Is the UFC tarnishing its brand with too many weak PPVs and too high ticket prices?
Jim Ross has some sage advice for Dana White:
UFC is seemingly running into the same dilemma that plagues all companies who do regular PPV's and that is coming up with monthly, marketable attractions and then hoping that the overall cards live up to the hype of a discerning audience who is forking over fleeting, disposable income on an event that might not be 'must see.'
I do know that UFC will hit a home run with 'Brocktober' when Brock Lesnar fights Cain Velásquez in October in Anaheim for the coveted UFC Heavyweight Title. One could surmise that many UFC fans are waiting to invest in the Lesnar fight and may have passed on the Mir-Cro Cop event. It's somewhat akin to the WWE PPV prior to Wrestlemania. It's a tough sell.
Promoters in general, many of who live a much different life styles than do their target demos, perhaps don't realize that disposable income is still an issue despite economists saying that the recession is over. I'm not buying into the 'being over' aspect of that declaration.
Zach Arnold has a more comprehensive critique:
To channel the spirit of Dana White in a message to UFC, I think the following sentence best describes the current mood of the company's fans and supporters: I hope you have your [expletive] together the next couple of months because if you don't finish out the year strong with good shows, you are at risk of burning out a lot of your faithful fans who simply are overwhelmed by the saturation of b-level and c-level fight cards.
This is a dangerous path the UFC is on right now. Too many cards, not enough superstars, and a growing sense that the production values are not changing. Turn on a UFC show now and it looks exactly the same as it did five years ago. Turn on a UFC show now and take a look at the crowd reactions to young stars like Evan Dunham. The reaction is very quiet. That's not a good sign because it means that UFC is having trouble building up the mass appeal of their stars. Being a brand-first drawing organization does have its limits. As Quinton "Rampage" Jackson said several months ago in a Fighter's Only interview, the UFC thinks that they can draw with a bunch of symbols and not human beings who are stars in the ring. The balance of that marketing equation needs to change.
This is not to say that Brock Lesnar won't draw a big buy rate, but his opponent (Cain Velasquez) for the Anaheim show simply doesn't move the needle. If he becomes the next UFC champion, is he in a marketable enough position to make some waves business-wise? So far, the public hasn't taken an enthusiastic liking to him. Velasquez has tried to branch out and market himself, appearing in a recent Lugz commercial. The problem? The ads never say his name or mention who he fights for. If you didn't know who he was already, then you wouldn't know who the hell he is by watching the commercial.
Think about that for a minute. If Cain Velasquez beats Brock Lesnar at UFC 121, the UFC goes from having the most popular attraction in its history as the heavyweight champion to having someone who is virtually unknown to casual fans.
Yes, Velasquez has come up through the UFC ranks and hardcores who watch all the PPVs know who he is, but he's virtually unknown to casual fans. He's had no exposure on The Ultimate Fighter and so far hasn't revealed much in the way of an interesting personality.
The UFC will be investing in a Primetime special featuring both Lesnar and Velasquez, they'd better hope that Cain reveals a more interesting personality than he has thus far. Their marketing angle has focused on his ethnicity to the exclusion of anything else. Will the angle of "the first Mexican heavyweight champion" be enough to make Cain Velasquez a major draw?
Most importantly, the UFC is burning out its most loyal fans by running too many expensive PPVs and keeping ticket prices for live shows way too high for an economy in the dumps.
They are also pouring hours and hours of valuable cable TV time in building up the TUF casts -- fighters who are less and less often developing into serious factors in their divisions.
The UFC needs a way to get fighters like Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, John Hathaway, Evan Dunham and Phil Davis in front of their Spike TV audience on a more regular basis. Those are the fighters they need to be making into stars, not the Efrain Escuderos and Phillipe Novers of the world.
The UFC is in an enviable business position, but that doesn't mean they can't misplay their hand.