What once seemed like a happy marriage now resembles that of a messy, bitter and public divorce. For the UFC and Spike TV, the latest casualty of the finality of their relationship is taking place in front of our very eyes this week.
The "kids" that are suffering from all the vitriol between the two mainstream MMA parents are the fighters competing on Saturday's UFC 138.
You remember UFC 138, don't you? That's the event on Spike featuring Chris Leben and Mark Munoz in the main event. Remember Thiago Alves? He's on the card too! That fancy British bantamweight with the cool hat...what's his name? Oh, Brad Pickett! He's taking on someone in Renan Barao who hasn't been defeated in 27 straight fights!
These and more stories have been waiting to be told, but in case you haven't noticed, there's been zero attention placed on UFC 138 all week. Sure, we're right at the halfway point of four events in four weeks, but every show is an important one, right? Well, apparently not if it airs on Spike TV these days.
The Card That Didn't Exist
Here's a few things that stuck out this week about the non-promotion:
- On Wednesday's The Ultimate Fighter, there wasn't a single mention/ad for Saturday's event. There were two promos for UFC 139: Henderson vs. Shogun, two deceptive spots for the Cain Velasquez/Junior dos Santos 11/12 Spike marathon, a UFC Best of 2011 DVD set ad and a promo for Ultimate Knockouts 2. To repeat, the show is on Spike TV THIS SATURDAY and there was nothing done on a UFC show aired on Spike to promote it.
- There was no UFC 138 media conference call this week or even last week. I can't remember the last time that happened in recent memory. I realize the fighters are in London and there's a time difference, but that hasn't stopped these from happening before.
- Dana White took most of the week off Twitter. There was no 'FIIIIIGHT WEEEEEEEK!' tweet to get people excited and no activity at all until Thursday. White, Twitter and fight promotion go together like the Kardashians, paparazzi and dumb people caring. He lives and breathes UFC especially in a fight week and suddenly he goes silent on his favorite social media platform? That doesn't compute.
A scan of UFC.com Thursday night tells the user all they need to know: the November 12th UFC on Fox date is all that matters. Between the ads running to three of the top six lead story slots devoted to Cain Velasquez, UFC 138 is already an afterthought before it even begins.
It's obvious that since the Fox deal was announced (and really even before that), things have gotten increasingly ugly from both sides. Recent glaring examples are Spike's decision to run the aforementioned Velasquez/dos Santos marathon against the Fox show and the decision to air Bellator prelim fights on Spike.com. The UFC countered by not listing Spike as a place to watch events, directing people to UFC.tv instead.
Just think of that for a minute. When's the last time you heard of a broadcasting relationship where an entity didn't list on their website where to watch the event on TV for free? How this bodes for the TUF finale in early-December is anyone's guess.
Do It For The Kids
While the pissing match between the two is a sad end to a once-fruitful relationship, the ones getting punished are the "kids" -- aka the fighters competing Saturday. Leben and Munoz didn't ask to be flown to London to main event a star-lacking show. Pickett didn't ask the promotion to run four straight Saturdays of shows when he's co-main eventing in the biggest fight of his career in front of his countrymen. The near-sellout crowd at Birmingham, England's LG Arena that has already set an arena record for revenue didn't ask for any of this. They want a great show and want to feel like they're seeing a great show. If the UFC doesn't seem to care, why should they?
Even if this card is viewed as a dog, there are still 20 men competing that deserve the UFC and Spike's best effort in telling people they should watch this show. This is one of two final live events both sides have to co-produce and then, they can go their separate ways (minus the footage Spike can air throughout 2012).
Things may be difficult, but the fighters and the fans shouldn't be the ones that suffer the brunt of the punishment as a result. As long as those three letters are on the marquee, it's in both parties' best interests to swallow some pride and represent like any other show.