Retired UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub has turned into the company’s staunchest critics. As of late, he has been attacking his former employers for the new UFC-ESPN deal that puts all pay-per-view broadcasts under one platform, which Schaub says killed the superstar model that boosted the likes of Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey, to name a few.
Schaub doubled down on this theory in the most recent episode of his Below the Belt podcast, connecting it to the failed negotiations to re-sign former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
“We heard Brock Lesnar turned down the deal,” Schaub said (transcript via BJPenn.com). “Conor… we haven’t heard anything from him. The UFC is content just being in cruise control because they have this reliable nut from ESPN. They’re set there, so they’re not willing to be bend over backwards to get a guy like Brock Lesnar anymore. They don’t need it. They don’t have to give Conor McGregor half the company to come back.
“Everyone wins, but the fighters are so f—d because it’s such a limited viewership now,” he continued. “So your sponsors are less — if you even had any. Your notoriety, your fame, your social media following, your YouTube channel to sell merch.
“The day and age of a superstar in the UFC is gone, gone. It’s so gone.”
For Schaub, UFC president Dana White gets to reap most of the benefits, as he sees similarities with WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
“Notice the direction of the marketing now on ESPN. Who do you see now? Dana White. It’s very Vince McMahon,” he said. “This is the face that you recognize. Because you won’t recognize the fighters, but you recognize Dana White. So his ego and his popularity goes up. That’s the face [of the company] now.
“That’s not good. All the promos are Dana. It’s all him. That’s insane, man.”
UFC 236 was the first pay-per-view event that was broadcasted under ESPN+. The card reportedly racked up under 100K buys, which is one of the lowest in the last 15 years.