What a change a few months can make. When the UFC sale was revealed following UFC 200, one of the big things the UFC made sure to do was lock down Joe Rogan’s continued participation as color commentator for another year, ensuring the voices behind the fights wouldn’t change with the new ownership. But now that WME-IMG’s plans to try and increase TV deal revenues by over 300% are starting to become clear, it seems like they don’t feel like he’s an essential part of the product.
Longtime cable television insider Dave Meltzer has reported that many aspects of UFC shows may change. WME-IMG is willing to hand control of production (currently taken care of in-house by the UFC) over to whatever network wins the next TV deal. And that means Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan may go:
They certainly are hype masters. You can’t watch a commercial for an upcoming UFC event without Joe Rogan screaming in excitement and Goldberg catchphrases all over the place. But is that such a bad thing? We’ve experienced other networks handling MMA production duties in the past, and I have yet to witness anyone doing it better than the UFC. As homogeneous as the shows may have become, there’s something to be said about the way the company keeps the trains running on time. And it’s nice to have a commentary booth devoid of clueless chucklehead announcers who don’t know the sport (I’m looking at you, Gus Johnson).
This isn’t a matter of WME-IMG just having a hate on for the job Goldberg and Rogan do, though. The whole thing has a lot to do with money. They just paid $4.3 billion for the company, and they need to start making some of that back, fast. We’ve already seen them wipe out a huge section of UFC staff, including most of their international offices. Next up is the in house production team. While letting the networks handle things means less control, it also means big savings, and that’s clearly what the new owners are looking for as they prepare to sort out future TV rights for the sport.