UFC 152 featured the inaugural flyweight (125lb.) championship bout between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. Though the fight was action packed, many fans in the arena frequently booed the action. Likewise, the Twitter world was awash with comments from viewers bored by the fight. After 5 rounds, Johnson aka 'Mighty Mouse' earned a split decision and was awarded the UFC flyweight belt.
During the post-fight press conference, Dana White uncharacteristically ripped into a group he formerly never bared his fangs at to this extent before, the fans. Watch his tirade here: http://youtu.be/_qSmMnoDCfc?t=12m33s
To summarize Dana's thoughts on those who weren't entertained by the flyweight fight, he believes you are a moron and wants you to never buy a UFC PPV again. When Dana White doesn't want your money and actively encourages you not to purchase UFC PPVs, you know you've breached a major line in Dana's code of ethics.
For a sport that's always prided itself on its close relationship with the fans, Dana's rebuking of fans was shocking. In the past, the UFC has canceled planned fights due to negative fan reaction, for example the Dan Henderson versus Rich Franklin rematch was called off before it was ever announced. "Fans didn't like it, so we changed it," White said at the time.
So why the change in attitude by Dana towards the fans in the case of the flyweights? After all, the UFC has not always held the lighter weight classes in such high regard. In fact, the UFC effectively shelved their lightest weight class at the time, lightweight, from roughly 2004-2006 due to lack of fan interest and talent. The situation today is much different though.
Considering the UFC's business interests, much more is at stake with the lighter weight classes today than it was back in the mid 2000s. By folding in the WEC, the UFC has added a large stable of lighter weight class fighters to its roster. Accordingly, the UFC has also increased the number of events it puts on not only within North America but worldwide. All of that of that combined makes the success of the lighter weight class divisions crucial for the continuing growth of the UFC. Perhaps now you can understand why listening to fans is not an option in this case for Dana.
Should MMA fans feel guilty for not being interested in watching smaller stature athletes compete? Do these fans not like fighting as Dana claimed? I would argue no.
With MMA, boring fights are most always associated with situations where a finish is no longer a possibility. People want to see blood, they want KOs, they want submissions, they don't want to watch time tick off a clock. With the lighter weight classes, the possibility for KOs is lower as they have less power at those weight classes so fights which go to decision are more likely. Strike one against the lighter fighters.
Anyone with a television knows the viewing public has a strong appetite for two things: sex and violence. Human survival is dependent upon reproduction, thus males are hardwired to be attracted to signs of sexual maturity such as bust size in females. Likewise when it comes to violence, there's just something about watching the two biggest, strongest people fight which causes kids from across the playground to come running to watch or stadiums to fill to the rafters. During primitive times, the biggest, strongest person was the leader or a potential foe you wanted to avoid, so your survival depended on paying attention to that person. Thus I would argue this desire to watch the physically biggest and strongest fight is innate, so yes Dana, size does matter when it comes to watching people fight. Strike two for the smaller fighters.
Of course that point does not rule out MMA fans also being interested in watching smaller fighters compete, but it does highlight the natural decline in interest an audience exhibits as you continue down the scale from the biggest to the smallest fighters. Perhaps this is best demonstrated through the use of an extreme example. Let's say you have a group of individual who like anyone else in the UFC, have trained their whole lives for MMA. They've spent countless hours practicing and competing in wrestling, boxing, muay thai, jui jitsu, etc. Their MMA skills are at a very high level and they work just as hard as any UFC fighter, but they are currently relegated to parking lot tent MMA side shows as UFC does not have a division for them yet. These fighters I'm talking about are little people a.k.a. midgets. Are you not a fight fan if you have no interest in watching midgets fight?
The UFC must balance their desire to grow their business with producing a product people actually want to pay to see. The UFC has built themselves into the juggernaut they are today by listening and responding to its fans. If Dana White wants to dismiss and belittle those very same fans and encourage them not to buy UFC PPVs, all I can say is be careful what you wish for.