UFC President Dana White, to put it mildly, is confrontational. Suffering the setbacks and consequences caused by the fighter injury epidemic, the cancellation of UFC 151, mainstream media criticism, and topped off with a painful flare up of his Ménière's Disease, White was looking to lash out and vent. The unsuspecting victim? Those fans that dared to voice their negative opinion regarding the first ever UFC Flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, either in the form of Tweets sent to White, or the form of the fans booing in attendance. At the post-fight press conference, White went on a much publicised tirade calling these fans 'f*king morons', boldly stating he hoped they wouldn't buy another UFC again, and that he didn't want their money.
The trouble is, the UFC have cultivated the fans Dana White got so upset with.
Dana White as an MMA fan might have been in the right. There were many who enjoyed the Flyweight fight who could appreciate the speed and technique that was on display. These were the two top fighters in their weight class and were evenly matched, where one misstep or moment of reckless abandon could have cost either one the fight. Yet at the same time, the fight never stalled out, and neither fighter showed timidity.
Yet often all we hear in UFC fight promotion, is how X Fighter has devastating knock-out power, Y fighter is a submission wizard, or Z fighter has so many finishes or so many first round wins in his career. Fans are treated to this cookie cutter spiel again and again, until it's been conditioned into them. So when a fight doesn't meet the lofty expectations sold to the audience by the UFC hype machine, it's not too surprising you get the vocal response we did at UFC 152.
Dana White as a professional figurehead can't attack the casual fan, the key demographic that had made UFC viable and lucrative since the TUF boom in 2005. Without out them, the UFC takes a nosedive, tail-spinning the sport with it.
It is up to the UFC, then, to cultivate the type of fan they want as a long term investor in their sport, not by attacking them in any negative manner when they don't show the respect fighters deserve and have earned, but through a positive education process. Dana White has said himself that breaking into new markets is all to do with the education process, yet this concept has been neglected as a continual tool in the North American market where they're established.
The UFC can not afford to be apathetic when it comes to educating the casual audience as to why what they're seeing is indeed a great and exciting showcase of skill, discipline, heart and determination. A focus on quality analysis from the commentary team, as well as those who take part in the post fight shows across the Fox network of channels, is of the utmost importance going forward. It is possible to focus on the merits of the fights, and even the drawbacks, without patronising the audience or intoning an air of elitism -- something some of their fighter-turned-analysts have been guilty of in the past. But, they don't have to lie about a fight that was truly a stinker, either.
UFC may have trouble finding the people and resources to allocate for this education process, since they appear pretty thinly stretched considering the logistics and workload they have set themselves week in and week out. A better working relationship with online media who offer their own detailed fight analysis, such as Bloody Elbow's own Judo Chop features, can all help with the education process if granted the flexibility of fair use multimedia for this purpose, instead of being inaccurately accused of rights infringement.
Quality fans are grown out of a quality product, and positive insight and education is an essential part of that. As the old proverb goes, you reap what you sow.