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Building a better Bodog

My review of Bodog Fight’s U.S. debut in Trenton, NJ this past Saturday received a lot of views so I thought I would continue on the Bodog theme and post some thoughts I have about how they can improve their product and increase their viewership.

Less Calvin Ayre – Calvin, we get it! You’re richer than us, get more sex than us, and are cooler than us. Do you have to rub it in our faces? I’ve e-mailed him a few times to get his response to certain things related to Bodog and he always seemed like a nice guy. On TV, he comes across as being very elitist. It would do the company a little good if Calvin phased out his image a bit and when he was on, focused on his likability. Don’t show us the Calvin who is smug and trying to act like he’s too good for everyone. Show us the maverick businessman who made hundreds of millions of dollars from nothing and is now getting involved with MMA because he has a serious passion for it and believes he has the formula for a solid alternative or supplement to the UFC. People might actually be able to get behind that guy and invest their energy into the product.

Dana White at times can be all over a UFC show (although I think he’s on much less during the PPVs than before) but when he is, it’s at least in a practical role. They either show his reaction to a big upset or he’s in the ring to put on a championship belt on or award a TUF trophy. When Ayre is on the screen, it usually serves little purpose other than to promote himself. I think the most annoying thing is that he’s incorporated himself into the intro of the Ion show and they show him in a ring sparring as if he’s one of the fighters. When Dana tried to get himself over as a fighter during the Bad Blood special I thought it was bad. But at least he was training for an actual fight and has a boxing background. Who is Calvin Ayre fooling?

The most smug act of all might have been the time he was doing an interview with Paul Lazenby and there were a ton of Bodog girls there. He just had to rub it in how big time he was. It was something out of a rap video. It was almost as though the implication was that if you didn’t have a group of women with you whenever you did an interview that you were a loser. I think I might hire some hookers so that whenever I need to go to a meeting or make a phone call everyone will think I’m a sweet ass pimp. Yeah.

Tone down the women – I have nothing against women. Really, I don’t. But the selling of sex in Bodog is just amateurish, at best. If you look at what the UFC does, they manage to incorporate some sex appeal into their shows but it’s tastefully done and the women at least have a purpose. They handle ring card duties and the production team shows a closeup of them every once in awhile. I’m not a big fan of the IFL ring girl deal that they do each week, but I think the outfits they’ve been wearing the last couple of weeks is the direction Bodog should go in. Sometimes less is more. Am I watching MMA or am I watching porn? Show some skin, but I think the dental floss bikinis that they wear are gratuitous. So, less of the Bodog girls and when they are shown, improve the context in which they are used.

Change the shooting locations – MMA on the beach every week kind of wears thin. A fight is not a day at the beach. And the location chose for the St. Petersburg show was just awful. It felt like some kind of prison movie. Why not start doing the tapings in small arenas to make the promotion seem less of a novelty? I know a lot of you aren’t pro wrestling fans but some of you are. Remember the kinds of arenas that ECW used to use? I think those could be great for MMA, especially since Bodog used a ring and not a cage. A place like the Manhattan Center would be excellent for Bodog.

A better television partner – If these changes are made, I think Bodog will have a better product. If they have a better product then they might be in a position to find a better television partner. A lot of networks have jumped onto the MMA bandwagon but I’m sure a few more would like to be involved. I guess on the surface ION television doesn’t sound bad because in most instances, you don’t need cable to get it. However, how many people actually watch ION? Aim higher and try to do a deal with a 18-34 male demo basic cable channel such as FX or USA.

Change the name – I know this will never happen but Calvin Ayre is going to find himself at a crossroads sooner rather than later. Does he want his MMA promotion to be able to hold its own financially or is it going to remain a loss leader? Bodog has a few fans but it needs more in order to survive long-term. Even “billionaires” have their limits as far as how much money they are willing to lose. I bet more people would have an open mind about Ayre’s attempt to get into MMA if he showed them he was serious about MMA as opposed to his show coming across as an infomercial for the Bodog brand at times. I think the way the brand takes precedence over the fighters is going to hurt when it comes to recruiting established talent. Josh Barnett is a prime example. He’s never ripped the promotion but he’s worked for it as a commentator and cornering fighters. When he was asked in interviews about Bodog he was complementary to some extent but pretty much ruled out fighting there. I think we can all guess why: credibility!

Using Bodog as a fight promotion name just makes the whole thing look cheap and hurts the credibility. And that’s a shame because there are a lot of fighters, staff, and commentators affiliated with Bodog who carry a lot of credibility. Give the promotion a name befitting a legitimate fight promotion and make Bodog a title sponsor.

  • says:

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  • says:

    I think they need to add more to their production value. The first few times I came across this on My/ION/Versus/Network/Spike whatever channel, I thought that it was some infomercial for a chat line/liquor/brothel/hotel. I wasn’t quite sure. I finally decided that it was a liquor/hotel infomercial.

    Change the shooting locations – Yeah. That St. Petersburg shoot looked like it happened in a hotel conference room. And the beach is getting old. All I can think of is heat and humidity, then add two sweaty guys rolling around on top of each other looking like they are humping… Not a good visual.

    Tone down the women – Yep. This is why I thought that it was an ad for a chat line. I kept expecting to hear “Dial 976-BODOG chat LIVE with these hot foreign girls. Find nice Russian Bride for lonely Americans!”

    The old ECW arena was great, the crowd was on top of the action, and a real part of the show. I’m sure that the athletes feed off of the crowd, and people screaming and having fun is exciting. Sure, having other MMA people standing around the ring makes for a knowledgeable crowd, but it looks like a sparring match with all those people milling around.
    Unfortunately, most sport suck to watch live. The participants are too far away, the angle on the ‘Tron is bad, the sound is awful, and you don’t know what is happening because there is no auditory information being given. And no replays (or pausing and rewinding with DVR).

  • says:

    you forgot: hire some knowledgeable bloggers to consult on the promotion for 6-figure contracts. he’s a billionaire, he can afford it.
    did you ever watch any of the bodog poker events? they’re like “lifestyle” poker tournaments. you’ve mentioned before he’s trying to be hef, but hef didn’t seem to have to try so damn hard. he was hef. this is cal. cal, act like you been there before, brother.
    a variety of locations would be cool, with a little background on where they were (more so than someone walking around in the snow with a russian tank driving up…uh….)

  • says:

    I agree with most of what you said even though I like Bodog Fight overall. At the end of the day, this is about the fights and I appreciate the fact that they have a competitive roster of athletes not only from the US but also from Europe and Japan. You hardly see that in the rest of the UFC’s competitors.

    Having said this, I think your comments on Bodog’s raunchiness are spot on. I guess it makes sense to target the 18-34 audience but there’s no reason to treat them as if they were drooling teenagers who will buy anything that has T&A in it or believe playing poker & partying is a viable lifestyle for everyone.

    Bodog has some great fighters and from all accounts it treats them very well and pays them decently. It really is a diamond in the rough and if they play their cards well they could eventually position themselves as competition for Zuffa.

    One suggestion I would add is that they should target other demographics as well as have more events in areas that the UFC doesn’t visit often. The southwest, outside of California, seem to be predominantly served by KOTC and smaller shows. The Midwest, the occasional UFC show in Ohio notwithstanding, is also full of small promotions like XFO but none of them has a large fan base or the advantage of boasting big name fighters on their cards that Bodog does. Likewise, how about pulling one on the UFC and having a show in Mexico before Zuffa holds its event in 2009? How about one in Chicago?

    I don’t really know if it’s more profitable to create a grassroots fan base like ECW did (or WEC before it moved to Vegas) or if it’s simply better to focus on the weekly show like Bodog is doing now. Nonetheless, I believe more local advertising (I didn’t see much of it in NJ) whenever they have an event and having more shows in areas where fans are starving for live MMA might be a good way of creating more fans of Bodog Fight.

  • says:

    Another good story Sam.

    I’m another who agrees that a change of scenery would help. A building like the ECW Arena looks great on ESPN for boxing – something similar outside of the US can’t be that hard to find. (I’m just guessing that Ayre would prefer to film these tapings outside of America).

    I also wouldn’t mind a different announcer than Col. Bob Sheridan. While he’s definitely improved as an announcer, I think Bodog could use someone a bit younger who appears as more of an “MMA guy”. The Col. just always strikes me as a boxing announcer first, MMA guy second, and he’s always seemed out of place.

  • says:

    “get more sex than us and are cooler than us.”

    Funny stuff…I love it–that’s exactly what it looks like he is trying to do…with the leather jackets and the training shots?? come on..who is he kidding?

    “Do you have to rub it in our faces? People might actually be able to get behind that guy and invest their energy into the product.”

    100% AGREE!

  • says:

    I agree on Calvin. Disagree on the women cause I’m a full blooded man and not a fight nerd. Location doesn’t matter to me as long as the fights are good (maybe I am a fight nerd?). ION sucks but is better than the last network they were on which I can’t even remember the name but know I couldn’t get it. I love that they shoot in HD and their show looks a lot better than IFL. Also, Bodog does a great job on their player profiles, I love learning about the fighters in depth. They are the best at that.


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