Talkin’ MMA with UFC Founder Art Davie
MMAMemories: The man who started it all. Are you in the UFC Hall of Fame?
Art Davie: “I believe so.”
MMAMemories: You’re not sure?
Art Davie: “I don’t pay a lot attention to it. I know what I did, I created a new sport and made a lot of money, and I’m happy with the direction where it’s going. There are some questions with some of the decisions that have been made recently but there’s no doubt they’ve accomplished a lot and spent a lot of money in getting the sport closer to the mainstream.”
MMAMemories: Are too many MMA fighters vanilla or interchangeable and lacking colorful personalities like the Don Fryes and Ken Shamrocks of your era?
Art Davie: “I think we were fortunate at the time, there was such an interesting crop of talent to choose from. We had a great gene pool at the time. I felt that was one of my greatest skills as a booker and promoter – to find talent. I think when you consider there are more people training in mixed martial arts today in America – I think there are plenty that are interesting athletes although a criticism I’ve heard is that the UFC has homogenized it. But people like Quinton Jackson and Georges St. Pierre are as colorful as anything, I think.”
MMAMemories: You recently talked about MMA losing its soul. In terms of the MMA scene, what can frustrated fans do if they are bored with the UFC product? Where do they go?
Art Davie: “Part of the problem, in my experience, is the UFC is the only game in town. Would you agree? (Yes.) MMA fans would like to see it changed. There is a valid question, will it become like the WWE which has absorbed all of it’s competition? You have two models to go by. One was the boxing model where you rely on the regular sports media to cover it, etc. The other model is the WWE model. Where you create your own world, marketing, use your own TV announcers, etc. I think there’s some criticism that the UFC has gone a little too far down the WWE road and I think that criticism has some merit. I mean, now the UFC has the former WWE champion Brock Lesnar as it’s heavyweight champion.”
MMAMemories: It seems every time UFC gets a rival, fans end up getting burned because that rival flames out after a few shows. How can a new promoter or new product win over the trust of fight fans?
Art Davie: “Well I think some of the failures are due to the fact if you don’t understand the business, you’ll let the fans down. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a big, big job to compete with a brand that has been operating successfully for 15 years. It would be like creating a new aspirin and competing against Bayer, or creating a new Cola product and competing against Coca Cola. Promoters have a major job on their hands and can’t let down, otherwise the fans lose.”
MMAMemories: Do you think the way UFC presents MMA is too corporate or too slick?
Art Davie: “I heard John Paretti recently said something to that effect. The UFC was once a spectacle. Then it became a sport. It seems to be moving back to spectacle again. There is a feeling out there that techniques have declined. If that’s true I don’t know. I heard Frank Shamrock say certain striking techniques were sharper five to eight years ago. I don’t know if I agree with that but there is a feeling out there that there is a little bit of a devolution of the sport.”
MMAMemories: Do you think Dana White is out of touch with what fans really want to see?
Art Davie: “I don’t know if Dana White is out of touch, I never met him or spoke to Dana White. I heard some fans say he is out of touch in regards to the quality of fights and the promoting of certain fighters, that he may not be focused on making the best fights that can be made and promoted. I don’t know it it’s true or not. If it’s true, that would be a legitimate criticism. I can’t comment on his state of mind. Being the only game in town, they should be vulnerable to criticism. Eventually the fans will have their say.”
MMAMemories: Who are your favorite fighters to watch today?
Art Davie: “I think Georges St. Pierre is just a magnificent athlete who could excel at any sport. I like Rich Franklin. Randy Couture – the longer he went on the more admiration I have for him. He’s a smart man. I brought him into the UFC to fight Tony Halme, The Viking, he was a professional wrestler. It was one of the quickest knockouts ever.”
MMAMemories: What was your greatest moment in the UFC?
Art Davie: “UFC 3 or 5 were some of the greatest moments. Also UFC 1. That we could pull it off. We had so much opposition, it was such an uphill fight. I remember being at the cocktail party after, what a sense of accomplishment that we did it and it was a success. Then we found out we were a pay-per-view hit. Heck, all 19 shows were a fabulous experience. But number one was the biggest.”
MMAMemories: What was the most painful moment?
Art Davie: “Was running overtime in two of the events. Pay-per-view is a live event. You don’t get a chance to make a mistake at a live event. It cost us a lot, with fans, with our credibility and with the cable companies. Some fans called demanding their money back. We made adjustments with cable companies, took less. And we sent out a lot of t-shirts to angry fans. It happened twice.”
MMAMemoies: Is there anything you would do differently if you still owned the UFC?
Art Davie: “Boy, that’s a good question. I think I’d have a stronger outreach program through amateurs. Boxing is not doing well with their amateur system right now but Major League Baseball does a good job with their commitment to amateur and semi pro baseball. I might build more in that area.”
MMAMemories: As a trailblazer and a creator what project are you working on now?
Art Davie: “I have a new franchise, a new sport, it’s called XARM. And it’s become controverisal. It’s a new combat sport. combining kick boxing, jiu-jitsu and arm wrestling. Repped by William Morris. We’re presently in negotiation with a cable network. It started airing in November in ripetv, the Spike of the Internet.”