Last night we got two sloppy and less than entertaining heavyweight battles on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 135. I've talked about that plenty already here at Bloody Elbow, but the real problem might just be that the UFC continued to bury the bantamweights and featherweights on the preliminary card.
Heading into the night it seemed like the bantamweight bout between the usually exciting Takeya Mizugaki and talented finisher Cole Escovedo was set to produce solid action, and it did just that. But how many people truly saw a fight that was stuck on a webstream on Facebook? And, more importantly, why can the lighter weight classes not find their way onto a PPV card?
The last ten UFC events have seen a total of three featherweight or bantamweight bouts get main card status. It may not matter to the hardcore fans who tune in to catch all the fights on Facebook, but it does matter that the casual PPV buying audience is not likely to sit in front of a computer monitor to watch prelims.
Those three fights that have made the main cards also share a trend:
- Jonathan Brookins vs. Erik Koch featured a former Ultimate Fighter winner
- Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz was a title fight
- Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes featured a fighter (Florian) who was a long time UFC mainstay dropping to featherweight.
The next two events will see two more title defenses make the main card, continuing the high standard that seems to have been set to get onto the main card for the lighter weights.
One could make the argument that the UFC has invested in the lighter weight by making The Ultimate Fighter focused around them this season, but that's also a product of the other weight classes having been dried up on TUF and producing fewer and fewer good fights.
The amount of upcoming cards should force the UFC to put the little guys on the main card over bland heavyweight scraps and that is a good thing. No weight class should be neglected, not even bad heavyweight fights. But pushing excitement and a feeling of "worth the money" is a big piece of correcting the stagnation in the PPV buys that the UFC has seen this year.
Establishing the weight classes in the minds of the casual pay-per-view buyer means putting the fighters (and not just the title fights or on TUF) in front of them and getting them to buy into the high pace and excitement that featherweight and bantamweight provide.