In this three-part series, I'm going to do my best to dispel the myth that the UFC is running too many events and this has led to 'watered-down cards'. I believe that this label is completely undeserved, and I'll examine why fans and media are complaining about the very thing that they've been asking for all along.
Yesterday, I looked at why some fans are ignoring the impact of the lighter-weight divisions when discussing the lack of depth of UFC cards. In part two, I'm going to address another major factor that has led to the perception that these cards are watered down - evolution. The UFC is growing very fast, and they're learning how to manage all this stuff on the fly. But expansion comes with challenges, both practical and logistical, and it seems that the side effects of this hyper-evolution aren't being addressed when complaints are brought up. So let's take a look at the changes, and why things are the way they are.
In 2010, the UFC ran 24 events. 15 were on PPV, 9 on free TV. In 2011, with two new divisions to promote, they moved up to 27 events. 16 PPV's. 11 free shows. In 2012, there will be a total of 31 or 32 events (FX 6 might be in January). 14 will be on PPV, and 17-18 on free TV. Two things should jump out at you right away from this:
1. There are fewer PPV's to buy this year as compared to the last two years.
2. There are twice as many free events as 2010.
This is the part where you say "But the card quality in 2012 hasn't been as high as it was in the last two years". This is true to a degree (2011 also had a lot of big bouts that never came together due to injuries and other circumstances), but there's a pretty simple reason for the changing shape of PPV cards outside of the usual injuries/lack of draws explanation.
You're getting 25-30 PPV-level fights on free TV this year, that's why.
Everyone's idea of what qualifies as a "PPV-level fight" is different, but by my assessment, I see 27 fights in 2012 that we're getting for free compared to 15 PPV-level fights that aired on free TV in 2011. 2010 had even fewer. Doesn't seem like something worth complaining about to me. You're still getting the biggest fights possible. You're just paying for fewer of them. And don't say that those big fights should just be placed on PPV to juice up those cards then, because it's not practical. They need to give away big fights on Fox. And they need one PPV-quality fight to main-event FX and Fuel cards, or there will be even more complaints. Do you want Amir Sadollah main-eventing because the UFC made you pay for Dustin Poirier vs. Chan Sung Jung? I don't think so.
Run fewer PPV's then! Or combine two of them into one supercard! Yeah, that'll work! Nyet. They're already trying to cut back on PPV's, even though that's still their biggest source of income (yes, their PPV cut is still more than they get from Fox). It's a gradual practice. One day, no PPV's at all might even be possible. But not today. It's not financially feasible.
Fine then, Tim. But if I'm not getting the quality I was getting before on PPV, why am I still paying the same price? Why not just lower PPV prices if the cards aren't going to be completely stacked? Because cable companies have the UFC by the balls. I'll let your hombre Brent Brookhouse explain:
Boxing, WWE, UFC..etc. all have pay-per-view prices that are pushed up because they lose so much to the providers. The prices being forced up means more people can't afford to order them (or at least order the sheer number of shows available). More people can't afford them but still want to see them results in more people taking to illegal streams and the like. Because the promoters are already losing viewers just based on normal market fluctuation and then the cable and satellite companies drive prices up more with their percentage and then customers take to illegal streams, promoters can't afford to lower their prices. This keeps the cycle going.
So, your providers are getting into battles that take away networks and relevant programming and they're taking a crazy percentage from the promoters, creating an environment that raises PPV prices and forces people to illegal streams.
The next time you want to complain about PPV pricing, remember where the complaint should be directed.
I'd suggest you read the whole thing for a greater understanding, but PPV prices aren't going to drop. That's just the way it is. It's part of the reason the UFC signed such a lucrative deal with Fox in the first place. To distribute some of these fights for free.
So, let's review. The PPV price isn't changing no matter what, and you're not going to see a major drop in the number of PPV's, but at least there are fewer cards to pay for than the last two years. 10-15 more PPV-level fights are being aired on free TV out of necessity. And this is just the first year of a new deal that the UFC and Fox will undoubtedly tweak and improve upon in the future. So, relax and give it some time.
"B-but you still haven't addressed how many pathetic fights are on UFC cards now though, or how the UFC is screwing us over with their weak promotional tactics!"
I'm getting there. That's why this is a three-parter. See you tomorrow.