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John L. Smith On Ultimate Fighting And Baseball (and Football Stadiums)

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Eric Jamison/AP

Conor McGregor (right) trades punches with Nate Diaz (left) during their UFC 196 welterweight mixed martial arts match on March 5. Diaz won in the second round.

$4 billion for a fighting franchise – a franchise that most Americans don’t even watch.

John L. Smith has some questions about the sale of the UFC.

He also looks at the changing timeline and players in the Stadium Game (somebody should really make book on this thing).

And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t think much of Donald Trump’s trade policy.

There were a couple of local guys at Major League Baseball's All-Star game, and one that John L. thinks should have been there.

And what’s with this post office in the middle of Lake Mead?

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On the sale of UFC:

Obviously, this is one of the enormous business scores in many years in Nevada. But, it also says something about the ability of the Fertittas and White to market a sport that has been called all kinds of outlaw names.

I think it’s a big hit with the millennial generation. I think that it brings the blood sport to a new generation that wasn’t necessarily raised watching boxing. Boxing has done a lot of damage to its own credibility with some of its promotions over the years. It has changed. The country is changing. UFC – that’s mixed martial arts fighting- has really kind of boxing for that generation that wants its news in very tight sound bites, wants its sporting events to go very quickly, wants the latest technology.

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These fights generally go a few minutes versus those 10 and 12 slugfests that boxing fans are accustom to watching.

I expect Dana White, as has been reported, is going to keep his hand in this. He certainly knows it. No one knows it better. The Fertittas are investors in this group. The group includes some folks who are very adept at promoting in Hollywood. They’ve got their own money in this.

I could see UFC expanding over in Asia. Mixed martial arts fighters and kickboxers are also movie stars. You’ll find they have their own line of films. And I wouldn’t be shocked if that wasn’t a place that this grew.  

I’m a little surprised that haven’t been hearings called because this is a very closed shop and sooner or later people are going to start comparing UFC to other sports leagues, because it is not simply a promotion, it is an entire structure and it sure looks like a sports league to me.

There have been questions. They are usually tamped down by a very active marketing and relationship with the press that White enjoys. They are usually tamped down but there have been critics of how much the athletes are getting paid. How much of the promotion they’re being included in and whether that is sufficient going forward because if the sale price is $4 billion you have to believe that the new owners believe it can make many, many, many more billions than that. That means sooner or later those athletes are going to have to enjoy a substantial slice of the pie, at least in my mind.

On the proposed stadium:

I remember just a few weeks ago that the UNLV land and the Tropicana site was considered the best, and really only, option for this stadium – $1.4 billion stadium at the time – and suddenly that has changed and frankly, it should change. Clearly, there are critics of that site, and there are critics of other sites.

Now, I’m one of those skeptics that believe there are other moving parts of this story that haven’t been completely established and that includes Steve Wynn’s participation, which is just now being reported. He’s been watching this very closely. Clearly, he may have had a hand in this idea at a much early time than has been fully understood. I wouldn’t be shocked if down the line other casinos players in Southern Nevada don’t step up and pony up some money, even if it’s only for extra luxury boxes or that sort of thing. And that includes the Fertitta family. They certainly have money to spend.

The thing that is a little bit of a shocker for me is that is that the price continues to fluctuate and it’s clearly rising. I’ve heard reports as high as $1.9 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for a stadium… it’s a tremendous amount of money to put into something that Joe Citizen will also have to buy a ticket to.

I’ve been in Las Vegas a very long time. If the team is winning there will be very few tickets available. If the team is not winning, there will be plenty of tickets available. The fan in Las Vegas is notorious fair-weather oriented. So, no matter what the ticket prices are scaled at, if the team doesn’t come in and really compete, you’re going to be able to fire cannons through the stadium.

On the post office in the middle of Lake Mead:

Pardon me for being an insomniac, but on nights when I can’t sleep I just love digging up nuggets about Nevada history.

We’re coming up on an anniversary of sorts. The anniversary is July 23, 1866. The post office at St. Thomas, Nevada opened. That’s good news for the folks in St. Thomas, except that it wasn’t in Nevada then. This is the thing that is just a killer: it was actually part of the Utah territory. This is a place not too far from Logandale at the edge of Lake Mead – or actually in Lake Mead, if the water is up.

A few years later, it becomes part of the Arizona territory. And by 1871, it becomes part of the state of Nevada. So, St. Thomas does this transition through two territories and into Nevada. To top it all off, by 1938, the water of Lake Mead had covered up the post office.

On the Major League Baseball All-Star game:

I just love the fact that a new generation of Las Vegas ball players, Kris Bryant with the Cubs and Bryce Harper with the Nationals, that they’re getting such accolades and deservedly so. These are two of the most talented players in all of baseball. There’s another ballplayer out of Las Vegas that doesn’t get the ink that Harper or Bryant receive but he’s a Milwaukee Brewers power hitter named Chris Carter. He’s from Sierra Vista High School and Carter is a phenomenally talented ballplayer. He’s an all-or-nothing guy. He has 22 homeruns in the first half of the season and a lot of strikeouts and a lower batting average. The thing that’s fun to watch is whenever he comes to the plate you can almost see the pitchers wince, because they know what’s coming and it’s either going to be very long hit ball or very powerful breeze from a swing and a miss.

On Greg Maddux helping UNLV:

Greg Maddux’s son is attending UNLV. He’s going to play for the baseball team for as long as he plays in the college baseball ranks. The fascinating thing is that this is a Las Vegas story that is really one of the great pitching stories in baseball. That is the role of Greg Maddux’s father in his life and in Mike Maddux, his older brother, his life. Mike made it to the big leagues and pitched for a number of years. And is a very successful pitching coach and I think that Greg might be headed that way himself. I know that he is well capable of it. And I can’t believe a guy who played that long in the big leagues with Hall of Fame statistics would think about really leaving the game.  

Guests

John L. Smith, contributor

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