UFC Has a Big Problem Promoting the Little Guys

Last night’s UFC on Fox 9 event was incredibly entertaining, there is no denying that. In fact, whenever the lighter weight classes are featured in a big way most hardcore fans know to expect a good show. Last night’s UFC on Fox 9 felt a lot like a WEC event from a few years ago, one that would feature a lot of quick action from the smaller weight classes and proof that you don’t need to be a Heavyweight or Light Heavyweight to put on a good show.

Among casual fight fans there is still a stigma about larger weight classes that has existed for many, many years now. Something about the term “Heavyweight Champion of the World” still resonates with audiences everywhere as it comes with implications of larger-than-life spectacles. We’ve seen some movement away from that, especially in the sport of Boxing as fighters like Oscar de la Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have been able to shine the light on smaller fighters, but in MMA it still seems like a hard sell to watch 125lbs men clash against each other.

In a way, last night’s UFC on Fox 9 was doomed from the moment the card started falling apart. It was originally a pretty stacked card, which was rare for a Fox event, as the UFC has historically been stingy with their broadcast events, opting to not put their best foot forward but instead treat them like a giant advertisement for their PPV product. Look, I get it, I really do. With that being said, UFC on Fox 9 did fall apart and did present a weaker card when it comes to name value, although it did deliver in the end.

The UFC has been working at getting lighter weight classes seen in the same way that the original UFC weight classes are since they absorbed the WEC, but it has been a long, troubled road so far. There tend to be less dramatic stoppages in lighter weight fights and there is always the public opinion that these guys are the same weight as a child or a very small man, but the UFC’s difficulties with promoting these weight classes have more to do their their inherent lack of skill in promoting just about any fighter, never mind one weighing less than the average woman on fight day.

The truth is, you don’t need to do much to promote these fighters once the eye balls are on them, because they are exciting fighters and judging by stoppages and decisions alone doesn’t tell the whole story with smaller weight fighters who are almost always working throughout every round. This was Demetrious Johnson’s third time headlining on Fox and the ratings have been dropping off, which says that something just isn’t working, especially on a night like last night where the competition was Christmas specials on broadcast television. Maybe the act of just tossing together fights and presenting them to the public isn’t enough, maybe the UFC needs to do some actual work in making these fighters seem special again.

But just maybe. I feel like if you saw Demetrious Johnson’s performance last night you’ll want to see him fight again, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.