UFC on FOX critics too short-sighted
Prior to Sunday’s UFC on FOX event in Los Angeles, critics celebrated the one-year anniversary of the historic announcement by offering their assessment of how the partnership has been going so far.
It was an exercise in futility that made no sense to me whatsoever, and this latest show showed why.
Regardless of what the ratings end up saying, this show was a smashing success. Just like we don’t always judge a fighter’s performance by the end result – see Brandon Vera and Jamie Varner on this event – you can’t judge this last UFC show on the numbers it pulls.
This event was an excellent combination of established names and exciting fights, and it yielded the kind of entertaining contests the UFC and FOX need for this partnership to produce returns long-term. But the key there is that this is a long-term effort, and it’s pointless to judge this venture eight-months into things.
While everyone involved would certainly love to see record-breaking numbers following each event on FOX, that’s not the major goal of these first few years.
The way I see it, the first two years of this deal are about Fuel TV – building it as a network, putting up numbers that prompt more cable providers to offer the channel, and delivering enough content that fight fans don’t want to go without the channel as a part of their cable package for very much longer.
To that end, these initial eight months have been a tremendous success, as Fuel has been doing record numbers month after month after month since they started offering UFC content.
That’s not to say the other two platforms are irrelevant – they’re not, by any means – but as long as the events on FX continue to generate solid numbers, and the FOX shows hover around the point they’re at now, everything will remain positive for the next 15 months.
It easy to look at the big shows on “Big FOX” as Dana White likes to call it, see that the ratings have dipped with each event, and argue that the deal hasn’t been everything everyone expected it to be. Personally, I think anyone who expected this relationship to yield incredible returns on FOX right out of the gate were kidding themselves.
The UFC wasn’t going to run their biggest names out on free TV and they weren’t going to be any “Kimbo Slice on EliteXC” efforts either. This is a process, one that both sides are invested in for the long haul, and the real returns will only be visible two, three, four years down the road.
Sunday’s show isn’t going to have monster ratings; when you’re going up against the Olympics and the hook for the event isn’t set until the week of the fight, it’s hard to pull big numbers. R
egardless of what it does – and the overnight numbers have it on par with the last UFC on FOX event – this event deserves nothing but praise.
All four fights on the main card delivered. We got four finishes and four stories to talk about over the next few days leading into UFC 150, and a good feel for the combination of names and even pairings needed to build a successful event on FOX in the future.
We’ve seen big names and entertaining bouts in the past, but this was – outside of the dos Santos-Velasquez title fight – the best combination of the two. As you would expect, the result was the best event we’ve seen on network television to date, and one of the best events of the year in the UFC.
I know people have their criticisms of the Fuel TV events, but I have to believe that things are progressing according to the blueprint right now. The FX shows are close to what the UFC was doing in their final year or two on Spike TV, and while the FOX numbers aren’t huge, it’s still a work-in-progress, and after this last show, progress looks good.
A couple of weeks after some smart people gave the partnership between the UFC and the FOX family of networks a middling grade, I think they’d be pulling out their rubbers and looking to adjust their marks right about now if they could.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).