My guess is that if you're reading this post on an MMA blog, you're probably a fan of the sport that we cover here. Each and every one of you likely took a different path to becoming a fan and eventually discovering a place like this - some have been entranced since the very first UFC event; some came across the threshold as dreaded TUF noobs; and others have just recently caught onto the phenomenon known as mixed martial arts. Regardless of when you came along, you're getting more MMA right now than at any point in the history of the sport. And it kind of sucks, to be honest.
Before you get all outraged at me having the audacity to take a potshot at your baby, hear me out. My personal journey into the spider web we're all stuck in started a long time ago, and I've been happily (for the most part) trapped here ever since. My passion for what happened inside that octagon (or decagon/ring/yamma pit, take your pick) had never waned for a single second during all of the ups and downs in my life and during the evolution of the sport until recently. I've been trying to figure out why that is, and after a while, the real reason became apparent.
Oversaturation. Nothing feels special any more.
I will freely admit that I'm one to talk about the good ol' days a lot in many aspects of my life, and MMA is no different. I remember being nervous all day before a UFC event, and avoiding internet spoilers like the plague until I could track down a Pride event to watch. I remember sitting up all night with adult beverages and the odd energy drink to follow along with Dream and Sengoku events with a bunch of fellow weirdos right here on Bloody Elbow. And I remember the thousands of articles I've authored about everything from Strikeforce brawls to Chael Sonnen verbally decimating a few Brazilians. It's been a big part of my life, and I'm perfectly okay with that.
Then 2014 came along.
I started the year in style, waking up at 3am to watch an Asian UFC event. Normally I would have just stayed up all night out of excitement, but gone are the days of Shinya Aoki and Super Hluk tournaments (yes, that is spelled correctly). I roused myself from a blissful sleep to watch a 2-0 Royston Wee lay on another guy I had never heard of for three rounds. Yee haw. About the only excitement I could muster during the entire show was in regards to one of my favorite fighters, Tatsuya Kawajiri, making his UFC debut. He won, and I was happy. I'll freely admit I was much happier when I was able to go back to sleep after the main event though.
That was just under 11 weeks ago. There have been nine UFC events since then. Nine. Who has time for Bellator or WSOF or TUF or tag-team MMA in DEEP when the overlord is hijacking TVs and the interwebs every single weekend?
I was always the optimistic fan that wanted more to consume. I was the Cookie Monster of MMA. Whenever anyone complained about the UFC running too many events, I told them to shut their dirty traps and be happy to have more of what they love in their life. But it turns out that those people were right. When you were a kid and your parents stopped for awesome ice cream on a road trip a few times a year, you remember that ice cream. It was something to look forward to when you set out on your long journey. But when the ice cream store opens franchises all over the place and you can get it anywhere and at any time, the allure is lost. Suddenly it doesn't taste as good. You can even get sick of it after a while.
Don't get me wrong - I still get excited for the events that I consider important. I wanted the clock to move faster all day before UFC 171, for instance. I completely understand why the UFC is expanding and what they're trying to accomplish, and I'm cool with it from a business sense. I also have absolutely no problem paying for Fight Pass. As Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden wisely put it - I have 10 dollars and I like MMA. Easy decision. I'll continue to buy the PPV's too. I have been the UFC's dream customer.
But on the other hand, all the balance is gone. There are no shows that are stacked top-to-bottom any more. Remember UFC 167, the 20th anniversary show? The one that Dana White promised would have top-level fights all the way from the opener to the main event? A dude nicknamed "The Recipe" made his UFC debut on that card. No disrespect to Lapsley, but I didn't envision seeing him on this huge, crazy UFC event when White made his speech. That wasn't a late replacement. That was a bout actually scheduled for the card from the start.
Most of the non-PPV cards in 2014 feature a solid headliner with a co-main event with at least one name people recognize. And generally it's all downhill from there. Yes, I'm getting these events for cheap or free. I realize that my expectations shouldn't be through the roof for these. But even the last Fox card featured Adriano Martins on the main card. C'mon, son. Really? Fox is paying somewhere near a 100 million a year for Gabriel Gonzaga in the co-main event? I'd let the check bounce if I was handling the finances on that.
The reason I even decided to write this is because of something I felt when I saw that there are no UFC events for the next two weekends. That feeling wasn't sadness, or longing. It was elation. I suddenly became happy at the idea of not being chained to my living room to watch the sport I supposedly loved so much for a little while. It's not because I work for this fine website and I'd have to write about a potential event. Someone else can do that. It's because of the stupid catch 22 of being an addicted UFC fan - I can't bring myself to skip events, but I'm getting less and less out of watching most of the ones that do get put on.
I'm going to stay optimistic and I will hope that this mini-vacation from the UFC will allow me to come back with renewed vigor when the promotion goes to Abu Dhabi on April 11th. And Quebec City on the 16th. Oh, don't forget Orlando on the 19th. What's that, Baltimore on the 26th too?
Yikes. I can't say that I'd hold it against you if you decided to put down the cookies and walk away.