The UFC has been around now as the leading mixed martial arts promotion in the world for 24 years now, and over that time it has witnessed the evolution both of the sport and a business model that few others seem capable of replicating. The latest big change was the sale of the company from the Fertitta brothers to talent agency WME-IMG for a whopping $4 billion dollars. Now the UFC has to deal with not only losing the Fertittas at the helm of the business, but a growing number of fighters that saw that four billion figure and realized they’re getting severely underpaid and underappreciated.
Nick and Nate Diaz have complained about the UFC undervaluing them and refusing to even give them comp tickets to UFC events. Unfortunately, it’s easy enough to dismiss them as regular malcontents unwilling to be reasonable. But when Anderson Silva ripped into the organization for failing to provide him with a decent opponent for UFC 212 in Brazil, it starts to become obvious that something is going wrong.
Silva has spent the past year helping the UFC out of tight jams. He stepped into the Octagon on three days notice to face light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 after Jon Jones blew a drug test. He was once again a late addition to UFC 208 in Brooklyn, helping to punch up an otherwise weak looking card. In that fight he took on Derek Brunson, a lesser known fighter on the roster.
Anderson then asked the UFC to fight on their Rio de Janeiro card in June, and the company obliged by placing him against the fast rising Kelvin Gastelum. But USADA drug tests struck again, and Gastelum was removed from the card over a positive reading for marijuana. Days passed and then a week without a replacement opponent. A media day in Brazil was held and Silva ended up facing off against no one for the assembled press. Strange possibilities like Ovince St-Preux at catchweight emerged from the rumor mill. And then Silva freaked out on last week’s episode of The MMA Hour.