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Posted on July 30, 2012 by Jack Thurman
This weekend Fox TV aired a one hour preview show for the upcoming ‘UFC on Fox’ card scheduled for Saturday, August 4. The show itself was pretty typical of the now formulaic UFC preview video but much about it served to highlight deeper problems with Zuffa’s product and promotional strategy. One primary problem with the show is that few people knew about it–some MMA media columnists blasted it as ‘the best kept secret in sports programming’ during a busy weekend when most viewers were focused on the Olympics, baseball or NASCAR. It aired at 11 AM Pacific on Sunday though unless you happened to be tuned in to Fox at the time there was little promotion either from the network or the UFC.
The show itself was fairly well produced but it’s doubtful that it will do much to bump ratings for next Saturday’s card–even among viewers that were in the right place at the right time to see it. The event will emanate from the Staples Center in Los Angeles–regardless of what the actual demand is for tickets to attend the live show the UFC will obviously put a positive spin on it no matter how much ‘papering’ they may have to do. The bigger issue is TV ratings–it’s obvious that mainstream interest in MMA has cooled significantly. It’s reached the point that even some hardcore fans are losing interest in the product. This ‘fatigue’ is due to a confluence of factors–overexposure of the product, promotional hubris, too few ‘big name’ stars, lackluster matchmaking, etc. So far the UFC has done little–if anything–to address these problems preferring to blame everyone and everything external to the promotion such as ‘bad judging’ and ‘injuries’.
Perhaps the easiest way to summarize the UFC’s current situation is “too many fights and too few meaningful fights”. There’s a UFC fight card of some sort or another on TV or PPV almost every weekend but with a few exceptions none feel particularly important. That’s the case with the UFC on Fox card–the two headlight fights pit Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua against Brandon Vera and Ryan Bader against Lyoto Machida. These might be good undercard fights but are hardly main event worthy, even for a Fox TV broadcast.
The preview show failed to mention that Dana White has confirmed that the one of the victors in these two light heavyweight bouts would be given the next title shot at champion Jon Jones. Not that any of the four fighters involved can be considered legitimate threats to Jones’ title–in fact, they’ve all lost to Jones at various points within the past few years. It’ll be a tough job selling a PPV event featuring Jones versus any of these fighters.