Wednesday, July 9, 2014

UFC COO Ike Lawrence Epstein Talks MMA


There was another installment of the Columbia University Sports Management Program's class on MMA in New York last night, and the guest lecturer was a doozy. UFC Chief Operating Officer Ike Lawrence Epstein took a turn with the conch shell, and with New York-based lobbyists David Weinraub and Steve Greenberg on hand, the pearls of wisdom were seemingly endless.

The class began with a sizzle reel, then came a Power Point presentation packed with all kinds of great info. After that came a lengthy question-and-answer session.

Some of the more salient points of the knowledge dropped by Epstein, Weinraub and Greenberg included:

  • UFC content is parsed out into three levels, and this was illustrated by a graphic of a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid is the UFC's premium content (such as pay-per-view fare), the middle of the pyramid is comprised of UFC Fight Nights, and the bottom is The Ultimate Fighter. This is how the organization sees their own product.
  • Market saturation and how it affects pay-per-view sales is a very real issue that the UFC is mulling over right now.
  • Having pro MMA banned in New York has had a negative impact on the sponsors the UFC can attract. After all, being banned anywhere does create some stigma.
  • The Culinary Union has played some really dirty pool with the UFC.
  • Weinraub has in the past suggested that the UFC stage an amateur event in New York. Said Epstein: "It's tempting. God, is it tempting." The UFC has thus far stuck to its guns though, wanting to do what they've done everywhere else and wait for state-sanctioning.
  • The UFC is supporting of Senator Joseph Griffo's bill that would regulate amateur MMA in New York. In fact, they've been very vocal about how much they'd want amateur MMA regulated regardless of what goes on with the pro MMA ban.
  • Having observed the legalization process throughout the country and in places such as Brasilia, Brazil and Canberra, Australia, Epstein believes the political mess in New York to be the worst of the bunch.
Usually, most of the UFC's talking is done via Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, and occasionally Marc Ratner, so it was a pleasure to get Epstein's perspective on things. And as for that Power Point presentation... whichever MMA newsite gets a hold of that one is going to be drowning in traffic. That thing alone was more than worth the price of admission.

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