UFC is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. The final ratings of last night's first UFC on FX card will be a terrific indicator of how far MMA has come over the past couple years.
Since the card didn't feature any marquee names, you probably wouldn't expect the event to reel in many viewers. That's not necessarily the case, however, because UFC appeals to a growing audience that might have been looking to check it out for the first time.
It was also on Friday night, which is a notoriously weak night of television. That's probably one of the main reasons president Dana White decided to have it last night instead of on a Saturday when there are a lot more sporting events to compete with.
Even though UFC is still quite a ways away from competing with the country's major sports, it's making up ground fast on a lot of second-tier sports. All it really needs it one marquee star that would attract a lot of attention every time he steps in the octagon.
In other words, UFC needs a Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Boxing's lack of depth is really hurting that sport, whereas UFC has the depth but needs the elite names.
That depth is what the company is hoping will drive ratings up for last night. Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller might not be household names, but they are both solid veterans with track records of success to fall back on.
All told, it was a low-risk maneuver by UFC.
If the ratings come back poor, the company can blame it on a weak card. If they come back better than expected, White can use that momentum to keep building the brand into a powerhouse.
Either way, the final tally should give us a strong idea of how large of an impact MMA will have on the national sports landscape in 2012.