Mookie Alexander: Given the state of the UFC's Pay-Per-View cards, most notably UFC 147, 149, and 150, and their push for main-event heavy cards like UFC 151 this September, fans are complaining about a watered down PPV product that is not worth the $55 anymore. But the UFC has responded with a tremendous trio of FOX fights, which include a title fight between Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson and two of the sport's brightest prospects facing off against legends of the sport (Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson and B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald). These are very big fights being given away on free TV, and almost certainly take away from future PPVs. So as asinine as the article title and topic at hand sounds (and probably is) from a fan viewpoint, is the UFC giving away too much for this FOX card at the expense of their PPVs?
George Halvatzis Jr.: If the UFC's recent FOX cards are any indicator, they're not going to make this a consistent thing. While this event will be good, I doubt they'll keep it up to a point where fans figure they don't have to buy any PPVs because they're getting the best fights free. Hopefully the quality of FOX fights are still good in the future, bug they won't be this good unless there is a dire need.
This will probably be a ratings bump for future Fox cards which will feature exciting up-and-comers. At least, that's what I'd prefer.
Fraser Coffeen: It's entirely possible that they are indeed giving away too much and it will hurt their PPV sales. But my honest response to that? Good. The UFC needs to move away from PPVs being the major way we see fights. I don't think they need to abandon PPVs entirely, but they need to be cut down and only be for truly "PPV quality" shows. Their recent shows have not been PPV quality on paper (whether they deliver or not on fight night is a different story), and it shows in the buys. Shows like 149 should be available for free. Could this Fox card be on PPV? Absolutely. But in the long run, I think making their product more easily accessible is the big goal to be chasing. Fox is massively, massively more accessible for the average fan that a PPV, but if you want to get those average fans, you have to give them a really good show sometimes too. Which is exactly what they're doing. So a thumbs up on this card from me.
Mike Riordan: I'd suppose the whole idea behind the free sample is tantalization. Whether in the case of video game demos or tiny plastic ice cream spoons, the free sample is meant to provide the smallest sample of a product necessary to convince a buyer to buy the whole thing.
When somebody gets that tiny lick of heavenly hash on the little pink spoon, they might be instantly convinced of the advantages of buying three scoops. But what if the ice-cream shop was getting paid large sums of money to use their free samples to provide advertising for the bagel shop up the street? Suddenly those little sample spoons become big sample spoons with "BOB'S BAGELS" written boldly on both the concave and convex sides. These big bagel spoons ultimately hurt ice-cream sales as the portions of ice cream they convey is large enough to satiate the sweet tooth of a decent percentage of potential paying customers.
David Castillo: I don't mind Dana's grandiose, sometimes bizaare claims that "MMA will be so popular, Tibetan monks will one day buy television sets just to ponder the meaning of a Jon Fitch fight", or whatever, and never understood the flack he got that went beyond "silly Dana". But I think we're seeing where part of that assumption in his thinking is becoming a liability.
For as much as MMA fans talk about the value of pro wrestling, and whatever spandex wisdom that can be gained from a Vince McMahon script, it's time to start thinking long term. Like 'X' says in JFK, people are fundamentally suckers for the truth. And the truth that MMA is a fantastic sport is on our side. With the Olympics still fresh in everyone's mind, it's time to start selling the sport. If moving just a few steps back away from PPV is a necessary first step (cutting down just a few while serving up cards like the next FOX), then so be it. UFC on FOX 5 is that card, and for once, I'm pumped for the whole thing. That's the feeling the UFC needs to get from new viewers.
Brent Brookhouse: There will be no abandoning of the PPV model any time soon. The model is still profitable, moreso than any other model they have available right now.
What the UFC is learning is that their brand isn't worth jack in the ratings. Fighters are. Like virtually every other sport that isn't the NFL, the athletes are larger than the brand. The NBA brand suffers from Spurs vs. Nets Finals because they are small-market and aren't compelling. Same with MLB. Phillies vs. Yankees? Big World Series. Phillies vs. Rays? One of the worst World Series on record. But unlike the NBA or MLB, the UFC controls the matchups and there is no playoff system that could make them rich or send them into the cellar where the XFL ratings are.
If I were an MMA fan, I would root for this card to reach UFC 92 levels of amazing sprinkled with usual WEC excitement. And I hope FOX advertises this heavily during their NFL games (of which they'll have at least 8-10 weeks worth once this card is official) so that it is a wild success. A win for the UFC on December 8th is a win for the fan and if they don't budge that much in the ratings then expect Shogun vs. Vera cards to become the norm year-round.
If Fox stepped in and said "we want better fighters", cool. I understand that. I'm the one arguing that their cards AREN'T watered down, and everyone's cool with giving away a sure PPV headliner? They don't have that many PPV-headlining fights just kicking about. If they threw the flyweight title on Fox, I could maybe understand it. But the lightweight title? Nyet. Dumb.
Gus/Shogun and BJ/Rory are great Fox fights. But the card should be headlined by something like Griffin/Chael or Kampmann/Hendricks. Not a lightweight title fight.
The unknowns about putting Guida/Henderson on TV really make it difficult for me to judge how FOX and the UFC would've done for their next few shows.
Chael vs. Forrest is definitely a good FOX fight in theory but let's not pretend Chael is an exciting fighter. There's a significant chance it ends up being a boring fight. Kampmann vs. Hendricks is also a great FOX fight but Hendricks was just on the lowest rated FOX card to date, and they're not proven casual draws. What gets the casual fan hooked are exciting fights featuring names they're familiar with. Diaz has been a free TV staple and so has Henderson, add in the title fight incentive with a strong supporting cast of Penn and Shogun and this card should do fantastic ratings.
If the purpose of FOX cards is to provide #1 contender fights, particularly in divisions with low drawing power like lightweight, they will remain in the 2-3 million bracket with few exceptions. Evans vs. Davis worked because Rashad was a big name. Diaz vs. Miller failed because no one knows who the hell Jim Miller is and they put zero marketing behind that card. I'm not a FOX exec, but I wouldn't be pleased if the UFC 148 preliminary card ratings on a cable channel like FX were nearly level with the ratings of a full main card with title implications on over-the-air "free" TV like FOX.
The UFC needed to do something to give themselves a boost, and this is it. Doing it once every four cards is just perfect. They're eating the PPV profits for the appeasement of their corporate partners, and I see no problem with it.