By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
Full disclosure, I worked at the UFC for seven plus years.
The UFC has come a long way. That is well documented but their biggest event, UFC 200, may linger for a while and not in a good way. Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones was suspended the week of the event and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar failed a drug test before and after the fact. So which one will hurt the UFC more in the long run? My guess is Jones.
The announcement of UFC being sold for $4 billion came on the heels of UFC 200. An event that Dave Metzler claims didn’t do as well as UFC 100 or the most recent Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey pay-per-views. Could Jones testing positive for PED’s and being taken off of the card have hurt the overall numbers. Probably.
The fact is that Jones is a 29 year old fighting phenom who can’t out of his own way. If he could then the UFC could bank on two or three big pay-per-view selling fights a year for the next few years with Jones as the headliner. So his possible two year suspension could hurt the bottom line a lot more than Lesnar’s.
It wasn’t clear if Lesnar was going to fight again for the UFC anyway. Given his age, 39, it is unlikely that he would be able to provide four or five more years worth of high selling pay-per-views. Jones could have. His age combined with a solid performance at UFC 200, it could have given the UFC a third pay-per-view crown jewel next to McGregor and Rousey.
Jones suspension will hurt the UFC more financially than Lesnar’s will in the long run. It didn’t help public perception that both of these positive tests came around the biggest event in its history. That being said, the UFC has a track record of finding talented fighters and building them into MMA stars.They have successfully transitioned from Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin to George St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and BJ Penn to Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor and Demetrious Johnson. They’ll be alright even if it sucks for a bit.