Making the invisible visible through data storytelling with UFC’s Alon Cohen

The 2008 financial crisis impacted millions of jobs around the country, for Alon Cohen it marked a move from the legal world to co-founding a data company (FightMetric) and eventually led him to his current position as SVP of Research and Development at UFC. Data is his thing, but his role at UFC goes so much deeper than that and he joined us on #Storyteller to share stories about his career, producing with data, and his role with I Support the Girls.

 “Being able to show and tell stories using data, where the human mind isn’t set up to think a certain way, that’s maybe the most powerful version of data storytelling.”

Alon Cohen – SVP of Research & Development, UFC

Alon talks about the art of making the invisible visible when deciding what data to show and tell during a production, shares the state of data as it relates to live sports betting, and flexes his foodie expertise by offering up some of his favorite places to eat in Las Vegas. Watch the broadcast on-demand above and let us know what you think on Twitter or LinkedIn. Afterward, check out how Alon and the team at UFC integrate Tagboard into their productions to capture a 100X return on investment.

Using data to make the invisible visible:

We tell stories with data on the broadcast to really either cement for you how big of a lead somebody has for example, or we talk about making the invisible visible. The viewer may not be noticing something, or they have forgotten because it happened four minutes ago, but the beginning of the round had an enormous striking advantage for this person and it has now swapped towards the end of the round. Being able to show and tell those stories using data, where the human mind isn’t set up to think that way, that’s maybe the most powerful version of data storytelling.

The state of UFC data and sports betting:

We are ready as a sport, I know that because I’m managing all our gaming data, we are ready to confront courtsiding. I have data feeds you can’t beat. Draftkings, one of our sports partners, and others already have pretty deep props. We’ve done partnerships to let people build complex betting scenarios and price them. Ultimately that’s the big trick, you need to be able to price them. So the question is when will people come to the product? I think it’s going to be little by little and then all at once.

Las Vegas food recommendations:

There’s a place here called Esther’s Kitchen that I think is excellent, it’s off the strip in the Arts District. I think there is a whole set of stuff over there that’s fun and worthwhile. Some of the most iconic chefs that have places on the strip I think occasionally are about the name and not about the food, but we went to Momofuku and it was a really great experience. If you’re used to that experience at a New York, Los Angeles, or some other food scene where you expect to interact with people and not just have a very manufactured experience, that is available here now, and I don’t think it was for a long time. (Catch some others recs at the 21:50 mark of the video)