Will Watered Down Events and UFC Fight Pass Diminish the Popularity of the Promotion?

Published on April 1st, 2014 4:31 pm EST

UFC 100 was almost certainly the high-water mark for the UFC. Brock Lesnar fought Frank Mir in the main event, Georges St. Pierre defended his title against Thiago Alves in the co-main event, and Dan Henderson flattened Michael Bisping with the punch that was heard around the world.

The build-up to the event was insane, and the card received a substantial amount of coverage from the mainstream media. This intense media coverage resulted in a total of 1.6 million PPV buys, which still stands as the promotionís all-time record.

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In the years since UFC 100, the UFC has seen its share of highs and lows.

The highs? A multi-year broadcast deal with Fox and a successful penetration of MMA-mad markets such as Brazil, Canada, Sweden and others. In addition, the emergence of Ronda Rousey has helped to gain the promotion media coverage from places that it would have never hoped to receive it in the past.

The lows? A general decline in interest from casual fans and the loss of several big names that were instrumental for the rapid growth that the promotion enjoyed earlier in the century.

Why is interest from the casual fan declining? There are a number of reasons, including:

1. The loss of stars such as Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre. Brock Lesnar retired from mixed martial arts and returned to the WWE, while Georges St. Pierre dropped his Welterweight title after defeating Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. St. Pierre may be back, but it wonít be for at least 18 months, as he is currently rehabbing a torn ACL. St. Pierre and Lesnar drove the UFCís PPV buys for years, and the promotion has struggled to find replacements.

2. Over-saturation. Sure, there are more cards than ever right now, but they are also very watered down. The days of absolutely stacked cards are pretty much over. Now, for a PPV, you will usually get a decent main event, an OK co-main event and three other fights involving people that you may or may not have heard of. With the UFC hosting so many Fight Night cards these days, many of the fights that would normally occupy the #3 or #4 spot on the main card of a PPV are now being used to headline Fight Night cards.

3. UFC Fight Pass. The UFC instituted a pay wall for a number of their Fight Night events, and many casual fans are just not willing to shell out the money. In the past, the UFC would use their Fight Night events to promote their upcoming PPVs - with so many cards now behind a firewall, how will this impact PPV buys going forward?

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The UFC seems intent on pushing their UFC Fight Pass hard and putting out watered down cards. How will this impact their business going forward?

At the very least, itís hard to see the promotion returning to their UFC 100 era glory days any time soon.


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