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Posted on July 28, 2012 by Jack Thurman
UFC 149 was many things, but most are focusing on what it wasn’t–a good fight card. And despite many lessons that can be learned from the dismally awful event UFC President Dana White continued to blame a litany of people and external forces when it is becoming more and more apparent that the real problem is within the promotion itself. To his credit, White admitted that the show was borderline unwatchable but stopped short of taking responsibility for booking and promoting a card that had ‘stinker’ written all over it going in.
At least one thing hopefully became apparent to the Zuffa ‘braintrust’ in the aftermath of UFC 149–they have to treat their international fanbase with some respect lest they kill off that market the way they’ve destroyed the US market outside of a few hundred thousand hardcore fans. By the end of the event the fans at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome were chanting ‘REFUND’ and other epitaphs to obscene to reprint here. The takeaway from this is obvious–the Canadian fans aren’t suckers and won’t line up and pay top dollar for a substandard product just because ‘UFC’ is on the marquee.
A short list of the Dana White scapegoats was essentially the same tired refrain he gives after the increasingly commonplace bad UFC cards–he blamed the fighters, the judges, the referees, injuries, etc. He didn’t point the finger inward to his increasingly ham handed and borderline irrational leadership, his promotion’s inability to create new stars that fans want to pay to watch fight and the boring and uncreative booking of matchmaker Joe Silva.
Zuffa’s problems are compounding rapidly and there are increasing signs that their entire business model is outmoded. UFC 149′s PPV buyrate of 235,000 is actually surprisingly good given the horrible card but it was only a couple of years ago that any PPV with a buyrate lower than 500,000 was a disappointment. Even the biggest fight of the year–the much hyped Silva/Sonnen rematch–barely drew 1,000,000 buys. The reality is that the US market is cooling quickly and Zuffa seems unwilling to admit the problem exists, let alone confront it. It’s ‘business as usual’ with the same promotional strategy that dug this hole in the first place–too many fights, too many good but not great fighters, too few stars and too few significant fights. Aside from a few ‘superfights’ like GSP vs. Anderson Silva or GSP vs. Jon Jones (fights that are highly unlikely to ever take place) there’s not even a potential fight that can generate much interest outside of the hardcore fan community. If Zuffa subjects those hardcore fans to a few more UFC 149 level cards that until now dependable customer base may start to shrink as well.