With WEC and Strikeforce Ratings Up, Dana White Works for a UFC Network Deal

UFC boss Dana White fields questions after UFC 102.

Per MMA Weekly:

At the post-fight press conference for UFC 102 in Portland, Ore., White told MMAWeekly.com that he was flying to L.A. on Monday for another meeting with an undisclosed network.

 

When asked if he was finalizing a deal, White said, "I hope so... I really hope so."

Word is that Dana hopes to air B.J. Penn's lightweight title defense against Diego Sanchez in November on network TV.

It's in this context that Dave Meltzer analyzes the potential for MMA oversaturation on television. He points out something interesting -- despite their booming PPV numbers, the UFC hasn't been having as great a year in the television ratings:

While Strikeforce and WEC events have nowhere near the popularity of UFC events, Showtime did set its record MMA rating on its most recent show on Aug. 15, and that was with head-to-head opposition of a UFC taped show attempting to siphon off some of the audience. The most recent WEC show, on Aug. 9, coming the night after a UFC show, headlined by Miguel Angel Torres’ bantamweight title loss to Brian Bowles did the best rating Versus has ever done for a show that didn’t feature top drawing card Urijah Faber.

On the other hand, UFC television ratings have not increased this year. More people than ever are willing to pay to see the big events, but are also willing to skip the free shows that aren’t headlined by the big names.

He also discusses some of the reasons for this year's UFC and MMA boom:

UFC’s most recent growth seems to have been fueled by the popularity of its hit video game, UFC 2009 Undisputed. The game helped bolster the fan base, as has increased media coverage of the major shows, which in more and more places are being treated as legitimate sporting events.

A few years ago mainstream coverage treated MMA as an oddity and novelty. MMA is still probably the most popular current sport that creates a great generational divide, dismissed as a real sport by most above a certain age, and accepted without question as a sport by most under that age. But if you look back even two years, the level of change in coverage and attitudes is astounding, and that is almost sure to continue as the sport puts down roots in the culture.

While UFC's ratings on Spike have been flat thus far in 2009, let's not forget that a certain Kimbo Slice is making his reality TV debut in just a few weeks. I expect that the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring the notorious Slice as well as a bumper crop of legitimate heavyweight prospects, veteran MMA fighters, and ex-NFL players will do banner numbers at least to begin the season.

It's pretty thrilling to watch Dana White swing from success to success and still keep going for more. The guy knows that this is no time to get complacent and sit on his lead. Dana and the Fertittas came very close to permanently locking up all five of the marquee divisions in MMA when they went balls out trying to sign Fedor Emeliananko earlier this month. Most of the analysis revolved around Fedor's motivations and the angry backlash of disappointed fans who wanted to see Fedor vs Brock Lesnar, but most missed the implications of the UFC acquiring the top heavyweight in the game. Had they locked up Fedor then Zuffa would have the #1 fighter in all seven of the divisions tracked by the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA rankings and would have effectively locked themselves in as THE major league of the sport.

But even with that final victory snatched from his grasp, Dana only pushes even harder for world domination. In the aftermath of Strikeforce's very solid ratings performance with Carano vs Cyborg, the specter of Fedor on CBS has to be keeping Dana White up at night.

I'm rooting for Dana to land a network deal -- the right network deal -- but the drama of the situation is irresistibly fascinating: the brash young man at the top of his game, experiencing success that would have astounded all observers just five years ago still driven to attain ever more dizzying heights while his competitors nip at his heels.

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