I've been talking for a few weeks about how the UFC's December 8 effort on Fox is a chance for them to turn in a big rating since they weren't going to be going head-to-head with any other major sporting event. But that has changed in a very big way.
Manny Pacquiao's first fight back since his ultra-controversial loss to Timothy Bradley was supposed to be in mid-November, then a December 1 date was discussed, but it looks like that date has moved back another week.
Pacquiao is officially fighting on December 8, in Las Vegas, most likely at the MGM Grand. Marquez has reportedly come close to landing the fight recently, but Bradley is still there waiting, ready to to go. There is unfinished business in both matchups, as Marquez felt robbed last November against Pacquiao, and Pacquiao felt robbed in June against Bradley.
Obviously this could hurt the UFC show, which has been loaded up with great fights including a lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Nate Diaz. Of course, neither of those guys is a "major star" and going head-to-head with Manny Pacquiao, who remains a force at the box office, even in a 4th fight with Juan Manuel Marquez or a rematch with Bradley, is not going to "help" them.
We learned a little about the fallacy that is "big boxing shows the same night help the UFC" when the Mayweather vs. Cotto card provided no benefit to the third UFC on Fox show, and then was used as an excuse for why the ratings were less than stellar.
Of course, after two less than stellar ratings on Fox, the December 8 date was very important. There was a good chance that the very solid fight card and title fight would bring numbers back up to the level they were at for the second Fox event, which saw a good number for fights like Sonnen vs. Bisping and Evans vs. Davis.
If the Pacquiao fight does significant damage to the ratings for this show, I wonder how Fox will see things. Will they be more lenient because of the surprise counter-programming? Or will they be frustrated that the UFC isn't able to overcome other programming to pull top end ratings?
It's obviously all speculation at this point, but it's a very interesting wrinkle.