Power Dynamics Within the UFC

People wonder how a Sports organization begins and becomes mainstream. Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighter Championship is a good example of how one does it. There are many factors that play a role, but having wealth is a big part of the equation. Dana White was able to acquire some funding from other partners such “Fetitta brothers, Lorenzo, and Frank, who were much quieter and much more wealthy.”

When he first purchased the organization, it was failing, until he discovered they needed more rules to bring the Ultimate Fighter Championship into the sport of MMA, which at that point, was considered to be “human cockfighting.” What was considered to be play because of its freedom from rules became institutionalized and began to reflect a corporate and commodity model.  This, in turn, made the sport to be more like work than solely play.  The mainstream model also created a power shift; for example, the power the players had moved to management, in this case to Dana White: “He is a matchmaker who wields enormous power, given that he operates what feels like a monopoly in which his athletes aren’t unionized and, other than the megastars, wield precious little power.”

Early Years of UFC (source: MMA Imports)

In addition, the fighters within the sport also became expendable and most of the focus now is placed on the audience and media coverage: “The fighters come and go, but the brand has proven to be bigger than any of them.”

UFC fighter posing for camera (source: SportsProMedia)

The notion is that sport expresses a social order imposed by a dominant class of society using the wealth and power they possess. This concept comes from the conflict theory. However, one needs to consider the other side of the coin and acknowledge that sport is a cultural expression and a social construct. Sports aren’t all bad or good.  They are not perfect.  Sports are a social product and society needs to work with the current conditions, analyze the problems and find ways to fix them. 

Roberto R.

Dana White at press conference (Source: Gregory Payan/Associated Press)

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