The main event of this weekend's UFC on Fuel show is a fantastic and close battle in the Heavyweight division. Both Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic have established themselves as notable names to watch, and both are tough fighters that present a challenge for any opponent. Winning this fight won't be easy, but with the Heavyweight division thinning out due to retirement and injury, the winner here should find himself in a great position.
Key word in that sentence: should. The winner should find himself in a great position.
Sadly, he probably won't. Why? Because this fight is on Fuel, and no one is going to see it. The UFC and Fuel have plans that their partnership will bring the small channel more national attention, and it is working to a degree. But it's a slow process, and as it plugs along, the UFC is left putting on shows that fans simply can't watch. That's a shame for the UFC, but it is even worse for the fighters, who find themselves competing in hard fights that ultimately become meaningless due to the lack of an audience.
For a perfect example of this problem, look no further than Chris Weidman. Weidman headlined the last Fuel card, defeating Mark Munoz in a masterful performance that should have vaulted him to the very top of the list of Middleweight contenders. Instead, he's right back where he was - on the outside, needing a big win to get in. The same thing happened to Jake Ellenberger after his defeat of Diego Sanchez. The other two Fuel main event winners, Alexander Gustafsson and Chan Sung Jung, have not yet fought again, so we are yet to see where they will end up, though Jung was already passed over for the Featherweight title shot he should have been given after his win over Dustin Poirier.
The question for these fights becomes one of risk and reward. These are tough fights where the loser moves down the ladder, while the winner simply moves sideways. So, as a fighter, why take the fight at all? Right now, it's not to their advantage, because that risk vs. reward balance is off-kilter. The UFC needs to fix that by definitively moving the winner up the ladder... even if no one is watching.