Similar to when the UFC rolled out their first Fox show against the boxing pay-per-view headlined by Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, UFC on Fox 3 will air the same night (May 5) as Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto. With the initial time airing on Fox against boxing receiving such good ratings, it's not exactly a surprise that they'd give it another go.
Lorenzo Fertitta addressed the thinking recently (via MMA Fighting):
"That's kind of FOX's deal," he recently said. "They do all the research; they're really smart guys. They like that fact that we're going to go on at the same night, but the window is different. Meaning, we'll be done before Floyd fights Cotto. And the last time that that happened was when Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez fought on the same night as Pacquaio and we peaked at over 9.9 or whatever million viewers (ed. note: the ratings actually peaked at 8.8 million viewers, a North American MMA record). The theory is that people are home. It's a great fight night; you're going to watch Pacquiao or whatever; you can turn on FOX, you can watch our fight; you'll have a great night.
"The reality is, not to piss any boxing guys off, but nobody watches those undercards anyway at the end of the day. So you can watch the UFC and switch over when it's done. But we do suffer from a press standpoint. He'll (Mayweather) hog the press."
There is a change taking place with boxing pay-per-view undercards though. There is a lot more emphasis on trying to make them compelling to the viewer. It was on full display with Top Rank's attempt to load the card for Cotto against Antonio Margarito up with great fights. It's a work in progress, but one of the things boxing is doing right is trying to put more emphasis on the undercards and getting fans to care. Showtime has even taken to airing all the undercard fights for their major cards live on Showtime Extreme (similar to what they do with Strikeforce now).
And it's important to note that, aside from Cotto and Mayweather being bigger names, the featured undercard bout between the once great (and now faded) Shane Mosley and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez features two guys with far more starpower than anyone anywhere on the UFC on Fox 3 card (and don't feed me that Koscheck is in the same league as either guy).
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that it's boxing that will contribute to a dropoff in ratings (if there is one) for the UFC's Fox effort. But there really is a big difference between a single fight broadcast for the first Fox airing which featured a heavyweight title fight and a four fight broadcast featuring a real lack of "big name" fighters and title fights.
I'm just saying that one thing the UFC and Fox should avoid doing is treating any situation as static and predictable. Boxing has a lot of flaws, but they're trying to address some of them and the inexcusably weak PPV undercard is one of the first to go.
Lorenzo also said something very interesting things about their own research into the crossover between boxing and MMA fans:
"I think that they are pretty similar," he said. "I think if you like boxing, for the most part, you like mixed martial arts. I think that there is a bit of an age difference in the demographic, I think boxing generally skews older, but my personal belief, I think HBO always comes out and says, 'Oh, we did research. There's no correlation.' Really? That's interesting. When we have DirecTV and In Demand do research, they see a lot of correlation between who buys boxing and who buys the UFC. There's definitely a correlation there."
The problem with the two different kinds of research is HBO is looking more at who watches boxing and MMA while DirecTV and IN Demand are looking at who purchases PPV events for boxing and MMA.
Given that boxing promoters seem to have learned their lesson after a few year period in the mid-'00s where they tried to put out a lot of lower quality PPV cards and now only "event fights" or fights that otherwise aren't being broadcast make it to pay-per-view you see a different crowd than the hardcore boxing fan purchasing boxing PPVs.
The majority of major boxing PPVs now feature Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather and those are more major sports events than mere boxing matches. So you have a lot of the same households purchasing PPVs from In Demand and DirecTV that purchase the big UFC events.
I do think the HBO research is probably more spot on about the lack of major crossover between the harder core audiences of each sport, but the distributor research shows that generally the same people like special boxing events that like special MMA events. And those same people probably all watch the Super Bowl even if they don't watch every NFL regular season weekend.