Last week during an interview with USA Today's Sergio Non, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta conveyed the perfect message of what fans can expect from their new deal with Fox. "It's a huge commercial.", stated Fertitta when asked about whether the deal was a marketing strategy. The obvious beneficiaries of the hour-long "commercial" are Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, but as UFC President Dana White pointed out to MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani in an interview yesterday -- Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem are heavily involved in the promotion's push to rake in bigger revenues.
Most notably, Lesnar and Overeem will participate in a press conference on Friday prior to the UFC on Fox weigh-ins. The presence of mainstream media outlets makes this a no-brainer, especially if the UFC can get coverage of the upcoming bout from some of the outlets that normally never cover mixed martial arts. White also mentioned that Lesnar and Overeem would participate in the pre-fight analysis show alongside Fox NFL Sunday's Curt Menefee.
What's the UFC's reasoning behind targeting Lesnar vs. Overeem, an event that's a little over one month away, as the fight they want to push to the UFC's newest audience? The first thing that comes to mind is... well, It's Brock Lesnar! He's the most recognizable fighter in the promotion among casual sports fans, so getting the word out about his upcoming pay-per-view fight will surely increase his appeal and the event's bottom line.
The promotional push will also allow the UFC to build up an aesthetically-pleasing fighter like Alistair Overeem, who will undoubtedly appeal to the masses with his Adonis-like physique and brutal striking game. He's a guy, in my mind, that the UFC can count on to remain in the upper-tier of the promotion for a long time, especially if we consider how shallow the division has become.
The move does steer clear of predictions that the promotion would attempt to drive pay-per-view buys for events that followed shortly thereafter. In this case, UFC 139 is one week away and features a stacked main card headlined by Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua vs. Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le. It's somewhat surprising considering the gloomy numbers that UFC 136 and UFC 137 have reportedly done.
We can't look at it as a bad move however. Lesnar's presence alone makes it an easy decision considering his transcendent appeal to fans outside of the sport. He's going to draw in more fans if the UFC can find a way to make his presence more known. The UFC on Fox marketing push should provide that platform.
I imagine we'll see a similar trend for future UFC on Fox events. Both Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta have spoken about the importance of a lengthy promotional push for major events to succeed. Since the goal of the network portion of the Fox deal is to market the brand and its fighters in order increase the UFC's bottom line in the long haul, it makes perfect sense that they would use their biggest promotional tool with the idea that big fights need a longer marketing push. It will be interesting to see which fights the UFC tries to push next on the network platform, but I imagine some of the UFC's most prominent champs will be among the names for consideration.