(When Zuffa purchased the UFC, Dana White actually had hair. There is no punchline, just a fact worth mentioning.)
By Nathan Smith
I have purchased pay per views from the Ultimate Fighting Championship since 1994, where I was welcomed to the sport with Pat Smith turning the face of Scott Morris into a Manwich at UFC 2: No Way Out. It was like heroin after that – I was addicted. Since then, I estimate that I have shelled out well over $5000 on PPVs alone, much less another sizeable chunk of change on tickets to live events and the obligatory UFC merchandise (who can live without the life-sized GSP cardboard cut-out – NOT ME).
Throughout that time I have been an advocate of MMA to the uninformed masses that I’ve encountered at watering holes across this great land. For every, “That UFC shit is just a legalized bar fight” comment, I would swoop in like Dogwelder to defend the UFC and its competitors. It was almost a grass roots effort by the early UFC supporters to educate the ignorant and let them know that this is a real sport filled with unbelievably talented athletes. The edification continues today as many intelligent fans try to shun the perceived stigma that we are a bunch of tatted-up dudes wearing flat-billed TAPOUT hats and driving small-penis-compensating monster trucks while applying ring worm ointment to our wounds.
Then there was the figure-head, the fearless leader that was taking all the media scrutiny head-on and paving the way while holding up his middle finger to the man. After the ZUFFA purchase, Dana White was a perfect fit during the infancy of the UFC’s push towards legitimacy. Adopting rules and weight classes and marketing the shit out of the product culminated in a 7 year deal with FOX and its affiliates. Now the UFC is on the precipice of its fourth nationally televised FOX card and the ratings have plummeted from 5.7 million during UFC on FOX 1 (Cain Velasquez VS Junior Dos Santos) to 2.4 million during UFC on FOX 3 (Nate Diaz VS Jim Miller).
I don’t think it is a coincidence that viewership and PPV buys are down. I have always been a staunch supporter of the brand and even I, a die hard fan, am starting to see chinks in the UFC armor. The reasons have been dissected on CP with various posts but I believe that this is just the beginning of problems for the UFC unless some changes are made pronto. I am not saying that the UFC is in the toilet but as the organization has grown in stature from eviscerating the competition, a standard evolution needs to happen.
So with that in mind, here are five ways that the UFC can move from their current plateau all the way to the mountain top.
1. DEAL WITH OVERSATURATION
(Example A: Deeming matchups like these headliner-worthy.)
There are (and I can’t believe I am saying this) an overabundance of fights provided (both free or PPVs) throughout the Zuffa calendar year, and the fans have been inundated with this variety of contests. The fact that there are three Zuffa-run cards (UFC on FOX 4, UFC 150 and a Strikeforce event) over the course of the next three weeks illustrates my point exactly. Great, right? Well, seeing how it has been a thoroughly mixed bag of good and bad fight cards, it is not all roses. UFC on FOX 2 showcased every fight going to a decision, TUF LIVE tanked, and who could forget the turd in the swimming pool that was UFC 149.
Sure, it is easy to pick on the bad cards, but there is a mammoth quantity of MEDIO-CORE fighters on the roster due to Zuffa buying most of the competition. So the UFC has gone from 19 fight cards (12 PPV mixed with 7 Fight Night/TUF Finales) in 2007 to holding somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 this year (and that is UFC only events). Yes, we all get to see more fights, but I remember when a UFC card was an event in and of itself. It was a special, once-a-month occasion, and now (with the exception of the occasional championship fight) it seems to have grown a bit monotonous. The UFC needs to trim the herd or start a lower level organization for up-and-comers or wash-outs while keeping the cream of the crop for the main cards. I vaguely recall an organization that accomplished this perfectly (Wicked Exciting Cagefighting?). Wonder what happened to those guys.
2. BOOK THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS
Dana White has said on numerous occasions that the difference between the UFC and boxing has a lot to do with promoters as well as the UFC’s ability to put the big fights together. That used to be true. The Potato Nation was fairly vocal about an Anderson Silva vs. GSP bout not that long ago. It never happened. The new flavor of the week is Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones. That is another fight that is more than likely not going to happen, because as we all know, Bones doesn’t want to risk ruining “his greatness.” Hubris, Jon, it has its pratfalls.
When the UFC brass announcing that the most exciting winner on the UFC on FOX 4 card will be next in line for a LHW title shot, we were all a bit confused. Two things MUST happen for this announcement to hold any credence. First off, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has to turn Brandon Vera’s nose into Cung Le’s toe and earn the #1 contender status. Secondly, Dan Henderson must land his H-Bomb on the chin of Bones and put him to sleep. Then we get Hendo VS Shogun II for the LHW championship of the world, a notion that has already given me (and all of you people) a half-chub. Let’s be perfectly honest, although it is possible for these scenarios to play out, the likelihood of both materializing is a stretch. The UFC used to make the real main event fights happen. The BJ Penn vs Matt Hughes and GSP fights and the Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz fights were all must-see TV and the ratings proved it.