Yesterday afternoon MMA Junkie released a video blog post, with part-time podcaster and USA Today Columnist Ben Fowlkes, raising concerns about the recent judge dismissal by UFC President, Dana White, at the UFC event in Macao this past weekend.
Mr. Fowlkes raised some valid concerns, in fact, at first glance, upon hearing the news myself, I too had similar concerns, but then upon researching the matter further I began to understand the politics and economics of the situation and how a string of controversial decisions could spell trouble for the UFC at their debut event in the region. Far be it for me to say that I agree with every decision the UFC makes, or for that matter, every decision Dana White makes, yet in this case I must say, emotional or not, his actions may have been prudent.
Macao is one of the only places in China where Casino Gambling is legal. In fact, the primary economy for Macao is that of tourism and gambling. Many wealthy individuals there put down tremendous amounts of money on high stakes bets on a daily basis.
Just to put things into perspective for you. Macao is home to one of the world’s most plush and exclusive hotel destinations. The Paiza Mansions which boast 6,000 sq ft suites (the size of five semi-detached houses) that can only be reached by a private elevator. They also each come with two butlers and a masseur. How much could such a hotel cost per night you ask? Absolutely nothing. In fact, you couldn’t even book a stay there if you tried. The only qualifying candidates for a stay in that hotel are high rollers that spend a minimum of HK$10-15m ($1.3-$2m) at the downstairs casino and even then the offer to use the suites is by invitation-only.
We aren’t talking 50 dollars down on whether Jones takes out Cormier in the first round here. OK, so what does that have to do with the UFC event? I’m getting there, be patient.
The Paiza Club and Mansions are part of the Macau Venetian, the world’s largest casino, and the fifth biggest building on the planet. Coincidentally, the very same place the UFC event was held in Macao. You might also like to know that the Casino Gambling industry in Macao is so big that every time you buy something with a Made in China label on it, much of the money eventually ends up there (in Macao).
Las Vegas stakes are puny by comparison. In the month of February, 2011 alone Chinese punters bet around $116 Billion on Macao’s baccarat tables. Casinos in Macao such as the Venetian, MGM Grand, Wynn, Sands, Lisboa, and many, many more typically skim around 2.5% from punters, giving them net revenues that in February of 2011 alone were approximately HK$19.9bn ($2.7bn).
Taking that into consideration and what we told you in our earlier piece about audiences there desiring “clear” outcomes, it’s absolutely no surprise that Dana White reacted the way he did. With that sort of money potentially on the table, anyone would have a mini-meltdown when the crowd is in an uproar over split decisions. And if it were anyone else’s call to make in the same situation, I’d the surprised to see them react differently.
This is one time where I’d have to say I side with Mr. White. He acted prudently and likely saved himself and the UFC a lot of grief that night.
That being said, I do agree with Mr. Fowlkes that as a matter of practice there should be a separate governing body that regulates these events, but as it stands today, there is none in Macao and the UFC is not exactly the United Nations of combat sports gambling (no matter how much they or extreme fans might want to believe so). It will take a bit more work on everyone’s parts to bring that sort of change to Macao and other similar regions.
If you follow politics, you’ll note just how resistant other cultures can be to new ideas, so don’t hold your breath on seeing that sort of change any time soon.