Welcome to the Trump Era. Will The Donald Influence MMA and Boxing Again?
Editorial By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Donald Trump was sworn in on January 20, 2017, as the 45th President of the United States. The eight years of Barack Obama and Joe Biden are past tense. Will the presence of the Donald in The White House affect boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, and other professional sports? The Donald is a member of the New Jersey MMA Hall of Fame.
His interactions and opinions in professional sports have varied. For example, when Trump used his influence and power to get the rival United States Football League, in which he owned the New Jersey Generals, to change its seasonal schedule from spring to fall, in the hopes of forcing a merger with the National Football League, the USFL folded.
The answer is yes. Much depends on whether or not the economy, business and industry experience some good turns in the months ahead. If the United States does well, the world does well. If the world does well, then everybody does well.
Good publicity and good public relations benefit all sports, amateur and professional, not just boxing. The Trump Era, if it is a good omen and stimulates the economy in a good way, both in the Americas and abroad, will bring more people to live sporting events. As a very public person, the more sporting events The Donald attends, the better the publicity for all sports. Boxing and MMA need an infusion of positive energy to interest in both sports alive and kicking.
During its first seven years, the UFC was a small regional operation and relatively unknown. Chased with bad press wherever it went, in the shadow of staged and fake professional wrestling which was then far more popular, MMA promotions were not anywhere where near big fight capitals like Las Vegas, New York City, and Atlantic City. In its infancy, MMA shows were limited to small town venues in states such as Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
Suddenly, Donald Trump, who turned Atlantic City into a boxing center with the arrival of Mike Tyson, helped the relatively obscure and unpopular MMA make its first step into professional sports legitimacy in the Americas. Trump opened the doors of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to the UFC on November 17, 2000. (The Trump Taj Mahal, now owned by businessman Carl Icahn, closed its doors on October 10, 2016, but the possibility remains it may reopen under another name in 2017).
When the UFC was sold in 2001, Trump again opened the doors of the Trump Taj Mahal for UFC 30 and UFC 31. In addition, with Trump’s direct intervention, UFC 32 was held at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Later in 2001, the UFC had held its first show in the gaming mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada, gaining a permanent international location foothold. The incredible period during which the UFC, Bellator and the WSOF saw their rise to MMA success, television deals and endorsement deals in the millions of dollars, had arrived and was unstoppable.
In 2007, the financially ambitious Donald bought a major equity stake in the rival Affliction Entertainment, a fight promotion created in 2008 to challenge UFC. The Affliction promotion’s first two pay-per-view events, featuring former and suspended UFC fighters, were financially successful. The third event, scheduled for August 2009, got snared when heavyweight Josh Barnett, in the main event, tested positive for anabolic steroids. The third scheduled event got cancelled. Affliction folded under financial pressure.
Power, influence and presence, all of which Trump has, bring a great electricity to everything he does and everywhere he goes. More so, Donald has had and still has a relationship with the hotels and properties which bear his name, especially in Las Vegas and Atlantic City where MMA and boxing have been prominent and entrenched, thanks to him. Only time will tell of Trump’s presence and influence, and now presidential influence, can benefit MMA, boxing, and other professional sports.
The Donald’s history involving MMA, boxing and the media seems to indicate more good things are to come. Never the quiet type, in January 2014, Trump verbally compared the dangers of MMA to football (he previously owned The New Jersey Generals, a football team in the defunct USFL for three seasons in the 1980’s), and said he wouldn’t let his sons compete in either sport, for fear of brain damage. His statement might have been a potshot at the UFC for some reason, or maybe not. As such, The Donald will be assessed better by any future MMA, boxing, and other events he will facilitate, promote and attend, whether directly or indirectly. Financial disclosures have revealed Trump’s overall net worth, personal and corporate, is over two billion United States dollars. Corporations run by Trump, not necessarily with his money, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy over 10 times.
Trump’s mind and its opinion has been fickle over time. His ability to fall and rise yet again was proven yet again by his election and ascendancy to the American presidency. Sportswriter Robert Brizel’s education in Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’ was verified in ‘The Art of the Comeback’. You cannot keep a good man down, but it does seem Donald Trump only uses his influence for good measure when it decidedly benefits him, and goes the other way against competition when it does not. That would not make Donald much different than any other businessman in financial motion, all things considered.