After every show the ratings come out for the event and in most cases it is followed by a "sky is falling" mantra among MMA fans. MMA is still young enough to where it could still die so the panic is understood. The biggest fear for most of us is that this really is a fad and we'll go back to 2002(I wasn't an MMA fan in 02, but I heard it was terrible). Zuffa did botch the TV deal by going to Fox, but it isn't something that will kill the sport
How the UFC Screwed Up:
When the UFC's deal was done with Spike I was hoping they would go with ESPN. Fox got the deal and I was okay with that until I learned that ESPN and Zuffa were very close to a deal. I was upset then because as a sports fan I have seen how ESPN can build a sport. They can't work magic(ex. bowling), but they can push a sport further than it would go naturally. An example of this is soccer. The Euro 2012 is going on and it is getting record ratings for ESPN:
Overall, the four Euro 2012 quarterfinals last week delivered an average of 1.918 million viewers for ESPN, up 31% compared with the 2008 quarterfinals. The trend continues from earlier last week, when the network reported big U.S. ratings for the final group stage matchups that were up 82% over Euro 2008. June 10th’s Spain-Italy game scored an average of 2.1M viewers.
ESPN has been pushing soccer subliminally for a few years now and their investment is paying off. Soccer has been a staple in "Top Plays" on various shows for a few years now. They had the World Cup rights(and various other TV deals involving soccer) and want people to think soccer is cool so they showed a ton of awesome stuff happening and people got interested. They even hyped up the Women's World Cup and manufactured Abby Wambach into a star. What they did for soccer they could have done for the UFC.
MMA is the most highlight friendly sport in my eyes. That is why gifs are used more frequently in our sport than any other(NBA is the king of reaction gifs* though). If ESPN had an investment in the UFC then we wouldn't be lucky to get a mention on SportsCenter after a fight. There would be a highlight package and something would end up on SportsCenter's Top Plays. They would have been aggressively pushing and building the sport in the US.
What is hurting the UFC with the Fox deal is that ESPN isn't going to market Fox's programming if they don't have to. They are forced to mention stuff about the NBA, NHL, NFL, and such on other channels because those are major sports. With MMA they just mention it if it's on PPV. Once I watched SportsNation(their most MMA friendly show by far outside of MMA Live) and they were discussing something that happened on UFC on Fox 3. Michelle Beadle, while introducing the highlight, basically said, "And from UFC on err umm Fox." That is what is keeping the sport from growing. Fox can maintain a sport, but they cannot build one. If people don't know it's on then people won't watch. I had no clue that there was free MMA until I went out and aggressively looked for it. ESPN would have shoved free MMA down everyone's throat in a way Fox, without the NFL as a Trojan Horse, cannot.
Why You Shouldn't Care:
I was very down on the Fox deal for a while. However since it has come into action I've enjoyed it a lot. There have been tons of free MMA. If you have Fuel TV it is an incredible channel if you're a UFC fan. I also enjoy the two hour prelims on FX. I thought TUF Live was pretty cool also. This is also a 7 year sports deal so there is no need to worry about them cancelling the UFC. It may be harder for them to negotiate a better contract in 6 years, but it will just delay the UFC's end game(which is getting off PPV) not stop it. So the sky isn't falling. Just enjoy the fights and don't worry about saturation and other doomsday scenarios. The sport will be fine.
P.S. I told you, they're the kings of reactions gifs.