In 2012 the UFC produced the most shows it ever had one year. Despite falling ratings and complaints from fans/media they will continue with that expansion and will turn it up to 31 shows in 2013. In the past Dana has explained this expansion by saying it is what they need to do to grow the sport. However this is a situation where what is good for MMA is not good for the UFC. The high volume of the shows is eroding the prestige of the UFC.
In the US, the NFL is the most popular sport by a significant margin. For people not familiar with the NFL the lowest average weekly attendance at an NFL game is still north of 50,000 people and only 5 teams average less than 90% of their stadium filled for every home game. The largest stadiums average almost 90,000 fans per week. They also set television ratings records almost yearly. This success is without having a team in the second largest media market in the United States(Los Angeles). Could the NFL expand into 5-6 more cities and make more money? Of course. They wont because it would hurt the quality of their product and the prestige of their brand. It is part of how they "Protect the Shield"
That is something the UFC does not seem to get. As they have expanded and they have added more fighters to fill up these cards which as resulted in prelim cards populated with guys who belong on the regional circuit and Pay-Per-View main cards have been loaded with people who belong on the prelims. This has lead directly to the fluctuating ticket sales, ratings, and buy rates for many of their cards. Many people used to buy UFC cards just because they were UFC cards because they'd see the best fighters in the world go at it. Similarly to how more people are NFL fans than College Football fans because they want to see "the best." This expansion and huge roster has damaged their brand because people aren't sure what they're getting anymore. Now people are gravitating only towards stars and moving away from the UFC brand itself and that is very dangerous for the UFC.
What they should do is bring the UFC back to where it was exclusive. It is supposed to be hard to make it to the UFC and that should be evident by the fighters we're watching. The way they do this is limit the amount of "UFC" shows they do and nation build with the myriad of other brands they have. For example, they could bring back the Pride FC brand and use it for Asian expansion. Use those brands as an unofficial developmental leagues for the UFC. Fallen UFC Fighters and fighters from China, India, Austrailia, Japan, and Korea can populate the roster and develop the sport there. If someone gets a call up then they can make it a big deal locally so they will follow that home grown star to the UFC. That way they get to lead the expansion without having it at the cost of their valuable brand.
Many years ago the Dana White recognized the value of that brand. That is why he talked the Fertitta brothers into buying it instead of just making up a new fight league. The UFC brand still has lots of power. There are many people who know the sport as "UFC" but the more you use it the less impact it has. The success of other fight leagues like One FC shows that they don't need the UFC brand to get attention in markets that are undeveloped in MMA. In reference to the NFL many people have mentioned how NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell is ruthless in "protecting the shield." Dana does a great job of protecting it from any outside sources, but the damage is coming from the inside currently and Zuffa needs to stop it.