the Jackson is on the down slope of his career.

The show also featured the opening round of a featherweight tournament. Two of the featherweight tournament fights aired on the Spike TV broadcast. The first featured Des Green defeating Mike Richmon via unanimous decision in a boring fight where neither guy get over as a star. Scores were 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28.

In the second tournament match to air on Spike, Matt Bessette defeated Diego Nunes via split-decision on scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29. This was a much better match than the Green-Richmon bout. Bessette was a heavy fan favourite because he’s from Connecticut, and got a star reaction from the crowd. Bessette did an entertaining promo after the fight saying that the judge who scored the fight 30-27 in his favour got it wrong, since Nunes clearly won the first round.

Seven fights aired on the prelims via Spike.com. Two of those fights included featherweight tournament bouts. The first tournament fight saw Daniel Weichel submit Scott Cleve with a rear naked choke in 3:46. The second tournament bout had Will Martinez beating Goiti Yamauchi via unanimous decision on straight scores of 30-27.

The second round of the featherweight tournament will take place Mar 28, with Bessette against Weichel and Green against Martinez. Presumably whoever wins the tournament will get a shot at the featherweight champion. Daniel Strauss is the current champ, and he defends the title against Pat Curran on Mar 14.

Also on the prelims, Saul Almeida beat Andrew Fisher via unanimous decision; Egidijus Valavicius knocked out Atanas Djambavoz in 48 seconds; Ryan Quinn beat Andrew Calandrelli via unanimous decision; Manny Lara and Josh Diekmann went to a no-contest when Diekmann inadvertently scratched Lara’s eye 18 seconds into the fight; and, Marvin Maldonado and Rico DiSciullo went to a no-contest after 1:53 when DiSciullo threw two inadvertent knees to Maldonado while the latter was grounded.

On Feb 23, MMAFighting.com reported that UFC resigned lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez, 31, to a new agreement, matching the offer Bellator had made to Melendez on Feb 14. Following the report, UFC announced that Melendez would coach opposite Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis on season twenty of The Ultimate Fighter. A title fight between the two will follow in late 2014.

Bellator announced on Feb 14 they had signed Melendez to a multi-fight deal. “The moment Gil was legally able to explore the free agent market, Gil’s management team reached out to me and we began figuring out how to bring Gil to Bellator,” said Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney.

Melendez was a coveted fighter for Rebney. Although not a marquee name, Melendez is considered one of the best fighters in the 155-pound class worldwide. Bellator, which had been formed around the idea of marketing to the Hispanic community in the US, had attempted to sign Melendez back in 2008. Melendez ended up fighting in Strikeforce, capturing that promotion’s Lightweight title. Strikeforce was purchased by Zuffa LLC, the UFC’s parent company in 2011 and dissolved in 2013.

UFC, however, retained matching rights to Bellator’s offer to Melendez. These rights were rumoured to extend into mid-March.

MMAFighting reported details of Melendez’s new contract, according to the site’s sources:

Melendez’s contract guarantees at least 75 percent of his fights will take place on pay per view;
Melendez will earn a percentage of revenue derived from pay per view (“pay per view points”) and that income earned from these points will confer at a lower minimum buy rate than for any previous contract in UFC history;

Melendez will earn these points irregardless of the placement of his fight on a pay per view broadcast, meaning that he does not have to fight in the pay per view’s main event and could very well fight in the show’s opening bout and still earn a percentage of the show’s pay per view revenue.

After UFC announced that Melendez would be a coach on season twenty of The Ultimate Fighter, Melendez spoke to MMAJunkie.com and told them that he never wanted to leave the UFC in the first place.

“It’s a tough thing to do, but I never wanted to walk away,” Melendez told MMAJunkie.com. “I never wanted to leave the UFC. It’s the best organization in the world, has the best fighters in the world, it’s where I wanted to be, but I had to put that aside to think about my family and my future.”

After the news of Melendez’s deal with UFC was released Rebney spoke to MMAFighting. He claimed that this would not be the last time Bellator would attempt to sign a fighter away from the UFC.

“This process has shown that in MMA, there are two legitimate options for fighters,” said Rebney. “And, as I said last week, with two large scale options for fighters in MMA, fighters negotiating power is dramatically improved. Our actions throughout this process accomplished that for Gilbert right now, and in the future it will do the same for countless additional fighters. Some will end up in Bellator and some will end up in the UFC. But, either way, the sport benefits.”

Prior to Bellator’s contract offer to Melendez, UFC had reached an impasse with Melendez’s agent. UFC President Dana White had appeared on the Feb 12 episode of UFC Tonight on Fox Sports 1 discussing the impasse. White had ceased negotiations with Melendez’s agent, Rodolphe Bealieu, and passed the negotiations on to Lorenzo Fertitta, who was not able to reach an agreement with Melendez before the latter signed the offer from Bellator.

“I’m done,” White told UFC Tonight reporter Ariel Helwani. “[Negotiations are] not going well. I couldn’t care less about it anymore. I like Gilbert Melendez. I don’t like his management.” White went on to say that “if [Melendez] wants to fight in the UFC, he better talk to Lorenzo quick.” Of Bealieu, White said, “Being Georges St-Pierre’s best friend doesn’t make you a good manager.”

Melendez, however, was pleased with Bealieu’s performance in the negotiations. “I have a great team and I left most of it to them,” Melendez told MMAJunkie. “They’re a great management team. I voiced my opinion, and they helped me keep my emotions in check. When it comes to stuff like this, you have to take your emotions out of it and think of your family. It’s about more than just the title shot.”

The title fight between Pettis and Melendez is expected to take place in or around December 2014. Gambling web site Bovada.com released odds for the fight on Feb 25, with Melendez listed as a +150 underdog and Pettis as a -180 favourite.

Melendez’s new agreement with the UFC revolutionizes free agency in mixed martial arts. UFC fighters have no professional association or guild. They are unprotected by the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 1999, an Act that provides for the well being of the boxing industry as a whole. The only negotiating power UFC fighters have is their value in the free market. That free market leverage has been weak for a few years now because there has been no major competition for the UFC to drive up salaries for fighters since Zuffa purchased rival Strikeforce in 2011.

Bellator was founded in 2008 and began broadcasting on Spike TV in January 2013 after Spike lost its rights to UFC programming, which moved to Fox in August 2011. Bellator had previously aired on lower-rated stations ESPN Deportes, Fox Sports Net, and MTV2 before the move to Spike.

Prior to attempting to sign Melendez away from the UFC, Bellator’s talent strategy had been to both scout undiscovered, inexpensive talent, and to sign fighters that had fought in the UFC, but had been released and thus would sign cheaply.

With the Melendez offer, Bellator has declared war on the UFC and has signaled that they are opening their purse strings to sign marketable talent. And it is a deep purse, as Bellator is owned by media conglomerate Viacom, who purchased a majority stake in the company in October 2011. Viacom’s revenue in 2012 was $13.887 billion with profit for that year of $2.345 billion. The company trades on the NASDAQ and is part of the S&P 500.

Bellator’s aggressive new policy of signing away marquee UFC talent reconfigures the free agency market in mixed martial arts. Logically, fighter compensation ought to rise if Bellator continues to compete with the UFC over talent. Compensation among fighters has been a controversial topic pertaining to the UFC for a few years now, as it is widely opined in the media that UFC fighters are severely underpaid relative to the revenue that the UFC draws via pay per view as well as their broadcasting deal with Fox, the latter of which has been rumoured to pay UFC in the neighbourhood of $90 million per year.

Bellator changing their talent strategy may force the UFC to become more competitive with the contract offers they make to both their talent with expiring contracts, as well as unsigned talent who have yet to debut with the UFC and Bellator. It will probably mean a larger share of the UFC’s pay per view revenue being paid to marquee talent, and could give fighters some negotiating leverage when it comes to acquiring sponsorships.

That UFC was willing to resign Melendez is an indicator that they will not give up talent without a fight. And it is especially significant that Melendez has not been a proven drawing card in the past, so although he will likely be one of the highest paid fighters in the UFC, his income is not commensurate with a track record of drawing at the box office. UFC is obviously aware of this, but chose to resign Melendez to the substantial contract anyway.

If Bellator is successful on pay per view, then the competition for marketable talent could become fierce. Bellator had planned a pay per view in November that was canceled at the last minute when Tito Ortiz, who was scheduled to fight Quinton Jackson in the main event, pulled out due to injury. Jackson was booked against unknown Joey Beltran on a show that ended up airing on Spike TV a few weeks after the pay per view as scheduled. Bellator has since announced that Eddie Alvarez, the promotion’s Lightweight champion and primary homegrown star, will fight Michael Chandler in the third bout between the two. The fight will take place on pay per view in 2014.

Bellator running shows on pay per view has been considered a death sentence for the promotion by many pundits. Although Bellator has the requisite free television programming required to successfully market pay per views, they lack the star power to draw buy rates that would make pay per view profitable. UFC’s pay per view buy rates vary wildly, mainly based on who is fighting in a particular show’s main event.

The history of mixed martial arts in the US is also littered with promotions that have tried and failed to promote pay per views with lesser known talent. Bellator is also oft-criticized for not being different enough from the UFC, promoting a product too similar to its more popular rival. This similarity between the two theoretically prevents Bellator from stealing away significant market share from the UFC.

If Bellator is now willing to spend more money to acquire marquee talent, that may change Bellator’s chances for success on pay per view. Pro wrestling fans may recall when World Championship Wrestling (which, similar to Bellator’s ownership by Viacom, was a subsidiary of Ted Turner’s media conglomerate and aired on a network owned by its parent company) decided to open its purse strings and sign marquee talent away from the World Wrestling Federation in 1994. Pay per view buy rates subsequently improved for WCW, although that promotion’s turnaround did not fully occur until the introduction of Monday Nitro on TNT in September 1995 and the later development of the New World Order storyline in 1996.

There are similarities between the emergence of Bellator and its rivalry with the powerhouse UFC compared to WCW’s emergence and rivalry with the WWF twenty years ago. But, although similar, there are significant differences between marketing pro wrestling on pay per view in the 90s and marketing mixed martial arts on pay per view today. With the plethora of media and entertainment options available online, through on demand services, and on cable television today, customer attention, and subsequently their money, is divided among a wide variety of sources.

UFC’s business model is partly based on producing content for Fox, but most of their revenue is speculated to come from pay per view buy rates. Most of the buy rates UFC garners come for shows featuring major fights with marketable fighters. Buy rates featuring fights that customers are disinterested in draw poorly. UFC’s buy rates in 2013 swung wildly from 140,000 buys for UFC 161 last May to 1,040,000 buys for UFC 168 in December. Not all pay per view attractions are created equal.

Thus, even if Bellator had signed Gilbert Melendez away from the UFC, it is unlikely that they would be able to put together a marketing plan in 2014 that would challenge the UFC’s dominance of pay per view market share. Chances are Melendez would have fought Alvarez, or the winner of the third Alvarez-Chandler fight after debuting in Bellator against an unknown. These fights would likely be on the low-end of the buy rates the UFC draws on pay per view, but would have been a decent introduction for Bellator into the pay per view market that the promotion could build on provided they continue to bring marquee talent into the fold.

Bellator’s attempted signing of Melendez, although unsuccessful, has long-term implications. It means fighters may start making more, although that depends on Bellator’s strategy. If the promotion tries to sign only marquee fighters away, then it may just be the compensation of certain fighters that gets raised as opposed to a broad raise in compensation for all fighters in the UFC. It also means that Bellator must be careful of overspending should they continue to try and steal talent from the UFC.

If Viacom is committed to Bellator as a long-term project, however, and is willing to invest money in acquiring marketable talent and allow the company to grow slowly over the coming few years, Bellator may indeed become a major player on pay per view and steal market share away from the UFC. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen within the next year or two. And the business models for these companies, with changes in technology or consumer behaviour, may alter over the next few years.