The UFC on Fox television ratings have been the cause of a lot of conversation in the MMA world. UFC on Fox 3 experienced a significant drop in ratings from previous efforts. There are good reasons for the drop in ratings between the UFC on Fox 2 show and the most recent outing: a major boxing fight, a lack of ads, NBA playoff games, the Avengers and a warm Cinco de Mayo all drawing people away from their TVs.
Dana White's recent dust up with Dave Meltzer over an article highlights how heated the discussion is becoming. While there were positives to take away from UFC on Fox 3, the numbers are clearly not meeting media expectations. While it is impossible to know what the UFC's or Fox's expectations in terms of ratings, neither party is likely doing backflips over the drop in ratings.
The UFC seems intent on using the UFC platform to compliment their pay-per-view business model. A clear pattern has emerged with the announcement of Brian Stann vs Hector Lombard to headline UFC on Fox 4, Joe Silva pairs two contenders in a given weight-class and the winner is promised a title shot. The idea is extremely simple, put the number 1contender fight in front of fans for free and the exposure increases the number of PPV buys when the winner meets the champion. The question is, what does Fox gain from this relationship if the ratings continue to decline?
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If Fox is willing to devote prime-time to help the UFC sell PPVs, the UFC likely is also going to be required to make sacrifices to benefit their partner. That would mean the UFC giving up a fight that could get them excellent PPV numbers to allow Fox to have a major fighting card.
The UFC has already done that once with the Junior dos Santos vs Cain Velasquez Heavyweight Championship fight and it is no mistake that fight did the highest ratings. While it certainly received a bump for being the UFC card on Fox, the fact that it was a title fight cannot be overlooked. In a conversation with a casual fan, I was shocked when he told me that hasn't watched a single UFC on Fox, FX or FUEL since the Heavyweight Championship match because he wasn't compelled to watch non-title fight main events. MMA fans may be taken aback by this statement, but this is the attitude promoters have to contend with when trying to attract the casual viewer.
If the UFC or Fox is truly concerned about ratings, clearly a title fight is the way to go and the heavier the better. The UFC Bantamweight and Featherweight titles have a history of being free back when World Extreme Cagefighting was on the Versus network and likely would not make the same impact as a traditionally PPV card title. Imagine the marketing push Fox would be able to make behind Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Ben Henderson or another Junior dos Santos fight.