The foundation to any sporting franchise’s success is the ability to draw large audiences and advertisers. In order to achieve this requires a clever marketing department, some large personalities, and dare I say a dash or two of exciting talent.
When the UFC signed a 750 million dollar deal with FOX, Dana described the deal as his proudest moment in UFC history. All Dana needed to do in return was to continue providing exciting action packed bouts to viewers.
Maintaining marketable talent within the UFC has not always been an easy task. When Brock Lesnar sold 1.6 million PPVs at UFC 100, many believed that this human beast would reign for many more years to come until Diverticulitis reared its ugly head. It was a complete blow for the UFC, losing one of their most marketable fighters. It also appeared to trigger an epidemic of injuries including the sidelining of GSP and many others. It was almost as if a curse had been spelled.
Within the UFC, there are only a small number of fighters that can sell large PPV numbers. I like to think of these individuals as an endangered species led by Commander-In-Chief Georges St-Pierre.
Over the years, the number of PPV sales has been steadily declining and many of the lower weight classes have struggled to match the sales of their bigger brothers. The increasing number of events, new weight classes, and a slowing economy are just some of the theories being hurdled around. Dana has always said that it is not a simple task getting people to stay home on a Saturday night when so many other competing sports and activities are available to the consumer.
In house fighting over pay disputes has not helped either with Rampage Jackson being one of the bigger stars to leave the UFC based on irreconcilable differences. With all the challenges that the UFC faces, it was no surprise that the UFC finally went out and found some beautiful and talented athletes to build a women’s division.
The future of the UFC is solely dependent on recruiting talented and charismatic fighters that can promote the business and put on exciting fights. By the time the new FOX deal is up for renewal in six years time a lot of the most marketable veterans will have retired. Some of the big names include:
Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Mark Hunt, Nogeuria brothers, Frank Mir, Rich Franklin, Cung Lee, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Chael Sonnen, Shogun Rua. Vitor Belfort, Michael Bisping, Chris Leben, Diaz brothers, Josh Koscheck. Benson Henderson, and even George St Pierre.
The acquisition of Pride injected some ready made stars to the UFC however the fruits of that acquisition is quickly coming to an end. Even The Ultimate Fighter Series which has been running for more seasons than I can count is becoming stagnant and predictable to many viewers. It has been the star manufacturing plant for many years and its ongoing success is paramount to building the fan base.
The UFC truly have an uphill battle in keeping fans swiping their credit cards in an increasingly competitive market. UFC events are not cheap by any stretch with many fans parting with $250 or more just to see a single event. Some fans have even argued that cards are thinning out fast.
So fight fans, I have three questions for you.
Do you believe that the best days are now behind the UFC? Would you like to see the UFC host a hybrid promotion that includes boxing and MMA on the same card to inject some new life (Roy Jones vs. Anderson Silva)? And has the Ultimate Fighter Series run its course?