Word is out that B.J. Penn has turned down a chance to fight Kenny Florian at UFC 99 in Germany. If he can't be coaxed into that June fight, the card takes a big hit. UFC really needs to hit a home run and now it's left scrambling looking for huge names to wow the fans and German media. My first reaction was, here we go again with Penn doing something counterproductive. The guy has always marched to the beat of his own drum. We've certainly seen that with his inability to let go of "Grease-Gate"
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that another one of UFC's champs/big stars has refused to fight in Europe? Penn isn't the first of the UFC's elite to say Europe is a no-go. Is there a reason? Is it the travel? Michael Rome over at Bloody Elbow may be onto something saying that pay-per-view bonuses are keeping UFC's biggest names from fighting abroad:
Aside from when Dan Henderson faced off against Quinton Jackson at UFC 75, the European cards have featured lower level names.
It's becoming commonplace for many of the champions and huge names to have a PPV back end bonus. That is part of what brought Randy Couture back into the fold. The CBC reported the Couture may have received as much as a $2.5 million bonus after the UFC 91 PPV numbers shot through the roof. With the Saturday afternoon slot and the inability to lock in additional big stars on these Europeans cards, a headliner like Anderson Silva or B.J. Penn is bound to lose major bonus money when the PPV buys drop from the 700,000-1 million range to 250,000-300,000.
UFC apparently has a pretty aggressive bonus system behind the scenes. Can't it throw money at the problem and simply make up the dollar shortfall itself for the fighters with regards to the PPV bonuses? MMAPayout may have answered this one with its look at the two London cards:
UFC 85 - Attendance 15,327; Gate $2.93 million
UFC 95 - 13,268; approx. $1 million
Guaranteeing a bonus for a guy like Penn may be a bitter pill to swallow for the UFC when the Europeans cards aren't doing gangbuster numbers at the venues. Why such a big drop off from 85 to 95? Is it a result of the flopping economy or did London fans send a message that they want bigger names and title bouts on these cards? It's a real quandry. Can the UFC grow the sport in Europe with the Diego Sanchezes of the world?