Since its inception nearly 20 years ago, the UFC has been primarily a Pay Per View based company. While live gates, merchandising, and ratings matter, the PPV model has always been the staple of UFC programming. Over time, we've seen a gradual shift away from this model - first with The Ultimate Fighter, then the Spike TV fight nights and Live on Versus shows. In recent months, there's been more of a shift away, with major PPV-quality shows on Fox, and an increase in content on FX and Fuel.
Now, hot on the heels of the UFC taking The Ultimate Fighter to its new live format on FX, Dana White has made an intersting statement on the future of this PPV model. White told MMA Weekly:
"I do believe there will be a day when there probably isn't pay-per-view."
White went on to explain that he, like many media analysts, sees the future of television and cable changing drastically in coming years and anticipates the UFC being on the front edge of that change. And one of those changes could very likely be the death of the UFC on PPV.
While this is all just speculation at the moment, the fact that White, and in turn Zuffa, are entertaining such an idea is huge. Since buying the UFC, White has always been outspoken about his desire for MMA to become a completely viable mainstream sport. One of the greatest hurdles in that goal has always seemed to be the company's heavy use of PPV. While dedicated MMA fans have are willing to spend $45 to watch UFC shows, that is a price tag that gets in the way of newcomers casually tuning in. If the UFC can get past this barrier - if they can find a way to be successful and not force the fans to spend any more than they do to watch other sports - then the Dana dream of MMA as a mainstream sport is one massive step closer to reality.