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The Popularity of the UFC

Above is a graph of the Yahoo! Buzz meter, which essentially measures the popularity of different search parameters.  In this case, the buzz surrounding the UFC's major ppv events is shown above.  This buzz meter is one way to quantifiably measure popularity (if such a thing is possible at all).

What does it mean?  For starters, I was very premature to say the sport had reached a turning point after UFC 71.  In one minor sense, it did.  After all, the coverage of the sport was incredible at the time.  The cover of Sports Illustrated and hours of footage on ESPN are nothing to sneeze at.  The difference is that the interest was temporary and fleeting.  We dismissed the mainstream's attitude of "That's what all the hype is about?" when they complained about the Chuck vs. Rampage II fight ending without much drama.  It turns out we should've listened a little closer.  It's hard to say if the UFC would've grown exponentially had the fight been a barn burner, but what's obvious is that whatever the merits of UFC 71, it didn't do enough to launch the sport into the outer regions of mainstream credibility we initially thought it had.

The UFC followed up that mega card with the very mediocre UFC 72 overseas.  The most recent UFC 73 was good, but Tito's popularity is not what it once was, Silva is a fan favorite only to those who don't mind the language barrier, and his opponent in that fight was almost unknown.  It shouldn't be all that surprising that neither 72 nor 73 did much to boost the UFC's popularity.

Is the product getting stale?  That depends.  I don't think for a second mixed martial arts is getting stale.  It's too new, too exciting and honestly, still very marketable at this stage.  However, is the "UFC product" - the same old UFC talking heads hyping the fight, the fighters shadowboxing in drizzle, the same dramatic music, etc. - getting stale?  Yes. To wit, my appetite for MMA is second to none.  I can watch fights all day long without becoming bored or fatigued, yet even I can no longer watch the shows "hyping" the event or the phony build up segments before the fights themselves.  The UFC is relying on a format that's not doing the trick anymore.  It's not hurting them, but between the same old drama in the "The Ultimate Fighter" house and the same old "X vs. X is an interesting fight for a couple of reasons", I'm worn out.  

Whoever is doing the production for the UFC needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink things.  We are entering a new era of MMA and a new era for the UFC. What's needed is a new way to market and present the sport that we have heretofore not seen from the UFC.  They must find a way to pull the sport out of the clutches of "martial arts" fan and give it to every American who has the potential to enjoy combat athletics.

HT: UFCMania