UFC partly to blame for 151 cancellation mess
This day’s been coming a long time. Month after month after month, the UFC have been scrambling to find substitute fighters, often at very short notice, in order to keep fights and events alive.
Georges St Pierre, Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz, Michael Bisping, Brian Stann, Vitor Belfort, Little Nog and Yoshihiro Akiyama are just some who have fallen victim to the ‘injury curse’ and withdrawn from fights in the last twelve months.
Add to that the drug suspensions of two of the promotion’s biggest draws in Nick Diaz and Alistair Overeem, and you’d have to imagine UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is just about ready to find a new line of work.
They’ve been getting away with it by the skin of their teeth until today.
While my immediate reaction, like many others I’d imagine, was to scream expletives at Jon Jones, the man whose refusal to fight Chael Sonnen led to the first cancelled UFC event in the Zuffa era, the reality is today’s events have exposed the lack of depth in the roster and the need for fewer cards.
Look I’m not saying that I haven’t been a happy fight fan enjoying every extra second of UFC action this year.
We’d become accustomed to monthly PPVs and the occasional Fight Night, but now we’re being dished up a healthy serving of our favourite sport almost weekly.
In addition to the regular PPVs, we’ve been given so many FOX, FX and Fuel TV cards that keeping up with this sport is becoming a full-time occupation
I mean, who would have thought a few years ago that Australia would have its own version of The Ultimate Fighter?
The unfortunate consequence of this onslaught of fighting is that PPV cards this year have been significantly weaker and fans have quietly revolted with the promotion experiencing some of its poorest PPV buy-rates ever.
UFC 150, featuring the lightweight title rematch between Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson, was the lowest PPV draw since 2005 at just 190,000 buys.
And 150 was not the only substandard event this year. Some might argue that with the exception of 144 in Japan and perhaps the all-Heavyweight 146, we haven’t seen a stacked PPV card at all in 2012.
UFC 151 relied on one headline fight – the rest was barely good enough for a FUEL card. One injury meant a failure, similar to UFC 145.
All year the UFC have been so reliant on a massive headline fight to get fans to open their wallets and buy PPVs that it was only a matter of time until one of these massive headline fighters got struck by the injury curse and someone declined a short notice replacement fight.
In years gone by the result of this would have been, ‘No worries! We’ve got a co-main event and three other great fights on the main card that fans will want to see’.
But in the 2012 edition of the UFC, with so much fighting on television, Jake Ellenberger v Jay Hieron is that co-main event. And fans just won’t accept that.
The UFC have essentially doubled the number of fights they are promoting this year without double the talent.
The FOX deal may be bringing new fans to the sport but long-time supporters are becoming increasingly frustrated and reluctant to dish up $45 for second-rate PPVs.
It is perhaps time the UFC cut the number of cards it promotes and gradually built them back up as new stars are established and the talent pool deepens.
So sure, call Jon Jones what you like. Call him a coward for ducking Chael. But he is not solely to blame for perhaps the darkest day in UFC history.