It's tough being the lone MMA fan amongst my circle of friends. It would be great if I could talk to them about King Mo getting 'One Shot Bro'd' in Bellator, or explain the humour of Aoki's K-1 level knockout on New Years, but these things are not likely. What I can sell them on (sometimes) is the big PPVs. I was genuinely pleased that I was able to watch UFC 158 with my group of friends, almost all beginner "UFC" viewers.
Obviously not every card is going to have a 'hero coming with the anti-bullshit' narrative (explaining Nick Diaz to people who are tabula rasa is genuinely fun), but there was something else that made this card appealing; the logical map towards GSP. The main event sells itself (one of the best in the world Vs. GSP...Jokes!) but the rest of the card had two top-ten matchups with the winner of one facing GSP (unless of course Chael Sonnen decides to drop weight or Frankie Edgar or Urijah Faber want to moveup). Both fights delivered new contenders in different ways, and gave name recognition to potential new fans. It got me back to the idea of what makes a perfect card.
I've been thinking about this idea for a while, but the hiccup was that the UFC frequently poo-pooed the addition of a ranking system, and it seemed as though they were content in making a card as they see fit. In my opinion a new sport, with new fans, needs structure, that a ranking system provides and allows you to better build a marketable viewing audience.
The template for UFC title cards should be:
1) title fight
2) #1 contender fight for title on the same card or if unavailable the #1 contender fight for the title the next PPV card
3) Top 10 matchup from the division the title is being contested in (AKA the 'in the mix' special) or if unavailable top 10 matchup from the title being contested on the next PPV.
4) One fan friendly matchup. Matching up previous bonus winners makes too much sense (surprised we don't see it more often). It can be the "WAR" special (for the stand and bangers or the trip and chokers) or be used to showcase good prospects (Mike Ricci? Really?).
5) Fans choice. Put up fan votes and allow the prelim fighters (main event of the prelims excluded) to campaign via social media to get on the main card. It creates a sort of fan interaction incentive and can encourage more personality from the combatants. Anderson Silva got his first title shot off of a fan vote. I'm not necessarily advocating for that process, but creative thinking keeps it interesting and clearly something they have done in the past.
Though it may be elusive, the perfect PPV card is attainable on a consistent basis however; injuries and the unofficial 'in the mix/#1 contender fight' turning into Dana rhetoric, is a big obstacle in drawing in the new fan. Cards structured like this or divisionally specific (like UFC 146) have a way better chance for success.