As Bob Dylan famously sang, The times, they are a-changin’. The days of the UFC handing out free tickets to their fighters who aren’t performing in the event appear to be long gone, unless you get special approval from UFC president Dana White.
UFC light heavyweight top contender Anthony Johnson (pictured) first revealed the policy change, which will likely be the first of many fighter-unfriendly moves by the UFC’s new ownership, first brought this shift to light Monday on “The MMA Hour” when he revealed he was denied tickets for the promotion’s historic NYC debut at UFC 205.
“Hopefully, I can go. I am trying to go there. I’m wanting to go to UFC 206. I wanted to fight on UFC 205. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Then when I asked for tickets to 205 I got a big, ‘No, no.’ Yeah, they just weren’t giving out tickets because the place was sold out from what I heard,” Johnson said. Whatever the excuse was, it is what it is, it’s over with now.
“Hell, I was supposed to fight at UFC 206 and now that’s not happening, so hopefully they will at least let me go and meet the fans and say what’s up to the fans and give something back to them because a lot of people bought pay-per-view and bought tickets because of Daniel and I. I still get a lot of messages from fans saying they wish I was on the card or that I would come out. So, I want to give the fans something and I don’t want them to be completely disappointed.”
UFC 205 was arguably the hottest ticket in UFC history, so at least there’s a legitimate reason why they weren’t able to accommodate Johnson’s request. However, how about giving him some sort of credential so he can roam MSG’s halls and greet fans?
One of the best things about attending UFC shows is that you can randomly bump into your favorite fighters anywhere at any time, including the bathroom:
I mean, who doesn’t want to take a whiz next to “The Count”?
Granted, the UFC middleweight champion was working as an analyst for Fox Sports 1 at UFC 205, but you get the point. This certainly isn’t a rare occurrence.
One of the most unique things about the UFC is how accessible their fighters are to their fans. They are famous enough to be recognized, but not famous enough to where they ignore the people who support them. Receiving autographs and taking pictures with UFC fighters at events is almost a given, until now.
UFC strawweight Joanne Calderwood revealed Tuesday night that she was denied tickets for UFC 206.
— Joanne Calderwood (@DRkneevil) November 29, 2016
Calderwood will likely land at least one free ticket after putting the UFC on blast publicly. But how soon before every fighter tears a page out of the Calderwood playbook to score free tickets? It’s going to stop somewhere.
Furthermore, it’s not as though UFC 206 is sold out. It’s not even a card most fans are willing to pay $59.95 to watch from home, so why be so stingy? Especially when the fighters attending the events as spectators will only help your brand? Maybe they can help the UFC finally sell some of those ugly Reebok Fighter Kits…
Comping $200 tickets to fighters who will take countless selfies to convert a casual fan into a hardcore fan certainly sounds like a beneficial trade. And guess where those pics will ultimately end up? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
It’s not as though a fighter is asking for plane tickets, room and board and a daily stipend to go along with the ticket. Comping tickets to a ho-hum event to your athletes, who you know damn well are grossly underpaid to begin with, seems like the least the UFC could do. Then again, sometimes common sense isn’t so common. Or the UFC’s new owners are looking to save every cent they can after shelling out a whopping $4.2 billion to buy the company in July.
Either way, fighter morale is quickly going down the toilet, and as any business owner knows, the worst thing you can have on your hands is a disgruntled employee.