Dana White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship today stood beneath a big EA Sports banner and announced to the world his partnership with a company that he once called “the me-toos” of the games industry. It’s only day one of E3 and this is by far the most surprising thing I’ve witnessed today.
This was a company that once turned him away in insulting fashion as he looked to expand his brand. He had to take his product to small publishers like Spike and Global Star Software before the company took off in 2005. Then, as the UFC slowly became recognized as a sport under Dana and the Fertitta’s, THQ came in and created the smash hit UFC Undisputed 2009. It was such a big success for both companies that when EA announced their own MMA title, Dana held nothing back in his criticism.
He took this moment to spearhead a campaign against EA’s MMA title as it went head to head against his UFC Undisputed 2010. Dana was able to air his grievances and even at one point attempted to force his fighters to sign an exclusivity contract so the UFC could own their likenesses forever. The argument got dirty and unfortunately for everyone, both games failed to really deliver in sales.
Now ,as he stands on stage fist bumping an EA representative at the show, I can only think about how good of a deal this could be for both companies. Right now the UFC is in a transitional period within the company. They signed a deal with Fox Networks which has been a mixed reception. Casual fans haven’t quite made the transition over to FX where the Ultimate Fighter now stands and the show is one of the lowest rated in show history. Likewise, the ratings for the big UFC on Fox events have been all over the place.
A deal like this brings a lot to the table for both companies and it will be interesting to see what comes of this. EA’s MMA was as good as UFC Undisputed 2010 to many. THQ unfortunately isn’t in a strong place right now financially due to some really bad decisions from executives. So, EA swooped in and bought out the license from THQ, much to the delight of the UFC.
This is good because EA has the foundation for development of a series like this. They have the appropriate advertising contracts, marketing departments and development structure to turn the UFC from a surprise hit to simply a hit. At the end of the day, the UFC is a business and this deal makes good business sense for everybody.
We finally get to see what happens when the biggest MMA company in the world gets games made by the largest distributor of sports games on the planet. Dana coming out to put his stamp on this deal could be the first step in bringing MMA fighting games back in to the spotlight.