T.J. Grant made very short work of Gray Maynard at UFC 160 and now according to MMA Fighting, one of the possible dates for the UFC Lightweight title fight between Champion Ben Henderson and new challenger T.J. Grant is the August 17th, Fox Sports 1 card in Boston, the UFC's debut on the re-branded Fox network.
While this is great for fans of MMA, free title fights are always a good thing, it does highlight a trend that has been developing for the Lightweight title. Ben Henderson's last two title fights have been on free TV on Fox, and before that on PPV his matches with Frankie Edgar did fairly poorly, 375,000 buys at UFC 144 and then 190,000 at UFC 150.
And that was a continuation of a trend of declining buys during Frankie Edgar's time as champion. Since B.J. Penn left the UFC Lightweight division, it has been in a clear and steady decline as a Pay-Per-View commodity. The division has not been compelling, and the title fights have been a mess of immediate rematches and unsatisfying decisions. Since April of 2010 there have been eight Lightweight title fights all contested between the same five fighters.
Grant and Henderson will likely be a very exciting fight, one that I personally am excited to see, and Grant earned his shot. But his name is largely unknown and the fact that the UFC's first thought is to put the fight on free TV means they do not believe the fight would draw on PPV.
And yet again it comes back to the fact the most marketable fight in the Lightweight division is off the table because Anthony Pettis has dropped to Featherweight for an instant title shot. While Aldo and Pettis promises to be fun, as we've seen "fun" fights does necessarily translate into PPV buys. The back story of Henderson and Pettis' epic first fight in the WEC could be just thing needed to kick start the Lightweight division and get casual fans paying attention again.