At the end of the Sixth Round Nate asked for our opinions on the double header. Well, quite frankly I was disappointed even more than I thought I'd be. Luckily, I actually went out and enjoyed my Saturday as opposed to wasting it watching mediocre MMA. Quite frankly this has me worried about the future of the sport.
Luke Thomas, has been lamenting the over saturation of UFC content for quite sometime now. It seems like all of his complaints came true in one night. Twitter was either silent or angry, I'm not sure how good the web traffic was but I can't imagine it's anything better than awful, the ratings were mediocre. To be quite honest, I think last night broke the will of quite a few hardcore fans, myself included. Every issue Zuffa faces gets execrated by this enhanced schedule. Weak lower half of the roster? Yep. Injuries? Well we were supposed to cap off the night with JDS/Mioic and instead we had to watch a fan favorite get brutally KOed in a fight he had no business taking...so I'll say that's a check. Poor pacing? Oh god yes. Inability to make stars? Yep. Not only has this enhanced schedule shown the flaws of Zuffa's star making machine, it's also made it harder for them to make stars. For the 310K that bought Hendricks versus Lawler three months ago, how many remember that fight in great detail? How many fights have happened since then? Since we've gotten to see Luke Rockhold beast out against Tim Boetsch how many nameless and faceless guys will we see before we see Rockhold again?
For quite sometime, Zuffa has mined their most dedicated of fans for all that they're worth rarely if ever cutting them a break. For me personally, last night they asked too much. What's worse, like the girlfriend that cheated on you they're not even trying to win back your affection or trust. UFC 175 looks pretty good, but it's much of the same old UFC crap outside of the top three fights you have mismatches and nameless faceless fighters. Even the preview shows had an attitude of "ugh," ever positive Dallas Winston and Zane Simon couldn't get excited for this, over at Sherdog they even changed the format because they didn't want to deal with this either. Some of these people have dedicated their lives to this sport, no matter what you think you are not a bigger MMA fan than Jordan Breen or Kid Nate. One of the axioms of entertainment is "leave the audience wanting more" and if anything they left the audience not wanting to watch another fight for months. There's not always going to be a Matt Brown/Erick Silva barn burner to make every one's bad memories go away and make it worth it for people to stay up till one or two in the morning on a Saturday just to watch MMA. This card in ABQ is interesting, some good fights...but to be quite honest after last week? Working up the motivation to stay in on another Saturday, not to mention when 174 is next weekend, is hard. I'm a hardcore, and if you're reading this so are you...but how many casual viewers are going to talk themselves into staying home for this one? I guess we'll find out.
It appears as if they're actively trying to alienate the hardcore fan base. They already ask for 60 bucks and a Saturday night thirteen times a year, then they asked for an extra ten bucks a month to watch some crappy cards, now they're asking for your entire saturday to watch mediocre MMA. Where's the payoff? I'm not some guy that's married with a family, I can leave the house and do something fun on a Saturday; I work during the week and I like to enjoy my Saturdays. Don't get me wrong, it's fun spending a Saturday night watching a good PPV at Buffalo Wild Wings...but I can only do that so many times before I'd rather do something else. Zuffa's attitude is "you don't like it you don't watch," the onus is on you if you want to be a hardcore fan I guess. They're actively encouraging hardcore fans into being casuals, and from personal experience that push has worked on quite a few fans. I'm well aware that people compare this to team sports, but quite frankly those are bogus comparisons. I can explain that in great detail later, but football, basketball, baseball, and hockey function in vastly different ways than MMA.
Oh, and speaking of Buffalo Wild Wings, I know Connor mentioned that his local chain wing establishment had a low attendance for UFC 172...the one I go to hasn't been full since 168 when they had to turn people away. Other than that you've been able to find an open table well past 9 PM, at UFC 173 there was prime seating at the bar right around the time the main event started to roll around. I remember when if I got there anytime after 7:30 I'd be waiting a loooong time. (FYI, I live in the central time zone) I know the sports bar audience is important for the UFC, a manager at the BWW I frequent told me that it's 700 bucks for a UFC card. What happens when bar owners and GMs decide that these events aren't bringing in enough business to warrant the cost? You think these fans that spend six hours on a Saturday at BWW are all of the sudden going to start dropping 60 a card? I doubt it. You only go to BWW for that long if you're poor or incredibly cheap. Besides, with this current crop of PPVs they've reached the point where it's not only not worth your dollars but it's also bordering on not being worth your time. Are these fans going to stick around?
What's most confusing, is that I'm unsure what their end is in all of this. Money? Well their ratings are down and so are the PPV buy rates. Does putting on a bad show over seas really lead to that many more lucrative TV deals? They watered down their product, almost to the point of no return. McFights and McFighters and they're only trying to make it worse. Why? I look at their treatment of Jon Jones, and wonder would they rather have nobodies they can control versus stars they can't? During the week of 172 all Dana White could talk about was Renan Barao as the top P4P fighter in the world, or Ronda Rousey's ability to beat Floyd Mayweather in a street fight...a label that people spent years trying to remove. Now they announced a date for his next fight without him even agreeing to it, and there's scuttlebutt that they're in an ugly contract dispute. They can control Ronda Rousey, Zuffa successfully talked her into firing her agent after all, so she'll get the promotion packages. Perhaps it's racial, perhaps it's personal, or maybe it's all a part of a bigger strategy.
It's been whispered that the Fertittas aren't the type of businessmen to get a product that's valued more than the Dallas Cowboys and not sell it, given their casino empire and the nature of the casino business I'd say that's a true statement. That got the wheels turning, perhaps they are trying to get TV deals in every major media market and sell it off. Everything I've read says that each brother is worth a little over one billion, so I'd imagine coming up with the financing for a company that's filed bankruptcy before would be a bit tricky. Selling off Zuffa could take a good chunk out of that, though. Who knows, maybe they don't want stars or name brand cards. Maybe they want generic faceless fighters with zero leverage and generic, yet consistent, cards.
I know there's people who claim to have an appetite for all this MMA, people who actually look forward to 14 hours of MMA in one day. I remember when I was new to the sport and couldn't get enough, I can't say for sure that's what it is for these fans...but I suspect another 18 months of this brutal pacing and a good chunk these fans will change their tune. Not only is the UFC competing with other MMA entities, other sports but taking up weekend nights and charging what they are they're competing with every other entertainment product marketed to 18-34 year old males. This demographic can do other things, some of us have jobs, some of us have the Saturday Night Fever, some of us play video games, quite frankly not only is there other things to spend money on, but there's other things to do with your time than watch MMA. I love me a good fight too, Jones/Gus 2 is going to be bananas. I'm saving up for a NYE card in Vegas within the next few years. I'll watch Bellator, DVR WSOF, go to local fights, and train...but I can't give every week to the UFC. Ask Vince MacMahon what happens when people start to pick and choose.
Dana White likes to say that this is "in our DNA" and people "just get it" which to some extent may be true, but what I think he doesn't realize is that that means it wouldn't be hard for someone to come along and do this thing right. If they run interest in UFC programming into the ground, a slightly less greed and more competent promoter can come in and takeover the MMA landscape. Also, watching MMA has introduced a generation of fans to combat sports. Luke Thomas was tweeting about the IBJJF finals and Connor was talking about Frotch/Groves. Two things I cared far more about than this UFC card. I'll admit I wouldn't be as into other combat sports if it wasn't for the UFC. Who knows, maybe Showtime and Golden Boy will grab all these disaffected young combat sports fans and turn them into Boxing fans. Looking less likely with Richard Schaefer leaving, but stranger things have happened.