Last night’s UFC on Fox 11 event was great, probably one of the most entertaining UFC events of the year thus far. There were a lot of great fights featured on the card, some of which came from up-and-comers that the UFC will be able to push for years to come. What was smart was that these guys were featured on free television through-and-through, meaning that there should have been more eyes on them than ever before. The reality, though, was that UFC on Fox 11 was the least-viewed UFC on Fox event yet, showing that the alarming trend of UFC losing viewers is very real. Those eyes just weren’t there.
Dana White publicly scoffs at the concept of oversaturation, or that the UFC is doing too much and putting on too many events. MMA writers have a hard time with the concept of oversaturation as well, because, at our core, we all love MMA and want to see more of it. The general idea is, “too much MMA? I don’t think that is possible.” The thing is, that cavalier attitude works for some people, but for your average fan, it quite simply does not. You can never rely on the faithful to provide you with the feedback or dose of reality that you need. The situation right now is that the UFC is putting on too many shows that run too long and feature too many fighters who don’t need to be in the UFC.
This is all leading to UFC fatigue on many fronts, where fans are having to choose between social lives or being a fan of the UFC, with there not being much in between. Why is it this way? The UFC demands commitment. UFC events have been clocking in at around seven hours or so lately, which when you break it down, is basically a full work day. That includes Fight Pass prelims, Fox Sports prelims and main cards. Being a UFC fan means if you miss some of those fights that you’ll have potentially missed something important. The UFC doesn’t build fighters up from prelims to main card, then from main card to main event, they simply pick fighters who had good performances and toss them into prominent spots on their cards.
That means that if you missed that seemingly throw-away prelim card on Fox Sports 1 four months ago you all of a sudden don’t know who this guy getting a title shot is on an upcoming event. This was my main complaint with UFC’s attempts to build up new stars and champions in recent years. Chris Weidman was plucked from relative obscurity of undercards and being on a Fox Sports 2 card into being a Championship contender. Was Weidman talented and deserving of that title shot? Obviously, he’s the UFC Middleweight Champion with two wins over Anderson Silva! Was he promoted properly? Not really, you had to be a hardcore UFC fan to have seen him fight before.
With the UFC it is all-or-nothing, then it also happens in bursts of three events in eight days like we are coming off of right now, which is simply too much. The truth is, the UFC is not Baseball, the UFC is not Football and the UFC is not Basketball. Fans don’t want to set aside an entire day to spend watching the UFC, or if they do, they don’t want to do it multiple times a week. The UFC made its name from being a fan-friendly organization that gave people what they wanted. At the time, giving fans what they wanted meant airing preliminary cards on Spike TV, just like it meant having more UFC events and hiring more fighters. Fans wanted more and the UFC gave them more.
The thing is, no one told them when to stop and now we have a bloated UFC roster, endless streams of shows and these shows are chock-full of fights to utilize this bloated roster. It’s more difficult than ever to be a “good” UFC fan, which seems counterintuitive thanks to the UFC getting to this place by simply giving fans what they want. I think that it is clear that people don’t really know what they want until they have it, just like they don’t know what they don’t want until they have it, either.
There is simply too much MMA on television right now, specifically too much UFC, which is only hurting the sport and the brand. Because of the sheer amount of events that the UFC is having they aren’t in any trouble, because it is all evening out in the numbers department, but they are approaching a critical mass and I’m not sure that the sport will be able to survive if it continues along this path.