UFC’s July events better indicator of fan support than this weekend’s shows
There is a very good chance that UFC 147 produces the lowest pay-per-view buy rate the organisation has seen in the last seven or eight years.
In the post-TUF era, this is easily the least anticipated, least attractive pay-per-view offering the UFC has set forth.
It’s an Ultimate Fighter Finale they hope fans will pay to see, despite the fact that every other TUF Finale in history has been televised for free, and came at the end of a season that garnered solid ratings around the world.
Friday night’s UFC on FX event in Atlantic City, New Jersey features a better line-up than the following day’s pay-per-view event, but it’s not like it features a star-studded, can’t-miss line-up either.
With the lightweight division in a state of flux, no one knows what comes next for the winner of the Gray Maynard-Clay Guida main event, and the three most relevant fights as far as the rankings and title pictures are concerned – Ebersole vs. Waldburger, Pearson vs. Swanson, and Hioki vs. Lamas – all come before a meaningless trilogy bout between lightweights Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher than not many people have been calling for in the five years since they fought for a second time.
Here’s the interesting thing, though: knowing that Friday’s event should land somewhere near the UFC on FX average (1.262M through three events), and that UFC 147 will likely come in far south of 200,000 buys, we should really be focusing on next month’s line-up as a measuring stick of where the UFC stands with its fans.
With no one expecting a card headlined by a last minute rematch between Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin to do any kind of business, it’s unfair to use the poor numbers UFC 147 is sure to generate against the organisation.
Should they have walked away from the event as a whole when the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen was forced to relocate to Las Vegas? Probably, but you can’t change those decisions now.
Losing Vitor Belfort was the final nail in the coffin, as losing the bout between the TUF: Brazil coaches has decreased interest in the event domestically in Brazil as well.
But next month features two pay-per-view events, one with the biggest rematch in quite some time, and should give us a much better indication of how much damage the recent run of injuries has done.
While injuries and alterations have changed the line-up of both UFC 148 and UFC 149, each show remains a solid pay-per-view offering on par with what we’ve been presented in the past couple of years.
Title fights headline both events – Silva-Sonnen II at UFC 148, and Faber vs. Barao for the interim bantamweight title at UFC 149 – with a collection of “should be entertaining” contests rounding out the main cards of each, with the potential for future title contenders to emerge from both events.
UFC 148′s six-fight main card is better than the five-fight UFC 145 offering, and Silva-Sonnen II tops Jones-Evans I on my list of “must-see fights,” but it seems like fans are down on the Fourth of July fight card because it was originally going to be massive, and now it’s just another quality event.
The heightened expectations that came with the arrival of Silva-Sonnen II have dissipated now that Faber-Cruz III has turned into Faber vs. Barao and been shuffled to Calgary, and Tito Ortiz’s retirement fight against Forrest Griffin has been elevated to the co-main event.
This is still one of the best pay-per-view events of the year, but I have a feeling that fans are just too frustrated with all the injuries over the last month and change to give UFC 148 the credit it deserves.
The same goes for UFC 149 in Calgary later in July.
Yes, the main card has experienced a complete makeover, with the fight original match-ups all shifting in some way, leaving just four fights confirmed for the pay-per-view portion of the event at the time of this writing.
Personally, I put the UFC’s debut event in Cowtown on par with UFC 143; interim title fight in as the main event, a solid contender bout in the co-main event, and a couple of “should be entertaining” affairs rounding out the rest of what you get for your $50 investment. Sadly, I don’t think UFC 149 will come close to garnering the 400,000 buys UFC 143 did, even though it has a very similar composition.
Part of that is because Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit are more recognisable names to the casual audience than Urijah Faber and Renan Barao, even though Faber just spent 13 weeks coaching on TUF Live. Additionally, the climate surrounding the two cards are very different.
Condit-Diaz came together in the wake of Georges St-Pierre’s knee injury, and the whole “fight triangle” that emerged between the three welterweights following Diaz’s win over BJ Penn at UFC 137 in October. GSP’s standing as the most recognizable star in the UFC sky elevated the interest in Condit-Diaz, but Faber-Barao doesn’t have nearly the same buzz and momentum behind it heading into UFC 149.
Until he was picked to pair off with Faber for the interim title, Barao hadn’t garnered much of a push, and despite having a 29-fight unbeaten streak, this bout will be his introduction to many casual fans. While the rest of the UFC 149 main card line-up also feature pairings that should produce quality fights, the participants aren’t nearly as well known as those who rounded out the UFC 143 main card either, leaving fans to wondering whether or not they should pay $50 for a bunch of fights with guys they’ve never really heard of before.
Chances are that far more will opt against digging into their wallets when UFC 149 rolls around, and that should serves as a stronger indication that the UFC needs to find some way to address the current too many fights/not enough stars scenario that plagues them right now.
This weekend’s events don’t stand much of a chance, but next month’s shows should – theoretically – do quality numbers. My gut feeling is that they will underachieve, and that is far more troublesome and worrying than seeing UFC 147 come in lower than any pay-per-view in recent memory.
July’s two pay-per-views are the events, buy rates, and ratings we need to be focusing on, not those coming from Atlantic City and Belo Horizonte, Brazil this weekend.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).
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