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Thread: Whatever Happened To The UFC?

  1. #1
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    Default Whatever Happened To The UFC?

    Imagine if the NBA added 30 expansion teams over the next two years, and then sent out a favored reporter to lecture the public about how true fans should appreciate the diminished quality of play. This sounds impossibly stupid, and yet it's more or less what's happening in one increasingly dim corner of the sports world.

    This Saturday, the UFC will run a card in Auckland, New Zealand, to be broadcast on their online subscription service. The main event will feature New Zealander James Te Huna, who's lost two straight, and Nate Marquardt, who's lost three straight; the rest of the card isn't much more inspiring.

    Also this Saturday, the UFC will run a card in San Antonio, Texas, to be televised on Fox Sports 1. The main event will feature Jeremy Stephens, a featherweight with a 10-8 UFC record best known for once having been arrested the day before he had a scheduled bout, leading to thankfully failed negotiations in which promoter Dana White tried to convince the Hennepin County sheriff's office to let the guy out of jail just long enough for him to fight. The co-main event will feature Nicholas Musoke, a welterweight so obscure he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page.

    Including these two, the UFC has 24 events scheduled for the rest of this year, five more than they ran in all of 2009. The ever-increasing number of cards—and, more than that, the consequent decline in their quality as good preliminary bouts become iffy undercard bouts and passable undercard bouts become lousy main events—has been a problem for long enough that a lot of serious fans are just dead tired of hearing about it. (In 2011, when the promotion ran a mere 27 shows, I asked White if he wasn't running too many; he said the only problem was that they weren't running more, and apparently he meant it.) It's so bad by now, though, that the usual word for it, oversaturation, doesn't quite cut it. This is something more like hypersaturation.

    You can tell this is a live issue because Kevin Iole—a Yahoo Sports writer and a thoroughly reliable guide to what the UFC would like people to think—felt compelled to go in hard earlier this week with an article titled "Why the UFC's saturation strategy makes perfect sense." The UFC's His argument is basically that hardcore fight fans should stop bitching, because the awful cards aren't meant for them, but for people who don't actually watch fights.

    The dirty little secret here is that the seeming overload of shows the UFC is staging here, there and everywhere was not designed for the hardcore fan base. ... [T]he seeming glut of shows the UFC is staging will serve its purpose if it persuades some who watch infrequently or not at all to become casual fans who may, every now and then, buy a pay-per-view.
    This is a strange argument only because it makes absolutely no sense. The only people who could possibly have any interest in a fight card headlined by James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt are UFC ultras, degenerate gamblers, and maybe curious New Zealanders. The method by which watching bad fights will turn members of this last group into people willing to pay money to see fights goes unexplained, but it's hinted at when Iole describes the prevailing thinking within the UFC: "all that people need to become fans is exposure to the sport on a regular basis."

    Calling this magical thinking would be doing it a bit too much credit. When the sport enjoyed a surge of general interest in the mid- to late aughts, it had to do with compelling athletes and compelling fights. People didn't become fans because of some accidental exposure to the sport, as such; they became fans because they were exposed to rivalries like Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture, or because they saw an incredible highlight reel of Anderson Silva knockouts online, or because they heard that pro wrestler Brock Lesnar was going to try his hand at a real fight.

    For a lot of reasons—the aging of a generation of stars, the promotion's habit of running down its own fighters, and bad luck, among others—the UFC, even though it runs some great shows from time to time, doesn't have those kinds of broadly compelling athletes or fights on offer right now. What it does have is its #brand, and a Rovellian faith in it—a belief that you can't run too many shows, that fighting is destined to be the biggest sport in the world, and that if you can get people to watch a UFC card, any card, you'll make some new fans.

    That may have been true five years ago, when the #brand stood for cards featuring fighters people cared about in main events that mattered, with quality fights on the undercard. When it increasingly comes to stand for main events featuring non-contenders on losing streaks, though, or regional-level competitors in meaningless scraps, not so much. And when even the big cards feature a lot of detritus and headliners no one has ever heard of, they start to actively run old fans off, rather than make new ones, as even a cursory look at the promotion's pay-per-view performance of late makes pretty clear. Which is, after all, the point of the complaints that the UFC Iole is dismissing. This isn't so much about whether a promotional strategy of running thin and bad fight cards makes any sense in the abstract as it is about fight fans complaining about feeling ripped off when they're asked to pay $60 for a card featuring maybe one good fight. You'd figure that Iole—a boxing writer, once upon a time—would know all about that.

    Iole would surely counter that even if this is true, none of it matters: Running terrible cards featuring faceless, generic fighters is to the benefit of the marketing company that is the sport's leading promoter, so the tradeoff between good cards and boring ones is one "that most true fans would gladly make," and anyway no one's forcing anyone to watch. ("Consumers have choices when spending their entertainment dollars," as he puts it.)

    This is a strange thing, in the way it asks fans to value the interests of the businessmen who own the UFC more than their own interests as spectators. It's even stranger than that in how utterly anachronistic it is.

    One of the minor pleasures of being a fight fan is seeing the UFC reenact the development of any major sport as if captured by time-lapse photography. It's born; it struggles; it captures public interest; and now, it reaches beyond its grasp. The actual sport, as such, has grown incredibly quickly, so that the best fights the UFC can now offer are as far beyond what they could promote a decade or so ago as an early '80s Celtics vs. Lakers game was beyond some slow and erratic early '60s NBA contest. The infrastructure around it—the promoters, the fawning press, and so on—has meanwhile grown in real time, slowly and painfully. It will all come together at some point. In the meantime, fans will talk about how they want to see good fights, and various people with stakes in the game will tell them to pipe down and pay up, and it will all continue to be too stupid to be true.
    http://deadspin.com/whatever-happene...ium=socialflow

  2. #2
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    Bravo! This is a great article I am no longer enjoying MMA as much as I used to as a result of all the bullshit. It's a damn shame really. Making sure I watch every ppvand majority of events in general was a priority of mine. Now I do not really care at all, asides from a few cards, if I see them at all. Watching fights has become something I do if I'm bored or have free time.

  3. #3
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    Sadly, me too. I used to make sure i had a way to see every PPV and recorded every free event if i wasn't going to be home. Now i usually forget when cards will be on or just haven't looked into long to remember. I will still watch some cards if i catch them, or maybe just the headline fights, but the product is just so watered down, its not worth my time investment anymore. Sucks.
    LJS-NEMS

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    Yea I don't even care anymore.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sick_Lunatic View Post
    I've always liked strudel.



  5. #5
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    I was at lunch with a bunch of friends on Monday who I'd deem "casual MMA fans" and was asked why it seems as though there's a card on every weekend and how they barely know any of the fighters on the cards and basically, don't really give a shit about watching fighters they don't know or pay for PPVs where there's only one or two big fights. Their recognition of present top ranked fighters was pretty weak and they had virtually no clue regarding the lighter classes (125-145).

    Now, I was trying to find an explanation as to why I'd watch two cards in one day, how I can watch so much of their current product in such short order and it's a toughie. Think, the two FNs this weekend, the Weidman/Machida PPV and the TUF finale the following day.....that's ALOT of UFC and that's not even figuring in the NBC afternoon WSOF card before the PPV next weekend.

    I was trying to explain it as "brand expansion", with ZUFFA trying to touch every corner of the world but these were my friends who fawned and raved over the UFC 100 PPV and three years ago, would buy every monthly PPV with great familiarity of most of the fighters on the main card and it's hard to deny that they've diluted the brand something FIERCE, lost a lot of casual North American fans and there isn't much of an argument for paying to see Marcus Brimage and Russell Doane on PPV.

    One thing I noticed was that a lot of my male friends who were watching EVERY UFC from say TUF 1 to UFC 116 at "UFC viewing parties" are now in their late-20s and are getting married off, starting families, having kids and bigger responsibilities and their time is a lot more sparse, they spend it more wisely and don't want to piss away five hours on MMA. If it's between Fantasy football and NFL or the NBA playoffs, the UFC loses out since you've got to pay to watch the big fights. The die hards remain, but of say 15 friends I've had for over a decade, only 3 could hold their own on these boards without losing interest or being completely out of touch with the product.

    I love MMA and I watch every card I can, whether it's AXS TV, One FC, Polish or Russian stuff, or the major league stuff, but I'd regard myself as a die hard and would say MMA is my primary sport, for most of the audience the UFC only shares a portion of their attention, and among my friends, there's a marked loss in interest.....

    Hell, even as a die hard, these two-a-days are laborious and outside of putting money down on these fights, there are many I could really give a fuck about, as they have no real implications with regional guys treading water.

    I'd hazard that "brand familiarity" is at its greatest low since before the Randy/Chuck II fight with casuals, my friends didn't know who Khabib was nor did they have a clue who was in the main event last Saturday. I was putting over Mighty Mouse and when pressed for who he's beaten, I was met with blank looks as I listed off names sans Benny and even then, not a superstar.

    I get what the UFC is doing, but I don't care for it and I think the product suffers and wonder if, in the "LONG TERM" this will lead to a greater mainstream market saturation of the product worldwide, but I'm cautious at best.

    Listening to Meltzer and other MMA writers who LOVE MMA, speak of how exhaustive covering all of these cards is and how daunting and dreadful these two-a-days are, and how many of them have identified a "too much of a good thing" mentality, ZUFFA really should take note.
    Last edited by Fedorlei Gomipierre; 06-27-2014 at 09:14 AM.

  6. #6
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    I still care. I just care on my terms. I may be many things, but a complete fucking sap is not one of them. Don't drink the Kool Aid, keep a healthy degree of skepticism in regards to the UFC's marketing machine, and carefully choose what I'll pay for. It works for me.

  7. #7
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    I love the sport and have always craved more content.

    That being said, I liked it more when there were other companies who catered to other weight classes and skill levels. I thought MMA was best represented when you had the WEC and KOTC building up the smaller guys in the smaller cage, Pride pitting differing styles against each other in their "neutral" ring, and the UFC showing off the Americanized version of the brand.

    As of now, there are just too many guys to follow. Way too many. It's almost as if they need to create different "circuits" within the organization to break up the confusing mess. Hell, the other day I couldn't remember Nurmagomedov because of the absolutely crazy list of Bagautinov, Akhmedov, Umalatov, Amagov, Yakovlev, Khabilov, Magomedov, Taisumov, and Tukhugov.
    And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
    And the microphone smells like a beer

  8. #8

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    I'm under the assumption that the math can work...if the UFC puts on 40 shows that get 100,000 viewers; that's better than 20 shows that only get 150,000 viewers. But I can't help but feel those numbers aren't going to be sustainable with a mediocre product, particularly in the light of how zuffa has made overhyping cards it's bread and butter.

    I also think they're due for disasters like 151 by hinging success on one or two guys on the card. That concern is increased when you consider the changing landscape for PED testing, and how that concept may not have trickled down into the fighter's mentality yet.


    I'd also like to point out that I was one of the many people who predicted this, way back when zuffa bought the WEC and PRIDE FC in 2007; and then more predicted it back when they bought SF in 2011. I remember being called a doomsayer and being told that it was going to be even better--the best eva!--because all the fighters would be under one roof, and the quality of the cards was going to increase, not decrease.

    rh
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rivethead View Post
    I'm under the assumption that the math can work...if the UFC puts on 40 shows that get 100,000 viewers; that's better than 20 shows that only get 150,000 viewers. But I can't help but feel those numbers aren't going to be sustainable with a mediocre product, particularly in the light of how zuffa has made overhyping cards it's bread and butter.

    I also think they're due for disasters like 151 by hinging success on one or two guys on the card. That concern is increased when you consider the changing landscape for PED testing, and how that concept may not have trickled down into the fighter's mentality yet.


    I'd also like to point out that I was one of the many people who predicted this, way back when zuffa bought the WEC and PRIDE FC in 2007; and then more predicted it back when they bought SF in 2011. I remember being called a doomsayer and being told that it was going to be even better--the best eva!--because all the fighters would be under one roof, and the quality of the cards was going to increase, not decrease.

    rh

    Quote Originally Posted by Sick_Lunatic View Post
    I've always liked strudel.



  10. #10
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    2 paragraphs in and I already made up my mind that That Was One Of The Dumbest Articles I've Ever Read.
    Sorry Fedor, but Dan Henderson is the G.O.A.T.

    Favorite Fighter: JIM MILLER.
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    Other Favorites: Chris Lytle, Martin Kampmann, Joe Lauzon, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Paul Daley, Ross Pearson, Donald Cerrone, Renan Barao, Glover Texiera, & Alistair Overeem.

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