I'm not trying to take the merit away from the many articles about building the next PPV star, how to sell [Controversial Fighter A] vs [Not So Controversial Fighter B] to "grow the sport". I think they're looking at this from the wrong angle.
This sport has really short lifespans for guys at their peak. Injuries, age, the evolution of the sport... these are all causing some constant turnover for the guys who are in the spotlight. Brock Lesnar was the sports biggest star and circumstances beyond his control ended his career short. GSP is sidelined for the better part of a year. Anderson Silva is allegedly nearing the end of his road. I don't think the answer is finding guys who can stand in for them while they're gone. I think the answer is making the sport the attraction, not the fighters.
Making it all about the fighters basically follows the boxing structure which they say they are trying to avoid. Given the similarities of the sport it is entirely understandable; but Dana F. White says time and time again that he wants to be compared to the NFL.
Well the NFL's Superbowl is their most widely watched sporting event every year. No one says "Oh I will only watch if my beloved Detroit Lions make it." They watch it regardless of who is playing because they love the sport.
I'm not saying that finding the next GSP or Brock Lesnar wouldn't help bring eyes to the sport, but I get the feeling people are still thinking that maybe some kid from Stockton or "The Netherlands" will come and bring balance to the sport.
I think there just needs to be more emphasis on the sport itself. So many times we see exciting fights in Bellator which almost no one has heard of in comparison to the UFC. Guys on the undercard in UFC events walk away with FOTN bonuses when no one has any idea who either guy was. The idea that people should only tune in when the big draws are fighting are killing the PPV numbers. No one gave a damn about Edgar/Maynard 3, it was a great card on paper and in actuality, yet it was the lowest bought of 2011.
The old way may have worked but clearly it isn't working anymore. This may not be the entire problem or have the whole answer but to say this isn't an issue would just be ignorant.