Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
The UFC will be making their third effort on Fox on May 5. As mentioned yesterday, the fights will be the same night as the Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto bout on HBO PPV. Going on the same night as a major boxing event would seem to require a big main event to ensure people are willing to skip a portion of the PPV card to watch the UFC's effort.
So I was a bit surprised last night when the UFC tweeted:
So, @UFConFOX news? Diaz/Miller now the 5 round main event, also on main card heavyweight battle @LavarJohnson vs Pat @hypeordie Barry
Both of those fights are good bouts that are sure to be plenty exciting, but neither features a huge name. I have my concerns about how well this show will draw on Fox.
Again, the concern isn't about action, it's about name value. This has the feeling of a FX main event, not a headliner on a major network. You can try to sell the idea of action but people have to be drawn in by fighters they know.
The first show had a heavyweight title bout which carries a natural allure. The second event featured Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis had a former champion who had done multiple stints on The Ultimate Fighter and had main evented multiple successful pay-per-views. In this main event you have a guy who won The Ultimate Fighter but never really took off as a top fighter against a very talented fighter who hasn't really "caught on" yet.
I look back at EliteXC's second network effort to sort of cement my thinking. Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith had put on a great show on the first CBS show, a show which averaged 4.85 million viewers. When it ended due to an accidental foul, they were rematched on the second CBS show. The promise of action was obviously not a draw as viewership dropped by over two million viewers without the Kimbo Slice name.
Obviously, the UFC name brand is at play here so I wouldn't expect the ratings to drop by 50% on the third effort, but I do think there will be a very noticeable drop.
The other thing I'm not sure the UFC and Fox realize is that the "our fights will be done before Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto step into the ring" line isn't going to work as well this time around. It's looking like Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will be in the co-main event slot. Alvarez is arguably the biggest Mexican draw in the sport, fighting on Cinco de Mayo on a major PPV. It looks like Alvarez will be fighting Shane Mosley in what is a big enough "name fight" to keep the 1.5 million (early estimates for the PPV) buyers locked in to the show they shelled out $60 for, especially if the alternative is a Fox fight involving fighters the general public isn't familiar with.
I'm all for Miller vs. Diaz on Fox, I think it's a great fight and I think using Fox to elevate talented guys like that is a very good thing. I just think you have to do it with a bigger "drawing" fight in the main event slot.