Fuel TV is not a very 'good' channel by any sort of 'business' measurement. I think it's in around 30-40 million homes in North America...which isn't very much. Some cable providers(comcast, I believe) don't even offer it, while others present it only as a package with a handful of other channels. It's viewership, fanbase, and overall awareness are not very strong.
We all know that. But does ANY fan of MMA that has Fuel disapprove of a channel that has UFC and MMA related content practically all day long? Replays of full events, replays of old fights, prelims, live cards of it's own, UFC tonight.
It's more of a UFC channel than Spike ever was and it rules. From what I understand, since the UFC on Fox/FX/Fuel deal was announced the amount of subscribers(or whatever the more correct term is) has increased for Fuel by quite a bit.
It is a fledgling channel, BUT is also essentially a UFC channel, and that's awesome. The UFC is working like hell to build it up, often putting headlining fights on Fuel that would be much better served to have on FX. But that's the name of the game...they want UFC fans who CAN pick it up to pick it up, and they want cable providers who don't offer it to start offering it. More or less, they are building a UFC channel from the ground up.
That isn't something that can be done in 7 months, or 1 year, or even 2 years. It takes time to take a channel most people have never heard of, build it up almost exclusively as a channel for UFC content, and turn it into a 'big channel'
It's all a matter of building awareness, these deals, Fox, FX, and Fuel, have time to be a bit of a slow burn. To hit a homerun in year 1 would be awesome...but that is a bit of a dream. Dana White was tweeting unaware fans the other day that the UFC hasn't been on Spike for 7 months. Some people are still unaware of the switch.
I highly doubt the UFC is going away. I doubt that the sport of MMA is going to lose it's fans and fade away, we're all still here and we all love it and I doubt that we will stop loving it. The sport doesn't really have any direction to go but up. It's come a long way but it still has plenty of room to grow. It's all about baby steps. Getting on Fox isn't the culmination, it's a benchmark.
One all-time great fight on Fox and everything could change. Bigger numbers on Fox could trickle down to bigger numbers on FX and bigger numbers(and more awareness) of Fuel TV. In 6.5 years so many things could happen. Could you imagine the closest thing to a UFC channel that we've ever had being in 70-100 million homes? That'd be huge.
At the end of this 7 year deal, which isn't even 1/7th complete yet, the landscape is going to be so different it isn't even funny. I'm personally inclined to think that Fuel TV is going to play a much bigger role in any sort of extension with the Fox networks than most think.