Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Random Questions on FEG in the pre-UFC War Era

Last week FEG (Dream and K-1 promotions) launched a partnership with Chinese investment bank PUJI Capital and commenced to declare "war" against the UFC and WWE.

By now, the newly formed FEG-PUJI alliance executives have taken to their war room to lay out the next phase in their planned MMA takeover.

Meanwhile, the UFC's China mission is well underway -- the UFC.cn site is running as if it's always been, and the head of the UFC's China division has already been hired.

All of these big announcements have left fans wondering, "What next?"

So, below I've compiled a short list of my own questions and wonderings in the wake of FEG's partnership announcement and subsequent war declaration:

Will FEG maintain their Dream and K-1 promotions, or will they form a new promotion as they take on China and the wider global playing field?
If FEG decides to start clean-slate they may consider re-branding, especially now that their chief investor may have say in the matter. Their Chinese investor/partner may seek to brand a Chinese FEG promotion.

Will Dream maintain their partnership with Strikeforce?
The Dream-Strikeforce partnership produced the coveted Melendez vs. Aoki bout that shook up the world lightweight rankings last spring. Although Dream is 0-5 in Dream vs Strikeforce competition, the big names it brings to the cage are enough to draw fans to the screen. Maybe we can expect a Dream-Strikeforce showdown in Beijing.

What countries will FEG take on first?
China is the obvious name at the top of FEG's priority list. For one, PUJI is headquartered there, and they'll probably want to promote heavily in the 'Middle Kingdom.' Also, the UFC has set out on their Chinese agenda. If FEG wants a war, the faceoff begins in China, but what countries will follow? 

Some other countries the FEG may give top consideration: India, South Africa, and oh yeah, the good ole' US-of-A.

What extras should we expect from FEG?
If FEG plans to attack the UFC, they won't be successful by simply promoting fights. Their promotion efforts will have to take on a wider perspective. This means a global effort will have to be conducted by maximizing multimedia channels (Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, etc.), merchandising (clothing lines), and a slew of other new age marketing practices. Beyond fights on HDNet, FEG promotions and fighters are virtually invisible to casual MMA fans in the West--this must change if FEG plans to go 'global.'

Will Dream abandon its trend of 'freak show' matches?
I'll put it like this: Kimbo Slice vs. Bob Sapp, Hong Man Choi, Jose Canseco (okay, maybe not J.C.), Butterbean, Mariusz Pudzianowski, or any other freak-show fighter has the potential to draw big views, high ratings, and a huge payday. If FEG plans to make fast money, it can do so by producing a 'freak-show of all freak-shows' match. However, if they intend to be a long-stay in MMA, and become a more relevant brand, they may want to dismiss any activity in the 'freak-show' arena.

Cage or ring: Will FEG (Dream) scrap the white cage or stick with the ring?
The decision to present a cage or a ring is a marketing decision in itself. Westerners, particularly Americans, associate mixed martial arts with the cage. The ring however, was probably most successfully used by Pride FC. 

Before the UFC's acquisition of Pride in 2007, the ring was a mainstay in the Japan-based promotion. Pride stood as proof that good fighters learned to utilize the cage to their advantage, making more exciting shows. The ring brought an extra dynamic to the fight.

Dream's white hexagonal cage was debuted at Dream 12 last October. So far, the promotion has only used the cage twice, once at Dream 12 and again at Dream 14. Both times they moved to a 3x5 round system, which brings us to our next question . . .

What rules will apply in future FEG-PUJI promotions -- International or Unified MMA rules?
Casual mixed martial arts fans in America are more familiar with the Unified MMA rules which are enforced by the Association of Boxing Commissions, but those familiar with 'Pride rules' or what some refer to as 'International MMA rules' may argue that Pride rules are much more exciting. This is especially true because Pride allowed knees and kicks to the head of a down opponent, although they prohibited elbows to the head. 

If FEG desires a Western appeal, they may choose to implement Unified MMA Rules, but if they aim to keep the Asian MMA traditions alive they'll stick to the ring and International/Pride rules (but please keep the gis and wrestling shows out of the arena, that's so cheesy).

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As for the UFC...
How soon should fans expect to see 'The Ultimate Fighter: 'China' series? 
Dana White has has all but guaranteed a Chinese version of the pop reality MMA show, "The Ultimate Fighter, and he's already alluded to a 'TUF: Canada' or 'TUF: Middle East' first, if not concurrently. Until then, the only question is not if it will happen, but rather when?

Will this whole UFC vs. FEG thing force the UFC into cross-promoting?
This is far-fetched but possible. If FEG's expansion efforts prove successful with the UFC taking the backseat, a potential peace treaty could end with the UFC taking on their Asian counterpart in the cage. 

It's difficult to imagine Dana White throwing up the white flag, but we have to remember that the UFC is approaching foreign soil. Yes, Zuffa has the money to conduct operations anywhere in the world, but public relations cannot be bought. Becoming a familiar brand in a different culture takes extra effort in all departments.

So, if FEG wins in the East we can either expect Dana White and the Zuffa team to attack head on by cross-promoting (UFC vs. Dream), or by utilizing a Cold War style of combat against the FEG alliance, sustaining a quiet fight.

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No matter how this thing pans out, the end result will be decided by the fans. This heated conflict between two rival mixed martial arts organizations will either produce a global surge in popularity, and make the sport even more competitive and interesting, or it will create a time bomb, ticking, ready to explode in the face of both parties. 

Either way, this is a war to be settled in the cage. So, in the great words of Big John McCarthy, "Let's get it on!"

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