On March 1 the UFC will begin charging $9.99 per month for UFC Fight Pass. Is it worth the money? The answer to that depends on what you, the fight fan wants from the service.
When Fight Pass was first launched I reviewed the service here for Bloody Elbow. Consider this article an update to that initial review.
The first issue I had with the first live event that the UFC streamed on Fight Pass, UFC 34, was that it was somewhat difficult to find. Some users, myself included, ended up clicking on a preview for the fight card instead of the streaming event itself. That issue looks like it has been rectified. There is a live events tab that clearly shows both the preliminary card fights as well as main card for Saturday's The Ultimate Fighter: China finale event.
I had no issues with the first UFC Fight Pass stream. It was clear, and there were no annoying jumps or buffering issues. I should add here that I live in a city that has terrible broadband speed, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well the stream performed.
One issue that has popped up and has been bandied about on social media is the fact the controls for the stream remain on the bottom of the screen even when viewing the stream in full screen mode. This isn't a deal breaker, but it is an annoyance that should be dealt with. In full screen mode, those controls should be able to be dropped off, giving the user a true full screen view of the action.
The only other issue I had with the broadcast from Singapore was an audio issue. The pre-recorded pieces were noticeably different than the in-fight audio. That seems to have been dealt with as there was no noticeable difference on the fight cards that have been broadcast on Fight Pass since the Singapore card.
All in all, if you are purchasing Fight Pass to view the live events, there's no reason not to pony up the $9.99 per month for Fight Pass.
The UFC promised that a good deal of original content would appear on Fight Pass, and they have been delivering on that promise. "MMA Mindset" interviews fighters as they head into a fight. The most recent, a talk with UFC heavyweight Shawn Jordan.
Also on Fight Pass, "The Exchange with Megan Olivi," basically short interviews with movers and shakers involved with the UFC. At this point, there are four Olivi hosted interviews on Fight Pass, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Ray Longo and Andre Pederneiras.
UFC Now is also a feature on Fight Pass. This show hosted by Jenn Brown brings fans up to date on current events in the UFC. Some fighters that have co-hosted the show include Daniel Cormier, Brendan Schaub and former fighter and current UFC commentator Kenny Florian.
The original programming is a good start. This aspect will be worth watching. A new innovative show could make Fight Pass a must subscribe. At this point, the originals are nice, but are they necessary viewing? Probably not.
The UFC's international versions of The Ultimate Fighter will appear on Fight Pass, and this includes the upcoming Brazil season that is being coached by Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. That season will debut on March 9 on Fight Pass and will be a good gauge of how successful an international version of TUF can be on Fight Pass.
Now the big deal, the fight library. At the press conference announcing Fight Pass, UFC president Dana White promised over 3000 fights on the service, saying subscribers would "have access to everything." Unfortunately, at this time that is not true.
In my first review, I used Nick Diaz as a test subject. Diaz, a star of the sport, but not a UFC champion, had gaps in his catalog then. Those gaps remain today, including Diaz's fights against B.J. Penn and Paul Daley. That is disappointing.
As my initial review noted, a search of Strikeforce brought up zero events from the promotion. That has not changed, and that is another big miss as the free trial ends for Fight Pass. If a fan wants to trace the career trajectory of Daniel Cormier from his early days in Strikeforce up to today they are out of luck. The first Cormier fight available on Fight Pass is his UFC debut against Frank Mir. All eight of his wins under the Strikeforce banner are missing.
At the launch, UFC Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik, said, "We have curated the content in a way that we think will be user friendly." I found fault with that statement then, and my opinion remains the same today.
If a user searches on two fighter names, say Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin, the search comes up empty. Using the last names brings up the same empty results. The searchable terms that are needed are the full fighter names as well as "vs". Yes, individual names do work on the search, but this is something that needs to be worked on.
Also relating to the search function, if you type in Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin, the results will bring up UFC 64 and episode 201 of UFC Unleashed. If you search Anderson Silva vs Rich Franklin (no period after vs), the result is just UFC 77. In short, the search function needs work.
The other issue I had was searching on UFC 1. This search pulled up 21 pages of results in my initial review. Today, it pulls up 25 pages. Anything with UFC 1 in the search term is getting pulled into those results. Again, this is something that needs to be worked on.
Another shortcoming is that the service remains unavailable on Apple TV and Roku at this time.
The UFC has added content to Fight Pass, and that, along with the original programming is a plus. It shows progress, and the promotion will surely keep adding content, but when real money is involved, is progress and a promise that one day the full fight catalog will be available good enough for MMA fans?
That's a hard question to answer. If you are signing up for Fight Pass to see all the live events, then the answer is yes; you want to continue with your subscription past the free trial. If you are signing up to watch the UFC back catalog fights, you may be inclined to wait until the service is fully stocked with the back catalog. If you are signing up for a combination of the two, well, you have some thinking to do before midnight on February 28.